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.