Imagine This ends West End dream

Reporter: Matthew Amer, first published Mon 08 Dec 2008 12:58
Imagine This, the new musical set in the Warsaw ghetto of 1942, will end its run at the New London theatre on 20 December, one month after it opened.

The tale of a theatrical family who attempt to keep spirits up and hope alive by staging productions in the midst of Nazi oppression made its West End debut on 19 November and was originally booking until 28 February.

A rare entity in the West End, Imagine This is an entirely new musical, neither based on a book, film or back catalogue of music nor transferred from Broadway. It received mixed reviews on its opening, with much criticism aimed at its choice of topic. Speaking before the show’s opening, Imagine This’s director Timothy Sheader did not think this was an issue: “Richard Rogers put Nazis on stage in The Sound Of Music. Cabaret takes it one step further; certainly the revival did. Post Schindler’s List, it’s not that daring. If Schindler’s List or The Pianist or Boy In The Striped Pyjamas hadn’t existed, I think this would be provocative, but the same audience that went to Schindler’s List – broad, mass, populist – why would they not come to this? It’s epic music, fantastic hummable tunes with a gripping story about real people struggling against adversity, and how their spirits survive.”

Following news of the show’s closure, producer Beth Trachtenberg commented: “Night after night we have seen audiences stirred to the depths of their emotions by this show. Fundamentally I do not think the critics should be making a moral judgment over the subject matter and moreover that they are generally not prepared to embrace musicals. I’ve witnessed the public’s response to the show that is directly opposed to a narrow-minded critical belief that musicals are limited in their emotional impact and ability to deal with meaningful subject matter in a powerful and sensitive manner. I am enormously proud of Imagine This and of the wonderful cast and crew.”

The announcement of its impending closure comes just days after Imagine This received four nominations for the Whatsonstage Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, where it is featured in the Best Actress In A Musical, Best Supporting Actor In A Musical, Best New Musical and Best Set Design categories.

No new production has yet been confirmed for the New London theatre.

MA