The Hope of British Musicals -Work in Progress at the Other Palace

The Other Palace
The Other Palace….Work In Progress and why this is London Theatres Future.

‘The Other Palace,’ Formerly known as St James Theatre, has undergone a rebrand since the purchase of the theatre by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Its rebrand has focused around musicals in development. The main house is hosting shows that are new to London or new titles and the studio hosting workshops. Part of these workshops focus on the Work In Progress season, currently underway.

London suffers from a lack of ‘off West End’ theatre spaces and makes it harder for new writing to succeed – the shows either sink or swim straight away. I appreciate there are many pub theatres however they lack the facilities there to really hone and develop a show, as well as many technical and spacing limitations. Whilst I enjoy going to many of these pub theatres (and often frequent them) they rarely produce shows that allow a bit more exploration. There also plenty of huge West End Theatres in London (with a record number currently sitting dark) but these are, of course, expensive to run, incredibly difficult to fill and place additional demands on the show, everything from automation to flying and lavish costumes are expected.

The Southwark Playhouse, The Arts, The Menier Chocolate Factory and The Charing Cross theatre are the main examples of these middle sized, much needed locations that I am talking about. Theatres with good facilities and reasonable sized houses. Such locations as these MUST be supported. However there is a huge hole ready to be filled by the Other Palace, a venue solely for developing new work.  I therefore loved the concept posed by Lloyd Webber and artistic director Paul Taylor Mills. It is no surprise that Taylor Mills was asked on board by Lloyd Webber with his an incredible background in developing new and interesting musicals such as, Bat Boy, Carrie The Musical, In The Heights and the incredible recent revival of Side Show, all at Southwark Playhouse.

Work In Progress:

I attended the first of the Work In Progress Season, ‘Heathers.’ The idea of the Work In Progress Season is that it gives audiences the chance to see the work at the start of the journey and in various stages of development. Not only are 2 ‘established’ musicals being presented, to allow for ‘rediscovery’ but part of the season includes 2 brand new British musicals. The idea is that the audience gets to see the new show as well as provide feedback.

Work in progress- the other palaceI am already familiar with The Heathers having listened to the soundtrack on repeat more times than I care to divulge. However seeing it on stage with the director and writers in the audience made me feel like I was experiencing it for the first time. There was a fizz in audience and everyone was genuinely excited to be there. There were obviously a lot of pre-existing ‘Heathers’ fans there. A clever stroke to open the season with this show in the hope that fans of the Heathers would enjoy the experience so much they would come and support other shows throughout the season. I had already booked for Bonnie & Clyde but it has made me inquisitive as to the new British Musicals in the line up as I enjoyed the experience so much!

The Heathers itself was very well directed for a Workshop and cast brilliantly. This combined with the existing hilarious and clever score all helped contribute to a successful performance. However I shall refrain from going into too much detail about the show. Works In progress is a safe space for development and ‘reviews’ or public criticism at this stage is not the purpose.

work in progressHowever the audience were all invited to download an app to comment on elements of the show. A clever idea so long as you ensure that your audience is representative not only of pre-existing fans of the show but others including those who do not know the show at all, in this case a slightly older demographic that perhaps may not be the target audience but potentially have more money to buy the tickets and well respected industry individuals. I note from social media that they certainly had this last box ticked with James Cordon and Lin Manuel Miranda attending the Friday night performance.

The concept of Works in Progress is a brilliant one. At the same time as allowing new and developing work to be showcased and refined it helps create a buzz around the show. I’m thrilled that London theatre finally seems to be making steps towards it’s Broadway counterpart in this respects. I urge all theatre loving friends to go and support this run of shows and help spread the word. I also urge you to get yourself down to the Other Palace to see shows in the main house. The theatre makers are trying to help develop the London theatre scene and us, the audience need to embrace this.

Why not check out what is on at The Other Palace.



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