As a steadfast supporter of new musical theatre, I have used this space to push the importance of it in regards to the future of the industry and also highlighted promising new writers and/or shows I’ve come across. Out of everything I love about theatre, new writing is probably the cause closest to my heart and the one which I will continually fight for, time and time again. For the unknown writer, getting their name out there and getting their show off the ground is a challenge which will pose many obstacles, and for most, there will always be a point where they fall and the ability to pick themselves up and carry on just becomes impossibility. The point is that it’s hard. We all know this. An unknown writer will simply never be afforded the same opportunities as one who is known – that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities out there however.
I am by no means alone in advocating new musical theatre. There are plenty of people out there, both in and outside the industry, who are throwing their weight behind new writing and doing what they can to help those who deserve it to advance. A recent example would be the online competition staged earlier this year by the Phantom of the twitter world, West End Producer. Search For A Twitter Composer offered would-be musical theatre composers the chance to submit a section of their original musical to then be judged by a panel of industry professionals, with the public helping to decide who wins. The aimed-for outcome was to develop the winning musical for a fully staged production.
At the end of the day, the best hope for a new musical theatre writer is to showcase their work wherever they possibly can. Getting a musical heard often enough, and by a large enough audience, can only help turn their anonymity into recognition and help to provide the level of attention needed to attract the attention of the right people. It’s not an easy task, but there are numerous platforms – such as the one Search For A Twitter Composer offered – available in London, and the Leicester Square Theatre, which has hosted many a new singer, songwriter, show, etc, has just set up a new one.
The theatre, situated in the heart of the West End, is a popular venue for a wide variety of theatrical entertainment and it is opening its doors to the up-and-coming writers of Britain with a brand new chance to showcase their original works. It is launching a competition titled The New Musical Project, which aims to find, nurture and develop new musical theatre writing talent. The eventual winner will then have their musical performed in a fully staged production at the Leicester Square Theatre’s Lounge in May 2014. The theatre said of the event: “The New Musical Project is a unique opportunity for writers to develop their work alongside a professional West End theatre with the support of an experienced creative team. We have no preconceptions. We simply want to find talent and ideas that will entertain audiences for years to come.”
All hopeful entrants are invited to submit a new, unpublished, or never previously performed one-act musical. Six shortlisted finalists will subsequently be selected from the received submissions, and then go to a rehearsed reading at which an industry panel will be present to provide each of them with feedback on the piece – feedback which will steer the decision as to which musical will be turned into a fully staged production. At the readings, thirty minutes of each show will be performed, with the cast, director and musical director provided by the theatre. There will also be a Q & A session with the industry panel and audience after the performances.
The criteria for entering this competition is very simple; entrants need just send in a short treatment and recordings of up to three contrasting songs from the show. The submission deadline is for Sunday 1st December 2013.
Events such as these are exactly what are needed to help get new writing off the ground. There are, of course, organisations already in existence which have dedicated themselves to furthering exactly this, but there can never be enough platforms out there, and The New Musical Project is one of the most supportive of them, in recent memory. I think it’s a wonderful idea and am behind the Leicester Square Theatre 100% on this one. Hopefully they can help, if not remove, then lower the obstacles standing in the way and make it that little bit easier to clear the lurking pitfalls and actually cross the finish line to victory.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Tuesday 8th October 2013
Follow The New Musical Project on twitter for further information: (@newmusicalpro).