Drive to develop new generation of hit Scottish musicals unveiled

Edinburgh is set to become a launchpad for a new generation of Scottish stage musicals under ambitious plans to develop a series of home-grown hits with the help of a host of leading musicians, composers and theatre-makers.

Sunshine on Leith has been one of the most successful new musicals staged in Scotland in recent years. Picture: Manuel Harlan
Sunshine on Leith has been one of the most successful new musicals staged in Scotland in recent years. Picture: Manuel Harlan

Deacon Blue frontman Ricky Ross, singer-songwriter Barbara Dickson and David Greig, the Scottish playwright behind hit shows like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Local Hero and The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart are to help launch a long-term drive to turn the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh into “the home of great new Scottish musicals.”

The venue is launching a project to develop a series of new stage shows which "celebrate Scotland's culture, spirit and humour” while it is closed over the next few months due to the ongoing restrictions over live events.

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The Scottish Government-funded venture, which is part of a bid to reboot the venue following its lengthy shutdown during the pandemic, will see the nation’s musicians, writers and artists tasked with coming up with ideas for new shows to emulate the success of recent hits like Sunshine on Leith and Glasgow Girls.

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They will then be developed from scratch into full-scale touring productions by the Festival Theatre and Pitlochry Festival Theatre, who are joining forces to create the new “musical commissioning hub to uncover, develop and road-test new shows for the foreseeable future.

Submissions for potential new musicals will open next week, with a mid-December deadline set in the hope that the first musical to be selected will be able to be unveiled in scratch form at the Festival Theatre’s studio theatre, where the new hub is planned to be based, and then at a studio facility that Pitlochry Festival Theatre is planning to create in its existing building early next year.

An expert panel being created to judge the submissions will also include award-winning composer Howard Goodall, whose West End hits include Love Story and Bend it like Beckham, Kenny Wax, the producer of Edinburgh Festival Fringe sensation Six, Olivier Award-winning actress Katie Brayben, star of the Carole King musical, and Robert Softey Gale, whose new musical My Left / Right Foot was a huge hit for the National Theatre of Scotland last year.

Fiona Gibson, chief executive of Capital Theatres, which runs the Festival Theatre, said: “Music is such an important part of Scotland's heritage. As we emerge through lockdown and social distancing, we believe Scottish audiences have an appetite for new musicals celebrating Scotland’s culture, spirit and humour.

"This unprecedented period of our venues being closed provides a unique window of opportunity to progress new Scottish works at a time when enjoyment and entertainment has never been more necessary.”

Elizabeth Newman, Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s artistic director, said: “As we navigate through these challenging times, it feels vital that we continue to develop new work by brilliant Scottish artists that celebrates Scotland’s long history of creating great music for its theatre audiences.

"We want to offer as many opportunities to artists as possible to create new and exciting work that can be showcased around Scotland."

Barbara Dickson will be on the selection panel which decides which musicals are taken forward for development.

Barbara Dickson said: “This new endeavour will be wonderful for artists, but it will also be great for audiences. I can’t wait to return to these two beautiful theatres to watch this new work celebrate Scottish theatre through new drama and music.”

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Joy Yates

David Greig's previous musicals include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Local Hero. Picture: Aly Wight

Editorial Director

Kenny Wax, the producer of the hit musical Six, which had its world premiere at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2018, is on the expert panel which will help shape the new produtions. Picture: Johan Persson
Howard Goodall's previous musicals include Bend it like Beckham and Love Story. Picture: Jesper Mattias Photography
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