Every musical theatre group or society faces a challenge when it comes to picking their next production. So how do you choose? Do you go with an ‘old faithful’ – such as a Rodgers and Hammerstein/Lerner and Lowe? Do you consider something newly released and do you also review what other groups are doing in the area?
With so many new musicals being released for amateurs such as ‘Made in Dagenham’, ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ or Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5’ are societies rushing to perform these because they are new, sometimes without considering whether they can sell the tickets or if another group in a nearby town is also performing it? Are audiences tired of seeing the traditional musicals or should these still be ‘bread and butter’ productions to intersperse between the more unusual or newer artistic choices?
All these are relevant questions and those that I am sure numerous committees and groups ask with regularity. The other side of the question is will the chosen production either bring in new members or keep the existing ones. Membership of any one group is no longer ‘the norm’. With new groups appearing and growing all across the UK, performers can pick and choose the productions they wish to take part in and travel around a selected area.
However, the plus side is if performers will travel – then surely audiences will too. It seems that the diversity of choice is growing and with it, the opportunity to promote your shows to a wider public.
Professional theatres and UK National Tours take so many shows out of circulation for amateur societies, which also reduces the choices available – getting the rights early is definitely an advantage against this but who knows what else may become available in the meantime!
In my opinion, new musicals will usually bring in audiences provided the publicity is good and circulated well through traditional means and social media but don’t ignore the older musicals. The revamps of some of these musicals such as ‘Half a Sixpence’ at Chichester (and now the West End) proves that there is a place for them and a strong and creative Director and Choreographer can revitalise a conventional show and give it a new lease of life.
So do you pick a Rodgers and Hammerstein classic; a Sondheim; a Jason Robert Brown or a Bernstein? Choosing the correct show is a painstaking and time-consuming process but one which should hopefully result in a happy and successful production for all. Well, we do hope so….