Melbourne Leads The Way

Published on 7th Dec, 2008

Melbourne Leads The WayThe New South Wales State Opposition may claim the Government needs to do more to attract shows to Sydney, but no matter what happens, producers of major musicals are starting to see Melbourne as a more viable option no matter what.

And while the Victorian Government is certainly ahead of its New South Wales counterpart in assisting with commercial musicals, it is the people of Melbourne who have won producers over.

Put simply, shows are doing better business in Melbourne than Sydney as residents of the Harbour city continue to tighten their belts.

Priscilla recently announced it will end its Sydney return season a month early, while Kookaburra was last week forced to offer $2 tickets to Little Women in an effort to fill seats. It was a welcome gesture and wonderful news for theatre-goers, but the company would have preferred to have full paying customers in the seats.

It’s a different story in Melbourne, where Wicked continues to pocket over a million dollars a week at the Regent Theatre and The Rocky Horror Show remains solid at the Comedy Theatre box office.

This week, Billy Elliot opens in Melbourne and according to a production spokesperson, it has sold better in its lead-up than it did in Sydney at the Capitol Theatre despite all the pre-show hype.

Wicked producer John Frost is adamant his show will not be moving to Sydney any time soon and if it does, it’ll still be a risk given the uncertainty of the market.

“I can’t see it moving from Melbourne inside the next 12 to 18 months,” he said.

“At the moment we are purely focused on reaching our first anniversary in July next year.”

Sydney is about to welcome High School Musical and Guys And Dolls and it will be interesting to see what kind of success the two shows have at the box office, particularly the latter which was well received in Melbourne.

For whatever reason, shows in Melbourne earn much more wider appeal than in Sydney, it seems. For example, the cast of Wicked have performed at countless events including the Myer Christmas Parade and the AFL Grand Final.

It goes on: The cast of Billy Elliot has been given the honour of opening Channel Nine’s prestigious Carols By Candlelight, and have also been involved with several major events in recent weeks.

Logging onto the “Visit Victoria” website sees a Billy Elliot promotion straight away, and an easy link to a theatre and musicals section where Wicked, The Rocky Horror Show and Jersey Boys are all mentioned.

The “Visit New South Wales” site is a poor imitation – no mention of any of the major shows playing in town and no clear links that suggests the city has a vibrant theatrical culture.

Perhaps $2 tickets and early closings could be prevented by more forward thinking from the industry, and Governments, as a whole.

Written By: Troy Dodds – Aussie Theatre

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