I have written before about the lack of new writing and especially of shows for the younger generation. However, with X Factor musicals and Britain’s Got Talent entrants, is there now a new way of getting work shown?
The ‘traditional’ way, if there is such a thing, is to have a producer fund the show that you and your fellow creators want to achieve. However, tradition obviously works best when you have something classic to sell such as Cats, or familiar music like Mamma Mia. Hence why young shows and their young writers can struggle to get their work performed, which was demonstrated by the short run of Loserville.
For young shows now, there seems to be a shift towards utilising what our likes and habits are and what forums we use. Good old @WestEndProducer last year held a Search for a Twitter Star, using social media such as Twitter and YouTube, and culminating in a live show in London. This time the search is for new musical theatre writers. Given its online nature this has, of course, appealed to younger writers. The live heats and finals are once more judged by West End performers, critics, agents and writers, and the final is being held on 21 July at the Soho Theatre. Of interest to this search, and also more generally, is the use of YouTube and the way that a simple video can go viral. It is always unpredictable who may see your video: Jessie J started with YouTube videos, for example, and I especially admire Laura Tisdall for what she has achieved. For her musical, Beyond The Door, she was able to get West End performers such as Hadley Fraser to sing the songs, which she then uploaded to YouTube; Hadley’s video has now broken 50,000 views. I know my musical theatre friends and I have all found Laura’s work separately and then shared it on forums such as Facebook and Twitter. Laura was a runner-up in her heat of the Search for a Twitter Composer, but this just proves what talent there is out there.
Chasing The Dream, written by Pete Gallagher and Danny Davies, entered Britain’s Got Talent this year and has reached the semi-finals (N.B. this post was written before the results show aired): it is the first time a musical has featured on the live shows. It is, again, a brilliant chance to be seen by the ‘right people’, but it is also connecting with an audience that may not usually lean towards musicals, and for whom watching this episode of BGT will be an introduction to the genre. However, Matthew Hemley wrote in The Stage recently about how the need to enter reality TV talent shows does “speak volumes about the state of the industry right now for writers of new musical theatre shows”. I must admit that I much prefer these examples as they are being driven by young people, as opposed to Simon Cowell’s X Factor-inspired show I Can’t Sing. This seems a pure money-making attempt and a pandering to the audience of the TV show, rather than exposure for the art form or an opportunity to develop new musical theatre writing.
So I wish all the luck in the world to the finalists in West End Producer’s search and to the cast and writers of Chasing The Dream.
Image: Talent Show