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The Sound of Musicals TX: 3 Dec 2013, Week 49

Episode 4, Tuesday 3rd December, 9:00pm, Channel 4

London's musical theatreland is booming. With millions to be made at the box office, competition is cut-throat and everyone from producers to performers is searching for that coveted spot in the West End. With unprecedented access to a season in the West End, this four-part documentary series goes behind the scenes to witness every aspect of the business of musicals.

The final episode in the series focusses on the challenge of keeping audiences coming – year after year, once the glitz and glamour of opening night has been and gone. Running costs on even a medium sized show can be upwards of a quarter of a million each week and a near constant stream of audiences is required to fuel the machine.

Also key to keeping these shows ‘fresh’ are the performers who replace existing cast at the end of their contracts. Performer Andrew Derbyshire is hoping to land a year-long contract in Thriller Live. Ten years ago and fresh out of college Andrew had lead roles in Joseph and We Will Rock You – but in recent years he’s been doing regional tours and is desperate to get back into the West End.

For Andrew, Thriller could be the perfect opportunity. Now in its sixth year in the West End, with tours in South America to Scandinavia, the demand for top notch performers capable of singing Michael’s songs is high. Andrew will have just three weeks to impress the producers.

Across town Kenny Wax is making his daily call to check figures at the box office. Following a successful recast Top Hat is now in its second year in the West End and must keep pulling in the crowds if it’s to stay there. There’s good news as Top Hat scoops seven nominations for this year’s Olivier awards. The team have also been asked to perform on the live awards show to an audience of millions, a unique opportunity to boost ticket sales.

Back at Thriller auditions are underway to find a new batch of performers to play the role of the young Michael Jackson in the show. These boys are so hard to find that they also run a Michael Jackson Academy, where young hopefuls are schooled in singing dancing and moonwalking to bring them up to the standards required for the West End. Thirteen year old Kierran auditions and is good enough to go straight into the show – it’s a huge role for any young boy and Kierran will have to overcome his shyness if he’s going shine.

The Olivier awards arrive and as well as wowing the crowds with a show-stopping performance the Top Hat team scoop three Oliviers including the coveted Best New Musical. A few weeks later rumours start to circulate that Top Hat is in trouble - to the surprise of the cast. Over the last few weeks with box office numbers dropping, the theatre have made the decision to pull the show early and it’s up to Kenny to break the news to the cast.

Andrew reaches the end of his three week stint on Thriller, and performs what might be his final show. He will have to wait another month to hear the outcome of his trial. Will he make the grade and join one of the West End’s long-running hits?

Episode 3, Tuesday 26th November, 9:00pm, Channel 4

London's musical theatreland is booming. With millions to be made at the box office, competition is cut-throat and everyone from producers to performers is searching for that coveted spot in the West End.With unprecedented access to a season in the West End, this four-part documentary series goes behind the scenes to witness every aspect of the business of musicals.

This episode puts casting in the spotlight. In the last 10 years, the advent of reality TV shows has changed the landscape of the West End and demand for recognisable faces on the London Stage is huge. Casualty and Strictly Come Dancing star Tom Chambers has been pulling in the crowds at Top Hat for the last year and is coming to the end of his contract. Producer Kenny Wax is on the hunt for a classic ‘triple threat’, a performer who can act, sing and dance, to fill Tom’s tap shoes – but they aren’t easy to find. Kenny has to go to Broadway to find his leads Gavin Lee and Kristen Beth Williams. They’ll have only six weeks to learn the complicated choreography and iconic songs before Kenny relaunches the show at a glittering press night.

Across town, producer David Ian hopes his new show The Bodyguard will pull in the crowds. With the death of Whitney Houston in the last few months, all eyes in the West End will be on him to see if he can find a star capable of singing the Whitney Houston songbook. The woman tasked with the job is Grammy and Tony award winning star Heather Headley, who describes the role as running a marathon every night - for a year. Can she take the strain.

Novice producer Amy Anzel is having better luck, after losing Craig Revel Horwood, she’s found a new director and is now searching for the perfect man to pull in the crowds in the role of the Fonz. Finding a well-known name who can also do the job is no easy task, and to make matters worse, Amy needs to sign the contracts in order to secure venues for her pre-West end tour. Now personally liable for theatre costs running to hundreds of thousands, the pressure is greater than ever to cast her leading man.

Kenny’s press night has finally arrived, after months of work promoting his new leads, the stage is set for the relaunch of his new stars, but hours before the show a phone call from his leading man threatens everything, he’s lost his voice and is unable to do the show. In true West End style the task falls to his understudy Alan– who has been waiting in the wings for his very own chance to shine. There’s nothing that Kenny can do apart from hope that Alan can pull it off.

Finally – after months of intensive casting, Amy has found her leading man in the form of Emmerdale heart throb Ben Freeman, in addition to Heidi Range in the role of Pinkie and Cheryl Baker, formerly with Eurovision winning band Bucks Fizz, as Mrs Cunningham. With her cast now in place, and her regional tour booked, there’s only one question to be answered – is her cast good enough to interest a major West End theatre? Amy has one chance to pitch to West End theatre owner Nica Burns to find out.

Episode 2, Tuesday 19 November, 9:00pm, Channel 4

London's musical theatreland is booming. With millions to be made at the box office, competition is cut-throat and everyone from producers to performers is searching for that coveted spot in the West End.With unprecedented access to a season in the West End, this four-part documentary series goes behind the scenes to witness every aspect of the business of musicals.

This episode follows producers at both ends of the spectrum as they try to do all that it takes to create their own sell out shows. From super-producer Cameron Mackintosh, staging the latest revival of circus spectacular musical Barnum, to first time producer Amy Anzel trying to raise funds and find the cast for her fledgling production of Happy Days: A New Musical. There is no magical formula to create the perfect musical.

Though star names help and Amy thinks she's got one when Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood agrees to be her director. Also hoping to carve a niche for himself in a hit show is 21 year old performer Dickie Wood. He’s fresh from stage school and has landed his first job in Mamma Mia the worldwide hit musical in its fifteenth year. Dickie has a lot to learn in just five short weeks before his west end debut – not just the steps and the notes but the haircut, the convincing Greek tan and the sparkling smile.

With time money and reputation at stake, Cameron, Amy and Dickie have their work cut out. And one things for sure, in the West End, the drama’s not just on the stage.

Episode 1, Tuesday 13 November, 9:00pm, Channel 4

London's musical theatreland is booming. With millions to be made at the box office, competition is cut-throat and everyone from producers to performers is searching for that coveted spot in the West End. With unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to a season in the West End, this four-part documentary series goes behind the scenes to witness every aspect of the business of musicals.

In the battle between legendary producers and optimistic novices to get their shows on the stage, all have a story to tell about the lure of the bright lights. And once a show is in the West End, the series explores how to sustain a hit: the chorus lines, the casting changes and the effort it takes to bring in an audience night after night - and how to stage the spectacular.

The series begins with how to bring a classic tale to life on stage, with exclusive access to Academy Award winner Sam Mendes' re-imagining of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Past TX Information

THE SOUND OF MUSICALS 4/4
09 Dec 2013, 01:05
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