Claiming on my part to admire the ethos of West End or Broadway theatre would require me to be economical with the truth. There was a time when I attended several press nights for West End productions and I had access to the after show parties. Witnessing the antics of freeloading hacks at those events was a sight for sore eyes, in my humble opinion.
Even so, there is obviously a place in many people’s hearts and minds for commercial theatre. I have seen productions of “serious” plays in the West End that were highly impressive.
Old school music business aficionados tend to look at theatre with a sort of inverted snobbery. It was interesting therefore, to read a newspaper interview with Lord Lloyds Bank once, where he made the point that his most successful musical had grossed more financially than the world’s most successful movie of that era. Who is having the last laugh then?
Escapism seems to be the key word that comes to mind when one thinks of successful musicals, but I was surprised when I went to see Hairspray in the West End, for instance. The show’s plot line dealt effectively with issues related to struggles for civil rights in the USA and the songs were well written and performed.
Perhaps it is true that the commercial theatre sector is not primarily interested in making audiences ponder on inconvenient truths, but committed artists emerge from time to time who ensure that every medium or genre has its moments of making folks face reality.