The final episode brings the story up to the 90s and beyond, with the rise of jukebox musicals like Mamma Mia! and Andrew Lloyd Webber embracing television to find new stage stars.
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SONG: "The Phantom Of The Opera"
Theatreland, London's West End.
One square mile of musical talent
worth over a quarter of a billion pounds a year.
One of the cultural epicentres of Great Britain and the world.
This programme contains some strong language
But it wasn't always this way.
65 years ago, the West End was parochial,
trapped in a time warp of pre-war nostalgia,
completely unprepared for a new breed of musical emerging from America.
This is the story of the rise of the British musical.
How the British fought back against American domination
to not only reclaim the West End
but to become a driving force behind musical theatre around the world,
turning it into a global industry worth over £1.5 billion a year.
It's a tale of Titanic shows...
Half of it wasn't written
and the bits that HAD been written were far too long.
Nobody in our team had done it before except for me.
This was a sort of a musical phenomena.
..a story of prodigious talent...
All the talent that was being invented were all in Britain.
We just thought, "this is working quite well".
And that was the day my life changed forever.
..and phenomenal daring.
After the reviews, our box office was shredded.
"They gotta see some ass."
-They took him off screaming, we never saw him again.
-That's how difficult that show is.
# Sing for me!
SONG: "The Music Of The Night"
At the end of the 1980s, the West End was conquering the world
with a new brand of big, bold and fabulously expensive musical.
Andrew Lloyd Webber's hits had involved dancing cats,
roller-skating trains and a grand Gothic horror romance.
Some surprise then when he announced his next show would be based
on an intimate story of romantic entanglements.
He makes no secret of the fact that he wrote Phantom because of Sarah.
Well, that relationship broke down
as Aspects was going on and Aspects is a far more mature piece.
It's edgier. It's where Andrew was.
He chooses his projects very intelligently. He wanted it
to be something different and I think he's excited
by doing something which seems to be a contrast
to whatever he's last done
which is one reason he works with a lot of different directors and lyricists.
SONG: "James Bond Theme"
Three years earlier, Lloyd Webber had recognised
the importance of celebrity in launching a new musical.
He tried the same thing again with Aspects.
But this time it wouldn't be with a star from British sitcom,
it would be one of the world's most famous actors.
BOTH SING IN HARMONY: # Because I'm free
# Nothing's worrying me.
But the transition to musical theatre wasn't an easy one.
This is a man who is a big, big movie star
being asked to do something that he's never done before
and I don't think he was supported.
I think everyone was very concerned about their own problems,
that nobody had the time to nurture Roger.
You have to tell me honestly, you know, because I'm going to make a fool of myself.
So he wasn't very honest and here I am making a fool of myself!
And you could watch him gradually getting more and more
ill at ease with the process.
-Can you give us a quick tune?
-Yeah, give us a song.
-Just a hum even.
-A few golden notes.
HE HUMS BRIEFLY
That's it, that's my range.
He wasn't happy with the idea of all that singing
but actually I saw a run-through with him,
at least of one of the acts and I thought he was very charming.
But he didn't... I mean, he used to change the lyrics.
There's an ensemble where they sing, "I'm falling, I'm suddenly falling"
and Roger was singing "I'm appalling, I'm fucking appalling"!
# I want to be the first man you remember. #
Just four weeks before opening, Moore left the production.
The spotlight now fell on his little-known co-star,
26-year-old Michael Ball.
Now, I have top billing and...
AMERICAN ACCENT: With great power, comes great responsibility.
It was great, in a sense because I was suddenly the leading actor
in a brand-new Lloyd Webber show.
With top billing, Michael Ball became the first star to be launched
by a musical since Elaine Paige 11 years earlier,
helped by a Number Two hit in the UK charts.
# Love, love changes everything
# Hands and faces Earth and sky. #
For me, it all came together with the song Love Changes Everything.
Once we had that song,
somehow or other, not... It wasn't that easy
but it was a foundation, it was a cornerstone.
Love Changes Everything was written for the show
but we also wanted it to have a life outside the show.
Less than 4% of the population go to the theatre.
# Love changes everything. #
What having a single does is open you up to the whole of the country.
# Nothing in the world will ever be the same. #
Michael's new-found fame came at a price.
With Lloyd Webber's maturity as a writer came a more ambitious score.
It was vocally as demanding as anything that I've ever heard in the theatre.
It's one of THE hardest vocal roles that Andrew's written
..you start the show solo, in the spotlight, going
# Love, love changes everything.
Usually you think the big song's going to be at the end of the show,
the 11 o'clock number as we call it in musicals but no, Andrew writes it at the beginning,
-SINGS WITH GUSTO:
-# Love will never, ever let you be the same. #
Right? That wasn't a B-flat, but every night you sing the first song
and it's a B-flat that you have to hit.
It's my fault! I put in the B-flat.
Initially it just ended on a repeat of the line.
I said, "But it needs a big ending," to Andrew.
