This Christmas Anything Goes - Live Theatre is Back!

Words by
Sarah Bridge

7th November 2022

Pent-up demand means theatres up and down the country are bright and bustling once more with musicals, panto and live  experiences. Few companies are more prepared for this than Trafalgar Entertainment, the leading international live entertainment business founded by Sir Howard Panter and Dame Rosemary Squire in 2017.

Presented by Trafalgar Entertainment 

Covid was a logistical nightmare for Trafalgar Entertainment, which runs theatrical productions and live-streaming events globally, but thanks to long-term thinking and sheer determination, today the company is superbly well-placed to celebrate make the most of the current boom as audiences return to theatres and cinemas.

‘Covid was a terrible time to be working in live entertainment. Everything just stopped, but our focus was always to reopen shows as soon as possible,” says Matt Parritt, executive producer at Trafalgar Entertainment.

Rocky Horror Show
The Rocky Horror Show continues to delight audiences 47 years after its original production

“Shows take one to two years to plan, so we couldn’t stop everything. We knew that people would come back when they could, so we decided to come up with a whole programme of events with a focus on feel-good fun. There are two smash hits; the perennial theatrical favourite, the Rocky Horror Show, and Anything Goes, loved by critics and audiences alike.

‘With the Rocky Horror Show, you know that you’re going to have a great night, and it’s doing better than ever because it’s an uplifting, feel-good fun show that people want to see,’ says Matt.

‘The other big show we produced straight out of the pandemic is Anything Goes with Sutton Foster, Robert Lindsay, Felicity Kendall and Gary Wilmot – it has brilliant songs and it’s impossible to watch without a huge smile on your face.’

Photo by Matt Crockett
Jersey Boys 2022

‘We wanted to restart straightway,’ recalls fellow executive producer at Trafalgar Entertainment, Daniel Brodie, ‘the drive and passion we have for the industry kept us going, and we were able to open Anything Goes, a multi-million pound show, within four days of the restrictions ending. It was all about us holding our nerve and it required huge guts, which paid off.’

‘The first preview of Anything Goes was the most emotional and moving experience I’ve ever had in the theatre – the audience was in tears. Howard and Rosemary have worked in the industry for 50 years and for it to go completely and then come back was incredibly emotional.’

Photo by Lizzie Ludgate
Vernon Kay is starring in Panto this Christmas at High Wycombe

In spite of fears over the cost-of-living crisis and the return of competing attractions for the public’s money such as dining out and live sport, 2022 has been an extremely positive year for Trafalgar Entertainment.

‘The British public have shown that they love theatre and have that shared experience,’ says Matt Parritt. ‘They don’t want to ‘complete Netflix’ but get together with other people and have a good time, and the shows that are doing phenomenally well are the ones that are offering people pure escapism for a few hours.’

From the West End to Southend and across the world to Sydney, where the Mousetrap has just completed a highly successful five-week run, ticket sales have been rocketing and now the company is looking forward to a full festive season.

Photo by Kate Darkins
Anton du Beke stars in Jack and the Beanstalk this Christmas

From Strictly’s Anton Du Beke in Jack and the Beanstalk in Bromley to Vernon Kay making his stage debut in High Wycombe in Cinderella, there’s a packed panto schedule for everyone.

‘Wherever you are, get out to your local theatre and have a great time!’ says Daniel.

Next year is already shaping up to be a big one for the group, with a huge 50th birthday celebration run in London for The Rocky Horror Show 2023, plus new productions of Jersey Boys, the classic Rogers and Hammerstein musical The King and I, a tour of Steel Magnolias and a yet-to-be-revealed big summer musical.

Photo Phil Tragen
Daniel Brodie and Matt Parritt of Trafalgar Entertainment

It wasn’t just Trafalgar’s live entertainment side, which was hit hard by Covid, but its Trafalgar Releasing division, which brings live performances such as plays and concerts into cinemas around the world. Marc Allenby, CEO of Trafalgar Releasing, says that the pandemic was ‘a challenging time for us, as our business is about celebrating fan moments and collective experiences and that largely became illegal around the world!’

While Marc was able to move some events online, it was very stop-start, but Trafalgar Releasing was able to keep going throughout 2020 and 2021 with big events such as K-pop bands BTS and Blackpink and Oasis.

‘We saw that audiences wanted to come back which gave us all hope,’ says Marc. ‘It was all about ambition, belief and positivity, and accurate tracking of time and opportunity which meant we were able to pounce when we could.’

Trafalgar Releasing had huge successes this year with two huge live global events. There was the record-breaking BTS concert in March, which was the highest-grossing worldwide event cinema release and Coldplay’s sold-out concert in Buenos Aires in October, broadcast live on 3,500 cinema screens across 75 countries and regions.

‘There are some challenges for the sector, and it hasn’t been straightforward in any country,’ says Marc, ‘but where there is quality, sought-after titles, the audiences will come, so it’s a matter of identifying those, which ones will work and at what level. If there’s a certain cost – in both money and time - of attending a live event, then cinema is a really attractive alternative and that’s where the opportunity is.’

Photo by Tim Toda
BTS performing this year in concert

This Christmas, Trafalgar Releasing is releasing Mark Gatiss’s A Christmas Carol, filmed at Alexandra Palace last year, as well as Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! and long-standing partner, the Royal Opera House, also with The Nutcracker, three strong festive titles for the season, and Marc hints that there are some big projects planned for next year.

‘We feel there’s lots of potential and pent up demand in the industry,’ he says. ‘Ultimately humans are social animals and there’s a reaction against being at home and watching things from their sofa all the time. And it’s our job to make sure that there are many exciting alternatives out there.’