Sick of staring at your screen, but still feel craving some musical theatre? Why not try an audio musical!
Audio musicals can be stage shows adapted for audio-only, others are written specifically for podcasts. It’s like radio theatre! With the cost of production being significantly lower than mounting a full stage production, and powerhouses Audible and Clubhouse joining the game, I think we will continue to see more audio musicals being released into the world.
Here’s a collection of 20 audio musicals from the United States, Canada, the UK, and Australia, for your listening pleasure. Ranging in length from 10minutes to full-length musicals, and with a wide range of topics including the first woman to row across the Atlantic, growing up with dyslexia, LGBTQ love stories, murder mysteries, re-vamped fairy tales, and the first dog in space, there truly is something for everyone.
10 Days That Shook the World
Produced by Thereby Hangs A Tale Productions and presented by the TTS World Wide Virtual Fringe Festival, this audio musical is set in Petrograd, 1917, where a pair of married journalists are about to experience an all-singing, all-rioting, Russian Revolution. An irreverent retelling of a true story featuring songs and spoken word. For anyone who’s ever wanted to change the world. Written and directed by Milo Morris. Available for free on Scenesaver.
Billed as the world’s first podcast musical, the show tells the story of a couple in their last-ditch attempt to save their marriage by using the 36 questions, an experiment known for making strangers fall in love. Composed by Chris Littler and Ellen Winter with sound designer Joel Raabe, the musical features Jonathan Groff and Jessie Shelton. It was released in 3 acts in July 2017, and is available from Two Up Productions.
Written by John Cameron Mitchell and Bryan Weller, this podcast musical follows Ceann Mackay who is broadcasting a podcast to crowdfund treatment for a brain tumor from the trailer once occupied by Hedwig Schmidt (of Hedwig and the Angry Inch). Told over 10 episodes, the musical features 31 original songs, and a starry cast including Patti LuPone, Glenn Close, Cynthia Erivo, Marion Cotillard, Laurie Anderson, and John Cameron Mitchell. The podcast was released in April 2019, and is available on Luminary.
In a world where it’s too dangerous to go outside, a starry-eyed teen cellist risks leaving her apartment to win the love of the rebel punk next door. A twisted musical with a good, pure heart. With a book by Jason Schafer, music by Arthur Lafrentz Bacon, and lyrics Harris Doran, the cast includes Annie Golden, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Marc Kudisch, Sarah Stiles, Taylor Trensch, and Tony Vincent. Available wherever you listen to podcasts and the Broadway Podcast Network.
Childish: The Podcast Musical
A musical comedy presented by Whale Bus about Dante, a college student in NYC, becomes an RA in order to follow in the footsteps of his hero, Childish Gambino. While he hopes this will be the next step toward becoming a famous rapper, his delusions of grandeur are shattered when he realizes his dweebish co-workers are hellbent on making his life miserable. Created by Whale Bus, POC, LGBTQ+. Muslim, Jewish, and Latinx artists, among other underrepresented groups, who strive to uplift and celebrate minority voices on and off mic. Available wherever you listen to podcasts and Whale Bus.
Driving From Barking to Deptford
Billed as “Minder meets Game Of Thrones as a musical,” a podcast musical about the story of three men and their van driving from Barking to Deptford. Presented over 7 episodes by Men with Ven. Available via Bandcamp.
The Fall of the House of Sunshine
A serialized musical comedy adventure where the beloved host of the Sunshine Smile Hour is murdered! Can anyone solve it? Meet the suspects, untangle the mystery. Created by Matt Roi Berger and Jonathan A. Goldberg, and features a starry cast include Bonnie Milligan, Grace McLean, and Larry Owens, Available via Soundcloud.
Theatre Sheridan at Sheridan College in Ontario have launched a new project entitled First Drafts, a series of 5 musicals that “reimagine, reconstitute, and reanimate the Western “musical theatre canon” in a way that acknowledges the truth of where we are now and where we hope to go. First Drafts is grounded in an urgency to make space for stories that must be told now and must continue to be prioritized in our art form.” All pieces are presented as podcast-style audio recordings, and one, To Ronnie, With Love was also rehearsed and filmed remotely. All pieces are available for free via Theatre Sheridan.
The Flame: An LGBTQ Romantic Comedy
An original musical that over 8 episodes tells the story of two women: Jamie, a queer bar owner, and Sam, the woman selling the building the bar inhabits, and the inevitable sparks that end up flying between them. With music and lrurics by Leigh Holmes Foster, book and additional lyrics by Caitlyn Clear, the cast includes Ellie Brigida, Jen Colella, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Chilina Kennedy, Harrison White, Valerie Rose Lohman, and Leigh Holmes Foster.
