London theatre reviewer and columnist Mark Shenton recently brought to our attention that nearly 8 million people saw a West End musical last year, with the box offices generating a combined income of over £322m. Most of this ginormous sum however is made entirely from the takings of musicals that have stood the test of time or the jukebox musicals that draw in audiences using the back catalogue of popular bands and artists. Whilst it's great to have Les Misérables and Phantom Of The Opera still going strong after over 20 years, Mamma Mia, We Will Rock You and The Lion King each over 10 it's disheartening to learn that the new writing and the young and upcoming composers aren't given half of the opportunity to showcase the future of musical theatre. We're headed for a London theatreland of jukebox musicals and play-safe revivals.
This is where Michael Peavoy Productions comes into play. Producer Michael Peavoy recently finished playing Tony in Billy Elliot at the Victoria Palace and has since become a leader of the musical theatre revolution. Teaming up with theatre impresario of unknown identity - West End Producer (WEP) Peavoy's Search For A Twitter Composer sets out to actively search for new talent and showcase it in the limelight it deserves, and hopefully getting a production off the ground.
The admissions process was simple - the applicants (all of whom use social networking as a launch platform) uploaded their entries to SoundCloud and YouTube. 99 entrants uploaded 219 new songs which after a week of voting resulted in 14 semi-finalists chosen by 9,957 online voters.
Ushers: The Front Of House Musical
The first 7 semi-finalists performed yesterday at the sold-out Soho Theatre. James Oban and Yiannis G. Kotsakos' musical Ushers: The Front Of House Musical was first up. The great thing about this musical is the fact that many London theatre ushers are performers themselves so it combines both sides of theatre and is humorous in recognition of pricey programmes, picture brochures, ice creams and the rule of having to pour all drinks into plastic glasses. It's completely true and only ten minutes before the competition began I had witnessed a woman having to pour a whole bottle of wine into about 5 separate cups before she could go in! You can listen to the opening number 'Welcome!' below...
Ushers: The Front Of House Musical was performed by Adam Colbeck-Dunn, Ciaran O Driscoll, Kirsty Marie Ayres, Lydia Grant and Nathan Lodge.
Flora Leo's The Lightning Road was second up - a musical drama set during World War II. Played passionately by Leo 'When Lightning Strikes' is sung by Harper Vickery.
Fantatical was the next musical, by composer Matt Board. The musical started life back in 2006 and is set at a Sci-Fi convention and is about what it means to be a fan. We're all fans of something and Andra's song 'You Should See Her Fly' explains her idolisation for her favourite TV character. There wasn't one entry that I didn't like but there was something about Fanatical that won the audience over more so than others - Gillian Ford and Oliver Jones surely made us a fan of this musical! You Should See Her Fly is sung by Matt Board in the version below.
Uncommon Sense by Gavin Kayner and Adrian Colbourne is a musical based on the life of Thomas Paine. A score for extremely strong vocal the performances were delivered by Jordan Lee Davis and Catherine Mort with the chance for beautiful harmony in There Is A Flower.
Laura Tisdall's The Inbetween had previously launched a concept album which featured West End performers such as Daniel Boys, Julie Atherton, Hadley Fraser and Liam Tamne. Sung yesterday by Thomas Sutcliffe and Jessie May 'Beyond The Door' and 'Someone You'd Be Proud Of' were both strong performances. Trapped between parallel worlds the musical is the story of Flick Wimple who faces tough decisions about journeying to another world.
Doctor Who Peter Davison's American companion Peri - Nicola Bryant presented her musical You Belong To Me. Sung by Bindy Baker and Hanna Molloy 'My Heart' was a great female duet (and a really catchy tune!)
The final entry was from Ashley Walsh and Daniel Cartwright with Schindler The Musical, currently in the writing process and production at UCLan. Impressive out-of-London students, and an impressive composition, great effort with presentation as well as arrangement. A bold yet haunting sound.
The judges were director Raz Shaw, Theatre critic Mark Shenton, Choreographer Drew McOnie, Musical Theatre Star (Wicked) Gina Beck, Musical Theatre Network representative Caroline Routh and Perfect Pitch representative Andy Barnes. The judges vote was unanimous and their chosen finalist was Matt Board's Fanatical. Our audience vote went to James Oban and Yiannis G. Kotsakos' Ushers: The Front Of House Musical.