He goes, "What...where could it go?"
I said, "Well, you need to go right up at the end."
He goes, "But that's a B-flat." And I said, "Is it?
"I don't know, but I'm going to bloody try and sing it."
# Love will never, never let you
# be the same. #
I remember actually seeing someone, I'm not going to say who it was!
But they didn't sing it. They didn't sing it.
They kind of screeched it and they left the production without telling anybody,
they just didn't show up for work the next day
cos they couldn't deal with it. That's how difficult that show is.
Aspects opened in April 1989 to sell-out audiences.
Less than one year later, following in the wake of other
Lloyd Webber shows, it transferred to Broadway.
-'Although New York critics hadn't yet cast their judgement on
'Aspects Of Love, everyone at the premiere thought it went well.'
It was the most amazing evening I think I've had.
We had a wonderful reception when we opened in London.
We made a few changes to the show for here and it has just been splendid.
I was very proud of it tonight. It's a very different show for me
and in very many ways, it's the show that I'm most proud of.
# Seeing is believing. #
It was a great success, the opening night performance,
and then we were waiting for Frank Rich from the New York Times,
waiting for his review to come out, and I remember saying to Trevor Nunn
at the party, "I'll be thrilled if he only hates it"
because he was known as the Butcher of Broadway.
I have never read a review like it.
Like he had gone through the programme and taken every department
and rubbished everything, down to the ice cream seller.
It was vile. It was vile!
There was not one redeeming feature, he said, in the whole evening.
For the first time, Andrew Lloyd Webber misfired on Broadway.
Aspects failed to find an audience and closed after just 11 months,
losing its entire 8 million investment. With the New York Times
gleefully labelling it the "greatest musical flop in Broadway history",
question marks were raised whether the British onslaught was faltering.
After the extraordinary success of Les Miserables, Alan Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg
had been wrestling with their next project for the West End's
other great impresario, Cameron Mackintosh.
Wanting to update Puccini's Madame Butterfly, Schonberg had
come across a Vietnam war photo of a girl being separated from her mother
when she's evacuated to American and a new life with her GI father.
I was quite shocked because the picture is amazing.
I still have the picture in my room.
And I just rang Alan and said "Would you consider that the story
"of Butterfly happened during the Vietnam War?
"And he's an American soldier and she's a Vietnamese woman."
This picture was so striking, so amazing, that obviously,
we realised that in a simple conversation,
we had decided to put the Vietnam War on the musical stage.
It smelled dangerous to me.
I described it to somebody as, "Doing the show would be like standing on a musical razor blade"
because everything about the story was real
and yet, people were buying a ticket to a musical so there
was no point in doing a musical if it wasn't going to be entertaining.
Therefore, finding the style was going to be crucial.
Yeah, but I think that whole...
I can not do it without the first bar.
Along with Lloyd Webber, Mackintosh had helped redefine
the possibilities of musical theatre but even for him,
turning the Vietnam War into a song and dance stage show would be
a difficult balancing act. But he did have one trump card.
One of Britain's finest Shakespearian actors
was looking for a career change.
I was at Stratford playing Macbeth and around about the same time,
I went to see Les Mis in London, the first production,
and I was incredibly moved while I was watching it,
moved to tears, and a big lump in my throat, and I thought
"This is the kind of effect I want to have on an audience while I'm doing Macbeth
"but I'm beating my head against a wall and suffering doing it."
I looked at the actors on stage and though "They don't look as if
"they're working that hard"! I want to do that!"
Mackintosh was also able to draw a pool of talent well used
to staging the new breed of mega-musical.
John Napier had been designer on Cats, Starlight and Les Miserables,
but even he was taken aback by the challenges of staging Miss Saigon.
At the first meeting we had, John came to me and said,
"What am I going to do with a helicopter on stage?"
(FRENCH ACCENT) "John what you have to do is make the helicopter..."
I said, "Listen, John, we could have written
"the 747 taking off from Saigon Airport.
"You just have a helicopter!"
"And it has to be the most real scene in the show
"because it's very important."
"It's your problem, not mine.
"You are the set designer, you have to deal with it."
In the end, Napier's solution was simple, but hugely effective.
What it was, basically, was really lightweight aluminium frame
on the back wall of the theatre, there was a motor on the top of it,
and on it were some rubber balls and bungee cord
so that as the motor started to go, the ball was extracted further and further out,
and we had little tapes on the bungee so when you looked at it,
it was all illusion. I mean, it looked like a real helicopter
was landing in the middle of Drury Lane Theatre.
I'd never seen anything like it in the theatre ever
and it was...really, really exciting and incredibly moving.
The fuss that that caused! I mean, ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous.
I mean, it wasn't high tech, particularly,
but it did capture the audience's imagination.
# The heat is on in Saigon
# The girls are hotter 'n' hell. #
At its premiere in September 1989,
Miss Saigon had the most triumphant opening yet with the show
recouping its £3 million investment in less than seven months.
