The impact of COVID-19 has been horrendous. Half a million lives lost around the world, entire industries shut down, and many businesses having to close their doors for good. The theatre industry has, of course, also been hit hard. With a loss of revenue from ticket sales, and the uncertainty of when theatres will be able to safely re-open, many artists and theatre companies are facing bleak futures.
If there is an “upside” of the pandemic, it’s that there has never been a better time for filmed live theatre content. When theatres were ordered to shutdown, companies and artists around the world flocked to put content online (you can find a detailed list here). Some companies have even reported that revenue from online streaming has allowed them to at least cover the cost of streamed productions.
The popularity of online theatre content, coupled with the digital release of one the most vaunted musicals of all time, Hamilton, means that many in the industry have been awakened to the exciting possibility of filmed live theatre.
Since the Broadway shutdown began on March 12, hundreds of theatrical productions have been made available online. I know of at least 60 musicals that meet criteria for the database — a stage musical legally filmed in front of a live audience and publicly distributed — and over half of those have already been added to the database. Many productions are released for a limited time, have a limited number of available streams available, or are not well-advertised, and I’m sure there are even more! It’s an exciting, and sometimes overwhelming time for someone trying to keep track of the content!
The wealth of content has meant a rise in streaming services created just for theatre content. Here's a quick look at services providing filmed live musical theatre content.
A leader in filmed live theatre content, BroadwayHD has one of the most extensive musical theatre catalogues available. Current titles include 42nd Street, An American in Paris, Billy Elliot The Musical, Falsettos, Kinky Boots, Miss Saigon, Sunday in the Park with George, The Wind in the Willows and more. During the shutdown, BroadwayHD have been partnering with other organizations such as Playbill, Lincoln Center, and the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization to release select titles for free for one-off watch parties.
Broadway On Demand
Despite the title, Broadway on Demand has very little Broadway content. A new initiative I’m excited about though is the Global Spotlight Series showcasing musicals from around the world. The first offering is a South Korean production of Xcalibur, a re-telling of the King Arthur legend by Frank Wildhorn starring K-Pop star DK, Kim Jun Su and Kai.
A pioneer in the industry, the British company Digital Theatre have been streaming live theatre content since 2009. The company also provides a wealth of content for educational institutions. Current musical offerings include Funny Girl starring Sheridan Smith, new British musical Pieces of String, and the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre production of Into the Woods. Other theatre content includes productions from the RSC, Stage Russia, and content from the West End and across the United Kingdom.
The brainchild of British producer (and Royal Central School of Speech and Drama alum), the new service aims to make content from off-WestEnd and fringe theatres more accessible. All content is available for free, and 100% of any donations are passed onto the artists.
The Shows Must Go On
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s initiative to provide content during the shutdown. New content is released for free each week, and each title is usually available for around 48 hours. Previous musicals include the arena production of Jesus Christ Superstar, The Phantom of the Opera Live from Royal Albert Hall, and the Australian production of Love Never Dies.
Created by the writer of Daddy Long Legs, this new site is dedicated to musical theatre content. Musicals are available to rent per-show, and profits are shared with the artists. Currently only has a one filmed live musical, an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, and several “Soundstage Musicals,” an attempt at a new form that is a hybrid between a film and a stage music
It isn’t only existing works that are getting air time. New musicals are being workshopped and showcased through the pandemic.
The brain-child of director Adam Lenson (who directed Wasted, the new British musical about the Brontë’s), SIGNAL Online is “A global, multi-location, live-stream of songs from new musicals.” Concerts are presented every Tuesday at 2pm GMT, and although they are available to watch for free, donations are strongly encouraged.
For almost 15 years, New York Theatre Barn has been providing a space for new works and emerging artists. Since the beginning of the shutdown, their New Works Series has been streaming online. New content every Wednesday at 7pm ET on YouTube.
What will you be watching? Do you know of other theatre-specific streaming services? Drop me an email or follow Filmed Live Musicals on Twitter!
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