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Audiences encouraged by TV casting shows

Published 20 October 2009

Televised reality shows searching for West End leading actors and actresses have had a positive effect on London theatre audiences, new research has concluded.

Ipsos MORI, which conducted the research during the second half of 2008, found that among theatregoers who had watched the popular television shows, almost half (47%) had been made more likely to see the production featured, while 34% said they were more likely to see a musical in general and 23% said they were more likely to attend a non-musical production.

The research project, which saw theatregoers answering questionnaires at selected performances, was undertaken on behalf of industry body the Society of London Theatre (SOLT) in the wake of programmes including How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?, Any Dream Will Do, Grease Is The Word and I’d Do Anything proving a hit with the Saturday night TV audiences.

Speaking about the findings, theatre impresario and Oliver! producer Cameron Mackintosh commented: “There is no doubt that searching for the star of a musical on prime time Saturday night TV has had a tremendously beneficial effect on the West End, not only for promoting a particular show but, just as importantly, exposing new talent who find great opportunities in other productions in the West End and around the country. So the theatre industry has every reason to be grateful to Andrew Lloyd Webber and the BBC for putting musical theatre centre stage and the current buoyant state of the West End is living proof of the benefits.”

SOLT Chief Executive Richard Pulford added: “The last two years have seen record attendances for London theatre. It is of obvious interest whether these high-profile TV shows have contributed in some way to ticket sales. The research seems to confirm that major television exposure for West End shows stimulates ticket demand both for the theatre productions featured and – to a lesser though still significant extent – for other productions too.”

Additional research by SOLT and Arts Council England found that while the TV shows are encouraging audiences, these audiences are not from a significantly different socio-economic background to those already attending West End productions.

It has been over a year since the last reality casting show I’d Do Anything saw Jodie Prenger crowned as London theatre’s new Nancy for hit musical Oliver!. A new show to find an actress to play Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz and a dog to play Toto is due to air on BBC1 in spring 2010.

MA

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