But when the show transferred to Broadway,
questions started being asked about the casting of Jonathan Price.
There was a big controversy
because we were at the peak of the politically correct movement.
Certain people thought that this was a role that demanded to be
played by an Asian actor and I could see their point, up to a point.
You know, it was the right idea, but the wrong show
because Miss Saigon, at that point in its history, employed more
Asian performers than any other show in the whole history of Broadway.
I'd come from the Royal Shakespeare Company that was fostering them,
blind-casting, so people of any race could play any role
and we had black actors in Macbeth playing what would be traditionally
white British roles, so that's where my head was at, at the time.
It wasn't anything new to me that I should play someone of a different race.
Matters came to a head with a showdown meeting
between Cameron Mackintosh and the American Actors' Union.
We had the biggest advance, at that point in history, of 35 million,
which was an astronomic amount.
The head of American Equity, who was a famous American actress,
said, "Why do you care who plays this role
"when you've got that amount of money?"
And I got so incensed, I told them all to bugger off,
and I closed the show.
His ultimate argument was that if I didn't do it,
then he would cancel the show.
And that's what happened. That was his threat and they backed down.
It wasn't a bluff.
I really was so angry that American Equity would go,
"Why do you care who plays this role?"
When I was trying to do a piece of art.
So it was all a great furore.
# It's time we all entertained my American dream! #
With Broadway facing a loss of revenue of over 100 million a year,
American Equity was forced to back down.
Miss Saigon opened in April '91
to become a commercial and critical hit.
But unknown to everybody involved, it proved to be a watershed.
The last of the great British mega-musicals
to open in the West End or on Broadway.
Everybody thought it could not stop.
You had to remind people that these kind of successes
are unbelievable flukes.
I mean, no shows have ever run this length of time.
And people were all expecting that to carry on.
# There's no other way
# There's no other way
# All that you can do is watch them. #
By the early '90s, Britain was in its longest recession for 60 years.
To attract an increasingly cash-strapped audience,
producers would need to find new ways to entice them in.
With Aspects Of Love failing to live up to the success of Phantom
or Cats, when he revived an earlier musical,
Andrew Lloyd Webber embraced a more commercial formula.
The world of celebrity.
Producers love bums on seats, the maths is very simple.
People fell in love with Scott Robinson.
People fell in love with Jason Donovan's pop career,
Why wouldn't they fall in love by coming to see a show
that represented all those things and more?
-# May I return?
-May I return?
-# To the beginning
-# The light is dimming
# And the dream is too. #
When Jason Donovan put on his dream coat,
Joseph was already 23-years-old, having started life
as a 15 minute school concert, before being expanded for the stage.
Its child-friendly appeal made it the perfect vehicle
for a teenage pop idol.
But I wasn't prepared.
I'd come off a major tour and I'd suddenly landed myself
in a rehearsal space in Battersea
surrounded by 40 or 50 West End performers who knew their stuff.
I could have barely sung a melody to Any Dream Will Do at that point.
not because I couldn't, but because I hadn't invested the time
in getting up to speed.
So it was a very big awakening that day.
-# I wore my coat
-I wore my coat
# With golden lining
Opening in 1991, the union of pop star, soap star and tried and tested musical
proved to be a winning combination.
We used to stop just outside of the stage door of Joseph on a Saturday afternoon
and it was almost thousands of people at the stage door.
This was a sort of musical phenomenon.
# A crash of drums A flash of light...#
After Donovan left,
children's television presenter Phillip Schofield took over.
The celebrity turnstile proved to be a model that others would follow.
Older pop stars also had pulling power if their fan base was strong enough.
Cliff Richard could even overturn a lifetime of wholesomeness
when he starred and financed an adaptation of the novel Heathcliff.
The reason why I loved Heathcliff was that it is
totally against anything anyone has ever read about me.
I really loved thrashing my stepbrother to pulp
night after night,
beating my pregnant wife to the floor. I loved it.
OK, I took them to dinner afterwards, but I found it fairly easy to
slip into being Heathcliff, who is so against everything that I believe in.
I can't imagine myself doing it, and that is why I did it myself,
because no-one was going to offer me that part.
So I woke up one day and said, "Cliff, I would like you to Heathcliff" and I went, "Yes, OK."
# The devil incarnate Or misunderstood man. #
Despite scathing reviews, Cliff's name ensured Heathcliff
became one of the few new musicals of the early '90s to turn a healthy profit.
It was all my own money, and I had spent five or six million on it.
Pounds. We broke even in four and a half months.
I have heard of musicals in the West End, musicals I have been to
and really enjoyed, after two and a half years have not broken even.
So, yeah, we were successful. The last six weeks were all profit.
But celebrity could be a double edged sword,
as Andrew Lloyd Webber discovered when casting the central role
of eating film star Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard.
Sunset's big problem, you have to find the female star.