Produced by Lez Hang Out Productions, the producers, director, writer, and lead characters are all members of the LGBTQ community, and the orchestra is made up predominantly of women.
Available wherever you listen to podcasts including the Broadway Podcast Network.
In Strange Woods
A fictional documentary musical about 18-year-old Peregrine Wells who seeks out survivalist skills from an enigmatic old recluse after a tragedy in the Whitetail National Forest. Produced by Atypical Artists, and created by Jeff Luppino-Esposito, Brett Ryback, and Matt Sav. The cast includes Donna Lynne Champlin, Patrick Page, and Beth Leavel. Available on Apple Podcasts.
It Makes a Sound
A serial fiction musical podcast about what we remember, and what we forget. Deirdre Gardner finds a lost cassette tape from 1992 in an attic and embarks on a quest to revive the sound of a generation. Written by Jacquelyn Landgraf and presented on the Night Vale Presents/PRX network. Available wherever you listen to podcasts and It Makes a Sound.
Little Did I Know
Presented over 9 podcast episodes, this new musical tells the story of a group of friends – recent college graduates – who bring a broken-down summer theatre back to life in 1976. The summer will be different from anything they expected, and what they experience will resonate throughout their lives. Directed by Marlo Hunter, with music by Doug Besterman, lyrics by Dean Pitchford and Marcy Heisler, and book by Lou Aronica and Johanna Besterman. The cast includes Broadway actors Patrick Page, Lesli Margherita, and Richard Kind. Available via Apple Podcasts.
A celebration of the moment of risk, heartbreak, and joy when the wild strangeness of love comes into clearer view presented over 9 episodes. With book and lyrics by David Zellnik and music by Eric Svejcar, the cast features Kathryn Allison, Kathryn Gallagher, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Hailey Kilgore, Mason Alexander Park, Ryann Redmond, and Ali Stroker. Available on Loveville High.
Prime: A Practical Breviary
A song cycle composed by the innovative Christian and named IndieWire‘s number 1 Podcast Episode of 2020. The piece was inspired by breviary masses performed by cloistered monks, employing modern language and rich, contemporary musical arrangements to reimagine what a modern prayer for a Tuesday morning at 6 AM might sound like. Released in April 2020 as part of Playwrights Horizons Soundstage podcast. Available wherever you listen to podcasts.
New musical Row by Daniel Goldstein (book) and Dawn Landes (music and lyrics) was scheduled to have its world premier at the 2020 Williamstown Theatre Festival. Due to the pandemic, the festival was cancelled, but rather than wait, Williamstown pivoted and partnered with Audible Theater to present the world’s first audio theatre festival.
Row is inspired by Tori Murden McClure’s memoir A Pearl in the Storm, which chronicles her incredible journey to becoming the first woman to row solo across the Atlantic. Directed by Tyne Rafaeli, Row features Grace McLean as Tori, supported by Kerstin Anderson, John Ellison Conlee, Nehal Joshi, Tamika Lawrence, John McGinty, Kathryn O’Rourke, Lance Roberts, Sean Stack, and Sally Wilfert.
The musical is currently available on Audible (affiliate link), and will be also presented in person at the 2021 Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts from July 13 - August 15, 2021.
Sammy Smile Music
This music publishing company have developed two “audiobook musicals”, Spin the Rumpelstiltskin Musical, and Puss in Boots: A Musical, both with music by Neil Fishman and lyrics by Harvey Edelman. Both musicals are re-tellings of classic fairytales, and have won multiple awards. A new musical, Dead End the Musical will be released in 2022.
A tragic alt-country australiana romantic horror musical podcast set in a jaded small town on Australia’s east coast. Written by audio and multiplatform producer Jessica Hamilton, the podcast was inspired by a surf trip down the coast through small town Australia listening to country community radio, and a real life Slaughterhouse Road. Presented in 3 acts. Available on Spotify and Slaughterhouse Road.
Created as part of The Truth podcast, the musical tells the story of Doc, Penny, & Jojo who had a band that was going nowhere, until they found a drum machine that transported them into their songs. Written by Jonathan Mitchell and Josh Perilo, and presented over 8 episodes. Available via The Truth podcast.
Originally produced as a stage show in 2017, this Canadian musical about growing up with dyslexia has been re-imagined as a radio play. Written and performed by Katherine Cullen and Britta Johnson, the musical is being made available in three formats. From July 7 - 16, the musical is available to livestream at select times. From July 20 - August 1, audiences in Toronto can book a performance in their own backyard, and from August 16 - 29, the musical will play at TIFT’s “Bees in the Bush Festival.” Tickets for the audio broadcast are $15CAN. More info and tickets from Outside the March.
