Andrew Lloyd Webber should cast more of his own musicals via reality television, and preferably ones with male leads, according to our recent Big Debate poll. Following the conclusion of the Lloyd Webber and the BBC's latest programme Over the Rainbow, which found Danielle Hope to star as Dorothy in next year's West End revival of The Wizard of Oz, more than 1,000 theatregoers took part in this month's survey.
Over half said that Lee Mead has been the most successful star discovered to date via the format. Since being crowned victor of Any Dream Will Do in 2007, Mead proved a critical and popular hit in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, made his dramatic debut on tour in Oscar Wilde's Lord Arthur Savile's Crime, and has now returned to the West End to star in Wicked.
Any Dream Will Do is the only one of the four Lloyd Webber/BBC programmes so far to cast a male lead, and there seems to be a strong desire for another one, with Jesus Christ Superstar, Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's 1970 follow-up to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the clear favourite as the musical that voters would most like to see cast via television next.
West Side Story, with its star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria, is the second most popular choice for the TV treatment, followed by My Fair Lady, Mary Poppins, Annie and another Lloyd Webber musical, Evita. Other theatregoers suggested the format should be used to find new leads for current or upcoming West End productions such as Wicked, Chicago, We Will Rock You, Les Miserables, Legally Blonde, Shrek (due to transfer post-Broadway in 2011) and Bridget Jones (still being developed, with a score by Lily Allen).
Not over the hill
Some 57% of voters avidly watched Over the Rainbow and of those, 62% said it not only made for great television entertainment but also made them want to see the resulting stage show, reinforcing recent Society of London Theatre (SOLT) research on the benefits of the "Saturday night TV effect".
There was a cautionary note, however. Nearly one in four theatregoers said that while the first one or two series were okay, the format is now "looking tired".
In addition to Lee Mead, the other top five most successful musical theatre stars discovered via reality TV, according to theatregoers, are, in order of popularity: