webmaster Posted December 11, 2006 Report Share Posted December 11, 2006 ((Posted elsewhere/ see thread/ and also here, for more visibility)) KISSES on a Postcard, Chances for Investors A MEMORY came alive on the BAFTA stage last night. Renowned playwright Terence Frisby introduced excerpts from his new musical "Kisses on a Postcard" to an enthusiastic crowd of over 100 potential investors. The audience saw snippets of the playwright's real life as a "vacky", when at the age of seven he and his brother, aged eleven, were evacuated to the relative safety of the Cornish countryside. This is a story that wants telling. During the dark days of World War Two, over 3 million children were put on trains leaving London and other English cities by stoic parents, helping their frightened children to escape the harsh reality of constant air bombing. The youngsters found themselves in unfamiliar landscapes, fostered by strangers who soon became their surrogate parents. Brought to life in Frisby's classic radio play, now being turned into a West End musical, the life of a Vacky was not all tears and hardship. Growing up in a new place can be full of memories, adventure, and even music. Shepherded into a sort of human cattle bin, the two brothers were lucky enough to be picked by a kindly couple from Wales, who were also "foreigners" in their new home, a traditional Cornish village. We saw how the couple won over their new charges, and comforted them. Their parents were not forgotten. As the boys agreed with their mother at departure, a secret message would be sent back to the worried parents. One kiss on a postcard would have been a cry for help. Two kisses, a reluctant acceptance of the new home. Three communicated some happiness about the new situation. The younger boy in the story, who was also the young writer in real life, found a way to bring stronger reassurance, a ring of kisses around the edge of the postcard. Fascinated by this device of the postcard, the audience gets drawn it, taking a real interest in the drama brought to life in the musical, and shown in the preview by some excerpts from the musical. I liked the scene where the slightly awkward young boy was confronted by the village vamp, intent on teasing him about his emerging sexuality. I couldn't help thinking that many watching would have had similar memories. In the audience were a handful of children of a similar age, who had be brought along to see this compelling story, and hear the catchy musical songs. Undoubtedly, some parents hoped that their children might successfully audition when the musical opens for casting, perhaps as soon as late spring. With less parental pressure, the rest of us watched with pure amusement as the storyline developed, and the village life was enlivened by the arrival of a troop of US GI's. Not the expected poster yanks, the new visitors turned out to be black soldiers. For those accustomed to the risks of volatile junior mining shares, investing in theatre provides an interesting challenge. Some productions can be like classic drillhole successes. For example, Frisby's most famous play, "There's a Girl in my Soup", returned £60 for every £1 invested, and was eventually turned into a film featuring Peter Sellars and Goldie Hawn. But like 10 and 20-baggers in mining, such successes are very rare, and when they do happen, they take a long time. "Girl in my Soup" ran nearly 7 years. Obviously, flops happen too, and with some regularity. In the theatre world, some productions return none of their original capital back to investors. Clearly, this tends to be a business for true "Angels" who have passion for the culture they are bringing forward, and are willing to accept the risks that are inherent in a very risky business. Some may invest, without expecting much, if anything, in return. But for those capable of buying more than one or two units, the investment merits of this particular musical require closer scrutiny. "Kisses" has many of the elements that point to success. Like Frisby, the other members of the team are experienced , and have good track records. Je Harmston has numerous West End credits to his name and is Peter Hall's associate director. While Jeremy James Taylor, the founder and artistic director of the National Youth Music Theatre, has unrivalled experience and expertise working with children in theatre. And the cast of this new production will have a lot of children- as many as twenty in total. To keep kids from being distracted from important things, like school, homework, and a good night's sleep, each child's part is cast three times. This way the casting is rotated, and there is not undue strain on the time and studies of any individual child. The complexity of managing such a large cast needs an experienced hand, and so does the critical job of helping new talent to blossom in an unfamiliar environment. What we saw at the preview was: some good acting performances, and some beautiful singing coming from fresh, young and talented newcomers. Stars of the future about to be discovered maybe? In last night's presentation, potential investors were reminded that musicals are back and succeeding once again on London stages. Apart from the usual run of Lloyd Webber successes, we have: The Sound Of Music Cabaret Mamma Mia Dirty Dancing The Producers The Lion King Spamalot Avenue Q Mary Poppins Guys and Dolls Wicked We Will Rock You What Kisses may lack in brand recognition it makes up for in subject matter. The subject of World War Two and, in particular, evacuation, touches so many people in so many different ways. This is demonstrated by the unprecedented (in BBC Radio drama history) audience response Frisby received for the radio play. And there is a healthy tradition of musicals involving kids going on to be great successes: Oliver, Annie, Bugsy Malone, Billy Elliott. And many more. In Sound Of Music, which has just opened, it is the kids, not Connie, despite all her television exposure as the winning Maria, who have received all the critical attention and praise. Many successful musicals in the West End means competition for the theatre-goer's ticket-spending, but it also means an expanding market, as visitors to London, and those that