Later this month, BEAM2023, the largest gathering of the UK new musical theatre community, will take over the Oxford Playhouse. Described "Cannes for musicals" BEAM2023 brings together writers, producers, composers, venues, investors, agents and development partners for two days of inspiring content. To date, over 35 musicals from previous BEAMs have gone on to be fully staged, including new West End arrival Operation Mincemeat.
We interviewed Natalia Scorer, Executive Director of Mercury Musical Development, who produce BEAM alongside Musical Theatre Network, with funding support from Arts Council England and PRS for Music Foundation.
Can you tell us a little bit about MMD and your role?
Mercury Musical Developments is a membership organisation that supports the development of new musical theatre. Our 400 members are writers of musicals – composers, lyricists and book writers – and we run a series of initiatives to help them develop their craft, showcase their work, make industry connections and find collaborators. As a result we are creating a talent development pipeline and building infrastructure so that brilliant new musicals can be created in the UK. I’m the Executive Director and so I plan our projects and the schedule of the year, raise money for our initiatives, and facilitate opportunities and connections for our members, working alongside our brilliant small staff team.
What is BEAM and what's its role in the development of new musical theatre?
BEAM is the UK’s biggest showcase of new musical theatre. Together with our partner organisation Musical Theatre Network, we produce BEAM every two years – the next one is being held later this month (May 2023) at Oxford Playhouse, and it’s a two day event. We will be showcasing excerpts from 29 new musicals to an audience of producers, theatre programmers, agents, directors, and writers. We chose these 29 shows from an extensive open-access pitching process which took place all across the country, with 265 shows pitched. BEAM gives a platform to some of the most exciting new shows currently being written and we hope that many of them will be able to find development partners and opportunities. It’s also the biggest gathering of everyone involved in new musicals in the UK so a great opportunity to connect, discuss and make plans.
What is the process of getting new musicals made?
It usually takes a long time! After the book (script), music and lyrics have been written, new shows will often have several workshops, where the material is tried out in a room with actors and sometimes informally shared with an invited audience for feedback. The workshop process is important because musicals are tricky to do well and often the material needs a lot of editing and rewriting over a long period of time. A show may progress to a small scale or fringe production before moving onto bigger stages – unless there is already a lot of money behind it, in which case it might go straight to a larger-scale run. Musical theatre is very collaborative and often requires quite a lot of people to get on board and support in some way – so making connections and drumming up interest is a big part of it.
How does MMD and BEAM foster and support new musical theatre writers?
At MMD we run regular members’ events allowing writers to meet each other, test out their work and learn from industry experts. We can offer advice and make connections and we organise a variety of competitions, retreats, placements and mentorships to benefit the members. BEAM is also a way for writers to connect and learn from each other and make wider industry connections as it’s an event that brings everyone together. As well as a showcase of musicals it’s an artist development opportunity for the participants – we give each team free guidance from industry mentors to help them progress with their shows and get the most out of BEAM.
Are there any last pieces of advice for musical theatre creatives?
Study the craft and how other creators have done it – learn the rules before you break them! Know who your show is for and what sort of production or run you are aiming for (the West End isn’t the right destination for everything), which will help you approach venues and producers. And of course, become a member of MMD or MTN!
You can purchase tickets for BEAM2023 May 25th and 26th here. Our very own Head of Community and Theatre, Grace O'Keefe will be attending and sitting on a panel about Book, Music and Lyrics on Friday the 26th at 1pm, so make sure you say hello! And keep your eye out for a ticket link for our workshop with MMD on Crowdfunding for Musical Theatre at 8pm BST on June 20th coming soon.