David Lister: Tell you what I want, what I really, really want - genuine musicals

The week in arts

Even at its height I was never entirely sure what "Girl Power" was. And I understand from those who know them that the Spice Girls were never entirely sure either. But, in the world of musical theatre, launching a show with your hits as the score must come pretty close. It was a whole panoply of Girl Power, actually, the group themselves, the producer Judy Craymer and the writer Jennifer Saunders. If Craymer's global success with Mamma Mia is replicated, then all concerned are guaranteed to become extremely wealthy – make that wealthier.

My own little Trivial Pursuit question following the launch on Tuesday is to ask: "Who are the performers in the show?" Few will know or care. Like the director, they are not of major importance, at least at the launch stage. It's strange, as, with any other kind of theatre, actors and director are quite important. You'd be unlikely to buy tickets without knowing their identity.

But with jukebox musicals, it's the jukebox that takes pride of place. That's not to be snobbish. I've seen most of the ones on in London, Mamma Mia!, Jersey Boys, We Will Rock You, and they are all highly enjoyable, though I couldn't name a single actor or actress in any. It's what's on the jukebox that counts.

The Spice Girls' jukebox isn't at all bad. They certainly don't have the range of songs that Abba and Queen had, but they have enough to sustain a show, and the signs look good, particularly with a supremely witty writer like Jennifer Saunders on board. Personally, I'd have liked the show to tell the inside story of the tensions in the group, and the machinations of their Svengali, Simon Fuller, but then you can't have everything.

The problem is not whether they will do well with their show. It is where new British musicals will come from, as producers of musicals, with the occasional exception like Ghost and its new Dave Stewart score, play safe with the jukebox variety, or American imports.

Original musicals from fresh, young British writers are a rarity, in fact they're an endangered species; musicals from young, female writers are particularly rare. Now there's a thought. What could be a better illustration of true "Girl Power" than to empower female composers and lyricists for British musical theatre? It would just need someone to fund a scheme to find and encourage them, an Orange Prize for the musical-theatre world.

I can think of seven people immediately who could fund such bursaries: the Spice Girls, Miss Craymer and Miss Saunders. By diverting the tiniest fraction of the profits from the upcoming show to a scheme to find new female creators of musical theatre, they would be empowering women artists and, at the same time, greatly enhancing the future health of the stage. It would be wonderfully philanthropic. Now, that would be "Girl Power."

The scarcely believable ballad of John and Yoko

Yoko Ono is to be congratulated on one of the most striking reputation rehabilitations in recent history. Though her current exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery has received decidedly mixed reviews, she is accorded the respect she rarely was back in the mists of time. I remain, though, fascinated by some of the stories she brings. When she was interviewed on the Today programme, we were told that when she met John Lennon in 1966 she hadn't heard of The Beatles. What a dedicated artist she must have been during the previous three years – never opening a newspaper, never turning on the TV or radio, never conversing with a teenager.

Mixed messages from the playing fields of Lancing

I caught up this week with the absolutely excellent public-school double bill in the West End, David Hare's new play South Downs paired with Terence Rattigan's The Browning Version. Hare's play is informed by his own schooldays at Lancing College, but he does not name it, and like all good playwrights, his portrait of his subject is ambivalent and ambiguous, showing the loneliness and unhappiness at the school as well as its virtues.

But there is no such ambiguity on the back page of the programme, which displays a full page advertisement, declaring: "Lancing College – still a class act".

I felt rather odd having this assertion staring up at me throughout the play. It was a bit like watching Macbeth, and the programme having an ad from the tourist board, saying: "Scotland – still a country full of surprises."



Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor