Mercury Musical Developments, in partnership with Musical Theatre Network, hosts a bi-annual UK Musical Theatre Conference to debate and discuss issues pertaining to the current and future state of musical theatre in the UK.
In 2017 we held our conference, titled ‘High Flying, Adored? Redefining success in new musical theatre in the UK’ at Lyric Hammersmith. The day featured six case studies of new British musicals, exploring their business models, and how they navigated a development path to success. Producers and creatives behind these productions shared insights, followed by questions and discussion. A panel of industry experts also discussed audience development and marketing specifically for new British musicals, and there were plenty of networking opportunities throughout the day.
The 2015 conference, titled ‘Putting it Together’ was held at the Arcola Theatre. Panelists and speakers included Rebecca Applin (composer), Samuel Adamson (Lyricist & Bookwriter -The Light Princess, The National Theatre), Wendy Gadian (principal lecturer and course leader, Musical Theatre BA at RCSSD). Rupert Gould (Artistic Director, Almeida Theatre), Pravesh Kumar (Artistic Director, Rifco), Susie McKenna (Creative Director, Hackney Empire), Jenny Sealey (Artistic Director, Graeae Theatre), and Danielle Tarento (freelance producer and casting director).
Previous conference venues have also included the Almeida Theatre, where speakers included Richard Thomas (Olivier Award winning composer, Jerry Springer the Opera), Libby Purves (writer and broadcaster), David Babani (Artistic Director, Menier Chocolate Factory), Cora Bissett (director, actor and musician, Glasgow Girls), Gurinder Chadha (director and writer, Bend It Like Beckham) and Sarah Travis (Tony Award winning orchestrator and musical supervisor) and Soho Theatre where speakers included Phelim McDermott (Artistic Director, Improbable).
“Just wanted to say thank you for a brilliant day. It has given me such a lot to think about. Excellent organisation, super food, stimulating – nay inspirational speakers. And great networking. You did a fantastic job.” – MMD Member
“It was a great day and we both left buzzing with excitement. Well done!” – MTN Member
2017 Case Studies:
Miss Nightingale – Mr Bugg Presents have toured their original British musical for over six years, making the transition from smaller studio spaces to the main stages of mid- and large-scale venues. Writer/director/producer Matthew Bugg shares the inside story of this journey as the show returns to central London, joined by Pete Rowe Artistic Director, partner organisation New Wolsey Theatre.
Laila the Musical – Rifco‘s co-production with Watford Palace Theatre and Queens Theatre Hornchurch toured successfully in 2016, reaching new and diverse audiences with its 7th century Persian romance of Laila and Majnu. Writer/director Pravesh Kumar discussed how Rifco developed this new British musical to tour successfully to seven mid-scale venues following its premiere.
The Wind in the Willows – Producer Jamie Hendry talked about his new musical adaptation by George Stiles, Anthony Drewe and Julian Fellowes ahead of its opening in June at the London Palladium. Jamie commissioned the musical in 2012 and in 2013 successfully raised over £1 million towards the production’s budget through crowdfunding, opening the show at Theatre Royal Plymouth, then touring to Salford’s Lowry and Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre ahead of its West End run.
Fantastic Mr Fox – Nuffield Southampton Theatres’ director Sam Hodges shared how they resourced their ambitions to develop and stage new musical ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’, joined by Chris Stafford, chief executive of co-producer Curve, and producer Eleanor Lloyd who acted as a consultant on the production. This family musical, adapted from Roald Dahl’s book by Sam Holcroft, Arthur Darvill, Al Muriel and Darren Clark, has successfully played at Nuffield (its best selling production) and the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith ahead of a planned commercial tour and international performances.
Forest Boy was Noisemaker’s first original musical and was developed with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. The show premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe before going on to further productions in London and New York. During this session, Claire McKenzie and Scott Gilmour shared how their modern day fairy tale musical has found success in Edinburgh, London (winning the S&S Award) and New York (at the New York Musical Festival) and how they have grown from a Glasgow-based songwriting team into a partnership with an emerging international voice.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Sheffield Theatres commissioned this new British musical from an idea by director Jonathan Butterell, based on the true story of a local teenager coming out as a drag queen while at high school. Written by Tom MacRae and Dan Gillespie Sells, it recently finished its World Premiere at Sheffield Crucible Theatre, playing to standing ovations and packed houses before transferring to London’s Apollo Theatre and receiving five Olivier Award nominations. Director Jonathan Butterell, songwriter Dan Gillespie Sells and creative associate Jane Semark shared the story of the show’s success to date.