live in the city are constantly reminded of the joys of stage shows. "Kisses" has the potential to claim two special audience niches: Those who were evacuees themselves, or those interested to learn more about the wartime experiences of their parents, grandparents or other relatives. In addition, KOAPC will be a fine "first musical" for parents to take children that they are trying to introduce to the joys of theatre-going. Finally, the black American GI's and a background of jazz music also have the potential to pull-in visiting North Americans, always an important component of the audience for any long-running musical. The budget for the musical to achieve a first class West End production is £2 million, this being raised by way of units priced at £ 5,000 each, which is 400 units in total, once fully subscribed. After costs are covered, profits will be split 60/40, with investors taking the larger share, and the producing team, 40%. The plan is to book a theatre of 900-1200 seats offering tickets at a top price of $55. This suggests that, after VAT, the show might realise an average of £40 for every full-priced ticket sold. The typical London musical has eight shows a week (two matinees and six evenings). That means a potential weekly revenue, if 1,000 seats are sold, of £320000, in comparison with weekly running costs of approximately £100,000. Breakeven in the initial budget is therefore about 31%. Once this level is reached, the show can make a contribution to its start-up production costs, which need to be spent before the show opens. The "Kisses" team believes it will cost just over £1.2 million and a minimum of 6 to 8 months to get the show up on its feet and read to start its run. An important £20-30,000, which has been committed, will allow the workshop to start. In this initial stage, Terrence Frisby will be working with the new musical director, John Altman, to polish the music and lyrics, and get the show's creative book ready to open. Altman is well-experienced, with various TV and film work to his credit, including a James Bond film. He will be working with the original music, provided by Gordon Clyde, who unfortunately has fallen ill. Within a few months, once the workshop is completed, and a substantial portion of the funds are raised, the company will be ready to start casting and rehearsing. That involves a much larger number of people, and that is when the costs begin to get heavy. Almost £250,000 will get spent on auditions, rehearsal expenses, and salaries and other people expenses during the pre-production period. Advertising and publicity, which must swing into high gear weeks or months before the curtain opens, might cost roughly a similar amount. And then there's an even heavier expense (almost $500,000) of getting the theatre, the costumes, and the show ready for the physical opening. And a smaller, but still important amount of money goes into general and adminstrative cost of putting the show on. Assuming an ongoing sale of 80% of seats at full price, then the show might generate revenues of £256,000 weekly, leaving maybe £150,000 after running expenses. This means the budgetted start up costs, could be covered in a run of as little as nine weeks. But there are bound to be surprises, so the show is looking to raise enough extra to cover contingencies, delays, and extra marketing. Terence Frisby has decades of experience with successful shows, and he is highly confident that those who get into the theatre and see the show will walk out thrilled with the experience, and happy to tell their friends about it. He expects the show to have a powerful word-of-mouth effect. But he needs to get people interested and into the theatre. Various creative approaches may be tried, including some possible use of television at auditions and rehearsals, a formula which worked brilliantly for the Sound of Music. So successful was the BBC television series, "The Problem of Maria", the new version of the musical and had enough advance ticket sales, that it was a guaranteed financial success the first day the curtain opened. In terms of its ongoing running costs, a new musical like "Kisses" may not yet be a brand name, like "Oliver" or "Sound of Music", but it does have an advantage in not needing to pay the usual royalty of 10-16% of net revenues, after VAT, to past producers. Another handy advantage, is that future shows (tours, repertory, amateur, abroad and schools), and spin-offs like CD's and film rights, if any, can generate additional revenues for the early stage investors in KOAPC. The royalties associated with these revenue streams, assuming they arise, will be divided according to the same 60:40 split between investor and producer. The trick is getting a long run, and selling a substantial number of the available seats. In reality, very popular shows tend to sellout for weeks, as the tickets get snapped up by tours, and ticket touts. The quietest time of year tends to be January, after the holiday spending depletes people's wallets, and again in May-June, when warmer weather draws people away from the theatres, and before the onslaught of tourists brings the crowds back in. The quiet times will be avoided or worked around in the opening. A good sized budget, and the experince of the production team should give it a good push, whenever it opens. This is a show that will appeal to people of all ages, and it's likely to be doubly busy during school holidays. My own experience in watch the presentation, previewing some highlights from the show, was that the crowd loved it. The storyline was gripping, the characters seemed real and were based directly on wartime reality. The music was catchy, and even memorable. Personally, I walked out with the warm feeling that anyone has from a good show. The smiles I saw, and the comments I hear all around suggest that feeling was shared. We may have seen the birth of a wonderous musical, which will be a starmaker, as the children in the cast are discovered, and become the musical and acting stars of tomorrow. (REVIEW of Investor Preview : 28. Nov. 2006 ) -- DB, with some help from DF = = = Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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