The Sunday Giveaway: 2 Tickets to see One Man, Two Guvnors!

Well, blimey!  Look what washed up on the shores of The Colonies!  It’s another National Theatre export!

I’m sure a lot of folks in our city would like the National to bugger off, especially since every time they come to town, they seem to leave with a whole bunch of hardware on Tony night.

But bollucks!  Here they come again with One Man, Two Guvnors!  And from what I hear, it’s a heck of a lot better than a plate of bangers and mash.

Wanna find out?  Here’s how you can win 2 Tickets to see One Man!

In all seriousness and non-bad British slang, many people think The National’s recent success record (as well as the other British theatres) is due to English way of developing theater, and a less expensive environment.  What do you think?  Is it the British environment?  Is it their leadership?  Is it that they are thousands of miles away from Broadway so the pressure isn’t so great?

Why have the Brits been on such a run lately, especially with new plays?  And what should we do about it?

Comment below and one bloke will win!


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  • Kim Mead says:

    I think a lot of it is the less expensive environment- less expensive to develop them, less expensive ticket prices for audiences so they are more willing to take a risk. Although, I think they also have more of a play going culture. Bottom line, if we can invest in good stories, good story tellers, and put more faith in creativity than the most expensive solution, we may find more American gems.

    • Marilyn says:

      I believe a lot has to do with government arts programs, telling of good stories – not just stringing songs together in hopes of a story line – not playing it safe when it comes to diversification and use of good language – and shows not just to make money, but to thrill and/or educate the theatre-going public.

  • Dan says:

    Maybe it’s simple: the Brits have been doing this for much longer than we have. But seriously, it probably has to do with the fact they have a very generous (compared to us) government-funded arts program in place and they can focus more on quality than how to fill seats.

  • Dean Roth says:

    Absolutely the cost. You can put three or four shows up on the west end for the cost of one broadway production — so you get a larger group of produced shows to choose from.

  • Colleen Zenk says:

    I’ve always thought that we on this side of the pond have a higher regard for Brit actors than some of our own home-grown variety… must be the accent…

  • DJK says:

    I feel like what they’ve done with the last few successes is develop formally, technically challenging shows (War Horse’s epic puppetry, One Man’s meticulous farce), but filled them with content that is familiar- a story about a boy and his horse, a story about a wily underdog coming out on top. So people can be wowed by showmanship, which is being used to expertly tell a familiar story.

  • Chris S says:

    It seems to me that one of the major factors is the mere fact that it is a “National” theater. They have the support of the government (and by extension the populace) in a manner that is unmatched in the US. That allows for a level of training, focus and stability that we do not always have. Simply put, I think the British, as a whole not just those of us who read theater blogs, value theater more than we do.

  • Eric says:

    Greater Risk = Greater Returns. In intro to finance, the first things you learn is that greater risks equal greater returns and that you should always diversify your portfolios. With both lower costs to mount productions and government-funded support, the Brits are taking greater risks in both original productions and revivals. In turn, the greater risks are creating a more diverse portfolio of theatrical offerings. Many Broadway producers frequently think they are playing it safe by avoiding diversification – think of how many recent productions on Broadway are either adapted from film, deal with themes of race relation, or were written by Andrew Lloyd Webber!

    The Brits are also willing to take these risks because they trust their audiences will respond to good material, strong performances, and smart staging.

    The best pieces on Broadway are coming out of our regional theaters – a perfect and safe place to develop exciting, new, smart, and daring works. In many ways, regional theaters have become the new out-of-town tryout as Broadway producers are beginning to see their potential returns as they witness enthusiastic audience responses and see first-hand that they are willing to go on the journey with them.

  • Jordan says:

    The Brits have always been willing to take a risk and go out on a limb in the arts. They are well-supported, innovative and honestly, who can resist their accent? It makes people think of the theater.

  • Michael DiGaetano says:

    I think aside from costs, the Brits are less concerned with star power than we are, especially for straight plays. We need to find a way to make our best stage a actors a draw to the ticket buyers.

  • Becca P says:

    I think the combination of low cost and low pressure are the major contributors. Producers are more able to bring plays to fruition without fear of total bankruptcy. This brings the pressure for success down and encourages more plays to test their legs. Then, since there is a larger pool of plays being produced, there are more possible successes which will then make their way to Broadway.

  • Eric says:

    I think that a major component to their success is the government subsidy. Proper funding for the process of making theater allows the National to develop work without rushing ahead to produce something to sell tickets and generate revenue. And lower costs don’t hurt.

  • Robb Johnston says:

    I think part of it is that they don’t bring everything over, we only get to see the creme de la creme. We might not be as aware of the the shows that don’t make it to Broadway as we could be of shows developed off broadway or in regional theater here in the the US. all my other thoughts were pretty much covered by others

  • Sarah Packard says:

    I agree with what someone said about them trusting that their audiences can and will handle more challenging plays, definitely a factor…the whole theatrical community there seems much more experimental and not as tied to commercial interests as here. As for what to do about it, is there necessarily anything to be done? We can seek to emulate some of their governmental funding of the arts – although that’s a difficult prospect with such a conservative political environment, even under Obama – but I’m sure our differences yield some advantages too, and if we get to enjoy their better imports as well as our own fine works, what’s the big problem? I would say that yes, there have been many excellent works from the UK lately, but I believe we’ve had wonderful homegrown plays and productions as well! Some of which are also artistically daring and/or risky, although obviously on Broadway they are still more of the minority because of the unfortunate catering to mindless tourism that Bway does today…still, I think things are improving already.