Take a Ten
Need a ten minute break? Founded by NYC composer Andy Roninson, and first released in 2013, the podcast features 17 original 10 minute musicals. Writers and performers include Laura Osnes, Rob McClure, Kathryn Allison, George Salazar, and Mary Page Nance. Available wherever you listen to podcasts and on Take a Ten.
U.Me: The Musical
An original musical by Theo Jamieson (book, music, and lyrics, and former music director for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie), and Simon Pitts (book) about two young people on opposite sides of the world who meet online and make a true connection. Commissioned by the BBC, the audio musical premiered on May 12, 201 on BBC World Service. The musical features a diverse and international cast including Anoushka Lucas, Martin Sarreal, Kevin Chen, Nicole Deon, and Michelle Yumiko Payne, with narration by Stephen Fry, and music performed by the BBC Philharmonic. A free online programme includes cast and crew bios, and the complete lyrics.
U.Me is now available on the BBC Sounds podcast.
The World to Come
In a post-apocalyptic world with no internet or electricity, five disparate factions vie for dominance in the city-state of Fiveboro. Each tribe worships at the altar of the bygone pop-culture references of an earlier time, and relishes the stories of film and television they've never actually seen. Created by Rachel Klein, Andy Peterson, and Erik Ransom, and presented by David Treatman Creative and Iconoclast Theatre. Available wherever you listen to podcasts and The World to Come.
Keep an Ear Out
The following musicals are not currently available, but they deserve a mention for their innovative use of the medium and what could be coming up next.
Triassic Parq: The Musical: Radial Park
First premiering off-Broadway in 2012, this musical comedy is told from the perspective of dinosaurs from a certain Theme Park as they discover the truth about faith, science, innocence, sex, and gender identity. In late May 2021, the musical was performed for three shows only at the drive-in at Radial Park in Queens. Billed as the world’s first binaural musical, the show was performed live with “atmospheric and stage projections”, with in-person audience members receiving special “silent-disco” type headphones. Remote audiences were also able to tune into the audio simulcast.
Launched in March 2020, Clubhouse is an invite-only audio app with chatrooms where users can host and join live discussions. The app has has been host to several audio musicals, all of which have been produced, directed, and performed by people of color, including The Lion King (December 2020), Dreamgirls (March 2021), The Wiz (March 2021) and Fela! (May 2021).
The Lion King featured a 40-member cast, choir, live music, and orchestrated pull-to-refresh (PTR) imagery where performers changed their profile pictures to re-create scenes from the movie. The entire cast and crew were people of color, including director and executive producer Noelle Chestnut Whitmore, musical directors Bomani X and Kam DeLa, and lead actors Chris “Boogie” Glover (Mufasa), Myles Grier (Simba), and Mir Harris (Nala). Performed over two shows on December 26, over 5000 people tuned into each show, and #LionKingCH trended nationally on Twitter.
Dreamgirls held an open call through the app on January 2, with over 10,000 people tuning in for the auditions. The musical was performed over four performances on February 27 and 28 with four different casts, featuring professional and amateur performers. The musical received creative input from original Broadway cast member Sheryl Lee Ralph, London revival cast member Amber Riley, and composer Henry Kreger.
Produced by Talia Moore and Serita Carton, The Wiz was performed by two different casts on March 12 and 13, 2021. Like The Lion King, the audio musical employed PTR to create dynamic visuals. The Friday show featured singer/songwriter YahZarah as Dorothy, and the Saturday show featured singer Alana Houston. Each show attracted over 3000 listeners.
Fela! was adapted into Fela Ten Twenty and set in the #EndSARS movement, a protest against police violence in Nigeria that erupted in late 2020 and resulted in the death of 12 people. The musical was produced by original Fela! producer Stephen Hendel along with Maduka, and Ọlabimpe Ọlaniyan, and featured an international cast hailing from Nigeria, the U.K., and the U.S. Like Dreamgirls, cast and creatives from the original Broadway production served as consultants. The production intentionally tripled speaking roles for women in the musical, to show the vital role of women in the struggle for equality and progress.
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On episode 22 of the Filmed Live Musicals podcast, host Luisa Lyons chats with Susan Jamson, Press and PR Manager for the north London based inclusive theatre company Chickenshed.
Chickenshed is an inclusive theatre company that first began in 1974. Primarily based at their purpose-built venue in North London, they create theatre for all ages and run successful outreach projects, education courses and membership programmes throughout the year. As a result of lockdown, Chickenshed have made many of their past shows available for free online.
In this moving chat, Susan shares some of the stories from her 30 years with Chickenshed, her experience of raising a child with down syndrome, how finding an inclusive theatre company changed her family's life, the origins of Chickenshed and how the company has grown over the years, how they adapted to lockdown, and the importance of filming theatre.
