• Dress Circle Reviews

Has Cameron Mackintosh Lost his Creativity?

Updated: Sep 13


Has Cameron Mackintosh Lost his Creativity? In the 1980s Cameron Mackintosh was at the forefront of musical theatre, producing hit after hit. He was involved in such famous shows as Cats, Phantom of The Opera, Les Miserables and Mamma Mia! These are four of the five all time longest running West End musicals. But it feels as though he has lost all creativity now.

In a recent article for the Evening Standard he discussed the limits of what he can do (whilst also shocking people in saying Phantom of the Opera was to close permanently, a statement quickly refuted by Andrew Lloyd Webber). While he’s talking about what can’t be done Andrew Lloyd Webber is looking at ways to make theatre safe. This will give the government confidence to allow full audiences sooner than would otherwise be possible.

It’s not just Andrew Lloyd Webber’s own theatres he’s helping. If you look at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, they’re doing a concert version of Jesus Christ Superstar. They wouldn’t have been able to put this on if they were being charged the full royalty costs so he has to be providing them assistance (though we can only speculate exactly what this is). Because he clearly loves theatre. Why isn’t Cameron talking about what he can do?

Could offering Dear Evan Hansen cheaper rent allow it to open? Could he put a play on? A Life in Theatre, for example, has a cast of 2 and minimal set, you just need a costume rail and desk. At the Prince Edward a curtain halfway back would hide the Mary Poppins set and easily allow this play to be produced with a socially distanced audience.

It’s not just in the pandemic that highlights the loss of creativity. If you look at Mackintosh’s recent west end credits they are all either revivals or proven bankable Broadway transfers. We wouldn’t have Les Miserables today if he wasn’t willing to take a risk on a new show. Why isn't he taking those same risks today? Yes, theatre is a business but to make money then risks need to be taken. I assume Cameron Mackintosh got into theatre because of his love for it. Having made a lot of money why does he now shy away from bringing in new composing talent? Has his love for musical theatre and his creativity become lost within the business aspects of theatre?

For now we will focus on where we are seeing the creativity flourish. The Old Vic are bringing us live streaming of shows, The Mousetrap have socially distanced shows opening in October and the Troubadour plan to open the musical Sleepless at the end of August. These are just a few of the glimmers of light in the industry. We are going to focus on these that are helping the industry open quickly and, importantly, safely.


Update September 13th: It’s been announced that Nimax theatres are now starting to open with social distancing in place. They said it won’t make a profit but will help reduce some costs (I read this as the theatres are more loss making by being empty). In doing this they’ll allow so many people to get back to work as well as supporting so many other businesses in the West End by bringing audiences in – per/post show restaurants, bars and cafes. This is an amazing step forward and shows it can be done. Once they’re open I’m sure they’ll find more ways to improve safety and potentially help move them to a non-loss making model while a vaccine is found. It’s great that they haven’t given up.

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