  • Kristopher Weaver says:

    I could be mistaken, but it seems to me they create a good show, then they produce it. Here, sadly too often, it seems we produce whatever the market calls for.

  • Stephanie says:

    I lived in London for a few months and enjoyed seeing a lot of West End theater. It felt different from Broadway – full price tickets were equivalent to around $80-$90 – much less than full price Broadway tickets. I think more people can attend theater in London because of this and shows become more appealing. Cost is therefore less and pressure so when a show starts doing well, a Broadway transfer is put in the mix.

  • Morgan M says:

    Its the trust they put in their artists. From what I’ve seen there is a lot of micro management that happens in the commercial theatre in this country. And the non profits are crippled by their fear of losing what precious little money they have by not pleasing their audiences.

    And I don’t think we should do anything about it. We should enjoy it and make our best theatre as well. There is room in the theatre going publics heart for all of us. Its hardly a competition.

  • MWS says:

    I think their costs are low (which helps), but remember, they are only exporting the best . . . I am sure they have a lot of stuff they DON’T want us to see.

  • Linda says:

    There is good and bad theater in the UK, just as there is. We are lucky that a lot of the good stuff comes here. It works the other way too. Take something like Legally Blonde, which was more of a critical hit in London than it was in the U.S.

  • Hmmm, the statement I agree with most here is Kristopher Weaver’s comment about first creating a “good show.” I’m sure the Brits are concerned first and foremost with good writing — tension, conflict, negotiations, and verbal humor some of the hallmarks.
    Watch any British sitcom and you’ll see this… And just maybe THESE are the real building blocks of great theatre.
    Millions of dollars of special fx not so much…

  • These plays that come here (and are critical successes) seem to all have been developed in the british non-profit theatre model. Similar to how you were lamenting the lack of commercial plays in off-bway being given awards. the shows that make it here are the “worthy” ones. and they are lucky enough to come to the US, and not get diluted by producers and hangers-on putting in their “two cents” about how to prepare a successful non-profit show to a for-profit environment.

  • Ruth Markoe says:

    I think the Brits are more willing to take a chance on creative ideas- perhaps it is the cost/benefit ratio,but they seem more interested in trying new things than we are. I agree with Kristopher that we often produce whatever the market calls for

  • Ashley says:

    Certainly costs. And isn’t it a rough cycle? You can’t blame producers for wanting to put money into big-budget, flashy musicals based on familiar stories or movies when many tourists who come to one or two shows a year want to get the best bang for their $140. As for what we should do about it? Simply continue to support imported West End plays, and take bigger creative risks with our own. The competition is healthy!

  • Brian says:

    My thought is that they can normally produce the shows over there cheaper than they can here so they cut back on costs to start with. They also seem to have very good drama training as their actors are normally quite top notch. So when the shows are brought here, they are brought with the talent, which definitely leads to success of the show. I also believe that the british comedies are written in a different style then the plays written by americans and I think that that is always something that sticks out in a positive way when a play is brought to the US.

  • Zach says:

    I believe that theater and drama are ingrained in the British culture. Stop anyone on the street in London and they’ll know the difference between Ayckbourn, Coward, and Bennett. It’s a part of their whole awareness of the culture and happenings of the country. And it all starts from the school curriculum’s and required texts. I wager that we’d have a much more innovative and involved audience of American theatergoers for decades to come if schools required something more than Shakespeare.

  • Osa says:

    James Corden is the best…ever!
    So here’s hoping I win: fingers crossed hard.

  • John P. says:

    Could it be that they are not so focused on money and profits and more focused on producing what they consider to be a good play?

  • Alex says:

    I think that the lower cost of producing theatre in Britain allows their shows to be financially successful. I think this is also the reason why so many British imports have been critically successful as well. With less money going into these shows, they have less to make back, so less attention has to be paid to the commercial potential of the show. Instead, the creative team can focus on quality, not attracting the largest audience as possible, which can sometimes lower the quality of a piece of art. I think to combat this, we should focus on quality over attracting tourists. Hopefully, in time, garnering awards and positive reviews and word-of-mouth will be more of an incentive to see a show than the star in it or any other more commercial aspects it may have.

  • charlotte cohn says:

    yes, all of the above. but let’s remember than not everything from Britain ends up a great success on Broadway. Coram Boy, for example, was a huge success in England and was extended 3 times and only ran 3 weeks on Broadway… it isn’t a slam-dunk just because it’s British…

  • Rafi Levavy says:

    It seems to me that a disproportionate number of the British show that come to America come from non-profit theaters come from non-profit theaters. Of course, there is no pressure (or less pressure) for financial success so they can concentrate more on the art rather than the perception of it. This can (and apparently does) lead to better shows which, with any luck, will lead to more successful shows.

  • SarahB says:

    I believe it’s a combination that it’s a less expensive environment and that they have created a successful repertory theatre. The hits that have come to NYC are already hits in England. They also promote their productions by doing live broadcasts both at home and abroad. I believe NYC is dying for a rep theatre.