Learn more about Chickenshed at www.chickenshed.org.uk and visit their YouTube channel to see some of their incredible work!
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While some of us are spending the pandemic baking bread, binging Netflix, and staring into the void afraid and half-hopeful that this will now be life as we know it, folks across the world are jumping online to make art, and specifically, musicals. The rapid turnaround of these musicals and, more importantly, their immense popularity, is leading folks in the theatre community to wonder if virtual development is the future of musical theatre making.
The most prominent musical flavoring much of the discussion is Ratatouille The Musical, the world’s first musical “created entirely over TikTok.” Based on the 2007 Disney animation about a Parisian rat who loves to cook, the musical had a very short gestation period. It began life in October 2020, when a TikTok user Emily Jacobsen posted a love ballad for Remy the Rat that went viral. In December 2020 Seaview Productions (who got a shoutout in the December newsletter for their promising new partnership with Sony Productions) negotiated with Disney to put on a virtual production of Ratatouille the Musical as a benefit for the Actors Fund.
Ratatouille the Musical aired on January 1st, 2021, and was only available to stream for 3 days, followed by a one-off encore screening a week later. The cast featured the talents of Wayne Brady, Tituss Burgess, Kevin Chamberlin, André de Shields, Andrew Barth Feldman, Adam Lambert, Priscilla Lopez, Ashley Park, and Mary Testa, under the direction of Six writer and director Lucy Moss. The music was recorded by the recently formed The Broadway Sinfonietta, an all-female identifying, majority women of color orchestral collective. The event was viewed by over 200,000 people, and raised $2million, the most successful fundraiser in Actors Fund history.
While yet to be performed on a physical stage, Ratatouille the Musical already has a huge global following, was put together in a month, and for a budget of $200,000. When you think of the years, and millions of dollars, it normally takes to mount a Broadway show, it’s no wonder theatre folks are excited.
Director Lucy Moss has stated “I hope it opens the doors and/or eyes of producers and the gatekeepers to democratize theater even further, and to show them that something of real merit can be created not in the “traditional” way.” Writing for Forbes, Lee Seymour believes virtual productions could help bolster Broadway’s return — “crowdsourced projects could provide a solution, or at least an augmentation, especially to cultivate younger fans.”
A new in-the-works musical starting to generate some heat is Bridgerton the Musical, based on the recently released original Netflix series, Bridgerton. Composed by Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear, early songs have gone viral, with “Burn For You” reaching over 4.5 million views. The hashtag #BridgertonTheMusical has attracted over 2.5million views. Receiving some attention from Netflix itself, Barlow has claimed “…the gatekeepers that be are kind of no longer in power. The people have the power, and that’s an exciting thing.”
Another new created-virtually musical, or series of musicals, garnering attention is Averno. Created by 21-year-old Morgan Smith, Averno is “is a transmedia universe — think the Marvel universe, but with musicals (and comics and novels and more) about witches.” Through collaboration with a diverse group of young artists, Averno has created “13 musicals, 4 novels, a TV Show, a podcast, a concept album, a webcomic musical, virtual reality, and more.” The universe exists across various websites and social media platforms including TikTok, Instagram, Spotify, and YouTube. Broadway Records, one of theatre’s leading record labels, recently released three Averno musicals as concept albums — “Over and Out,” “Willow,” and “Bittersummer.”
What do you think? Will Ratatouille be served up on Broadway? Could Bridgerton The Musical sit alongside Bridgerton on Netflix? Will the Averno universe come to rival that of Marvel?
So, 2020, huh?! It has been a tumultuous, painful, bizarre year with so much loss, grief, and uncertainty. But on the other side of darkness, there is light. And if one good thing has come out of the pandemic, it’s that filmed live theatre content is more available than ever. From Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Shows Must Go Online, The National Theatre and Met Opera’s weekly streams, Disney+ releasing Hamilton, to smaller independent theatres like Southwark Playhouse, Wise Children, or Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe releasing previously filmed content, and creating new musicals to stream.
This year I launched the Filmed Live Musicals podcast. I chatted with director and writer Al Monaco, Tony nominee Brenda Braxton, the founder of Scenesaver Caroline Friedman, the executive director of Sarasota’s Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe Julie Leach, dancer and engineer Lena Wolfe, actor and puppeteer David Colston Corris, actor and producer Kimberly Faye Greenberg, academic Kelly Kessler, dancer and associate choreographer Barry Busby, collector Robert Sokol, and the award-winning composer Paul Gordon! The Filmed Live Musicals podcast is available for download wherever you listen to podcasts, and transcripts are available for each episode.
