The producer of forthcoming musical The Wind in the Willows, featuring music by Stiles and Drewe and a book by Downton Abbey's Julian Fellowes, is pioneering a new scheme that will allow members of the public to invest in the show.
Ten percent of the show's £6.5million budget is being made available to individuals willing to invest between £1,000 and £5,000.
Publicity material terms it a "rare opportunity" for "budding entrepreneurs... to share in the journey of bringing this brand new musical theatre adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's classic novel to the West End stage."
Speaking to WhatsOnStage about the initiative, producer Jamie Hendry said that although similar to crowd-funding campaigns such as KickStarter and Seedrs, he is offering a "genuine investment opportunity".
"Although this is based on crowd-funding, it's not really the same thing," he said. "All our online investors will receive exactly the same benefits that traditional theatre investors would receive."
He pointed out that the scheme, which is administered through the website investinwillows.com, is approved by the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority), whereas "most offerings" on KickStarter are not.
"There's no fee to invest, there's no commission taken off the top; it's a direct relationship between you and the producer," he added.
The Wind in the Willows has music by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe (Betty Blue Eyes, Soho Cinders) and a book by Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey, Gosford Park). The three first collaborated on Mary Poppins, which ran for three years in the West End and six on Broadway.
Although precise dates and a venue are still to be confirmed for the production, The Wind in the Willows is due to hit the West End in 2015.
If the show is successful, investors "could receive a return on investment of 60% over the first two years", said Hendry, whose other producing credits include Beatles tribute show Let It Be.
He's optimistic there'll be no shortage of interest. "The Wind in the Willows really felt like the right project for this. Everyone we've been speaking to about it is very excited about it and anecdotally lots of people have expressed an interest in investing."
Investors will receive benefits on a sliding scale depending on how much they spend, from a pair of complimentary preview tickets to a champagne reception with Fellowes and the writing team.
Regarding whether such a model could mark the future of West End fundraising, Hendry added: "Traditionally it's the amount of paperwork and administration involved that has held producers back, but we've spent six months creating a platform that makes it really easy to invest.
"You can invest directly online with your debit card and also log in to see weekly box office receipts and quarterly accounts and book house seats. If it works, and there's a good uptake on it, we will absolutely use this model again in the future."
For more information, visit investinwillows.com
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