Sunday, 23 May 2010

Rainbows Aren't Always As Colourful As They First Seem

So Danielle Hope is going to be Dorothy. Now don't get me wrong, congratulations to her, and let me say at this stage, I am not having a swipe at her talent or commitment. So please please please don't have a whinge saying how good she is. I am not disputing this one bit. I am just disappointed that we now resort to reality TV programmes to find new talent for London's West End musicals, especially when there are people just as equally talented who have worked a million times harder going through the conventional route of drama schools etc to make a name for themselves and fulfil their dreams that they have worked so hard to get to.

Unless you strike it lucky, its drama school, then a host of shows with opportunities growing each time, starting in the ensemble and eventually making it to a lead role if you play your cards right. Success isn't just thrust upon you, it takes a lot of hard work, and I suppose a bit of luck. John Barrowman's first big UK show was opposite Elaine Paige in "Anything Goes", he happened to be in the right place at the right time. A drama school trip in London, where via a family member in his native Scotland he learned of the auditions for the part. He went along, wowed creative team, and got the part without even finishing drama school... so never discount luck (when accompanied by talent of course). Either way, I just think it is wrong that someone should have it made so easy for them in comparison to the "normal" route an actor or actress would take to the top.

Now as a friend pointed out, television shows like this have drawn new people into the theatres. People who maybe wouldn't have gone before, and I think the ticket sales over the last few years really do represent this. Cameron Mackintosh said in an interview that during the recession ticket sales at his theatres were actually doing better than the boom years before hand. He cited that during the last year when money has been tight for so many, people were not taking holidays and therefore had opted for days out instead.

Whilst there may be some truth in this, I can't say I fully agree with Mr. Mackintosh. I think that there is a much younger audience at the theatres these days, certainly more so than five or ten years back, when the theatre was seen as entertainment for the mature middle class married couple. I however feel now days that theatre is becoming more accessible for people of all backgrounds, namely due to there being more family shows and musicals in London than ever before. In my opinion the market has simply shifted meaning there are more people that want to go to the theatre than in years gone by. I will admit that these reality TV shows have their benefits as they have helped the increase in business for numerous shows, but I can't help but wonder if there are better ways to get our London productions exposure on television.

I know some people will point out the obvious, that many of the contestants on these shows are already drama school students. Thinking back to the days where they were hunting for someone to play Joseph, there is a great example that springs to mind... you know? The show which Daniel Boys should have won. It was a shame that the other bloke was victorious, mind you... he didn't do too bad out of it. He married Denise Van Outen if I recall correctly. Though what is bugging me at the time of writing this is that I cannot remember his name for the life of me.

Anyhow back to Daniel Boys, he was a member of a local amateur dramatics society locally to me. He went on to study at the Guildford School of Acting, and after his disappointment in the search for Joseph (i forget what the show was actually called... I want to say "Any Dream Will Do" but I have an inclination that I may be wrong) he landed a role for 2 years in Avenue Q, went on tour with John Barrowman and recorded a cd of his own (which is very good I will have you know, its called "So Close", go buy it from I-Tunes... after you have finished reading my blog of course). If truth be known, I think he has made more of a name for himself than Lee Mead has (yes I did have to Google his name, it was bugging me that I couldn't remember). I believe Lee is in Wicked these days, but I may be wrong... none the less Daniel, for a runner up hasn't done too badly at all!

Like Daniel both Lee Mead and Danielle Hope have come from drama studies to these television reality shows, and I don't dispute that they both have talent and have worked hard to get where theyare. I just cant help but feel that students who have taken the conventional drama school routes, will feel short changed. The only consolation is, those who make their name in theatre the hard way are remembered, take Elaine Paige or John Barrowman... they are names that are loved and respected among theatre goers. Will the likes of Jodie Prenger or Danielle Hope be remembered in such high esteem in ten or twenty years time? I'm not so sure they will.


