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 23 of the Filmed Live Musicals podcast, host Luisa Lyons chats with Jessica Ryan, founder and CEO of Broadway Unlocked.
In this fun conversation, we talk about Jessica's grandparents role in getting her into theatre, how being an advocate for the Crime Victims Treatment Center and making accessible content led to a career in digital theatre, the inspiration of early Kickstarter, being an early adopter of tech, why the theatre industry is afraid of streaming, how COVID has shifted the game, and more!
Jessica Ryan is a serial entrepreneur, award winning director/actor/writer and mad scientist at the intersection of technology and the arts. Her groundbreaking work has been featured at Talks at Google, The New York Times, Idealist, W42ST Magazine, and CBS Sunday Morning. She created Broadway’s first hybrid concert blending digital and in-person audiences almost a decade ago; All Together Now, her latest venture, is digital venue technology for exclusive audience experiences around live shows. In case you’re not exhausted yet, she’s also the creator and host of #TechTheatre Tuesdays on the Clubhouse App, as well as its' recap podcast with tech and media startup veteran Joe White, as well as the Take Me To Coffee Podcast with Hamilton star Andrew Call. Currently accepting extra hours in the day, inquire within. Learn more at www.broadwayunlocked.com and follow Broadway Unlocked on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
In episode 20 of the Filmed Live Musicals podcast, host Luisa Lyons chats with Broadway on Demand CEO and President Sean Cercone.
Topics include theatre on public TV being a gateway to live theatre, how being a good son-in-law led to the creation of Broadway on Demand, how streaming can help authors and help shows build their brand, sport as a model for live-streaming, the importance of a theatre archive, and much more!
Sean Cercone is the CEO and President of Broadway Licensing and its family of companies, which includes Dramatists Play Service, Playscripts, Stageworks Productions, and Broadway on Demand. Together, these companies represent the world’s first 360º theatrical development, producing, publishing, and digital and traditional distribution outfit.
Between Broadway Licensing (musicals), Dramatists Play Service (non-musical plays), and Playscripts (educational productions), Cercone oversees the licensing of nearly 24,000 productions each year, working with more than 2,800 authors and managing over 6,725 titles. Stageworks Productions is dedicated to the development, production, and distribution of innovative live theatrical properties, focusing on cultivating stories that speak to the universal truths of humanity.
Broadway On Demand, launched in 2020, is the industry’s premiere entertainment streaming platform offering exclusive livestream theatrical events, a wide-ranging library of video on demand content, interactive engagements, and educational programming. In addition, Cercone created a unique licensing interface, ShowShareTM, which provides student, amateur, and professional productions the opportunity to stream their productions for global audiences. ShowShareTM proved instrumental in ensuring thousands of shows could go on even when the pandemic forced the cancellation of live performances around the world. Broadway On Demand has been honored with the 2021 Corporate Award by the American Association of Community Theatre (AACT).
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This week on the podcast, host Luisa Lyons chats with Marc Teitler and Tim Phillips, the composers of the smash-hit British musical The Grinning Man.
Filmed live at the Bristol Old Vic in 2016, The Grinning Man is a dark and visceral musical based on Victor Hugo's The Man Who Laughed. Topics include the development of the musical, Marc and Tim's initial resistance to releasing the archival footage, how the musical came to be filmed with motion capture, and more!
The Grinning Man is currently available to stream on demand from the Bristol Old Vic. More tickets and info here.
Follow Marc Teitler on Twitter, and Tim Phillips on Twitter.
Available wherever you listen to podcasts! If you like what you hear, make sure to like and subscribe, and leave us a review! UPDATE: The podcast may take a couple of days to appear in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Overcast due to an attack on Buzzsprout's servers.
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Thank you to patrons Rachel Esteban, Mercedes Esteban-Lyons, James Lane, Al Monaco, David Negrin, Jesse Rabinowitz & Brenda Goodman, David & Katherine Rabinowitz, and Bec Twist, for financially supporting Filmed Live Musicals.
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?
This week on the podcast host Luisa Lyons chats with Eliza Jackson, an Australian producer based in the UK whom The Stage recently listed as one of the Top 100 Theatre Makers of 2020.
Topics including making the switch from acting to producing, the joys and challenges of producing virtual theatre content during the pandemic, paying artists during lockdown, the future of streaming, what it means to make theatre during this time, and Lambert Jackson Productions streams of The Last Five Years, Songs for A New World, [title of show], and the upcoming I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change.
