Public’s appetite for musical theatre boosts sector’s hope

Musical Theatre Dunedin wardrobe manager June Driver dusts off costumes for the theatre company’s...
Musical Theatre Dunedin wardrobe manager June Driver dusts off costumes for the theatre company’s production of Les Miserable, in Dunedin, next May. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Musical theatre companies in Dunedin have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in the wake of Covid-19 this year, but a resurgence of public interest in their shows has buoyed their confidence of a "quick-ish" recovery.

Musical Theatre Dunedin (MTD) president Dean Driver said Covid-19 restrictions caused the postponement of Les Miserables in May.

The cast, crew and orchestra were in the final rehearsal stages, and "copious" amounts of money had been spent on advertising, marketing and signage.

"We weren’t allowed to have cast rehearsing, because we were limited with the number of people gathering.

"And moving forward, we weren’t sure when we would be out of lockdown, so we had to can it."

He said shows such as Les Miserables cost about $500,000 to put on, but he declined to say how much MTD lost as a result of the postponement.

"It was a significant amount."

Ticket sales had gone extremely well, but that did not help the situation.

Because Ticket Rocket had gone into receivership, MTD had been hit with "a double-whammy".

"For us, we don’t see any of that money at all. We don’t get paid by the Regent or Ticket Rocket until after the event."

Funding from community trusts also had to be returned.

He hoped much of the money could be recouped by next month’s theatre restaurant show and next year’s production of Les Miserables (May 6-15).

Taieri Musical president Blair Hughson said his organisation also suffered a financial loss when it postponed Mamma Mia! at the More FM Arena this year.

About $10,000 was spent on marketing and could not be recouped, and similar amounts would have to be spent when the show is put on next year.

Despite having already sold about 2000 tickets, they were fortunate, he said.

Ticket holders had been given the option to hold them or get a refund.

"Half the people opted to keep their ticket for next year, which is pretty awesome."

He said the recent The Highlights combined show with MTD, Taieri Musical and Doug Kamo Creative Management (DKCM) would also help soften the financial blow.

DKCM managing director Doug Kamo said the Covid-19 situation had personally cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Unlike MTD and Taieri Musical, which are incorporated societies, he ran a small business which was contracted to do marketing, sponsorship and direct productions for them.

He said his musical theatre contracts equated to about 30%-40% of his annual revenue, but the bulk of his business involved corporate, conference, incentive entertainment and production, which had taken a "massive hit".

"All the conferencing, all the events that we’ve been aligned to for many years, have all had to stop.

"We’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars in terms of gross revenue for my business alone.

"This year, I’m about 80% down on my revenue for the same time last year."

However, he, MTD and Taieri Musical were confident the losses could be recouped relatively quickly, as long as the Government kept the lid on Covid-19.

"There’s been a huge renaissance in musical theatre over the last decade here," Mr Kamo said.

"Our patron base has grown exponentially from 5000 up to about 12,000 per production.

"I’m buoyed by the support we’re getting."


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