  • Lindsay B says:

    The major factor is that yes, the government heavily subsidizes the arts there. Producers, particularly the National, are able to invest more time and resources into productions. There is also the risk in how they deal with theatricality that had found them quite a bit of critical success that can not be ignored. History Boys, War Horse, and probably One Man (which is inexplicably in the New Play category for the Tonys this year) all took risks in how they presented their plays. This is why traditional fourth-wall realism works like Clybourne Park and Other Desert Cities may very well be trounced this year at the Tonys, following in the line of many other great also-ran productions that were intriguing on their own merits.

  • Katie O'B says:

    I think the Brits are doing better than us because, unlike us, who are interested in money and high-tech effects, they are interested in the acting, in the stories, in the emotion. It’s evident in their training techniques– work from the inside out, not outside in like so many American actors do. And so, their shows are better.

    PS. A friend of mine from college, her brother is an understudy in this show!! It’d be awesome to win these tickets so I could afford to see it (and possibly him) with her 🙂

  • Rosie says:

    Eh Duckie,

    The Brits keep more than a pence in their pockets when they produce a show–so much less expensive than what the Yanks shell out for a similar production. The arts are well subsidized over in Britain and the money making incentive is a less compelling factor when selecting a show for peoduction.

  • Julie says:

    I cannot account the distance of Broadway to the National’s success. After all, the West End is a mere tube stop away with transferred big productions like, “Wicked,” “Jersey Boys,” and “Mamma Mia!” The influence of Broadway is not across the pond. Still, many of the National’s shows are very successful and end up moving to the West End or even Broadway, such as “The Pitmen Painters,” or “War Horse.” So how? Perhaps because the goal is not to use the National Theatre as a stepping stone but as a destination. When premiering “Travelling Light” in the Lyttelton, the playwright and director worked together to make the show work as best in could in the Lyttelton, from playing with projections to getting working time appropriate cameras to use onstage. The goal of the National Theatre is not to make a huge profit, but to introduce new pieces at their best for their audience. When you walk into the National before a show, there is often a musical performance downstairs and an art gallery upstairs. The National gives its artists and its audience multiple opportunities to grow and that is how they are so successful. The result may be every producer’s dream, but the original goal is different.

  • Amanda says:

    I think it’s that the British subsidize their arts and are so supportive of the National, This fact, paired with a cheaper cost, means that there is a nice big safety net, so bigger risks are able to be taken and artists are free and able to express, collaborate and create. Look at how successful they were when they took a risk on a children’s book and life-sized puppets!

  • Jason says:

    As an American who just moved back after six years of working in UK theatre, I can speak with education here. The reason for most successful UK transfers (I say most, not all) is their system of highly subsidized arts funding. This would apply to shows transferring from the National Theatre (One Man, Two Guvnors, War Horse), Donmar Warehouse (Evita) and even regional UK venues like Royal & Derngate (End of the Rainbow). Now look at the UK transfers that do not come from subsidized theatres and you can see where the artistic gap occurs: Ghost, Mamma Mia, Priscilla, etc. The UK theatre is just like NYC in most ways. The commerical West End/Broadway vs. the not-for-profit Subsidized/Regional. Commerce vs. Art. Same thing. The difference is that the UK Arts Council highly subsidizes artistic-led theatres over the pond and allows them to take risks, which in turn develops audiences that learn to also take risks. It isn’t necessarily that UK audiences like theatre more, it is that the UK is more of a socialist country that pours money into arts, museums, medicine, welfare, etc. Of course it also means that taxes are much higher. This is controversial in the UK when everyone is subsidizing theatre and opera which are still attended mostly by wealthier audiences, but I think the merits of socialism is a discussion for another website. But if the US were to fund the NEA to the degree the UK Arts Council is funded then you would see a quick change in the risk tolerance of theatres.

  • Cathy Hausman says:

    Underwriting by the government makes it less costly to produce a play; and there are a plethora of programs that create an ecosystem for nourishing the arts e.g.the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain which has launched careers, thatidentify,train, and showcase talent (hundreds of thousands of young people)and produce a pipeline of highly trained actors, playwrights and technicians.

  • Clare says:

    I think its because they just create without fear. Instead of trying to focus on “making a great product” they focus on the idea and the art.

  • Alexis says:

    I think that lower cost does play into it as does everyone else. I also think they are more willing to focus on the story, the humor is drier, and the material has a bite to it.

    It’s a different environment than we are used to – look at what are mainstream entertainment companies are spinning out to entertain us. Jersey Shores? Real Housewives? The British mainstream gives us Downton Abbey, Are You Being Served, etc. Story over flash.

    The arts are more valued and supported over there. Over here we have a hard time keeping arts programs in schools.

    How can we fight it? If I knew the answer to that, I’d be a Tony winning producer. 🙂

  • AuntieF says:

    It is the cost! And also that the Brits don’t need lots of hoopla and dazzle to enjoy what they are seeing. They appreciate the low key and subtle flavor of theater.