The Filmed Live Musicals database currently has information on nearly 200 musicals. The list I’m currently working on has almost twice that! And that’s not even including musicals that have been filmed without an audience, or the new genre of “zoomsicals”, musicals performed over Zoom.
In 2021, I’m looking forward to continuing to grow the site, learning about new filmed live musicals, and spotlighting artists from all around the world who make them happen.
My Favorite Things (2020)
To close out 2020, here's a list (in no particular order) of my favorite filmed live musicals released this year!
Filmed Live Without an Audience
Zoomsicals (musicals performed online/virtually)
What did you see this year that you loved?
Let me know in the comments, or on Twitter and Facebook!
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This week on the podcast, I chat Tony nominated composer Paul Gordon.
Topics include Jane Eyre, Daddy Long Legs, how union rules impact artists, the differences between subscription and pay-per-view models, why filming musicals is important, and making theatre more accessible, sustainable, and fair.
Paul Gordon was nominated for a 2001 Tony Award for composing the music and lyrics to the musical Jane Eyre. He won the 2015 Jeff Award for Best New Work for his book, music and lyrics for Sense and Sensibility, commissioned by Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. His critically acclaimed stage musicals, EMMA and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE are available to stream on Amazon Prime. He is the recipient of the 2009 Ovation Award for his music and lyrics to Daddy Long Legs which has had productions all over the world, including Off-Broadway, where it was nominated for 2 Drama Desk Awards, an Off-Broadway Alliance Award and 3 Outer Critic Circle awards. Daddy Long Legs was also the first off-Broadway musical to be livestreamed. No One Called Ahead was filmed and released in June of 2019. Knight’s Tale, written with John Caird, opened at the Imperial Theatre in Tokyo in 2018 while the concert version debuted in 2020 with the Tokyo Philharmonic. His other shows include: Being Earnest, Estella Scrooge: A Christmas Carol with a Twist, Analog and Vinyl, Stellar Atmospheres, The Front, Juliet and Romeo, Sleepy Hollow, The Circle and The Sportswriter. In his former life, Paul was a pop songwriter and wrote several number one hits.
Learn more about Paul Gordon at www.paul-gordon.weebly.com/ and follow him on Twitter.
My first exposure to a musical not in English was the 10th Anniversary Concert of Les Miserables where 17 Valjeans from “just some of the world-wide productions” sang “Do You Hear the People Sing” in 13 different languages. Currently holding the title as the longest running West End musical, Les Miserables is itself an English translation of a French musical (Herbert Kretzmer, who provided the libretto for the English version, recently passed away at the age of 95).
Filmed live musicals in languages other than English are currently lacking from the database, but there is certainly a plethora of them out there. Some of the titles are translations of English-language musicals, but many are original musicals, showing the popularity of the musical form worldwide.
Here’s a brief look at filmed live musicals in Dutch, Korean, Russian, and Spanish, that have been released online in 2020.
Dutch company De Graaf & Cornelissen Entertainment have released four full-length filmed live musicals for free on YouTube including Wat Zien Ik?! (What Do I See?!), Liesbeth, Volendam, and Op Hoop Van Zegen (Hoping for the Best).
Wat Zien Ik?! is based on the book by Albert Mol. The musical premiered in October 2006 and ran until May 2007. Wat Zien Ik?! is set in the 1960s and follows the trials and tribulations of two women who work in Amsterdam’s Red Light District.
Liesbeth is a biographical musical about Dutch entertainer Liesbeth List who was famous for her interpretations of the songs of Jacques Brel and Edith Piaf. The musical premiered in October 2017, and closed in January 2018.
Set in a village fair, Volendam tells the story of a woman named Mary, who returns to the town of her childhood, and must confront her past. The musical was performed from November 2010 until April 2011.
Based on the 1900 play, Op Hoop Van Zegen, tells the story of a fisherman’s widow and her fight for survival amidst social injustice. The production was filmed in 2008.
Efteling is a Dutch fantasy-themed amusement park that pre-dates Disneyland by three years. The park’s theatre, Efteling Theater have released several filmed live musicals on their YouTube channel including Sprookjessprokkelaar de musical (Fairytale Collector: The Musical), De gelaarsde Kat (Puss in Boots), Pinokkio, and three Sprookjesboom de Musical (Fairytale Tree the Musical) titles. All are freely available on the Efteling YouTube channel, and have received hundreds of thousands of views.
Commencing with Korean-language versions of RENT in 2000, The Phantom of the Opera in 2001, and Mozart Das Musikal in 2010, American and European musicals have become an immensely popular form of entertainment in Korea, growing to a $300 million business. In an effort to further boost ticket sales in a saturated market, producers have stunt cast K-pop and soap opera stars in lead roles for select performances.
