Year of the Producer: Take Five … Blockbuster Musical Producers

Inspired by our adoption of Stage One as the charity for the 2012 Whatsonstage.com Awards, we’re declaring this the “Year of the Producer” on Whatsonstage.com, and are running a 12-month editorial series of interviews, blogs and other features to give theatregoers a greater understanding of the crucial role of the producer and an insight into the people who put on the shows they love.

Today we’re shining some light on the careers of five producers of London’s blockbuster musicals. Two men, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh, have dominated the West End’s musical and theatrical landscapes for three decades, but there are also independent producers who are represented by some of the biggest shows in town; Colin Ingram, David Ian and Michael McCabe.

We’ve also cheated a bit with our “Take Five” and included two of a comparatively new breed of mega-musical producer – Bill Damaschke and Thomas Schumacher – both of whom are responsible for taking hit movie franchises from the big screen to the musical stage.

Andrew Lloyd Webber

The man whose name has been associated with the West End more than any other’s over the past 30 years, whether as a composer of his own works (Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar et al) or a reviver of others (The Sound of Music, The Wizard of Oz), Lord Lloyd-Webber’s influence is everywhere. Composer of 13 musicals, a song cycle, a set of variations, two film scores and a Requiem Mass, he kicked off his long-standing partnership with lyricist Tim Rice writing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in 1968. Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group solely owns and manages six West End theatres, as well as co-owning and managing the Adelphi. He has also recently been seen on the small screen, casting West End musicals including Oliver!, Joseph, The Sound of Music and, most recently, The Wizard of Oz through reality casting programmes on BBC TV.

Cameron Mackintosh

Another name synonymous with West End theatre, Sir Cameron Mackintosh produced his first joint venture with Andrew Lloyd Webber in 1981. That show, Cats, went on to become the longest running show in Theatreland history, until it was overtaken by another of his shows, The Phantom of the Opera in January 2006. That record is now held by Les Miserables which Mackintosh brought to the West End in 1985. His other credits include blockbuster musicals such as Mary Poppins, The Witches of Eastwick, Oliver!, Miss Saigon, My Fair Lady and Avenue Q. In addition, Mackintosh owns seven West End houses, which he has been praised for refurbishing during his ownership.

Colin Ingram

With a career that includes stints at both Cameron Mackintosh and Disney Theatrical, as well as executive producing Kevin Spacey‘s first two seasons at the Old Vic, Colin Ingram‘s show credits include Billy Elliot, Movin’ Out, Les Misérables, Phantom Of The Opera, The Lion King, Beauty And The Beast, Oklahoma!, Witches of Eastwick, Vagina Monologues, Richard II, Hamlet, Philadelphia Story, Aladdin, National Anthems, Cloaca and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. One of the co-producers behind Trevor Nunn‘s Gone with the Wind, Ingram is currently represented in the West End (and soon on Broadway) by screen-to-stage hit Ghost the Musical.

David Ian

Ian first took to the stage as Rocky in The Rocky Horror Show, appearing in several other musicals including Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Time and The Pirates of Penzance before turning his hand to producing with fellow actor Paul Nicholas, bringing Grease back to the West End. Ian joined Clear Channel Entertainment (subsequently Live Nation) in 2000 and was made chairman of its global theatre business in 2005. Having established David Ian Productions in 2006, his producing and general management credits include shows such as Saturday Night Fever, The King and I, The Producers, Guys and Dolls, Anything Goes, La Cage Aux Folles, Flashdance, Chicago and The Sound of Music.

Michael McCabe

Michael McCabe founded Michael McCabe Associates in 1989 – the West End’s first company dedicated solely to the marketing of commercial theatre productions. General Manager on The Foreigner and The Mystery of Edwin Drood early in his career, his recent credits include Promises, Promises and Spring Awakening as well as acting as an associate producer on Mamma Mia! from 1998 to 2004. The UK executive producer of Wicked, McCabe is also currently represented in the West End by Million Dollar Quartet at the Noël Coward Theatre and on Broadway by How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying starring Daniel Radcliffe.

And not forgetting the film studios who’ve got in on the game:

Bill Damaschke

Co-president of production at Dreamworks Animation, Bill Damaschke saw Shrek win the first-ever Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2001 before bringing the ogre and his side-kick Donkey to the Broadway stage in 2008 as president of the newly formed DreamWorks Theatricals. The studio’s first foray into live theatre, Shrek – the Musical played 441 performances on Broadway following a Seattle try-out and has since embarked on a US tour. The West End production landed at London’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane in June this year where it stars Nigel Lindsay and Kimberley Walsh as Shrek and Princess Fiona.

Thomas Schumacher

Entertainment giants Disney made their first foray into live stage productions with Beauty and the Beast on Broadway in 1994 going on to play 5,461 performances. As president of Disney Theatrical, Thomas Schumacher brought Julie Taymor‘s production of The Lion King to Broadway in 1997 and the West End in 1999 where the show recently celebrated its 5000th performance. Schumacher’s other credits with Disney Theatrical include Elton John and Tim Rice‘s AIDA, Tarzan, The Little Mermaid and Mary Poppins (in partnership with Cameron Mackintosh). He supervised the creation of 21 animated feature films having joined the media conglomerate in 1988 as president of feature animation, and has also overseen One The Record, a musical celebrating Disney’s catalog of beloved songs, and screen-to-stage phenomenon High School Musical.