  • MattChow says:

    I think it’s both. Playwriting for the English language began in England. They’ve been doing it longer than us and they’re pretty damn good at it. I’m sure they create a lot of crap, but because they’re so far away we only see the really good stuff that’s been developed and polished to a bright sheen. BUT this is only true for straight plays. The English still haven’t figured out how to write a good musical comedy. That’s an American thing. When was the last time you saw a good Musical Comedy come out of Britian? The current revivals of the Webber/Rice collaborations are examples of the British Musical heyday of the 70s and 80s concept albums turn pageant productions that for my money just don’t hold up when compared to the works of American writers like Kander and Ebb, Ahrens and Flaherty and Sondheim.

  • Jackie says:

    To me, the answer is simple: They have a government that is unafraid to support the arts. Their culture is one that can appreciate and accept what art has to offer on so many more levels than ours can.

  • Tony P says:

    I think it’s a two pronged success: 1. Strong public subsidies for the arts and 2. A fearless, working class ethic for the work. Joss Whedon said this of Hollywood and it applies to Broadway: “nobody wants to make a living; everyone wants to make a fortune.”

  • Robert Z says:

    Could it be as simple as: To American audiences there is something inherently theatrical and engaging about a play with a distinctive international flavor, accent and cultural sensibility. That which is different is inspiring and exciting. It is the same essence that inspires Anericans to travel abroad.

  • Julia F says:

    Success stateside is at least somewhat due to the self-selective nature of the shows that do transfer, ie the ones that are already successful in the UK. And to be fair, a couple of the National’s recent shows have been transfers from the US, so it runs both ways.

    But for whatever reason, British audiences seem to be open to a much larger range of play genres than we natively put on Broadway. It always feels like every new American play is some variation on the dysfunctional family story or a movie star-led drama. Whereas the National is reviving classics, developing new talent, and covering everything from adaptations of ancient Greece to well crafted farce. They are willing to experiment more, and thus have a broader and deeper pool of potential successes, as well as better management of shows that need adjustment or help building an audience.

  • Mary Ann O'Rourke says:

    This whole subject brought to my mind the play Enron – a huge hit in the West End, and a total bomb on Broadway. (I saw it and loved it, and all my friends made fun of me for that!) Here’s a link to an article that contains a diatribe of epic proportions on why Brits should not bother to take serious plays to Broadway…kind of makes you think…

    The author of this article may be right or may be wrong, but I see no harm with encouraging the Brits to bring their plays here. If they succeed, they can only inspire us…if they fail, we can learn from them…win win all around.

  • John Sweeney says:

    I think a lot has to do with the fact that theatre is taken far more seriously in the UK than it is here. The fact that the government thinks the arts are important certainly helps. In the UK, theatre is seen as part of the national fabric. here it’s seen as an elitist art form The funding allows groups like the National Theatre to experiment in ways that are fiscally more difficult than here in the States.

  • Dan says:

    BBC has always surpassed the US in terms of amazing television programming. The American culture would never appreciate programming like “Downton Abbey”. In terms of theatre, revivals have been a strong suit of theirs.
    We shouldn’t be skittish to take the risk on original programming of intellectual material.

  • Eric says:

    I believe the “british invasion” success is two fold. The lessened financial burden of mounting a show has always existed in the West End. The reason we see more shows each year from across the pond is that producers/investors can see a finished product playing to strong reviews and good houses and are assured success. Why reinvent the wheel when you can ship over a sure fire patented success?

  • EllenFD says:

    Costs figure in, as does England’s long history of government support of the arts. Less pressure to go with what’s tried and true (movies into stage shows) to appeal to the lowest common denominator can’t help but result in bold artistic steps. Yes, some will fail, but others will soar.

    The solution is to encourage forward thinkers to think outside the box. Risk can bring rewards. Also, why not offer discounted seating on, say, the least popular night for Broadway attendance, the way museums have a discount or freebie day?

  • Ryan McCurdy says:

    They’re winning because they’re making it a competition, and we’re slipping because we’re cocky.

    The fix begins with acknowledging that fact – so thank you!

  • WC says:

    I think a big problem is that American producers and reviewers don’t give American artists opportunities to challenge themselves the way they allow they do the English. Americans are hired when it’s a straight-forward, kitchen-sink production, and the English are hired when it’s a cool, conceptual or epic piece is called for.

  • Sandra says:

    I think this phenomenon is due to the extreme form of capitalism in this country, particularly regarding productions on Broadway. People here, and especially producers, are foremost concerned with the costs and the profit of a production as opposed to its artistic and cultural value and the willingness to take risks is dwindlingly small.

  • It’s simple. The play’s the thing. Not the names of the actors in it, not the expectations of the producers, not the demands of a fickle public.

  • Brendan Cull says:

    I am a brit living and working in London, I think the National Theatre is an exceptional building and I think having all departments working closely together with Government subsidy is a recipe for success more often than not, the other thing to note is that over time the National has built such a strong following it almost has a guaranteed audience for whatever it does, then when it’s good it has a great kick-start into West End or Broadway or both!

    But I want to know how we can do the same for musicals that we do for plays and not just through the National!

