Shafting the incumbent: When shows gazump

In the business world, it always feels slightly wrong when a company heralds the arrival of a fabulous new executive whilst their predecessor is still sat at their desks.

James Cordon in One Man, Two Guvnors, to transfer to the Adelphi Theatre
James Cordon in One Man, Two Guvnors, to transfer to the Adelphi Theatre

And it happens in the theatre world too. In casting, there’s rarely a chance for the hoofer sweating away night-after-night to announce their departure before the press release goes out about the bright young thing taking their place (Legally Blonde recently announcing that Carley Stenson is to replace Susan McFadden as Elle Woods caused much gasping, least of all from the rest of the cast, who read it first on Twitter!)

And there is nothing more brutal and shameless than a keen show busting to get into a West End venue. Even bastions of good taste such as the RSC aren’t shy of a little venue-stealing, announcing last month that Matilda would crash into the Cambridge Theatre in October despite Chicago’s long-running status at the venue, thereby prompting lots of speculation about the future of that show.

The National has also followed suit, leaking news last week that their James Cordon hit One Man, Two Guvnors will transfer to the Adelphi, current home of Love Never Dies, in November. The news sent “Love Must Die”-hards into spasms of delight and left Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group to then have to follow with a closing notice.

LND is especially interesting because Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group only part-owns the theatre: rumours have circulated for some time that the other owner of the Adelphi, the Nederlander Organization,  has been unhappy with the income they are generating from the show (a significant part of a venue’s revenue comes from sales of merchandise and catering, and so depends on getting people through the doors).

I suppose it has to be the way. If you left the incumbent to make the announcement it would never happen, at least not quickly enough for the upstart. But there must be a way to do it with dignity. I tell you, showbusiness… it’s ruthless!

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