Australian born Eliza Jackson trained in Musical Theatre at the prestigious NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Art) in Sydney. She moved to London in 2012 and since then, has worked in the theatre industry both on and off stage.
In 2018, Lambert Jackson Productions was born and their first project was to take Eliza’s one-woman show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The show, The Voice Behind the Stars received 5-star reviews across the board and was then toured around Australia with much success. On her return, she took on the role of Creative Director of Lambert Jackson full time.
I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change will stream at select times between January 28-30, 2021. More info and tickets available from the London Coliseum.
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This week on the podcast, I interview British director and producer Adam Lenson! We had a great time chatting about Merrily We Roll Along, what should we call filmed theatre, Signal Online, Alt+Right+Shift, making new work without a theatre, filming theatre without an audience, and more!
Based in London, Adam Lenson is a director, producer, dramaturg, and musical theatre specialist. He was recently included in The Stage 100, a list recognizing theatremakers for their extraordinary achievements in 2020. He is the founder Signal and Signal Online, programs for incubating new musical theatre, Make Your Own Musicals which provides activity packs for children, and Theatrical Solutions which offers affordable solutions for theatrical livestreaming.
As a director, original works include WASTED (World Premiere, Southwark Playhouse), SUPERHERO (World Premiere, Southwark Playhouse), THE SORROWS OF SATAN (World Premiere, Tristan Bates Theatre), LOCK AND KEY (World Premiere, Vault Festival), THE LEFTOVERS (World Premiere, National Tour). Other works include THE RINK (Southwark Playhouse), THE STORM (Helios Collective/ENO), 35MM (The Other Palace), WHISPER HOUSE (The Other Palace), SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD (St James Theatre, 20th Anniversary Production), DISGRACED (English Theatre Frankfurt), DARK TOURISM (Park Theatre), GHOST (GSA), SEE WHAT I WANNA SEE (Jermyn Street Theatre), REEL LIFE (Ustinov Theatre Bath and St James Studio), THE GOODBYE GIRL (Upstairs at the Gatehouse), WEST END RECAST (Duke of York’s Theatre, Phoenix Theatre), ORDINARY DAYS (Trafalgar Studios), LITTLE FISH and SATURN RETURNS (Finborough Theatre), COME FLY WITH ME (Salisbury Playhouse), THE DEAD GUY (English Theatre Frankfurt) and THE FAMILY (Old Vic US/UK Exchange, Public Theater, NY).
You can learn more about Adam at www.adamlenson.com and follow him on Instagram and Twitter.
Tickets to Public Domain, streaming live on Jan 15 and 16 2021, are available at Southwark Playhouse.
Two weeks ago in the post "Tickets, Please", we took a brief look at the new ways in which ticketing companies are attempting to reach theatre audiences as a result of the pandemic. Another solution to keep steering people back to the theatre is re-vamping the concept of the drive-in. Over the summer, drive-in theatres were popping up all over the place.
Prague in the Czech Republic hosted a multi-genre drive-in theatre festival called Art Parking from May to through to June. The festival included live performance and cinema screenings, and was reportedly seen by 11,000 people.
In September, Prima Theatre (who were featured on Episode 3 of the Filmed Live Musicals podcast) in Lancaster, Pennsylvania hosted a drive-in concert, Brave and Beautiful, featuring the music of all-female singers and singer-songwriters. Performed on the back of a 30-foot flatbed truck, the concert was also available for hire for neighborhood performances in Lancaster.
Six, the smash hit West End musical about the wives of Henry VIII, had announced a drive-in tour taking place throughout the UK. The tour was unfortunately cancelled due to local restrictions, and I had hoped it would be a chance for a filmed live version to be released. Instead, the musical announced shortly after that it will now perform a limited 11-week engagement in the West End at the Lyric Theatre, commencing November 14th. The original London cast also reunited for a special pop concert that was streamed live on October 10. Give us the musical already! #SorryNotSorry.
Kicking off at the end of September, Radial Park at Halletts Point Astoria Queens began “Broadway at the Drive-In”, a new drive-in cinema that includes live performances along with film screenings. New Yorkers without cars can rent picnic tables, which come with retro boom boxes. The first film on the calendar was Phantom of the Opera, filmed live not on Broadway but at Royal Albert Hall in London. The screening included in-person performances by Broadway performers Ali Ewoldt and Derrick Davis.
Contract negotiations for filming live theatre often did not foresee digital content. Will they have room for the drive-in?
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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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.