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Are You up to WOS's Musical Theatre Challenge?

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Calling all musical theatre trivia experts! Do we have a challenge for you. As part of our activity at next month’s Edinburgh Fringe, Whatsonstage.com is sponsoring a University Challenge-style musicals competition at the Musical Theatre @ George Square, the only venue at the world’s largest arts festival specifically dedicated to the genre.

The organisers need to generate an awful lot of questions that will get the teams of student-contestants reaching for their buzzers – and they’re asking for input from some of the most knowledgeable musical theatre experts in the world: Whatsonstage.com readers. And what’s more, the best contributor will win a great prize, including tickets to not one, not two, but THREE blockbuster musicals: Hairspray, Sister Act and Disney’s High School Musical 2!

From now until 1 August, you’re invited to submit as many “Starter for Ten” and “Team” questions – with answers – as you can come up with. These will be verified by an independent team of fact-checkers and presented to eight teams of student drama groups taking part in the three quiz rounds, running at the Musical Theatre @ George Square for three nights from 20 August 2009, and culminating with a celebrity-hosted grand final.

Questions selected for inclusion in the competition will be graded into three groups according to level of difficulty. The Whatsonstage.com reader who provides the best questions – in terms of quantity, quality and accuracy – as judged by the organisers will be awarded the “Best Questioner” prize.

Sample questions

Each entry requires a “Starter for Ten” and then three linked questions, just like on the real University Challenge. The starter questions are buzzing and no conferring questions to win the point, and the three follow-ups are posed to the team that won the starter. At this point the team of three to four contestants may confer and reach a consensus.

The quiz organisers are looking for intelligent, fascinating, fun questions, without going into the crazily obscure. (There’s no point asking questions to which only three people in the world would know the answer – eg “What is the name of the lead pigeon in the second cast of The Producers?”) Here’s a sample question group:

Starter for Ten:
What play is the musical Oklahoma! based on?
(Answer: Green Grow the Lilacs)

Team Questions:

  • Who played Curly in the 1980s Leicester Haymarket/Cameron Mackintosh production? (Answer: John Diedrich)
  • Who designed the set of the National Theatre/Cameron Mackintosh production?
    (Answer: Anthony Ward)
  • Who is the author, a celebrated letter writer, who, while working in the offices of R&H was responsible for adding the ! to the 70,000 press releases already printed when the Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rodgers changed the title of the show?
    (Answer: Helen Hanff)

(Hurry! Deadline for entry is 1 August...)


The “Best Questioner” will be invited as a special guest to the Musical Theatre University Challenge final in Edinburgh Sunday 23 August 2009, announced as the prize-winner (unless you prefer to remain anonymous), and presented with an award certificate. You’ll also have the chance to have your picture taken with the celebrity host and the winning team.

Even if you can’t make it to Edinburgh, however, we’ve got an irresistible prize for musical lovers, generously donated by theatre producers, Stage Entertainment. A pair of top-price tickets for each of its three blockbuster musicals: Hairspray, Sister Act and Disney’s High School Musical 2*. Three evenings of top musical entertainment just for proving how clever you are!

*NOTE: Prize tickets are redeemable for Monday to Thursday performances only and are subject to availability. Hairspray and Sister Act continue at the West End’s Shaftesbury and London Palladium theatres, respectively. High School Musical 2 opens at south London’s New Wimbledon Theatre from 22 August to 5 September 2009, before embarking on a nationwide tour.

At a future date, the submitted questions may be published online for future generations to enjoy creating their own musical theatre quizzes from the questions. Profits (if any) generated from this will be dedicated to charities connected to musical theatre in the UK.

(Hurry! Deadline for entry is 1 August...)

With thanks to Stage Entertainment:


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