Important update: Due to essential works, the Theatre & Performance Galleries and Re:Imagining Musicals will be temporarily closing on 22 May 2023. They will reopen in August 2023, and Re:Imagining Musicals has now been extended until February 2024.
The V&A in London is mounting a major new free exhibition all about the fabulous world of musicals.
Running from 15 October 2022 to 27 November 2023 in their Theatre and Performance Galleries, Re:Imagining Musicals celebrates the world of musical theatre and explore the cultural significance of some of the industry’s most iconic stories.
This free display showcases 100 objects, the majority of which are being displayed for the first time, bringing together brand-new acquisitions and unseen classics in the V&A’s Theatre and Performance Galleries.
Highlights include Eliza Doolittle’s beaded gown designed by Cecil Beaton and worn by Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane (1958).
Also new costume acquisitions include Miss Hannigan’s dress, wig and whistle worn by Paul O’Grady in the 1998 West End revival of Annie and donated to the museum especially for the display; Gabriella Slade’s Tony award winning costume for Catherine of Aragon in SIX the Musical; Jamie New’s costume designed by Anna Fleischle for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and Catherine Zuber’s Tony and Olivier award winning ‘Sparkling Diamond’ costume worn by Satine in Moulin Rouge! The Musical.
Further highlights of the exhibition will include a toy Olaf created especially for Frozen the Musical designed by Christopher Oram; a 1965 original cast recording of Hello Dolly! signed by Carol Channing; an original poster for Hamilton signed by the cast and creatives; Bunny Christie’s Olivier and Critics’ Circle award winning costume design, model and costume for Rosalie Craig as Bobbie in the 2019 West End revival of Company and Shakespeare’s first folio, which celebrates its 400th anniversary in 2023.
Simon Sladen, Senior Curator for Modern and Contemporary Theatre and Performance, said: “Musicals are one of the most exciting and complex forms of theatre to see and stage. In Re:Imagining Musicals we celebrate the power and skill of creativity, along with the many people who help bring these shows to life for audiences to enjoy night after night. From idea to inception, we can’t wait for visitors to step inside and explore the inspiration, imagination and evolution of musical theatre.”
Celebrating the rich lineage and astounding craftsmanship behind some of the best-loved musicals, Re:Imagining Musicals explores how they have been created, adapted, revived, and retold for new audiences. The display will journey through various themes, linking literature, hitsory and biography to musicals of today.
Literature, Film and Popular Culture will explore how Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was retold as West Side Story and inspired & Juliet, and how The Wonderful Wizard of Oz evolved from L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel to its stage and screen adaptations, which themselves inspired The Wiz’s celebration of African American culture and Wicked’s exploration of what it means to be an outsider.
History, Society and Conflict looks at how musicals such a Hamilton and 1776 both take radically different approaches to adapting the story of American Independence, and how SIX the Musical, Kings and Clowns, and Rex all explore the Tudor era and reign of King Henry VIII. This section also considers how musicals, such as Hair and Oh What a Lovely War, often respond to, capture or criticise conflict, reflecting the public sentiment of the time.
And Biographical Musicals will focuse on performances that bring real people’s lives to the stage. Exploring how musicals can transform public perception or bring an unknown person to fame from historical figures such as the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti to 16-yearold British Schoolboy Jamie.
Many of the objects featured in the display are from the Bunnett-Muir Musical Theatre Archive, the UK’s largest private collection of musical theatre-related memorabilia which was donated to the V&A in 2018. Joining this extensive collection of posters and cast recording LPs is a rich array of costumes and props that explore the role and evolution of musicals throughout history.