Although some theatres in Korea have managed to remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic, audience numbers are obviously lower than normal. Producers have turned to livestreams to boost sales and provide audiences at home with musical theatre content.
Produced by the Korean Army and Insight Entertainment, Korean musical Return: The Promise of the Day was livestreamed over four performances in late September and featured K-pop stars D.O. and Xiumin of EXO and former Wanna One member Yoon Ji-sung. The musical tells the story of a Korean War vet who goes in search of his lost comrades. Viewers were required to purchase tickets to view the stream, which was also broadcast with English subtitles.
Sonata of a Flame, starring Ryeowook of Super Junior, Hui of Pentagon, and Yoo Hwe-seung of N. Flying, was livestreamed over thirteen performances from September 18 - 26. Like Return, viewers were required to purchase tickets to watch the stream, which was available worldwide (though not in China or Indonesia).
In September K-Musical On Air hosted a free online musical theatre festival. featuring “four of the hottest Korean musicals in real time.” The musicals included The Fan Letter, The Goddess is Watching You, Red Cliff, and The Fiction. English subtitles were available for viewers watching on V Live. The festival was an initiative of the Korea Tourism Organization, which since 2017 has sponsored 14 Korean musicals to provide foreign-language subtitles.
The Fan Letter is a fictional re-telling of historical events as seen by artists and writers during the Japanese occupation of Korea in the 1930s.
Set during the Korean war, The Goddess is Watching tells the story of two soldiers from North and South Korea who find themselves on uninhabited islands during the conflict. The musical premiered in 2013, and has been playing ever since.
Produced by Jeongdong Theater in Seoul, Red Cliff first opened in 2017 and has proved a popular draw. Influenced by pansori, a traditional Korean form of musical storytelling using drums and singing, Red Cliff is based on one of five pansori tales, “Jeokbyeokga”, which means “The Song of the Red Cliffs.” Red Cliff was also streamed for one night on Jeondong Theater’s YouTube channel in April.
Also set in the 1930s, though this time in New York City, The Fiction is a murder mystery musical. It was first developed through the “Prepare for Your Debut” project hosted by the Korea Creative Content Agency in 2016. The Fiction received praise at the Daegu International Musical Festival in 2017.
The Daegu International Musical Festival also has several full-length videos on their YouTube channel.
At the end of June, the American streaming service Broadway on Demand streamed the Korean language musical XCalibur. Produced by EMK, with a score by Frank Wildhorn, XCalibur is a re-telling of the King Arthur legend, and featured Exo K-pop star Kai. It was available to stream on Broadway on Demand between June 27 and July 6, 2020.
Originally a German musical, Mozart das Musical was translated into Korean and presented by EMK in 2010. The musical was very popular, and was re-staged for a 10th anniversary production in early 2020. The musical was streamed on Naver and VLive on October 3 and 4.
New Korean streaming service IM.Culture will stream Legendary Little Basketball Team, an original musical about a basketball coach and his ailing team, on November 1 and 2.
In a similar trend to Korea, American and British musicals have seen a swell in popularity in the 21st century. Since 2008, the Moscow Operetta Theatre has sought to create original Russian-language musicals that according to Russia Beyond the Headlines reporter Julia Shevelkina, appeal to audiences “who love costume dramas,” and “a minister of culture who didn’t want state-run theatres to stage radical modern plays.”
Stage Russia have released two Moscow Operetta Theatre musicals online, Count Orlov and Anna Karenina. Both are based on Russian novels, and feature sumptuous costumes, striking scenic design, and epic Euro-pop scores. Both are also streamed with English subtitles.
Although it was filmed without a live audience, the Spanish-language Mexican production Daddy Long Legs, Papi Piernas Largas, is a delight. Produced by Oak Live, the two-hander musical was performed live to an empty theatre in Mexico City in early October, and streamed on Ticketmaster Live. The production was reminiscent of the off-Broadway production (the first off-Broadway musical to be livestreamed), though it had slightly different staging which included a clever story-book set. Papi Piernas Largas will stream again via Ticketmaster on November 15 (tickets are around $10US). English subtitles are not available.
Also streaming on Ticketmaster Mexico is La Juala de Las Locas, a Spanish-language production of La Cage Aux Folles. Filmed live with an audience, the the production was streamed live on October 17. It will be available stream again on November 20 via Ticketmaster, though it is currently only available to stream in Mexico.
Mentiras El Musical (Lies the Musical) is a Spanish-language Mexican jukebox musical that incorporates pop songs from the 1980s. Mentiras will be streamed live via Multistellar on November 7.
The popular Spanish-language production of The Man of La Mancha, El Hombre de La Mancha, will stream on November 14. Tickets are available via Ticketmaster.