There is only so many female stars out there who can do that role
or want to do that role.
And also, when you hire stars, female stars,
who you put in rehearsals and you realise that they really
can't sing, and then you have to pay them off...
The actress Faye Dunaway has launched a multi-million pound
law suit against Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber after the composer removed
her from the Los Angeles production of his musical, Sunset Boulevard.
I sang in my range. He cast me in that range.
Only later deciding to try to push me into a higher one.
The combination of legal battles and enormous running costs meant
Sunset fails to live up to the child Lloyd Webber hits of the '80s.
Meanwhile, Cameron Mackintosh had avoided celebrity
cachet for the musical Martin Guerre,
continuing the model of the epic scale mega-musical.
But even after extensive rewrites, it failed to draw an audience.
Martin Guerre was back to the average run, it was two years in London.
Which is not bad, but it is not the big, big hit.
You cannot programme hits. They come and they don't come.
That's the nature of the theatre.
# That'll be the day when I die...#
Although still giants of the West End, Lloyd Webber and Mackintosh
could no longer guarantee a hit with their names alone.
Instead, pop music was the rising star of the West End.
In the late '90s,
unknown producer Judy Craymer would harness the power of pop to
completely re-write the rulebook of what a successful musical could be.
Using the music of one of the most fondly remembered bands of the 1970s.
# My, my At Waterloo, Napoleon did surrender
# Oh yeah...#
I just loved Abba's songs.
I felt there was something very theatrical in those songs.
I used to put my own little selections together,
trying to make a story out of the songs.
One day she came to me
and said that she wanted to do a television special, as they were
called in those days, something,
an hour-long programme would be based on Abba songs.
I was so tenacious to try and move this forward, that I knew that
Tina Turner lived close by to my office, that was in Notting Hill
at the time, and I went and shoved a script through her letterbox.
I got a rather curt letter from her manager telling me
that I should not have done that.
It might have turned out to be a BBC2 film with Tina Turner in it.
# If you change your mind On the first in line...#
With the TV projects stalling, Craymer looked at turning
the idea into a stage musical
and started looking around for a writer who could turn a back catalogue into a workable story.
I phoned by agent and said, "I am really, really skint.
"please find me some work. Anything."
And he rang back a couple of days later and said,
I noted producer called Judy Craymer,
who is looking for somebody to fit a story to the songs of Abba.
I burst out laughing and he laughed too, and he said, "Yes, I know,
"but it's probably worth the meeting, isn't it?"
Despite Johnson having never written a West End musical and Craymer
never having produced one, Benny and Bjorn agreed to develop the idea.
I gave up my job, I sold my flat and I formed a company with Benny and Bjorn.
They put in the music and the lyrics
and I put in the hard work and the rest, in a sense.
I have to say that I was ready, at any point, to put a stop to it.
If I had felt that this is not going the right way,
this is not good for Abba.
# Money, money, money, always funny In a rich man's world. #
Earlier pop these musicals had mostly been biographies using an artist's back catalogue.
What would make my Mama Mia different was that it was a brand-new story.
I thought the Abba story would be very dull
and not very interesting at all.
I mean, I had gone through it myself, so I know.
What really inspired me
at the time was wanting to write about being a single parent,
as I was, and there being an awful lot of stuff in the media about single mums
and how they were letting their kids down and the scourge of society, blah blah.
I wanted to write something that was very positive about being
a single parent, so the next stage was to set down and read the lyrics
over and over again, until characters started suggesting themselves.
# I work all night, I work all day To pay bills I have to pay.
# Ain't it said? #
Mamma Mia's story of a single mother reuniting with three former boyfriends,
any one of whom is the father of her daughter, turned the musical upside down.
usually, musicals take a pre-existing story and shape new songs around it.
In my Mamma Mia, it was exactly the opposite - old songs, new story.
# I fooled around and had a ball
# Money, money, money, must be funny In a rich man's world
On opening night in April 1999, Mamma Mia took the West End by surprise.
Not only was the music good, but the story worked.
After the opening night, it was the first time I dared think that yes, this is a huge success.
I didn't know then how big it was, but only one month after that,
I think we realised we were onto something really, really big.
# Voulez-vous (Aha!)
# Take it now or leave it (Aha!)
# Now is all we get (aha!)
# Nothing promised, no regrets. #
Mamma Mia returned a sense of fun to musical theatre,
largely absent from the days of the '80s mega-musicals.
Broadway beckoned and the show went into production in September, 2001.
And I thought, "No, we cannot go ahead with this. This is..."
You know, how can we?
careless kind of musical.
Mayor Giuliani, at the time,
was encouraging Broadway to get back, very much so, within days.
I mean, Broadway is such an... you know, an economic kind of jewel to New York,
and tourists and trying to make people feel that New York was getting back to normal.
When Judy talked to the people over there, they said, "Oh, please, PLEASE go on.
"It is the best thing you could do for New York,
"to go on, with a musical like this.
"Just go on."
