Are we experiencing another British invasion?

I don’t know about you, but it feels like everywhere I look this Broadway season, someone is talking with a British accent.

We’ve got Curious Incident and Queen Elizabeth and that two-parter Wolf Hall to name just a few of the tea and crumpet crews that have landed on our shores this year.

So is it just me, or are the British really coming, and coming, and coming?

As much as I like to go with my gut, I like to go with the data even more, so I put my trusty assistant Dylan on the task of sorting through the last 20 years of new Broadway productions to see what the stats revealed.  (Since Dylan got a mention in the NY Post when she did some research for me on Broadway Investing, she was more than happy to dig into the archives – that and the fact that she works for me, so she kinda has to.)

We’ve prepared three graphs based on what we learned, which are below.  They are:

  • The total percent of new UK imports on Broadway over the past 20 years
  • The percent of new UK play imports over the last 20 years
  • The percent of new UK musical imports over the last 20 years

Before you go peeking at the graphs . . . pull out a piece of paper.  Come on, you know what paper looks like, don’t you?  Now, write down your guess for what each of the above %s will be.  Go on.  And then next to each percentage, draw an arrow.  Up, down, or flat.  Guess what the trend will be.

Got it?


Now let’s see if you were right.  Here are the three graphs.


all shows




How’d you do?

Now how did I do?

Well, I was was right.  Sort of.  It is feelin’ blimey this year, because we haven’t had this many imports since 2007.  But it’s not so bollocks as it was in 1998 when almost 1/4 of the new shows on Broadway were from across the pond.

I’m definitely going to rerun this graph again next year.  Because, frankly, I’m concerned, and I’ll go out on a tree branch and predict that next year we will see more British imports than we’ve seen in the last two decades.

Why would that concern me?  After all, great theater is great theater, no matter where it comes from, right?

Well, it’s hard to keep our status as the theater capital of the world if more and more shows don’t start here.

And, more importantly, with the current theater crunch, more British imports mean less American writers get their shows on.

I’m really not an anti-British guy, by the way.   I love it there, and so much of their work is outstanding.  I just want to make sure our guys get their shots too.

Tune in next year, same time, same blog, to see if my prediction comes true.


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  • Kathleen Hochberg says:

    and we were amazed by Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch in Frankenstein! They were FAB!! I for one am loving the British Invasion

  • Kathleen Hochberg says:

    Ps I am grateful to people like yourself who are keeping the theater alive in the US and making sure “our guys get their shots too”

  • William Humble says:

    I didn’t realise you were regarded as the theatre capital of the world. I thought London was.

    As you can tell by the way I spell theatre, I’m not American…..

    Yes ok, I’m Im a Londoner….

  • fran says:

    Your data makes me really curious about reciprocity. How many American shows in the past 20 years have transferred to London? I know Britain used to have very strict laws about Americans performing on their turf. Wondering if this has changed.

  • David Merrick Jr says:

    “And, more importantly, with the current theater crunch, more British imports mean less American writers get their shows on.”

    That really is a reach…and I also believe that the whole “can’t get a theater” thing is mostly a fallacy.

  • Arnold Kuperstein says:

    If you want to be fair and objective you need to include graphs for Broadway shows that transfer to London. Transfers are a two way street.

    • Ken Davenport says:

      Who said I was trying to be fair and objective? 🙂 I’m biased without question . . . Broadway comes first for me. But you pose an interesting question. I’ll try and dig up that info.

  • Stephen Buckle says:

    It’s called International Free-Trade, and the USA is the leading protagonist and former paragon (China and developing Nations are overtaking) of that World order. Fortunately the number of Nations that write creatively in English as a first language is limited otherwise Broadway would be completely swamped with foreign works. As for Broadway being the capital of theatre? certainly continues to live on past glories and some present work, much of which is staged in London every year and as we speak – so what’s the problem?

  • Hey Ken,
    Brits fund indie music labels for export (as much as $45,000 per act) and may do the same for theater. Heard this news bite on BBC this morning – This article was published today.
    Most EU countries support exporting their music by having a stand at the major music markets. US does not do this. We’re own our own to fund our label projects. Many years going to MIDEM and SXSW opened my eyes as to hoe much value other countries place on the music industry as compared to US.

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