On November 21 and 22, Shakespeare Foro in Mexico City will stream a Spanish-language production of End of the Rainbow, Al Fin del Arcoiris, a musical drama about the final days of Judy Garland. Tickets are available via Shakespeare Foro.
And to cap off the list, you can belatedly celebrate Dia de los Muertos with Si, Nos Dejan! (If They Let Us!), a Mexican musical celebrating the history of Mexican cinema. Filmed live at the Mejor Teatro in 2011, ¡Si, Nos Dejan! was broadcast via Ticketmaster Mexico on September 16, and will be re-broadcast on November 2. Tickets available via Ticketmaster.
In episode of 4 of the Filmed Live Musicals podcast, host Luisa Lyons chats with dancer and performer, and former optical engineer, Lena Wolfe about virtual and augmented reality and how it can be used in theatre today.
Lena Adele Wolfe is originally from Tucson, AZ and currently lives in NYC. She stayed in the sunny southwest city to graduate from The University of Arizona with a B.F.A in Dance and a B.S. in Optical Sciences and Engineering. Her performance credits include The Great American Dance Tour through eastern China with Art.If.Act Dance project, a yearly bout in Verlaine & McCann’s Through The Looking Glass: The Burlesque Alice and Wonderland, one performance wonder kicking off the holiday season with Saks Fifth Avenue: Theatre of Dreams and eye-high kicking Christmas in the Air at the Beau Rivage in Biloxi, MS. Before taking the plunge as a full time performing artist, Lena was an Optical Engineer on the display team for the original Microsoft HoloLens, the first consumer grade augmented reality device. She is currently investigating interactive media and digital performance spaces. Follow Lena on Instagram.
For info on Lena's favorite VR experience, check out Dear Angelica on Oculus Rift.
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In case you somehow missed it, one of the most vaunted musicals in history, Hamilton was released on Disney+ on July 3rd. While Hamilton is not the first Broadway musical to be streamed online, its prominence and undeniable success may finally be shifting some very deep seated views that filmed live theatre can’t adequately capture the live experience, and that filmed live theatre should exist at all. In an unprecedented move, it was announced earlier in the month the yet-to-officially-open Broadway musical Diana, would be filmed (without an audience) and broadcast on Netflix.
Many people know by now that Disney acquired the distribution rights for the filmed live production of Hamilton for approximately $75million (the final figure was adjusted due to the pandemic and the decision to release it online rather in cinemas). Much like Hamilton and Burr, you gotta be in the room where it happens to get the figures on how much Hamilton is bringing Disney financially, but it seems to bode well. As reported in Variety, early data suggests the musical had a significantly larger audience than any other single program across Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, Apple TV+, and Disney+ in July.
Much like Hamilton and Burr, you gotta be in the room where it happens to get the actual figures on how much Hamilton is bringing Disney financially. At the end of June, just prior to the release of Hamilton, Disney+ reported it had 54.5 million subscribers (for comparison, Netflix currently has about 190 million subscribers worldwide). According to Variety, in comparison to the four weeks prior, the weekend of Hamilton’s digital release saw a 74% increase in Disney+ app downloads within the United States, and 46% worldwide. At the beginning the August, Disney+ reported it had 60.5 million subscribers. These numbers do not include subscribers who purchased subscriptions through packages or where Disney+ is included in existing apps.
Going forward, there are still many questions for producers for consider: when to release filmed live productions, who gets access (due to copyright or union agreements, films may not be able to be released worldwide), if viewers should pay to access streams and for how much, how to fairly compensate cast/crew/creatives, and what platforms to use.
With all that in mind, here’s a look at existing models for distributing filmed live musicals online:
Online video platforms like YouTube and Vimeo have made it easier than ever to just upload existing footage. During the pandemic big names like Andrew Lloyd Webber and the National Theatre have released content for free online. Companies such as Southwark Playhouse, Chichester Festival Theatre, Wise Children, and Wales Millennium Centre, and independent artists like Dave Malloy and Angela Sclafani, have also made filmed live musicals freely available.
The quality of free recordings varies greatly. From productions staged in black box theatres filmed with a camera on a tripod located behind the audience like Beardo, to slick captures like the arena production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Sometimes recordings were made for archival purposes, like Only the Brave and Wasted. Archival recordings vary in quality, but thanks to digital cameras, recent captures make for decent viewing.
The length of time free streams are available can vary. Some are placed online indefinitely, such as The Room and Passion Project. Others, like titles from the National Theatre at Home, The Shows Must Go On, or Wise Children, have a limited window ranging from 48 hours to several weeks.
