Failing Superstar"s threat to Theatreland: The reality show"s effect on the West End

Failing Superstar's threat to Theatreland: Concern over the reality show's effect on the West End

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UPDATED:

21:58 GMT, 19 July 2012

A few West End producers I’ve spoken to have been grumbling about the witless Superstar show on ITV. And not the usual sour grapes grumbling either. More a concern that the programme is so awful it could be damaging the West End.

‘It doesn’t make you want to go online and book to see a musical, does it’ one senior theatre executive told me. ‘You look at it and think: “Jesus Christ, keep me away from this tripe”. ’

Another wondered how many people watching the show are being put off going to the theatre ever again.

Finding a Superstar: David Grindrod, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Mel C and Jason Donovan search for the next musical superstar to play the lead in a new arena tour of the legendary rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar

Finding a Superstar: David Grindrod, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Mel C and Jason Donovan search for the next musical superstar to play the lead in a new arena tour of the legendary rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar

The ratings have collapsed, and someone closely involved behind-the-scenes told me: ‘I think they all know that they are floating on a pile of s***.’

Superstar has its fans — in fact, one person in my office loves it — but I’m not one of them. There’s something about the tawdriness of these television ‘go find me a nobody’ broadcasts that I feel compelled to expose.

Audiences know Superstar’s a dud, too. They’re switching off in their droves. The opening episode won 3.2 million viewers, about two million lower than the average for its time slot. The lowest audience rating was 2.2 million — on ITV1 folks, this past Tuesday.

Andrew Lloyd Webber had another show, you may recall, on BBC 1 called Over The Rainbow (the BBC got wise) and that began with ratings of 4.27 million.

Superstar runs till next Wednesday and behind the scenes there’s concern that contestant (and The Voice reject) Nathan James might win, which would be a shame because he’s as wooden as the cross he’s carrying.

Three contestants prepare during the filming of Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest musical star search on ITV: Superstar, looking to cast the lead in a new production of Jesus Christ Superstar

Three contestants prepare during the filming of Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest musical star search on ITV: Superstar, looking to cast the lead in a new production of Jesus Christ Superstar

Good lord. I can imagine that if Jesus Christ were around today and he wandered into the ITV studio he might react as he did when he entered the temple courts and overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those flogging doves.

‘It is written,’ he said to them, ‘my house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.’

He wouldn’t call this lot robbers, though. I’m not allowed to print what he might have said.

Harvey Weinstein will introduce Julian Ovenden and Rosalie Craig, stars of the musical Finding Neverland, who will give a preview of one of the show’s songs, In The Blink Of An Eye, at the big new Tank gallery at Tate Modern on Thursday for the Warner Music Group’s pre-Olympic party. Weinstein’s producing Finding Neverland, which will open at the Curve in Leicester in September.

How the West End was won

The Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre are jointly ruling the West End, with sizzling hot ticket sales for the musical Matilda and the drama War Horse.

Matilda, on at the Cambridge Theatre, has a whopping 5.3 million cash advance, which is phenomenal — and a triumph for the canny RSC duo Michael Boyd and Vikki Heywood, and their team.

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Matthew Warchus opens the production at the Shubert Theatre in New York in April and let’s hope Matilda waltzes in big time there, too.

The National’s War Horse, at the New London Theatre, based on Michael Morpurgo’s best-seller, has 5 million in advance ticket sales, which is sensational for a play, especially one that has been running a while.

The National’s other smash — the comedy One Man, Two Guvnors — is carrying an advance in excess of 2 million at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket.

What’s happening here The major subsidised theatres seem to know exactly what audiences want. Not always, to be sure, but often enough to make it count.

Which is more than the poor souls at the West End’s flagship theatre the London Palladium.

I’m a big fan of Des O’Connor, so I’m not going blame him for whatever ails The Wizard Of Oz. In any case, it’s coming off soon.

But Tommy Steele’s returning to the Palladium from October 24 in that tired old musical Scrooge.

It’s been on general sale for a while and has taken the grand total of 20,000 in cash, although it has speculative bookings of 100,000. That’s woeful.

Scrooge is naff nonsense, not really what audiences want these days; tastes have changed.

Thank heavens that in June, Sam Mendes is bringing in a new musical: Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, which, like Matilda, is based on a Roald Dahl novel.

Watch out for..

■ Jason Biggs, Lauren Ambrose, Joel David Moore, Cedric the Entertainer and D.C. Pierson, who lead director Stephen Gyllenhaal’s (Maggie and Jake’s dad) corker of a film Grassroots, which opens here on October 19.

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Apart from his American Pie films, I always liked Biggs and here he’s good as the former real-life American journalist Phil Campbell who, after being fired from his job, helps a wacky friend run for a seat on Seattle City Council.

The guy who runs, Grant Cogswell (played well by Joel David Moore), is a bit of a hyper-eccentric who meanders around town in a polar bear outfit, as you do. But Cogswell also has a passion for a mono-rail transport system in Seattle and he runs on that platform.

It’s an engrossing movie and it’s great that it’s coming out here before President Obama goes up against that Mormon dude Mitt Romney in the US election on November 6. Robert Mitchell, former managing director of Disney’s UK division, will release Grassroots through his new distribution company Intandem.

■ Tarell Alvin McCraney, the American playwright whose new play, Choir Boy, will begin performances at the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court from September 4.

The drama’s about a choir leader at an all-black American prep school under pressure to carry on tough traditions.

Dominic Smith, who is currently on the road in Bartlett Sher’s production of South Pacific, will play the choir master, with other roles played by David Burke, Khali Best, Aron Julius, Eric Kofi Abrefa, Kwayedza Kureya, and Gary McDonald.

The play, which will feature well-known spirituals, will be directed by Dominic Cooke. He steps down as the Royal Court’s artistic director in April and will be succeeded by Vicky Featherstone, current artistic chief of the National Theatre of Scotland.

Mark Gatiss will play I in new play 55 Days, about the tumultuous weeks following the Civil War at the Hampstead Theatre this autumn

Mark Gatiss will play Charles I in new play 55 Days, about the tumultuous weeks following the Civil War at the Hampstead Theatre this autumn

■ Mark Gatiss, who works both in front of and behind the camera on Hartswood Films’ award-winning BBC drama, Sherlock.

He’ll portray Charles I in Howard Brenton’s new play 55 Days, about the tumultuous weeks following the Civil War, in 1648, when Oliver Cromwell and the monarch struggled over England’s future against a backdrop of political and military upheaval.

Howard Davis is directing the play and it will run at the Hampstead Theatre from October 18. Mr Gatiss was superb recently in Josie Rourke’s Donmar production of The Recruiting Officer.

■ Luke Goss, who stars as the stone-cold assassin at the heart of Perry Bhandal’s sleek, dark thriller Interview With A Hitman, which opens at a handful of REEL cinemas (Widnes, York, Kiddermister, Hull, Quinton and Borehamwood) today.

The movie, Bhandal’s first feature film (he wrote and directs), focuses on Romanian-born Viktor (Goss), who tells how he was hired as a killer when he was barely in his teens. He becomes an enforcer for East European crime czars and soon moves to London, where he just shoots and gets the job done.

Bhandal told me he filmed on location in Newcastle but did some exterior shooting in Bucharest. The director made a short film at university, then ran his own software and IT consultancy, before selling the business and taking up film-making full-time. He’s busy working on his next thriller.

Julie Walters, Helen McCrory and Rory Kinnear are all tremendous in
Stephen Beresford’s uneven but fascinating play The Last Of The
Haussmans, on the Lyttelton stage at the National Theatre.

The drama, about Sixties counterculture clashing with reality, will be
beamed live into cinemas during the National Theatre Live season on
October 11.

On November 1, you can see Simon Russell Beale in Nicholas Hytner’s
brilliantly resonant production of Timon Of Athens, which is on the
Olivier stage.

The National Theatre Live season starts on September 6, with the stage
version of Mark Haddon’s novel The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The
Night.

Performances begin in the Cottesloe next Tuesday.