  • Neil says:

    The National’s extensive public subsidy and support from a number of large corporate organisations and also private benefactors allows it to have numerous productions in production and rehearsal at any one time. Its three performance spaces alone allow much greater flexibility than any commercial producer – on either side of the Atlantic – could achieve with realistic financials. A quick look at its website shows 12 productions on sale on home turf and 5 or more elsewhere around the world. Multiply those numbers up to cover multiple seasons and it’s the age old law of probability that at least one of those shows is going to be well received; providing, of course, that the theatre is helmed by a top notch creative and business affairs team, which it is. Financial freedom to create work of a high quality, artistic freedom to create work that might not be viewed as commercial in its early stages, and sheer volume of work facilitating a spectrum of hits and misses combine to give the National its foot holding in the landscape of international theatre, of which Broadway is an imperative and very important part!

  • Brad Buchholtz says:

    I think it really comes down to the deep rooted respect for good theater, especially plays. Having recently been over to London, the respect and the effort actors give over there is significantly higher than in America.
    Actors are truly honing their crafts for respect and pride. When reading the Playbill of many British imports, those coming over have significant entertainment credits and much training. American actors and performances, sadly, are not quite as trained…and it shows. The quality of performances in London just seems higher, more polished, natural… When seeing a performance, one should feel that the top talent is up there; often times I leave a Broadway show and ask myself what the casting directors were thinking. Weak voices and performances are all too prevalent today.
    Is it because in America we can get away with it? After all, Broadway has become a circus with musicals based on movies. Familiar titles and/or famous actors at the helm. Broadway is now for tourists. They don’t know any better. That’s not to say that London isn’t doing similar things now, with shows like Shrek and Legally Blonde hanging in there for so long. But unless there is a big name star or a familiar name show, it just won’t do well on Broadway. Producers stay away. In London, it just seems like there are so many outlets to present a piece that gets noticed. Producers then take a chance on what is GOOD, not what is KNOWN.
    Sadly this is a trend that will continue, and quite possibly, will completely leak over into London theater. Let’s just hope that someone over there realizes what kind of great things are happening…and Broadway will, in turn, need them to maintain some level of high qualify theater it so desperately needs.

  • Veronique says:

    There is something about clever, witty plays that are character driven. The Brits are experts in this category. There is an intellect of timining and sense of humor. And, yes, I agree: a deep routed respect for theatre that ensures that when they put something up it is produced well with the best possible talent they can find.

  • Shane says:

    There’s still a difference in the entertainment style on the two sides of the pond. And when it’s a transfer from London to Broadway, it stands out because it’s different. A lot of the locally developed shows can start to feel very similar at times. And standing out never hurts when trying to get awards…

  • David says:

    They’ve been at it longer – a LOT longer. For the Brits, the theatre is a well balanced gourmet meal – in America it’s fast food. In England, producers lead audiences – in America audiences lead producers. Is it ever a good idea to ask a child what he wants for dinner?

  • Evelyn says:

    I think it’s the British reserve. Their expectations generally are lower, so they are more easily pleased. Moreover, the cost of Broadway is becoming prohibitive, and few scaled down shows can make it on Broadway. And then there are the American critics.

  • It as a great thing the Brits do so well at our Tony’s. We can partially cut ourselves some slack because they are only importing the best, and certainly not all their shows are good (cough “Lord of the Rings” musical). Also, there are American shows that do very well in the UK. Normally I would say let’s talk about why they have it so good, but forget that. Let’s talk about what we have so good over here and the potential that gives us for new, good theater. Our theater right now is VERY connected to popular music again and to film (sort of always has though, but especially now) and now even television. This is pushing our theater creatives to create on the innovative and much, much larger level of TV, film and popular music. This is a GOOD thing. It is a re-uniting of theater with popular art and eventually creatives like me and you will dominate that market again because live theater is the only thing that cannot be pirated. So, back to the topic at hand. We’ve got it good here. It may not seem so yet, but soon American musical theater writers will have no choice but to create MIND-BLOWING works if they are to remain employed (versus just importing some pop songs or a film plot)!

  • Tricia Ostermann says:

    Well, I’m sure cost has a lot to do with it, but there has to be something in the water over there, too. I mean, it’s not just limited to their stage productions. Just look at how we go crazy over their various television shows (do I need to mention Downton Abbey??). Maybe it’s because they are taking the time to produce great, intelligent programs/productions while we here in the States feel we have to appeal to middle America and only create theater that the tourists will be familiar with (like revivals or movie-based shows). Whatever they are doing, it’s entertaining. It doesn’t always work (Enron…), but at least they are willing to take the risks.

  • The deep-rooted respect for theater in England is a result of years of subsidized funding, the National Theater, and more, but much of the evolution began as a product of money decisions. It’s a great model of what CAN happen. We’ve all established it’s not just in their genes, so here’s what- A producer who sees artistic quality and success in a West End play SHOULDN’T re-invent the wheel. He/She should jump on that money -train opportunity to produce, which translates into subsidy-by-association. It’s only One or Two Degrees of Separation and when you couple those and other smart decisions with projects you are passionate about- it’s only about the money until you have it. Then it’s about the art. The smarter we can be in the business of producing, the faster we can produce what will give voice to meaningful and artistic theater in this world we live in.

  • Ilya K says:

    Because of economic realities, our best playwrights are writing small-scale chamber plays that get produced off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons, the Second Stage, the Public, etc., and so don’t win Tonys. Broadway producers need to take risks and transfer these gems, then they’ll easily compete with British imports.

