There are many productions out there that the critics tore it apart but were hugely popular with the audience. Perhaps the most well-known production is We Will Rock You. Alan Bird from London Theatre called the plot ‘mediocre to say the least and the comedy is contained in simple one-line gags that hardly raise a titter’. Yet, it played over 10 years in the west end. It remains the Dominion’s longest running show.
Ghost the Musical launched in the West End to rave reviews. Similarly, it did the same when it went on its first tour of the UK which was produced by David Ian Productions, The Ambassador Theatre Group, Colin Ingram, and Hello Entertainment/David Garfinkle. It used the basis of the original London production.
It wasn’t until the latest tour in 2016/2017 when things turned sour. Bill Kenwright produced the tour which was announced as a new re-imaging of the production. They weren’t wrong. The large-scale technical sets and illusions were scrapped and scaled back and the leading couple were star castings.
This tour showed that no brand no matter how big was indestructible. The critics didn’t like it. Tate James from West End Milma said:
Cheap illusions, or no illusions where there should be, and empty sets only expose the writing as less than interesting; and no matter how many GCSE Dance ensemble routines you throw in to fill the sparse setting with activity, it doesn’t detract from the fact that this show demands a magical treatment that it doesn’t get.’
However, more dangerously the audience criticised it en-masse. Their social media profiles, a key part of E-WOM was full of comments like ‘Just bring back the proper set and get rid of the cardboard set and all will be good again‘. There was also some particularly sour comments about Sarah Hardy who was later replaced by her understudy.
That reputation has certainly stuck. Today, there was an announcement that the production was going on tour again. No PR manager wants to see comments like this plastered on their page:
“Last tour compared to the original was tacky and overpriced. Took a few friends after being blown away the first time round. Felt robbed and embarrassed at what we got to see, and oh dear me, Sarah Harding was a disgrace to musical theatre!!! Beware of booking until you know the cast.”
To say the reputation of the production has been destroyed is possibly a little overdramatic. There are still some positive posts out there. However, it has come under fire by the people who are paying to see it. The people that tell their friends about a production. The hen parties that want to go out. The girls night out. The target market for this production.
The production has a lot to prove before people start flocking to buy tickets. It does just go to show there is no such thing as a super safe production. Once you disappoint the loyal customers they are unlikely to risk making the same mistake twice. One thing is for sure, Bill Kenwright Productions will need to pull something out of the hat to get a lot of people back on side.