Is the price of theatre costing West End shows their future?

Today is another sad day for West End Theatre, a feeling we are getting unfortunately accustomed to in recent months, with the short lived runs of shows like From Here To Eternity, Stephen Ward, The Full Monty and now, I Can’t Sing.

Yes, the X Factor Musical – I Can’t Sing has announced that it will close in just two weeks time (10 May), despite only having been open for two months at the London Palladium. The show, which was booking until October 2014, was written by comedian Harry Hill and supported by X Factor creator Simon Cowell. But despite the reality TV show story, star studded cast and well known creative team, this show has failed to survive the West End.

Some interesting comments have been coming in today with thoughts as to why London shows are failing. Facebook users that don’t live in the London area said that with such a strong touring circuit of shows recently, they are more inclined to wait until the shows they want to see come to a city near them (and at a more affordable price) rather than travelling to London.

People in the London area have said that they are visiting the West End less and less frequently because of the high ticket prices and, like those living outside of London, some Londoners are even choosing to make trips to nearby regional theatres like Bromley and Southend because they can get a much better deal on ticket prices. There appears to be a mentality of ‘i’ll wait until it tours’ amongst theatregoers and if they do make the trip to the West End, they want to see something they know will be worth their hard earned cash.

Clever marketing campaigns such as George Orwells 1984, which opens at Londons Playhouse Theatre in a couple of weeks, are offering some tickets for the bargain price of ¬£19.84. Fringe productions which have transferred into the west end can sometimes be seen to offer preview tickets for the same price as the Fringe theatre production. Perhaps the cost of seeing new shows needs to be brought down from the beginning, to give people the opportunity to test the waters and see something they aren’t familiar with, without breaking the bank.

Perhaps we are moving into a new era where shows will make or break their success on tour around the country and then transfer into the West End if they are received well. Shows like Wicked tested the waters in America by playing to audiences in San Francisco before moving into Broadway and UK shows like Sweeney Todd and Good People have moved into the West End after successful smaller productions at the Chichester/Hampstead Theatres.

With Broadway productions such as The Book of Mormon and Once thriving in the West End and new British musicals like Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory flying the flag for Britain, as one¬†Facebook user said today, maybe these new shows that are closing just aren’t very good.