  • ECP says:

    All the world’s a stage, and Brits take that to heart. Environment and ethos appear to nurture a more supportive climate for the arts in the UK and elsewhere abroad, and to cultivate audiences more receptive to wide-ranging works in diverse formats. Pretty cost-effectively too. What to do here? Reevaluate the way productions are funded and build a few more theaters to keep new works streaming, if Broadway is a desired goal.

  • Eric says:

    Britains and Americans have different personalities and interests; what works there may not always work here and vice versa. However, there are times that British plays can come to America and be a hit because it is different and not the typical America play. I think this season has been kind of slow and no recieved well by critics so to have something different and comical makes it a success. Timing and luck have a bit to do with all successes…

  • Beverly says:

    Money, Money and Money! Yes, it’s all about the money. Our actors use the theater as a stepping stone for films or TV – more money. Writers do the same. One must make a living. The Brits may have a less expensive process, but perhaps their culture and audience have a greater appreciation for “good stuff”. I really can’t count how many times I’ve refused to follow the herd and stand for a OK play or musical. (But that gripe is for another day.) The plays I’ve seen this season were very average. They get produced usually because there is a star attached. So most are not interested in a good play, they just want to see that star. Some blame must be laid at the theater owners’ feet. They rent to they believe will sell the most tickets. They are not primarily interested in nurturing art.

    Why have the Brits been on such a run lately, especially with new plays? Cause ours are lousy. We’ve created a void and they filled it.

    And what should we do about it? Do we need to? Good stuff, is good stuff.

  • Josh S says:

    I think part of being a good Broadway producer is researching productions that have been well-received elsewhere, and exploring whether or not there may be a potential audience for that play or production in New York. In addition to shows making their way to Broadway via the West-End, we also see a large number of productions transferring from off-Broadway and regional theaters. Quality work is quality work, no matter where it may have originated.

  • Steve B says:

    I think it’s great that both the Brits and the Americans are enjoying success. The more the merrier and it gets people discussing even more about theater, and seeing even more shows.

  • gj says:

    What do you think? Governent subsidies, lower ticket prices, and a better system overall.

    Is it that they are thousands of miles away from Broadway so the pressure isn’t so great? The London press is as bad the NY press, not sure if there’s much of an advantage there.

    Why have the Brits been on such a run lately, especially with new plays, and what should we do about it? Hire away more Brit playwrights to the USA! If you want to stop a run by the opposition, steal their heavy hitters (works for the Yankees)!

  • Solange De Santis says:

    More financial support for great writing and innovative approaches to theater.

  • Sue says:

    I think it’s their bloody good sense of humor. But I’m not sure – I may have to take a trip to London and do some research to figure it out.

  • Ed from CT says:

    Even though the Brits may “steal” some of our awards we need to let them I.
    First, free enterprise- US shows often make a nice run in London’s West End and, second, letting good shows on Broadway- even imported ones- only serves to raise the bar for everyone.

  • Brandon Suisse says:

    Hmm…I honestly don’t have an opinion on this one. But blimey, I’d love to see the show.

  • Eleah Burman says:

    They enjoy shows of various qualities without having to criticize every detail. Critics try less hard to kill a show and more hard to keep theater a passionate art form in all households. It is less expensive to get a show running. The theaters are monopolized less by certain big producers. Its easier to get unknown work running.

  • Margie says:

    Let’s face it — they’ve been doing theatre a great deal longer than we have — it’s as ingrained as their afternoon tea. And even though they still can’t agree who he was, they still have Shakespeare– and we don’t.

  • Queerbec says:

    Obviously the UK has a longer tradition of the arts and theater in particular, which makes it a higher cultural value than in the United States. Theater is seen as part of the historical heritage of the country and is viewed as one of the country’s greatest cultural exports. Plus too their “arts” industry is pretty well centered in one location–London–which makes the line between film, television and theater fairly fluid as well, with familiar faces from TV and film appearing regularly on the stage. At the same time, the national subsidies help support the development of somewhat riskier work, some of which does capture a greater percentage of press and media attention. But there does seem to be a great deal of new theatrical works being created across our country–on population alone we have more potential playwrights and musical theater writers. And some do receive a remarkable level of creativity, say on the regional theater level or even at the college level, as more and more educational institutions strive to upgrade their programs and involve more (successful) alumni in their efforts.

  • Karen Kreoll says:

    I Love British Humor. They just know how to enjoy themselves; how to make theater fun again. Maybe if we all stopped taking ourselves so seriously all of the time we too could produce more shows with a little more laughter

  • Barbara9 says:

    The accent, of course. And the fact that you feel you can down a pint or sip a Pims with any one of the actors afterwards and it will be thoroughly enjoyable. It’s all intangible and magical and just hearing them speak you feel oh so above it all.

  • Margie says:

    Several more reasons: Great acting tradition; brilliant Nick Hytner running it;and they are less Scared of failure. They are PREPARED to take more chances. They are not after big commercial Broadway- type success. AND, there’s an old tradition of repertory theatre.