Unless the producers/creatives uploading material for free are covering the cost of paying artists for use of their work on screen, cast, crew, and creatives are less likely receive any income from free streams. The exception to this is new platform SceneSaver, which encourages viewers to donate the cost of an average ticket, and shares 95% of donations directly with artists (for more info, take a listen to episode 2 of the Filmed Live Musicals podcast for an interview with SceneSaver founder Caroline Friedman).
Especially during the pandemic, viewers are often encouraged to make a donation to the theatre company, or to a selected charity or organization.
There are several kinds of paid options: one-off payments, subscriptions, and passes.
Viewers make a one-time payment or purchase a “ticket” to gain access to the stream. The stream is often played at a scheduled time, and then is available on demand for a limited time. These films usually have a set period of availability, and are sometimes are also limited to a specific number of streams. Occasionally, as in the case of 21 Chump Street: The Musical, the payment provides indefinite access. Companies using this model include Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, Broadway on Demand, and Streaming Musicals.
Like free streams, the quality of content can vary. Particularly during the pandemic, when companies and artists are desperate for cashflow, archival footage not intended for mass consumption has been distributed.
The pricing for one-off payments ranges, though is usually between $10 - $30 USD. Although it is not common, instead of a set price, viewers are sometimes given the option to make a donation, or pay-as-you-like.
Following the Netflix model, subscriptions provide access to a catalog of shows. In the subscription model, like Netflix, titles are usually available for longer periods of time, and can appear and disappear. Most subscriptions run for a year, though some also provide month-to-month payments at a slightly higher rate. BroadwayHD, Stage, PBS, and Disney+ all currently use the subscription model.
Passes work in a similar way to a subscription, but often for a limited time. Prima, a theater in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, have created passes as varying price points for viewers to gain access to online content. As have SheNYC Arts, a female led organization running online festivals based in New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta over the summer.
Some companies use a combination of models. Broadway on Demand offers some content for free, some content for a one-off fee, and also plans to offer a subscription in the future. Streaming Musicals hosts free premiere nights, and titles are available to rent or buy through one-off payments. Digital Theatre offers an all-access yearly subscription, or the option to rent individual titles. While BroadwayHD offers monthly and yearly subscription models, throughout the pandemic they have been hosting free watch parties in partnership with Playbill, Roundabout, and the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization.
As live theatre online becomes more and more mainstream, and as we learn more about the number of views and profits from ticket sales, it will be interesting to see which models are adopted.
With the pandemic came a plethora of filmed live theatre content being released online. Many in the industry were genuinely surprised that audiences wanted to watch theatre on screen, and even pay for it! As discussed with Caroline Friedman - CEO of the new theatre streaming service Scenesaver - in this month’s podcast, we have been recording live theatre since the invention of the moving picture.
Despite the fact that the first live broadcast of a musical took place in 1939, and even with the release of Hamilton last month, the theatre industry as a whole is still not savvy to the history, magic, and importance of filmed live theatre. In a recent interview for The TheaterMakers Studio, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of BroadwayWorld, claimed that “very little” has happened in the world of filmed live theatre despite decades of discussions. The nearly 200 musicals in the Filmed Live Musicals database heartily disagree! And that doesn’t even include the hundreds, possibly thousands, of operas, plays, ballets, and classical concerts that have been captured and enjoyed by literally millions of people around the world!
After the release of Hamilton, Jon Kamen, CEO of RadicalMedia, reportedly claimed that with the filming of RENT: Live on Broadway in 2008, RadicalMedia had "developed the nomenclature and a whole style of filming it in a very cinematic fashion.” Again, the producers of Pacific Overtures (filmed live in 1976), Into the Woods (filmed in 1991), and the cinematographers for the Met Live in HD, founded in 2006, all might have something to say about that.
We still have to answer questions of when to release films, and how to fairly pay the cast, crew, and creatives, but these should not be obstacles to documenting theatre. Filming live theatre provides access to theatre for people who may not be able to see a production due to geography, cost, or disability. It is an incredible educational tool, not just for students, but for historians, industry folks, and the wider public. Digital technology has made captures easier, more dynamic, and more watchable than ever.
All of this is why I started Filmed Live Musicals. As a place to catalog the musicals that have been legally captured for the screen and publicly distributed, to provide a space for people to find that content, and to show the historic value of filmed live musicals. Ultimately, it is a way to capture ephemeral moments in time so that we may enjoy them, learn from them, and remember the musicals, even when the bodies inside the now-disintegrated costumes have turned to dust.
On episode 2 of the Filmed Live Musicals podcast, Luisa chats with Caroline Friedman, founder of new theatre streaming of Scenesaver.
Scenesaver is the only website making performances from off Broadway, off- West End, small theatres, and emerging artists accessible to everyone online. It's free to register and watch with 150 shows of all genres from around the world available now. New work is being added all the time.
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