And so it’s casualty number… I’ve lost count. Can you just imagine that “A rare entity in the West End, Imagine This is an entirely new musical, neither based on a book, film or back catalogue of music nor transferred from Broadway,” (Society of London Theatre) will be closing barely a month after it officially opened? Of course not – all the signs point to its timely death.
The making of this show was very, very brave indeed. Firstly, to take a show with no proof of success on any other platform – it’s not even relatively unheard of; nobody had any idea what it was at all! From the off, they were up against it and only a truly unique and expertly executed marketing and advertising campaign was going to drive 960 bums onto their seat, night after night. Merely the show’s first challenge was hard enough, and when it opened, it became a whole lot tougher.
The critics gave ‘mixed’ reviews. The truth is that in these challenging, credit crunching, dark and gloomy times, a subject matter such as the Holocaust would have to carry an unbelievably amazing show around it. Nobody really wants to go and see a show that was constantly being defended by its director and producers as having inappropriate subject matter. Although there were said to be some great performances individually it and looked spectacular – it “received four nominations for the Whatsonstage Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, where it is featured in the Best Actress In A Musical, Best Supporting Actor In A Musical, Best New Musical and Best Set Design categories.” (Society of London Theatre), the content of the musical never pulled through, and thus it heads towards its inevitable sleepy time.
In the recent aftermath, the producer, Beth Trachtenberg, has taken a swipe at the media: “Fundamentally I do not think the critics should be making a moral judgement over the subject matter.” But as Matt Wolf, in his Guardian blog, has quite rightly pointed out, it’s kind of their jobs – “But isn’t one of the very aims of criticism to assess work not just aesthetically but morally?” As many a debate has continued about the role of theatre critics in today’s ever advancing web 2.0 world.
Yet again, I see all the fuss about reviews being far too much valued, when in truth, the power of the people is the actual and honest assessment of any modern production. The producers had such aplomb about the show, – “I’ve witnessed the public’s response to the show that is directly opposed to a narrow-minded critical belief that musicals are limited in their emotional impact” (The Stage) – however, it does appear that the emotion is only arousing the public so deep – and any decent theatre maker knows well enough that this only a touch on what constitutes a successful show.
I should point out that I feel it is hugely encouraging and extremely self-respecting that the production company – Beth Trachtenberg, Shuki Levy, Anita Mann and Icw Productions, have taken on such a courageous production and have been fully behind it. It was a mammoth task in trying to stir success in the New London Theatre (which I think has become the backend of West End theatres with its extremely dated 70s architecture – no show has been truly successful since Cats was there for 21 years) especially without any previous tested ground. A ‘rare entity’ is a bit of an understatement to be fair.
But another example has been set of how not to head to the West End with a huge production. It was hardly an experiment, because I could have commended it more for this, and so the forgotten past it will now become – very much the extreme opposite of what the show was actually all about. Let’s just hope that the big time producers out there can pinch themselves once again and it isn’t another victim of its own peril.