Hippodrome creates department for new musicals

Published: 27 April 2023
Reporter: Steve Orme

Hippodrome artistic director and chief executive Jon Gilchrist and consultant Vicky Graham Credit: Simon Hadley

Birmingham Hippodrome is to have “the first in-house musical theatre department at a UK venue” in which it will develop new musicals.

The Hippodrome says that by 2028, it wants to be recognised as the UK’s national theatre of new musicals.

The department will be led by a head of new musical theatre whose specialist team will collaborate with creatives to create new production opportunities in Birmingham and beyond.

The dedicated department will commission, develop and produce new musicals as part of the Hippodrome’s core business. It will also offer skills development, employment and a new writers’ lab.

The team will operate from the Hippodrome’s 210-seat Patrick Studio. Work developed will be presented on all the Hippodrome’s stages and at other theatres around the country.

Jon Gilchrist, the Hippodrome’s artistic director and chief executive, said, “more than 260,000 people come to see musical theatre at the Hippodrome every year and we know our audiences are hungry for new musicals.

“This next phase in our artistic ambitions sees the organisation make a long-term commitment to developing musical theatre on site and making more opportunities for careers in musical theatre.

“Audiences will play a key role in every step of the process, from invites to work-in-progress sharings, first performances in our studios, all the way up to large-scale new productions.”

The Hippodrome has consulted theatre producer Vicky Graham who specialises in creative and strategic development of new musicals.

She said, “this is cause for real celebration. While there’s no shortage of musical theatre writing talent in the UK, there’s a need for consistent space, support and production opportunity. The Hippodrome—with its enthusiastic musical theatre audience base, passionate and skilled team and well-equipped space—is perfectly placed to respond to this need. It’s an honour to be a part of it.”

Victoria Saxton, who will lead the writers’ lab, added, “this is a game-changer. Musical theatre writers need time, space and long-term support to work on their craft, collaborate and dream up bold new projects—and, crucially, have the chance to get them on their feet and produced.

“In my experience, what’s been missing in the UK has been a coherent, long-term strategy that provides a home for brilliant career musical theatre writers.”

Gilchrist added, “we’re ambitious for ourselves and our industry as well as the city and region. There’s so much incredible work being done across the musical theatre industry and we want to play our part in supporting a thriving theatrical ecology here in the West Midlands.

“Our first Hippodrome-produced musical will be staged in the Patrick Studio next year, with produced work becoming a regular feature on our stages in the seasons that follow.”

Applications for the role of head of new musical theatre can be made at the Hippodrome web site and close on Friday 9 June.

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