Every week I hear somebody say “there is nothing good in the west end” “i am bored of juke box shows” or “why don’t new writers get a chance?” Yet when the opportunity arises for something new, the Musical theatre industry responds to it with negativity.
This has been a bug bear of mine for a few years now, but this week it has been exacerbated with the opening of Loserville.
This is a new musical from British writers, composers and choreographer, featuring a young cast. Exactly the thing we have been crying out for. We should see this as an exciting thing, a new dawn but no, the reaction is negative. About 10 times this week, I have heard “I hear it is not very good” from who I wonder? Somebody who was cut in the first round? Somebody who has heard second hand that it is bad? So before we know it. Our own industry has circled like vultures and predicted the shows demise.
If you ask anybody who knows me I am more likely to be described as cynical before positive but some of the criticism I have heard about Loserville from professionals in the industry is obsurd.
“They don’t have good voices” if by this you mean that the characters sing in a voice which resembles their character and don’t have a traditional musical theatre tone, because it is a pop show, then yes, but surely a geek turning into a matinee idol and singing in a pure tone would be stranger? I have always been of the opinion that singing is a progression from speech and that a seamless transition is a difficult skill, some of the best at this are Linzi Hately and Josie Walker highly respected musical theatre performers. So we should appauled the cast of Loserville. Also those boys are hitting b flats, even Oliver Tompsett has to support those.
The music is samey- is another one which wrangles. If by this you mean music by the same composer, sung by the same charcters in the same setting, that does seem perculiar. This could be said of every musical there is, Sondheim – genius as he is, his songs always have a similar feel. Les Mis the most successful musical if all time could be described as samey if we are honest. All shows have a style that runs throughout the piece.
I have also heard dancers moan “there is too much choreography” and unemployed actors say “they should have got a name” you just cant please everyone.
Loserville isn’t perfect, but it is a new fresh piece of theatre. With a young talented cast, and some of the most passionate dancing I have seen in years. I find that hard to criticise.
This industry negativity isn’t a new thing, remember ‘Imagine This’? The industry had a great time making quips, Jewsical, tap dancing in concentration camps. But how many actually went to see it? Not many. It was in fact a show about human spirit surving in extreme conditions, it featured some innovative movement, a beautiful score and some breath taking performances. But the industry killed it with hearsay before it had chance.
Book of Mormon has recently been getting the negative treatment. This is the biggest Broadway show since Wicked transferring into the West End, another new musical but it is greeted with “will it last?” “who will watch it?” This is an exciting thing, it is unlike anything we currently have. Who will watch it? Probably the same people that have watched South Park for over 150 epsiodes over 15 series, or the people that helped Team America gross $32,000000 world wide.
Another great example of this negativity was a few weeks back, I meet a friend at the stage door of Matilda, when I asked if he enjoyed the show his response was:
“it was good, I just thought at times I could see the Matilda thinking about the moves and her lines”
If a 10 year old carrying a west end show with countless dances, songs, russian language, and pages and pages of script isn’t safe from neagtivity what hope have any of us got.
So my question is why do we do it? Why are we so critical to our own industry? Is it because of the hard skin we are forced to form to deal with the rejections and heartache that this industry can give. Is it the British mentality?
I also can’t understand why nobody in Britain is proud to work in musical theatre, everybody wants to be a straight actor and do plays or TV. Why cant you be proud that you have achieved your goals and that you are at the top of your profession. If you are a tap dancing rat in Shrek you are still at the top of your game, in a huge show, in one of the worlds greatest theatres and you have got that job over thousands of others. Would you ever hear a professional footballer mumbling when they said they played for wigan… Exactly.
I am not sure what I want to achieve from this blog, but if one person thinks twice before being critical, and a sees a show before making opinions, that is something.
I am proud to say
My name is Matthew Malthouse and I love my job in musical theatre.