`Thank you for coming to my closing night...'

Fingers crossed at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley; if all goes well, `Jekyll' could be a monster. W Stephen Gilbert goes behind the scenes, and below, David Benedict looks at the musicals that fell at the first

Word of mouth on Dance a Little Closer was so bad that, the day before the first night, the gala opening- night party was axed. In retrospect, it would also have been wise to have cut the line "Thank you for coming to my closing night" from the heroine's flashback scene as the show opened and closed after one performance. Lauren Bacall sat through it, and honour bound to go backstage and say something vaguely encouraging, threw open Liz Robertson's dressing-room door and, arms outstretched, exclaimed in her best basso profundo, "Well! What about you!"

Breakfast at Tiffany's fared even worse. Personnel changes during the out-of-town try-outs were so fast that people appeared to be entering through revolving doors. Then, after four Broadway previews, the legendary producer David Merrick announced to a stunned press conference: "Rather than subject the drama critics and the theatre-going public - who invested $1m in advance sales - to an excruciatingly boring evening, I have decided to close."

Famous names are no insurance. Peter Hall's three attempts have flopped. According to Hall, Via Galactica, set on an asteroid 1,000 years into the future, was "a monumental failure"; the bio-musical Jean Seberg with music by Marvin Hamlisch was "impaled on its own pretensions" and the unlikely musical of Ionesco's absurdist play Rhinoceros died a fairly unnatural death. Even director John (Les Miserables) Caird, armed with music and lyrics by Stephen (Godspell) Schwartz couldn't turn Children of Eden into a hit. A musical of Genesis (the book, not the band), it prompted one critic to remark, "Would you Adam and Eve it", and proved that Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat notwithstanding, in musical terms the Old Testament ain't necessarily so.

Schwartz was also responsible for The Baker's Wife, based on a French film by Marcel Pagnol which attracted the normally Midas-like Trevor Nunn. Reviews were less than ecstatic. "Je ne baguette rien," remarked Carl Miller drily in City Limits. The show died after seven weeks, the same length of sentence meted out to The Hunting of a Snark, the dreamchild of Mike Batt, best known for penning the immortal "Remember You're a Womble". He wrote the book, music and lyrics, produced, orchestrated and staged it and even had a hand in the design. Why?

Similarly, Michael Lombardi unwisely wrote the book and lyrics and produced Troubadour, his gormless tale of Lupus, a 12th-century male chauvinist who learns that woman is not necessarily made for man. After cancellations due to audiences staying away in droves, a matinee was held at the 1,283 seat Cambridge Theatre. Eighty people attended. Five of them had paid.

Ziegfeld had a pounds 3.2m budget, 450 costumes, 27 sets, a cast of 60, and four different directors attempting to save it, but it still crashed, losing pounds 2.5m. King did no better. The Martin Luther King story generated more press about its production team walk-outs than the show itself. Six weeks after opening it had gone, as had pounds 3m.

Even the Pope's blessing on the cast didn't save Bernadette, a mind-numbing religious folly by Shrewsbury-based piano tuner Glynn Hughes and his wife Maureen whose previous claim to fame was writing a song knocked out of an early round of the Eurovision Song Contest. They raised the finances through coffee mornings and 2,500 Daily Mirror readers who doubtless saw the show but no return on their investment. The desperate publicists splashed the less than captivating review line "A very well-painted backcloth" on the poster, but it convinced no one.

The lesson? Real-life characters, whose lives so obstinately refuse to fit into the strictures and structure of the musical, are a risky starting point. On the other hand, Eva Peron didn't do Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice any harm. But then Evita wasn't at the Piccadilly Theatre, which has earned itself the nickname "house of hits" for hosting such lulus as King, Y, Metropolis, Cameron Mackintosh's disaster Moby Dick and the Norwegian Which Witch whose "erotic" Act 1 finale redefines the expression "jiggery-pokery". Robin Prince of Sherwood also played there, the second ghastly attempt at a Robin Hood musical. The first came from the overheated imagination of Lionel (Oliver!) Bart who ensnared Anthony Booth as Robin and Barbara Windsor as "Delphina, a nymphomaniac" and gave his concoction the sublime title Twang!!

Out of the Blue, the tale of the bombing of Nagasaki, was stymied from the outset. Anyone who wanted a show about Nagasaki didn't want a musical: anyone who wanted a musical didn't want Nagasaki. Hey presto, the musical without an audience.

The profession is unkind to its flops. The revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum was renamed A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Dole Queue, while wags retitled the dodgy Suzy Quatro revival of Annie Get Your Gun as Annie Get Your P45. Even during rehearsals, The Fields of Ambrosia - a dead cert for this year's "Best Use of an Electric Chair in a Musical" award - was known as The Fields of Amnesia.

All these bad omens count as nothing when you look at the worldwide grosses of the likes of Miss Saigon. As for multimillionaire Andrew Lloyd Webber, he has spent the last few months rewriting Jeeves, his 1975 flopperoo co-written with Alan Ayckbourn. It opens Ayckbourn's new theatre in Scarborough at the end of this month. After all, lightning never strikes twice, does it? DB

Arts and Entertainment
Howard Mollison, as played by Michael Gambon
tvReview: Too often The Casual Vacancy resembled a jumble of deleted scenes from Hot Fuzz
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David performs in his play ‘Fish in the Dark'
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Jemima West in Channel 4's Indian Summers (Joss Barratt/Channel 4)
tvReview: More questions and plot twists keep viewers guessing
Arts and Entertainment
Kristin Scott Thomas outside the Royal Opera House before the ceremony (Getty)
film
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Channel 4's Indian Summers
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003