# I was cheated by you and I think you know when... #
10 months after the last British success, Miss Saigon,
closed on Broadway, another very different West End musical triumphantly opened.
Mamma Mia became the poster child for the jukebox musical.
And it wouldn't just be pop acts that would follow in its wake.
For the first time since Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar,
rock music would once again be enticed back into the theatre.
Our manager was keen on the idea of a Queen musical.
and we were going, "No, it's rock'n'roll. We don't do musicals.
"We're the antithesis of musicals."
And, of course, much later we lost Freddie
and then we started to think about Queen again
and what was there left to do?
Obviously, one of the great solutions is to put on a musical
where you don't need to have Freddie.
You just have young people to act, young people to sing and play.
And so we were attracted to the idea from then on.
# And everybody wants to put me down
# They say I'm going crazy
# That's right, I've got a lot of water on my brain
# I ain't got no common sense, I got nobody left to believe in... #
Initially planned as a Queen biography,
once band members Brian May and Roger Taylor brought on Ben Elton,
as writer, the story quickly changed into a work of fiction.
I thought what we really want here
is something that represents the spirit of the band.
And of course, the first word
that springs to mind with Queen is legend.
Of course, there's a fabulous Gothic scale to much of their music.
So I thought what we want is a legend, something Arthurian.
And immediately, a guitar buried in rock as opposed to a sword.
Because it should be fun, it should be silly.
# This thing called love
# I just can't handle it... #
We Will Rock You would tell
the futuristic story of a group of youths searching for
the legendary guitar that can bring back the power of rock.
# ..Crazy little thing, love. #
STAMPING OF FEET
But for choreographer Arlene Phillips,
fusing the world of rock with the world of musical theatre,
was a difficult challenge.
I was bringing in a lot of dance...
until I got to my meetings with Brian and Roger.
Roger did not want any dancing in it at all in the beginning.
So that was a pretty difficult place for her to start.
Try and keep it very real.
Very, sort of, misshapen and real,
like real people are doing these things.
The music was the most important part of the show.
And the dance couldn't ever dominate
or be bigger than the music and the voices.
MUSIC: "Intro to We Will Rock You"
We Will Rock you wanted to keep its rock credentials in the world of musical theatre.
But on opening night in May 2002, the question was
whether the audience and critics would accept it.
# We will, we will rock you. #
It came to opening night, the audience went wild.
They went crazy.
And the next day the reviews came out.
Possibly the worst reviews ever written about any show ever, anywhere.
And...we just thought,
"That is it. It is all over."
# Who wants to live forever...? #
The critics hated it.
The critics hammered us and it was very reminiscent
of how we had been hammered as Queen in the very early days.
And sort of trivialised.
Very expensive to buy a ticket for the theatre.
And if your newspaper, which you trust says, "It is awful.
"It is really awful. It is genuinely wickedly bad. You must NOT go and support this."
You know, it's hard to say I am still going to spend £40 and the taxi and the meal.
And so after the reviews, our box office was shredded.
The following day, ticket sales were slashed by up to 50 percent.
But jukebox musicals have an advantage over normal musicals -
a pre-existing fan base.
Luckily we had this incredibly strong word-of-mouth. That's what matters.
People come to the theatre and if they have a good time, they go,
"I've got to come back. I've got to bring my friend, my mum." That's what has happened over the years.
# I am just a poor boy, nobody loves me
# He's just a poor boy from a poor family
# Spare him his life from this monstrosity... #
Jukebox musicals can also benefit from their rock connections.
Just two weeks after opening night, the Queen celebrated her Golden Jubilee with a party at the Palace.
In a PR coup, playing alongside the royalty of rock
was the entire cast from We Will Rock You.
We Will Rock You performed in the show and just blew the audience,
which was now of millions, away.
They just went for it.
# So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye...? #
From that moment on, it has not looked back.
It is musical theatre for a new generation
and a generation of people that keep coming along with their backpacks
and sitting down and watching We Will Rock You.
# We are the champions.... #
Part rock concert, part theatre,
the jukebox musical has found a new audience.
But the one thing it hasn't always found is the respect of the critics.
The phrase "jukebox musical" tends to be used in a derogative sense.
I do not know why it should be. Theatre used to be where people came for their pop music.
Before radio, before records - you went to the theatre.
Now I don't think it is such a bad thing that pop music is coming back to the theatre.
And I think it is a wonderful development when it's good.
# Night fever, night fever We don't have to do it... #
The jukebox musical took pop culture
and turned it into a formula for hit musicals.
In 2003, composer Richard Thomas turned pop culture
into an acerbic stage show that showed that the musical could not only entertain, but satirise.
I had been watching Jerry Springer quite a lot.
There is a particularly violent episode of the Jerry Springer show
which was bleeped out so you couldn't hear a thing,
but you saw eight people screaming at each other,
you couldn't understand a word
that was said and I thought, "Oh, this is opera."
It was a eureka moment. I thought, "This is a show I'm going to do."
I didn't care if anyone was going to buy it or if I could sell it.
I just thought, "I'm going to write this show whatever happens."
# You can hush all your shouting
# You can hush all your bitching you can talk to the hand
# Cos the face ain't listening... #
To say we are going to take something as trashy
as that American talk show where someone says,
"You thought I was a man and we have been having sex for 40 years and I am a woman."
You know, something as trashy as that,
and to say, "No, we are going to the opera."
That is really, really witty.
# My advice to you bitch get a face peel... #
And then you go and see the show and it opens and the set is exactly like
Springer and the actors look exactly like the people who are on that show.
The Jerry Springer Show is a piece of theatre in itself
and they completely understood that.
# I don't give a fuck no more
# If people think I am a whore... #
The conflict between high culture and low culture extended into the writing.
What I like to do is so, you have a character singing,
"I hate you, I hate you." But the music is saying, "I love you, I love you."
So this is happening at the same time. You have two languages.
That is what is interesting about music theatre and opera.
You can have a thing called stealth emotion as far as I'm concerned.
You are suddenly inexplicably moved halfway.
That is because the music has been working at you even though you have been laughing
at all this fight and all the mayhem.
There has been this whole emotional arc that you haven't really noticed.
# I want to do some living because I've done enough dying
# I just wanna dance I just wanna fucking dance... #
Opening in 2003, Jerry Springer: The Opera received positive reviews.
And more importantly appealed to a new audience
with 50 percent of ticket buyers being first-time theatregoers.
It became such a hit phenomenon that the BBC took the unusual
step of broadcasting it in its entirety.
Prior to it being broadcast there is this massive internet backlash
and thousands of people complained who had never even seen the show.
-What do we want? Jerry off! When do we want it? Now!
'They claimed it was total blasphemy and that got into The Sun.'
The Sun said there were 6,000 or 8,000 swear words
when in fact there is only 174 - we counted - including "dick" and "tit" which
aren't technically swear words, but we thought we'd chuck them all in.
It contains a very high level of swearing and bad language
and aspects - this man dressed up in a nappy saying, "I am Jesus and I'm a bit gay".
I think that is calculated to cause considerable offence.
Then there were death threats.
And the BBC executives had to be put on police guard
on the night of the transmission.
Everybody was under police guard apart from the writers,
which we realised, "Oh, don't worry".
I remember a scene in which Christ was portrayed by a large man
wearing nothing but a nappy.
That to my mind as a middle stump Anglican I found upsetting.
You are doing Jerry Springer: The Musical,
and in the second half you bring in the Devil. So you are going to get criticised.
Whether for commercial or controversial reasons,
six weeks after the BBC broadcast, Jerry Springer: The Opera closed.
Plans for a UK tour were cancelled.
While the British were looking to pop music and television for
inspiration others had discovered an even bigger untapped resource.
British dominance of the theatre was once again about to be challenged by the Americans.
One of the biggest entertainment corporations in the world had
spotted a massive commercial opportunity.
Every musical on Broadway virtually, almost every success you can think of
are based on something - a book, a play, a movie
a historical incident.
They are always based on something. Almost always.
'The big difference between what we do
'and what other people have been doing'
is that we are not turning films into musicals,
we are taking musical films and expanding them for the stage.
# Circle of... life. #
The Lion King was the smash hit of 1999.
It was not just popular with the traditional Disney audience of children -
with its ground breaking use of puppetry
and dynamic staging it also impressed critics initially
sceptical about the ability of a film studio to do live theatre.
Flushed with success, Disney looked for more films to adapt.
The obvious thing to put on Broadway is Mary Poppins.
It was early on that we figured out that we Disney do not own the stage rights to Mary Poppins.
'Light up the sky. It is the entertainment thrill of a lifetime.'
Disney only owned the rights for the film version of Mary Poppins books,
much to the annoyance of Disney chairman Michael Eisner.
The rights to any stage adaptation had already been bought by a rival,
Michael quite understandably was slightly miffed in the nicest
possible way that for some reason one of their greatest titles
was not owned by him lock, stock and barrel.
'For a number of years'
there was a lot of argy-bargy back and forth with Cameron.
The stand-off finally came to a head with the president of Disney Theatrical, Thomas Schumacher,
flying in for an impromptu meeting with Cameron Mackintosh.
I said, I know that everyone thinks Mary Poppins can't happen,
but wouldn't it be good
if we actually once just talked about what you wanted to do with it.
He wanted to know what I had in mind.
I told him and he said that's exactly the kind of show I have in mind.
-It was fantastic.
-He is the most engaged, plugged in collaborator.
# Let's go for a jaunty saunter... #
'Disney have the ability as I do, to do what we want.'
We were able like old-fashioned showmen to say,
"We want to do this, we don't want to do this, blah, blah".
I had the dream relationship with them.
