Secrets From The Best In The Business

Cameron Mackintosh is the most successful man in the global theatre industry. This theatre producer has been responsible for international hits from The Phantom of the Opera to Mary Poppins and is currently travelling the world launching his latest revival of Les Misérables, soon to open in Melbourne. What is his secret?

Photo Credit: Michael Le Poer Trench

Photo Credit: Michael Le Poer Trench

He is responsible for producing Cats, Miss Saigon and incredibly popular revivals of Oliver!, Oklahoma and My Fair Lady among other theatre gems. He currently holds the record for the largest advance ticket sales and fastest selling show in theatre history. And is the first British producer ever to be inducted into Broadway’s prestigious American Theatre Hall of Fame.

So when you want to learn from the best in the business, you need look no further than Cameron Mackintosh!

In a recent interview, Cameron Mackintosh gave his three-point formula to producing great shows:

  1. Take a great existing work by a monumental writer such as Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, Giacomo Puccini, P.L. Travers or Gaston Leroux.
  2. Add a soaring score.
  3. Give it an element of spectacle.

These three criteria are certainly met by his latest production of Les Misérables which open in Melbourne during June. Based on the timeless tome by Victor Hugo, Les Misérables, the show features famous, rousing and hummable music from Schönberg and Boublil. Then there is the added spectacle of the tumbling barricades which keeps people talking about the show for years (until the next revival is ready to make global rounds).

But have a look at these three steps closely. They resemble a great understanding of the audience psyche when purchasing tickets and attending the theatre.

Point #1: High ticket prices mean that potential audience members will look for ways to decrease risk. And adapting an astoundingly popular existing work is a great way to provide audience members with the ‘safety’ they crave when spending $120+ to see a new show. They may have never seen the musical but they know about the subject matter and there is the opportunity to undergo research to work out if they will enjoy the show. Plus, potential audiences can always read the book before buying tickets so they know what the experience will hold.

Point #2: Music can unite people but it can also be incredibly divisive. For example, Death Metal, Impressionist Classical music and anything written by Stravinsky has its fans. But it also alienates many people. But look at the music from Cameron Mackintosh shows. Les Misérables, Oliver!, Phantom of the Opera, the music used in these shows speak to a universal audience without alienating a segment of society.

Especially Andrew Lloyd Webber who has the uncanny talent of mixing opera, rock and contemporary musical theatre into a score that can relate to anyone!

Point #3: By this point you have got your audience to the theatre. Now the challenge is giving them an experience which they feel was worth the money they paid and will inspire them to go home and tell all their friends. Hence, adding a spectacle. Whether it is the barricades falling in Les Misérables, the giant plane landing on stage in Miss Saigon or even Rowan Atkinson playing Fagin in Cameron Mackintosh’s revival of Oliver!, all his shows have experiences which send audiences buzzing from the theatre. And if they feel that they experienced their money worth (or would have happily paid more), then these audiences will be back next time knowing that they will enjoy a Cameron Mackintosh production.

This ingenious three-point formula clearly works as it has created the theatre empire run by Cameron Mackintosh, but it also highlights the importance of understanding the important role of the audience. The trick to success is putting your audience front and centre and creating an experience which they will value, cherish and pass on to their friends and family.

Bravo, Cameron Mackintosh. Bravo!

To find out more details about the upcoming Melbourne season of Les Misérables which is sure to please audiences as well as any other Cameron Mackintosh show, visit the website.