Make Room, Make Room 1

London, The Arts

I’m kidding, we love you, but please stop seeing lousy old shows in the West End. You won’t gain any credibility back home by telling people you saw a show that’s been running intermittently for 37 years (‘Chicago’) or 59 years (‘The Mousetrap’).

I was talking to Howard, my New York agent, today, and he explained that the same thing is happening both sides of the Atlantic. Economic mobility has brought mass tourism to two cities that can now barely take the strain.

One side effect is making creaky old shows like ‘Phantom Of The Opera’ continue on tourist currency – at many performances, 90% of the audience is non-English speaking. Which is fine in moderation, but Broadway and the West End need new blood, and now that they’re flooded with these dusty spectacles, theatre is stagnating as fast as costs are rising.

There are virtually no new plays appearing, and those that do have hefty price tags because tourists want big scenery, not intricate wordplay. I sat through ‘Paint Never Dries’, possibly the worst musical of all time, surrounded by Chinese tourists who seemed to be loving it, possibly because they didn’t realise that the dialogue has all the elegance of an orthopaedic boot.

*SPOILER*

There’s an old joke about The Mousetrap’: A bad-tempered tourist harangues a taxi driver on the way to the show, then undertips him as he gets out. The taxi driver shouts. ‘Have a good evening sir, and by the way, the detective did it.’

7 comments on “Make Room, Make Room 1”

  1. Helen Martin says:

    Sudden access to travel means that people can see things they never have been able to before. Phantom is an exception because it must have been staged pretty well everywhere in the known world by now and sometimes twice, but if it’s your first time just being able to attend a “West End Show” is exciting. My retired teachers’ association has an annual tour to London which centres around west end shows but I believe the organiser keeps up with what’s current.

  2. J F Norris says:

    But should we be making room for tired overblown musical spectacles based on comic book heroes, Disney cartoons and mediocre movie comedies (Legally Blonde)?

    Much of the good theatre in the US is done in the regional theaters. Transfers to Broadway usually only happen when a rich producer with plenty of risk-taking hutzpah comes along and makes an offer to the company. The Spiderman debacle, however, will probably keep new musicals in the development and workshop process for years before any attempt is made to bring another new muscial directly to Broadway.

  3. I.A.M. says:

    The new thing on stage in NYC is The Book of Mormon by the guys who do that simple cartoon thing with the kids who make fun of people. Trey Parker is one of them. Apparently it’s quite good.

    Expect that to run in the West End starting next Spring, and ending its run around the end of the world, along with Avenue Q, Phantom, Les Miserables, and Legally Blonde, none of which I’ve ever seen.

    I’ve seen The Mousetrap once, and that seems about enough. Never heard of Paint Never Dries though (and that’s probably a point in my favour.

    Anyone else got nominees for “things what I haven’t seen and don’t intend to”?

  4. Brian says:

    I.A.M., I suspect it his tongue in cheek reference to Love Never Dies, the sequel (by Ben Elton no less) to Phantom Of the Opera. It has flopped everywhere so far but in spite of this it is being brought with great pomp and ceremony here to Australia where we colonials will no doubt lap it up. Now that Mr Elton has migrated to Australia and “is one of us” he will probably be wheeled as part of the immense publicity program.

  5. alan griffiths says:

    Am I to take it that my massive invitation to help me plant potatoes was a waste of time? Curses, curses.

    A fair point, however, given the austerity budget. There is a theatre in Kingston-upon-Thames. I voted against the damn thing but it was built anyway – so and so. It is, however, there – fact – and I have to admit to some enjoyable evenings. Heh – good show.

    But – the “cuts” have withdrawn the funding and the theatre is on rocky ground now.

    What a mess.

  6. admin says:

    Actually you can hold your head up high coming out of ‘Legally Blonde’ because it’s far cleverer than it deserves to be, with some very smart jokes and a good-natured satirical take on Looks VS Brains. Oh, and the lyrics are borderline Sondheim!

  7. Jon says:

    I love my father dearly. He’s a wonderful man and I am proud to call him dad – but for one thing.

    Every time he comes to London he goes to see The Mousetrap.

    I cannot apologise enough.

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