Watch This Spacey!

31 Mar

Kevin Spacey.

Hollywood A-list actor and now stage impresario of The Old Vic.

I have admired the man since I first saw him in 1995’s The Usual Suspects. Not convinced? Righto, check him out again in Se7en, that might change your mind. No? Not doing anything for you? What about L.A. Confidential? Nothing still? Did you at least like his portrayal of Lex Luthor in the last Superman film? If that doesn’t do anything for you still, then perhaps you need to head off my neck of the woods, try and finagle seats for a revival of David Mamet’s Speed the Plow and then maybe that will change your mind.

Now, why am I on about Spacey at the moment? Sure he’s got a new film coming out this week but since I have momentarily stayed away from the cinema in favour of the theatre in the last couple of months, this rant really has more to do with the fact that he has raised the alarm bells quite loud this week after criticizing the BBC’s unfair promotion by way of talent shows of West End musicals at the expense of other productions, and you know what, I think he is ABSOLUTELY right.

I don’t own a telly so I may not be as livid as some of you who (if you live in the UK) has to pay a license fee and be subjected to the kind of programming we are getting from the BBC. “The BBC is not a commercial operation and I thought it was crossing the line unfairly.” Spacey said of the shows: “I felt that was essentially a 13-week promotion for a musical … where’s our 13-week programme? When are they going to do one about a play?”

The talent search show in question is I’d Do Anything which is a search for the actress who will play Nancy in the revival of the musical Oliver! which followed on from Any Dream Will Do, which was a search for the lead in the new production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? in which contestants vied to star as Maria in The Sound of Music. Both musicals are produced by the Really Useful Group, owned by Andrew Lloyd-Webber, who has been a judge on all three series. Oliver! is a Cameron Mackintosh production, but is due to be staged at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, owned by the Really Useful Group.

I have already expressed my own thoughts of this in one of my discussion groups in Facebook and it may not be the same as what Spacey here has pointed out, but apart from this idea of bringing in a new audience to the theatre by way of talent shows, or casting possible recruits in some soap opera first (e.g., Sound of Music’s Summer Strallen who was previously in Hollyoaks) to get a fanbase, although clever is really more about cheap gimmickry. I am cringing just watching the Oliver! auditions to cast the Nancy character.

Theatre critics and fans seem to unanimously agree on Spacey’s comments as you can find here:

Michael Billington (Guardian Unlimited)

Benedict Nightingale (Times Online)

The hoot team of West End Whingers

Evening Standard

What about you?

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