Liam Rudden: Pop hits are boon to musical theatre

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MADNESS, The Proclaimers, Abba, Queen, they’ve all had the “juke-box” musical treatment. You know what I mean, that moment when a producer thinks, “I know, there are millions of fans out there who would snap up tickets to see a show featuring a batch of hits from... insert name of famous band/singer here.”

Yes, back catalogues are wonderful things, especially when they can be woven into a love story in which characters can bounce from hit to hit as the tale unfolds.

That’s what’s happening in cinemas across the Capital just now as Sunshine On Leith, nick-named McMama Mia after the musical which started the trend, finds the works of Craig and Charlie Reid illustrating the lives of two soldiers, home from Afghanistan. At the Festival Theatre, the songs of Madness are doing much the same thing in Our House – see Drew McAdam’s review, left. With great hits to their credit, both are safe bets, which is probably why they do so well. Audiences know what they are going to get. Although having chart success doesn’t always guarantee a hit show.

Take Viva Forever. The Spice Girls musical may have “exploded on to the stage at London’s Piccadilly Theatre” but it proved a damp squib, short lived despite being written by Jennifer Saunders, and produced by Judy Craymer, the woman behind Mamma Mia! no less.

Queen on the other hand, scored well with We Will Rock You, by Ben Elton... though never more so than on a night when Brian May makes a guest appearance in the finale.

Tonight’s The Night, The Rod Stewart musical, also by Elton, has also gone down well in the past. Just as well, it’s back at the Playhouse in February, just four months ahead of Let It Be – I’ll let you guess whose music provide the score for that one.