Love is in the air today as couples around the world celebrate their unions with flowers, chocolates and cards with pictures of little fat babies flying around shooting people with arrows. Valentine’s Day can be one of the most romantic days of the year; if you’re involved in a relationship of course. For all the singletons out there, seeing the multitudes of loved-up couples flaunting their happiness in their faces and reminding them of what they haven’t got – it can actually be one of the most depressing days of the year.
There are many types of love in the world however. I’m one of the singletons who are supposed to be moping around today and gloomily bemoaning my lack of a love-life, but my daughter bringing me a cup of tea this morning and presenting me with a heart-shaped candle holder brought me all the joy I need. I may not be married or in a serious relationship, but I have a life that is filled with love. I have love for my daughter, for my family and friends. I have love for reading and for the writing I do, and for the cup of tea I’m currently drinking whilst writing this. And of course, I have love for theatre.
Love begins with excitement and passion, the thrill of something new. Great love however, grows from that and flourishes through familiarity, affinity and the ability to not only love, but still like something, years after that initial excitement has waned. This is why revivals of classic musicals should definitely be a part of the West End theatre scene.
Progress is about moving forwards not backwards of course, and the health of the London theatre industry thrives on the development of original productions. There are two major difficulties with this however: the first, is that presenting something new to theatre audiences is a hit-or-miss gamble, one that sometimes pays off (Matilda The Musical) and sometimes doesn’t (Viva Forever!). The second is the novelty-factor. The fact that a new show is particularly popular when it first opens is no guarantee that it has the capability to become a West End ‘staple show’. Ghost The Musical, Betty Blue Eyes, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Shrek The Musical… these are all shows which were widely talked-about when they first came to the West End, but none have made it past the two-year mark.
Are the shows being produced today victims of this fad culture in which everything has a limited shelf life of popularity before being discarded when a shiny new toy comes along? Or is it just that they don’t have what it takes to become a long-runner?
Looking back 10-20 years ago, most shows enjoyed lengthy runs before closing, and even now, there are always calls for them to return to the West End. They haven’t been forgotten in the shadows of the past. Look at the delight surrounding the news of a revival of Miss Saigon in 2014! Based on the Puccini opera Madame Butterfly, the stage musical by Les Miserables creatives Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg ran for ten years in the West End, closing for good on 30th October 1999. Fourteen years on and its appeal is still burning bright, with theatre fans in high anticipation to see it here once again. There is definitely something to be said for nostalgia.
The revival of Singin’ in the Rain as done very well since it opened at the Palace Theatre last year and has twice extended its booking period, which is currently running until August 2013. Then there is A Chorus Line, which has just started previews for its revival production at the London Palladium. There are also constant touring productions of classic musicals, some of which have transferred for West End runs following their success, such as Bernada Alba and Top Hat. Then there are the classic smash-hits which have just been revived to tour in 2013, with Starlight Express and Cats currently making their way around the country. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make a return to the West End following their travels either.
Of course, not every revived musical is going to be a success. Andrew Lloyd Webber has revived several shows in recent years which, although not flops, failed to ignite enough interest to keep them in town for more than a few years. The association with The Lord’s televised casting programmes may have contributed to that though – playing into the ‘fad culture’ I mentioned earlier. There are a number of musicals I would like to see back in the West End, such as The King and I and The Sound of Music, but just because I’d like them to make a return, it doesn’t mean everyone else agrees. There are definitely certain productions on which I think everyone would agree on however, Miss Saigon being one of them. This is one musical which has been the great love of many people’s lives, and great love never really dies, so why not spend Valentine’s Day with the cast recording of a musical you have loved and lost.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)