  • Nick says:

    All the comments above include one common thread: the acceptance of risk, whether it’s as a producer [subsidized production at venues like the National Theatre, lower production costs (British Equity knocked down a peg during the Thatcher years)], house (more theater venues per capita than any other city), or audience member (a theater-going culture yielding willingness to see untested material). Theater-going culture too influences the techniques and scope playwrights are willing to explore, but that’s last on my list. I don’t think contemporary playwrights in Britain are any more audacious; The big difference is that their new work is produced.

  • Lee Seymour says:

    Having lived in England and worked in theater on both sides of the pond (as an actor and now a producer), I believe the issue is two-fold:

    1) Theater is woven into the fabric of English culture in a way with which we Americans simply aren’t familiar. It leads to more funding (a National Theatre!) and a genuine desire for new stories (or old stories told in new ways). A night out in the West End or the South Bank isn’t a luxury – it’s simply another viable option for an evening’s entertainment. And because there’s such a rich history to draw from, people expect it to be excellent.
    2) Pragmatism. The best of British theatre is guided by the principle of “do your damn job, and do it damn well.” Acting, writing, directing, design, producing – the best of it is done by people who have neither time nor tolerance for anything less than excellent.

    Also important to remember is that we only see the best of their best over here. A lot of theater across the pond is crap. I walked out of more shows there than I ever would have expected. England has the luxury (and we reap the benefits) of only exporting the very cream of their crop.

    Also, let’s be frank: English accents are simply delightful. ‘Nuff said.

  • Adam says:

    I question if they are really more successful… I am sure that there are just as many plays that fail there.. the ones that make it here are just very polished and the cream of the crop of what the Britts have to offer..
    I am sure that gov spending, lower cost of production, and all that jazz are true statements, but in the end I wouldn’t make say that the product is better coming out of London. Afterall, we have the highest corporate tax rate in the world, but still manage to have the greatest companies..

  • Melba LaRose says:

    Cor blimey, it’s the cocked-up economy, you cheeky monkey. If I don’t win, I’m going all marbles and conkers cuz I heard it’s the mutt’s nuts!

    (Marbles & conkers = bonkers in Cockney rhyming slang)

  • ann says:

    The National Theatre is able to take more chances with programming. They attempt things we would be lucky to have the most avant-garde theatres try. We have nothing like that here. This is not to say that British commercial theatre is necessarily superior to our commercial theatre, however.

  • Doug Braverman says:

    All of your theories about British theater may be right, but don’t forget…. we are in New York and get the most successful British shows shipped over to us after they have been pre-tested in London. Many unexciting shows open in Britain and don’t get transferred here, just as some of the bombs that open in New York never see the light of day in London.

  • Nick V says:

    Content prevails over Form. Look at Our Town as an example. At the end of the day people are coming to the theater for a performance, not an art gallery.

  • LP Morano says:

    I definitely think it is a pressure thing, as in there is less pressure over in the West End, on Broadway its all about making money and reviews, etc, but over there I feel theatre is a part of that culture, its as old as time, and they are good at what they do, ie playwriting. I think it only benefits American culture to read and see new productions, internationally made or not.

  • Foster Bass says:

    The Brits are on such a tear this year because of the wedding of TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge! With the happy newlyweds as a muse, the comedy and drama flows freely. I could probably even write a play and I’ve only seen them on the tele! God save The Queen.

  • Melanie says:

    There is a totally different mindset to building theatrical work in Europe. It is valued as a part of the cultural landscape. In Europe, that culture is a huge part of the engine driving the tourism industry too. (Though live performance still tops the charts over dining and shopping in NYC’s tourism industry!) Here in the US our values are different. We value earning power over culture in every instance. Theater in Europe is developed over time 6-8 weeks is the shorter end of the spectrum, using teams and companies who have worked together in some instances for decades. Financial support from their government has dropped in recent years just like ours, but their entire system still supports artists’ development and keeps theater in high regard as an essential part of the fabric of life. Fiscal rewards are given to proven ARTISTS, not promising PROJECTS. this gives individuals the ability to generate exciting new ideas, rather than write proposals about what they THINK the funders want. In general the view is broader and longer-term. We have a very short-term-return-on-investment model here in the states. It is no wonder we give our highest artistic accolades to projects developed outside of that environment. If we continue to put a star in a lead role even if s/he can’t act to drive ticket sales, rehearse for 3 weeks to save on fees and costs, invest in spectacle (scenery) built to last because the return on investment is high, then we will keep losing artistic ground to the brits.

  • Nancy C. says:

    The three C’s= cost (less for Brits), culture (they value it over commercial clap trap), and commitment (they have an historical, theatrical tradition that is deeply committed to the art form)

  • Ellen Orchid says:

    I think the answer is (1) their theater is subsidized by the government more thoroughly and for a longer time, so they can take risks and not pander to spectacle to sell tix,(2) their tradition of repertory and touring companies, with the resultant breadth of actor training that allows, (3) I think their long literary tradition represents a higher standard of writing than ours, (sorry to say it but so many of the new plays on Broadway seem rather superficial to me with characters that are more caricatures than full-blooded people, and (4) the natural reserve of the British people (hear me out); as a crowded island nation, the Brits have survived by reigning in their emotions, but the need to express deep feelings builds up and lends itself to more profound and careful expression.

