Why do some musicals thrive, whilst others struggle to survive?

Two hugely anticipated Broadway, smash hit shows, Waitress and Come From Away have transferred to London’s West End this year but whilst one is selling out night after night, the other looks to be struggling and it makes me wonder why? What makes a show a success?

Come From Away at the Phoenix Theatre began preview performances on 30 January 2019 and received huge accolade from critics, with mostly four and five star reviews. The show recently won four trophies at the Olivier Awards 2019, including Best New Musical. Cleverly, the show had its opening night on the last day of eligibility for Olivier Awards nominations and went on to receive nine.

Waitress, which opened at the Adelphi Theatre on 8 February, also received positive, mostly three and four star reviews. The show missed out on receiving any nominations at the Olivier Awards, due to it still being in previews when the eligibility period ended.  But do award nominations make a difference to whether or not people buy tickets and could this be a reason why people are flocking to see Come From Away because they feel it may be money safer spent?

Taking this evening, Wednesday 24 April 2019, as an example, Come From Away looks close to selling out, with just sixty of their one thousand seats still available to buy. Waitress on the other hand, appears to have its Upper Circle area closed off, with possibly nine hundred of their fifteen hundred seats left unoccupied. This is based on what I can see from seating charts online for both shows and not official figures.

Waitress stars Katharine McPhee (American Idol, Waitress on Broadway, Smash, Scorpion) as Jenna, a waitress and expert pie-maker who dreams of a way out of her small town and rocky marriage. Pouring her heart into her pies, she crafts desserts that mirror her topsy-turvy life such as “The Key (Lime) to Happiness Pie” and “Betrayed By My Eggs Pie”. When a baking contest in a nearby county — and a satisfying run-in with someone new — show Jenna a chance at a fresh start, she must find the courage to seize it. Change is on the menu, as long as Jenna can write her own perfectly personal recipe for happiness. REVIEW: WAITRESS (Adelphi Theatre) ★★★★

Come From Away is a joyous new musical, that shares the incredible real-life story of the 7,000 air passengers from all over the world who were grounded in Canada during the wake of 9/11, and the small Newfoundland community that invited these ‘come from aways’ into their lives. As uneasiness turned into trust and music soared into the night, gratitude grew into friendships and their stories became a celebration of hope, humanity and unity. REVIEW: COME FROM AWAY (Phoenix Theatre) ★★★★

So what makes a show a success in Londons’ West End? I guess no one really knows what the secret ingredient is (if we did, everyone would be doing it). When a show enjoys such huge success on Broadway, it is bizarre to see how that doesn’t necessarily guarantee its success will transfer across the pond.

Fingers crossed ticket sales pick up for Waitress and it enjoys a long run (it wouldn’t be the first time in history that has happened and so is possible). If you’ve seen the show and loved it, tell all your friends to go and check it out (worth of mouth can do the world of good).

Have you seen Come From Away and Waitress? Which one is your favourite and why do you think some shows succeed whilst others do not?


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