# I tell you what She seems so different
# But I bet she's not... #
Mary Poppins heralded a new era of transatlantic co-operation.
To complement the Sherman Brothers songs from the film,
a British songwriting duo were brought on board -
George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.
It is such a well-known story that we knew that we were going to have to tread very carefully.
I said to George when he got the job,
"If we get this right no-one will know we've done anything.
"If we get it wrong we will get the blame
"because it will be our songs
"that are the least familiar parts
"of this whole experience for an audience".
# You're practically perfect in every way
# I guarantee
# Practically perfect We hope you'll stay
# No flies on me... #
With the contribution of Stiles and Drewe and the weight of Disney and Mackintosh behind it,
Mary Poppins became an international hit.
More Disney musicals are in the pipeline,
reinforcing their position as major players in the industry.
But their business model can be traced back to one man.
Cameron changed the face of the theatrical
industry in terms of musicals.
Our success at Disney Theatrical,
we owe to the model that Cameron created with his megahits.
His commitment to the role of the producer being all over the show
and at the centre of it with the creative team has allowed us
to do things like Lion King around the world,
Beauty And The Beast around the world,
Aida around the world, Mary Poppins.
# What the hell's wrong with expressing yourself?
# Being who you want to be?
# Join in... #
Other film companies have now entered the market for musicals -
Universal and DreamWorks.
But the most successful British musical of recent years has come
not from an American blockbuster, but from a low-budget British drama.
One of those who fell in love with Stephen Daldry's Billy Elliot
was Elton John.
I got a call from Stephen Daldry who said that Elton wanted to
talk about this as a musical.
To be quite honest,
I thought it was the worst idea in the world,
but I thought, Elton has asked to see me, I must go and see Elton.
So Stephen and I flew to New York to talk to him.
The big surprise for me because I always assumed that
I would write the book because I'd written the film
and being told, "You've got to write the lyrics," I was really taken aback,
terrified and thrilled at the same moment.
# We were born to boogie... #
Billy Elliot told the story of a 12-year-old miner's son who
dreams of becoming a ballet dancer.
But transferring the story from film to stage had inherent difficulties.
Trying to find Billy was the most difficult thing of all
'because without an amazing child you can't do anything.
'On the film if they can't do a double pirouette you just cut,
'but in this we needed to find a boy who had the aptitude at least
'to be able to learn if he couldn't do it already.
'It was at that point'
where we went, "We're going to have to train these children".
Because of child labour laws, three children would need to be trained for each role.
One of those playing the part of Billy was Liam Mower.
We had our first run through and we suddenly realised that Liam
was at the side of the stage being sick
because he was so physically exhausted.
'I was just in mid-pirouette'
and I threw up everywhere.
I literally projectile vomited
'If you see the show, Billy never stops dancing.'
He is cartwheeling off pianos
and backflipping and turning, and it's crazy.
'A couple of days later we got the stamina to get through the show
and this happens with all the kids there.
At first it was really at the edge of what is physically
'possible for these kids to do. I think that is what makes it exciting in the theatre because you'
are actually seeing a real kid
doing the same thing as the character is doing.
Billy Elliot also created another major challenge
for the creative team.
Set against a backdrop of the bitter miners' strike of 1984,
this would be a gritty, very British story,
quite different to the usual western musical.
As much as I admire the Andrew Lloyd Webber stuff,
that's not what we wanted to make and that had been done.
I mean, it seemed that it was time to do something else.
The problem is dancing miners. How do you do dancing miners?
This could be twee, it could be awful.
In desperation, the team looked back
into the history of British musical theatre
and came across the work
of radical left-wing stage director, Joan Littlewood.
Joan Littlewood's work at the Theatre Workshop
was very much that thing of making populist theatre,
politically engaged theatre,
and emotionally accessible theatre.
And a good night out at the same time.
And when I realised that we were allowed to follow that tradition,
it made complete sense of what to do.
I think that I felt very nervous about that
because it hadn't really been done for a long time.
# Solidarity, solidarity
# Solidarity forever
# We're proud to be working class
# Solidarity forever... #
Billy Elliot opened in May 2005 to overwhelmingly positive reviews,
becoming one of the greatest musical success stories
of the last ten years.
Like many of its contemporaries,
it benefited from its film and pop star credentials,
but Billy Elliot also brought back the tradition of a musical
where the story, not just the creators, were British.
In 2006, Andrew Lloyd Webber
was also looking at film to attract an audience.
Before his revival of The Sound Of Music
he'd also come up with an idea that would draw
on the power of television.
We knew we had to have a star to play Maria,
and the real truthful thing is we couldn't get that star at the time.
We didn't have a star to play it.
And then up came the idea
of casting it in a TV show casting programme.
# The hills are alive... #
X-Factor had explored the pop world very successfully,
and Pop Idol before that.
And I was intrigued by the idea, of could we apply the same principles
into a completely new area? Which was musical theatre.
Running across eight weeks, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?
was an audition process like no other.