  • kim armenti says:

    The British are fun…they are more relaxed than us, they have more experience, and money always plays a part!

  • Shannon D. says:

    Don’t care why… just as long as it’s good theatre! 🙂

  • Karlie says:

    I don’t know if this is necessarily true, but I feel like the reason that the Brits have had such success with plays in the recent years is because they spend more time perfecting their plays while we tend to spend more time on musicals. I think it’s just a different atmosphere in the West End then it is on Broadway. Our community thrives on the success of popular musicals so that’s what we have to keep in our theaters – in the UK, however, they don’t have that same demand so they are allowed more room to experiment with different types of theater.

  • Emily says:

    I think that the British tend to take greater risks, investing more on the concept and how much they believe in it rather than how they think it will succeed. They aren’t as fixed in they’re ways and are always a step ahead, knowing what we don’t want to see, but will.


    For me, it all comes down to supply and demand. The Brits simply demand a better product. Put a cheap can of cold beer and a wide screen tv ballgame in front of an average American, and they are in heaven. ‘Nuff said. There is a whole generation of young performers who think that ‘WICKED’ is the ‘begin all and end all’ pinnacle of the Broadway musical genre… with no concept or knowledge whatsoever of the true genius of riches that came before it.

  • Stephen DeCesare says:

    I am not sure if this still holds true, but doesn’t the UK not have to deal with unions like Equity? That could be a major factor because there are a lot of major talents out there that are not in any union for some reason or another and they pick from the best of the whole lot.

  • jane s says:

    It’s the terrific, intense training which we don’t have here 99% of the time. The love of language, the art form of sound, and movement. Much of this, of course, comes from their Shakespearean training, regardless of what kind of acting they will pursue in their future.

  • Patrick says:

    I think the British have just been doing it longer than we have. They have a stronger pedigree and so much more access to historical reference than we have. The West End, arguably, has always produced better productions than Broadway. We just don’t hear about it because…it’s in England!

  • judd says:

    It’s the water mate!

  • Eric says:

    Let’s be totally honest here. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of better more compelling material, solid casting, beautiful performances, thoughtful design and visionary direction. If this has been appearing on Broadway by way of British imports in the Play categories (much like it did in the musical categories 20 years ago), so what. These are great evenings of theatre, because they are good plays. The pendulum will swing back to this side of the pond again.

  • Kristen McG says:

    I love when British theatre makes its way to NYC. I think it’s so successful because they have such a rich tradition in the art. It’s nice to see a different perspective and to have the opportunity to see a production from another country without the cost of airfare. I also don’t think they would export a production without it having an already established track record.

  • Janet Hamilton says:

    It’s the ancient tradition of absurd British humor that resonates in out veins.

  • Jessie says:

    I don’t know why British shows do so well–possibly because they are often a bit more understated than American shows. American shows (and American everything!) tend to be very over the top and sometimes it can be a bit much. You asked what we can do about it–I don’t think we need to do anything about it! If their shows are better, we should let them perform them!

  • Brian Weiner says:

    I think English audiences tend to be more open to wit and intellectual material, whereas American audiences tend to like razzle dazzle and “fun” musicals. We should encourage American playwrights to cultivate high-quality, witty, and smart theater the likes of “August: Osage County.” Works like this are not only provocative, but engaging for American audiences.

  • Jessica H says:

    Many of today’s American plays are commercialized, and producers are relying on celebrities, familiar faces and names to sell tickets in this hard economy (ie Shrek, Young Frankenstein, ect). While these plays are not without merit, the plays that come from the West End are more experimental and do not have to rely on household names and turning movies into musicals. I think it is a sure sign that the arts community in the United States is craving originality and boldness. We are naturally gravitating towards these fresh new plays, thus making them hits.

  • Migdalia Pizarro says:

    It can be that Brits have been providing us with things that are new and fresh. It can be that American plays are sort of using a template or cookie cutter to produce plays and after a while we are suppose to get the feeling that “everything old is new again”. When in fact it may not be. It’s time for diversity and a new eye towards theatre.

  • I believe that the American shows are produced with the common denominater audiences in mind and are sometimes insulting to those more educated and more theater oriented. If I see one more revival I will scream The British theater is classical even when it is funny and outragious. The British theater is inventive and challenging and is a night out in the theater to be admired and adored. Have you noticed we are embraceing their actors in our shwos and movies more and more! I rest my case so please do carry on!!!!

  • KrishNa says:

    Help, I’ve been informed and I can’t become igntnaro.

  • That insight’s perfect for what I need. Thanks!

  • Why would the newspapers & Tv Talk shows cover this….. that would make the people know there is justice, there can be justice, no matter how corrupt the system….W We The People Can Make The Difference…. Thank you Eric Holder and friends for taking on the corrupt bastards, you will always be honored for your strength!

  • Hi Pierre Gosselin,Sorry to post this here but I can’t think of a faster way.The last time you posted the following list on Notrickszone a Warmist [Hunneycut?] attacked it as being from news stories. I have now changed all the links to point to PEER REVIEWED materials and made it even longer. ==================================Thanks Jimbo!Good job. I like this list very much. So much in fact that I will upgrade your comment as an offcial post later today – by guest writer Jimbo. Hope you don’t mind. -PG

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