Wednesday, 22 June 2011

To Tour or Not to Tour?

I was just perusing the theatre news for the UK when I noticed that the cast has been announced for the UK tour of 'Sister Act' the musical (it does not advise who will be directing or designing the show or whether it is a replication of the London or New York production) and it occurred to me that there are many actors who do not like to be in touring versions of a show, as if it might be seen to be beneath them.
Now I appreciate that some older actors may want to stick close to home as much as possible but I'm starting to think that the audience is picking up on the fact and that they are beginning to see touring versions as a lesser product.
Legally Blonde will also be touring and they've yet to announce their cast and I wonder what level of 'star casting' they will have (if any).
I am not saying that any show needs to have big names as I certainly believe that the show should be the star so long as it's written, produced and performed well then that's good enough for me. Of course, it's nice to see someone well known if you're a fan of that person, but it is not essential.
What I worry about is that some theatre goers are only attracted to the cast that may be performing and care very little about the show they intend to see. They may, of course, enjoy what they see but they would not have gone in the first place if not attracted by the cast. It is a trend I am not too enamoured of. Many West End shows now rely on the pull of 'star power' which is a shame as many of these are excellent show in their own right. Phantom' and 'Les Mis' (both long runners) are now exceptions rather than the rule, but continue their success due to their legacy and fandom that they've built up over the years
It is a shame that this trend has evolved and that more well know actors want the prestige of only working in the West End. Touring once was a way of spreading your name around the country, building up followers. Repertory was a means of learning the craft. These days, with television, reality shows and perhaps even drama schools there are different ways to make your name. And to this end the West End seems more appetising (and financially rewarding) and easier to achieve. Bit it has also created a snobbish attitude in some (not all) performers.
A Shame.

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