That’s entertainment! Musicals lift spirits on London West End’s stages

“I simply remember my favourite things and then I don’t feel so bad,” sang Maria among the mountains in The Sound of Music, introducing to the world one of the most memorable musical lines of all time. Uplifting sentiments like these now seem to have set sales of tickets to musicals in the West End of ロンドン soaring to new heights, with pundits suggesting two years of misery have left people desperate to lift their spirits.

Box-office figures from the Society of London シアター (Solt) reveal that, since the beginning of the year, West End musicals outperformed their 2019 equivalents in 20 から 22 weeks for attendance and 19 から 22 for revenue. There are fewer plays than in 2019, which might partly explain the strong sales, but people in the industry think it’s more than that.

“Musicals are leading the charge for our industry’s pandemic recovery,” said Martin Scott, Solt’s interim chief executive. “The post-pandemic surge in musicals in the West End and further afield could be interpreted as a sign that audiences are seeking spectacle and escapism during these still uncertain times.”

Such is the need to escape the world’s problems that audiences are particularly drawn to the big entertaining spectacles. Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical has already sold an extraordinary £1.5m of tickets in advance sales for a national tour that will visit leading regional theatres from September. The musical is based on the hit 2019 映画, a heartwarming comedy inspired by the true story of the friends who found fame after a holidaying record company executive heard them singing sea shanties in their village pub. It was written by Nick Moorcroft and Meg Leonard, who have now directed the sequel, entitled Fisherman’s Friends: One And All, which will be released in cinemas on 19 8月.

“When people in postwar Britain were still surrounded by rubble from the Blitz, they just wanted to be cheered up,” said Moorcroft. The country didn’t need anything heavy. Just look at the success of the Ealing comedies of the late 1940s and 1950s. Now audiences are flocking to see something uplifting as they move on from the trauma of Covid.”

ザ・ Fisherman’s Friends musical is staged by Hamish Greer and Tom de Keyser, co-founders of the theatre company Royo, and two of musical theatre’s hottest young producers. Their stagings include The Cher Show, a musical about the pop star’s rise to fame that she produced on Broadway and which has just embarked on a nationwide tour, そして The Osmonds: A New Musical, about one of America’s biggest boy bands, which continues a national tour with a story written by Jay, the drummer.

“What all of our three musicals have in common is that they’re feel-good nights out,” said Greer. “The Osmonds give you some nostalgia, Cher gives you a good jukebox party show and Fisherman’s Friends gives you a really uplifting story. Such shows are connecting with people who may be going to the theatre to get away from what’s happening or to have a great time, when they haven’t been for a few years. The audience response is certainly bigger every show, even on a Wednesday matinee, than previously.”

Trafalgar Square has been transformed this weekend into an open-air theatre, offering free performances from leading West End shows in Europe’s biggest free musical theatre festival, West End Live. Among many musicals being staged this year are 美女と野獣, a Disney adaptation opening at the London Palladium after a national tour, and the European premiere of the multi-award-winning The Band’s Visit at the Donmar Warehouse.

Musical director Mike Dixon – whose forthcoming memoir, Turn Around and Take a Bow!, recalls his work on West End musicals including We Will Rock You – told the 観察者: “There is an inert power in music to lift the spirit of the listener. そして, when you couple that with a heart-warming, funny and entertaining story, you have the potential to take Dame Audience away from all the negative parts of ‘real life’ and give her solace, fun and joy for the duration of the show – and many memories to sustain afterwards.”

As Oscar Hammerstein, co-creator of The Sound of Music, once put it: “I know the world is filled with troubles and injustices… I just couldn’t write anything without hope in it.”

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific: acclaimed Chichester Festival Theatre production opens at Manchester Opera House on 16 7月, ahead of a season at Sadler’s Wells, ロンドン, followed by a limited 10-week UK and Ireland tour. Great classic songs such as Some Enchanted Evening and I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair.

Sister Act: opening at the Eventim Apollo in July, starring Beverley Knight and Jennifer Saunders in a show about “friendship, sisterhood and music”. Original music by Oscar-winner Alan Menken and feet-tapping dance routines and songs inspired by Motown, soul and disco.

The Band’s Visit: European premiere of a multi-Tony Award winning musical that “rejoices in the way music makes us laugh, makes us cry, and ultimately, brings us together”, coming to the Donmar Warehouse, ロンドン, in September. Music and lyrics by David Yazbek and book by Itamar Moses.