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Year of the Producer Blog: A Regional Perspective

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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.

In this blog post, John Manning, producer at Northampton's Royal & Derngate Theatre, describes the challenges of trying to transfer a show to London.

Twelve days ago we opened a new musical version of The Go-Between which we’ve co-produced with West Yorkshire Playhouse and Derby LIVE, after it was developed by Perfect Pitch.

After press night, you usually wait with baited breath to see what the critical reception to the show will be but we’ve been in an unusual position because the show had already been reviewed when it opened in Leeds in September. And what a fantastic set of reviews they were - five stars in the Telegraph and Yorkshire Post, four stars in the Guardian and The Times, and excellent review in the Observer.

The run here finishes on Saturday but the obvious question is: what next for the show? With such fantastic reviews and positive feedback from our audiences, it’s the kind of show which deserves to be seen by a wider audience and it’s part of my job, along with my counterparts in Leeds and Derby, to try to make that happen.

The West End might seem an obvious option and, at the post-show talk last Tuesday, we got that old favourite “is it going into the West End?” Well, I’m delighted to tell you that there’s certainly been a lot of interest and over the last week, we’ve been descended upon by a whole host of commercial producers checking the show out. The response has been incredibly encouraging but it will be interesting to see if any of them put their money where their mouth is and take the show on. There’s a great deal of difference between loving a show and having the confidence to put up the money to produce it. And a success regionally doesn’t always equate to financial success in town. Love Story, a similar show in terms of scale, being a prime example of this.

One problem with the West End is the distinct lack of smaller theatres with capacities around the 500 seat mark in which chamber musicals can play and maintain a level of intimacy. I think this is a real problem for original new musicals which are often on the mid to small scale. St Martin’s, the Criterion, New Ambassadors and Fortune are taken up with long runners which show no sign of closing, leaving The Duchess and Trafalgar 1 being the only other real options. Whatever happened to the Sondheim Theatre, the 500 seat studio space which Cameron (Mackintosh) was going to build on top of the Queen’s? It’s obviously great to hear plans from Nimax of a new theatre as part of the CrossRail development on Tottenham Court Road.

A couple of people have said that the next step could be across the pond. With New York’s stronger tradition of developing new musicals and their large number of Off-Broadway houses with smaller capacities, this could potentially be the right move. But it’d be a shame if New Yorkers get to see what is very much a British show before Londoners get the chance to enjoy it.

The other possibility is another subsidised house taking the show. In terms of London, The Cottesloe would be a perfect home for it but it’s rare that the National takes in another theatre’s productions, with the obvious exception of our Young America season last year. The Menier would be a good fit in terms of its commitment to musical theatre but, again, it’s rare for them to take in a show from another theatre. Hampstead, the Almeida, the Lyric Hammersmith and the Young Vic have all been mentioned but we need to explore further whether it fits into their artistic agenda. An opera house might be another option given the show’s musical style and we’ve approached the Linbury Studio at the Royal Opera House to see if it would fit there (they’re coming this week). Well, we’ll just keep our fingers crossed and live in hope. Who knows what the future for the show will hold?

Any other ideas as to where it might go? Answers on a postcard please.

For more articles from our Year of the Producer series, visit whatsonstage.com/yearoftheproducer

For further information about the producers taking part, click here.


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