  1. Gareth, I the thing is, Danielle Hope would get into drama school had she auditioned and i think that 'Over the Rainbow' is the same grueling process just condensed into 4/5 months. They have so much pressure in front of a live television audience every saturday night that they easily come out as well and sometimes better than those who go through drama school. I spoke to Louise Dearman who currently plays Glinda in Wicked and she thought that it was good if someone talented comes out of it but only annoys her if rubbish people come out of it. It has to be said that Danielle, Lee, Jodie and Connie are all very talented and who knows - they may not have got their chance if it weren't for reality television.

  2. Daniel is a pleasant chap but has nothing like the stage presence of Lee Mead and I have seen both on many occasions. Lee did go to drama school and had toured as ensemble and specific roles in Joseph and Tommy. He was actually appearing in Phantom as Raoul when he enterd the BBC programme and took a great risk in giving up the role once he knew he had been selected in the main programme.

  3. Really interesting blog!

    Lee's been in Joseph, Lord Arthur Savile's Crime, is currently doing a solo tour and he's in Wicked. Not too shabby.

  4. Well went to Lee's first concert yesterda, Oh boy that was something else he was superb,just remendous, don't get me wrong i liked Daniel a lot but Lee was a star in the making and he is showing us that it was not just a flash in the pan, he is a fabulous flyero in Wicked was excelent in Lord Arthur Saville's crime.And I think he has proven that sometimes someone needs just that little push.

  5. I've never understood the animosity towards the TV Casting Shows. If they were only open to novices and amateurs, the argument about contestants leapfrogging their way into the profession (at the expense of hard-working Drama Students and established professionals) would be understandable. However, this isn't the case.
    The audition process is open to all who satisfy the criteria for the role (age, look, vocal type), whether they be rank amateurs or seasoned pros. There is no bar on anyone who's worked their up in the business by the conventional route auditioning. Perhaps instead of moaning, they should do that (which is, incidentally, exactly what John Barrowman said in a recent interview when he was asked about hostility to these shows within the industry).
    The casting shows may give the impression that they're about getting people off the street with little or no experience, but that's not the case. Look at the bios of all the contestants in these shows and you'll see that most have some kind of Performing Arts training under their belts.
    Connie Fisher (Maria) had trained at Mountview. Her fellow contestants Abi and Aoife completed their Degree Courses in Performing Arts around the time they auditioned for HDYSAPLM. Lee Mead (Joseph) had done his three years of training at a local college, followed by five years of working his way up via the conventional route of touring productions, Summer Seasons and pantos. Lee's fellow contestant Daniel Boys trained at a top Performing Arts college (Guildford) before travelling much the same professional route. Rachel and Francesca had done their training and were already West End performers when they auditioned for 'I'd Do Anything'. Jodie had spent years as a performer on cruise ships and the club circuit prior to her audition. Basically, you'd be hard-pushed to find anyone in these shows who could truly be described as a complete novice.

  6. I have to say that I agree with you. Out of all the possible young women who could have played the role, who have worked really hard, through the stages of drama schools and so on, they let the public decide on the choice of what, 12 girls? .... its stupid. Why is it that everyone else has to work extremely hard to get to where they want to be, when others just go along to a T.V talent show and find fame....all the runners up no doubt, will receive roles in other productions that other girls deserve. It takes the mick really....

  7. Dorothy is a young girl.. and so the majority of people working through drama schools etc, would look too old and be too old for the part. Danielle is young and hugely talented, and most importantely, she is perfect for the part. In my opinion, you don't want somebody older, more sophiscated and obviously trained for that particular part. For the other TV shows, the winners had had a lot of experience, but Dorothy is a younger character, and it was obvious they wanted somebody young otherwise they would not have had so many teenage girls in the final 11. Everyone, trained or not can audition, it's up to them, and ultimately it is going to be those best suited for the role who succeed...whether trained or not. If it had been a normal audition, Danielle would have gone far, she's so well suited to the role. The Director thinks she is perfect, and that is a very important thing.

    ''The show which Daniel Boys should have won. It was a shame that the other bloke was victorious, mind you... he didn't do too bad out of it.''
    Why should he have won it? Yes, he is extremely talented, but so is Lee, just as much so. Also somebody who has trained, and could just have easily have got the part had it been a normal audition process