The star would be chosen by the British public.
The public has a huge responsibility.
It really does.
They could be taking some girl's career, and her life,
and literally destroying it.
My fate was in the public's hands, and that was even more scary.
Because I've never been Miss Popular.
Suddenly it was like Big Brother.
And it was a popularity contest as well as a talent show.
That was the toughest song tonight, once again, for you.
Once again you nailed it, and again I'm going to say,
-she's the best person here.
We all very much thought Connie Fisher was the one we wanted to cast.
And if we'd been in a normal process,
she'd have absolutely been the one we cast.
But ultimately it wasn't in our control.
Actually, if they ended up with someone
they didn't think was really up to the part,
you know, they were the ones that were going to suffer.
So there was real jeopardy actually,
in who would get through.
If we'd have had, shall we say,
the John Sergeant moment, with regards Strictly Come Dancing,
and the audience just putting somebody back in
and voting for them just for fun, the laugh would have been on us.
# How do you solve a problem like Maria? #
Whoever the public would finally vote for,
accusations were quickly levelled
that the show wasn't so much an audition process
as a primetime publicity stunt.
I remember Equity speaking out against it at the time,
and not approving,
a lot of actors and actresses
that had been in the business a long time
publicly spoke out and thought that it was an appalling way to go.
# How do you solve a problem like Maria? #
I think I got swept around with my fellow actors,
in disapproving of it,
but I think we all eventually came round to it,
because, you know, we could see that kids were getting a break
that probably wouldn't have done in a general audition.
The girl the public have cast to be Maria Von Trapp...
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Winning a talent show like How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?,
whether you want to call it reality TV,
a talent show, an open audition,
whatever it was, that process completely changed my life.
Connie, you are Maria!
I think what it really did was created a new style
for musical theatre.
And we'd gone quite a few years
since stars had been created by the theatre show.
One had to go back to...
Perhaps Michael Ball, one would argue, was found in Aspects of Love.
# The hills are alive
# With the sound of music... #
The 7 million viewers who followed Connie's winning moment
helped generate advance ticket sales of £10 million.
With the BBC and Lloyd Webber both happy,
more talent shows followed.
I think that those shows reinvigorated musical theatre
and brought in a much bigger, wider audience,
and a much younger audience.
You're not just getting older people coming to see the show,
you're getting four, five, six-year-olds,
coming to see their first ever production.
When we did our market research in the early days,
it was over 70% of the audience,
not just hadn't seen The Sound Of Music before,
they hadn't been to the theatre before.
So I thought it's greatest achievement was changing
the demographic and the audience profile of who went to the theatre.
It was an incredible thing.
Today, the reality TV cast musical, has,
along with star-led and film-inspired shows,
transformed the West End and brought a new audience to Theatreland.
65 years ago, the West End musical was trapped
in a time warp of pre-war nostalgia.
Completely outclassed by the shows arriving from Broadway.
Through phenomenal daring, prodigious talent and breathtaking ingenuity,
it fought back to become a world leader.
Today it is home to an industry worth over £1.5 billion a year.
But what of its future?
I think the future of the British musical,
it's always about the writers.
The marvellous thing for Andrew and I
is that our shows that we did nearly 30 years ago
still have the ability to appeal to a contemporary audience.
And that's because the basic writing is so marvellous.
Through the '80s and early '90s,
we created some extraordinary bits of theatre.
We hadn't done that for a while.
I suspect that at any moment in time you could have asked anyone
where the future is going, and everyone would have thought,
"Well, it's all going off a cliff." And yet, things rise up and happen.
It's becoming a hotbed again, I think, the West End.
I think really interesting people are being drawn, again,
into writing musicals, and that makes me very excited.
Today the West End musical operates in a very different arena
from the past,
its fortune tied up with other media, and other countries.
It now operates on a global scale.
I don't at the moment think of musicals
in terms of whether they're British or not,
because the musicals in London, there are so many people, from different countries.
So I think one's just got to think of the future of musical theatre,
not specifically the future of British musical theatre,
because we're in an international world now.
-# When I grow up
-When I grow up
# When I grow up
# I will be tall enough to reach the branches
# That I need to reach to climb the trees
# You get to climb when you're grown up
-# And when I grow up
-When I grow up
# When I grow up
# I will be smart enough to answer all the questions... #
The final episode brings the story up to the 90s and beyond.
We see the rise of the jukebox musical as Bjorn Ulvaeus and Judy Craymer tell the story of the creation of Mamma Mia! Ben Elton and Brian May reveal how We Will Rock You defied the critics to become a smash hit. And as pop culture invaded musical theatre with celebrities like Jason Donovan taking leading roles, the Jerry Springer Opera proved a step too far for the moral majority.
Billy Elliot took inspiration from the doyenne of British musical theatre, Joan Littlewood, as the hit movie was recreated for the stage, while Andrew Lloyd Webber embraced the medium of television to find new stars.