MusicalOpinion

Musicals – A New Magazine

by Maryam Philpott

Musical theatre really grasped the opportunity presented by the pandemic and theatre closures to find new ways to engage with audiences and to advance the form. While some of that began in the years prior, contemporary musicals and radical revivals seem to have a cultural and intellectual power like never before. To celebrate this invigorated momentum, Mark Allen Group has launched a new magazine, Musicals, covering West End, UK and Broadway as well as occasional features from shows staged around the world.

The first edition, available in print form from major retailers, is on shelves until January with a second issue scheduled for April 2023 and bi-monthly thereafter. From April, both print and digital copies will be offered in a variety of subscriber and casual reader models. But for now, this debut edition sets out the magazine’s stall, offering detailed features and interviews with or about musical theatre professionals and key trends as well as news, reviews and show listings including a special section for pantomimes and Christmas shows.

The tone of Musicals has been quite carefully developed, taking an intellectual Theatre Studies approach to content that clearly seeks to analyse, educate and inform as well as promote the work of the sector. Issue One’s cover star Marisha Wallace, for example, talks in detail about her approach to character as well as the technical care and control of her voice that make her such an energetic and vibrant performer, while contributing writer Edward Seckerson uses the article as an opportunity to reflect on the transformed production of Oklahoma! starring Wallace that will transfer from the Young Vic to the West End next year.

But performance is only one aspect of musical theatre, and this inaugural edition also considers the genius of Stephen Sondheim’s Company in its second major thread, an article in which contributing writer David Benedict explores the musical composition of the show, the resonance of its recent gender-swapped production and its comparative legacy alongside Sweeney Todd and Assassins. This kind of comparative analysis is seen all-too-rarely in contemporary criticism with increasingly shortened reviews, so the opportunity to reflect on the genre in more detailed is one the magazine can savour.

Visually, Musicals is influenced by the style of high-end, glossy Sunday supplements with two columns per page and lots of richly colourful photography, much of it drawn from performance, while reviews include boxes with production credits – although arguably the bolding should be reversed to highlight the category rather than the answer to make it easier to locate the director or choreographer.

With its focus on new talent and existing work, the breadth as well as the future of the genre, Musicals is a valuable addition to a conversation it can clearly help to advance. But will it be a sustainable one? Print media is struggling, half the magazine is given over to reviews of performances attended as far back as July that many will have read online the day after Press Night and may have already closed, and with a cover price of £9.99 (more than twice the price of UK Vogue) for this first edition, it could be too much to ask of a regular reader. But with a love, enthusiasm and genuine desire to engage with all aspects of the art form, Musicals deserves a successful run. 

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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