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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Flutsch

Beam 2023: Top New Musicals in Development

Beam 2023 was held at the Oxford Playhouse on 26-27 May 2023, produced by Mercury Musical Developments and the Musical Theatre Network.


Beam is a biennial industry showcase of new musicals in development. If you are developing a new musical, Beam is THE place to pitch your work to bring partners, investors and venues on board. In the UK, showcasing at Beam will probably be the decisive factor in bringing your work to stage.

Performance of excerpt of Elan Butler's Cliffs.

This year, Beam took place over two gruelling days during which 10-25 minute excerpts from 29 new musicals were showcased on stage in front of a large audience of professionals from across the industry. Producers, directors, investors, writers, composers, actors, musicians and….ahem, blogger, came together to watch, assess and enjoy.

Excerpt of Finn Anderson's The Edge of Me.

This year, the musicals showcased were chosen by a panel of 50 industry professionals in a rigorous selection process from a pool of 265 applicants. What an extraordinarily rich and diverse selection of stories and talent were on display, and what a privilege it was to experience each of the 29 excerpts.


How I Chose My Top 5

Given the breadth and depth of musicals on display, choosing only 5 to write about was difficult. Of course, every person’s web of experience informs their preferences – so my top 5 will likely not be yours.

Excerpt of Amy Clare Tasker's Ukulele Days - and one of my top 5.

To choose my top 5, I attended every single one of the 29 excerpts and took copious notes on each one – including rating each based on the strength of the story presented, the music and my first impressions of the presentation. I then spent the next two days absorbing, thinking and going over my own notes, the programme notes, looking at the photos I’d taken, as well as doing some follow up research.

For me, the most important criterion in my enjoyment of a musical is whether I am entertained. For musicals, what entertains me is a great story, performed expertly through fantastic music. A great story doesn’t necessarily have to educate or inform me.

Given my own family history, I generally don’t experience stories about refugees, WWII Germany or the Nazis as an entertaining night out. This means that I haven’t included in my list a number of quality musicals that deal with these subjects such as Scholl, Otto Weidt’s Brush & Broom Workshop for the Blind and the extraordinary song cycle The Optician of Lampedusa. I know that there are many people who will love these musicals.

Excerpt of Chosen.

In the end, my criterion was quite simple – what would/will I spend my own money to see?


Number 1: #50Days

Created and written by Thabo Stuck. Beatbox composer Nadine Rose-Johnson.

For me, #50Days was the most exciting musical that came out of Beam 2023. #50Days loosely follows the story of the 50 days before the outbreak of the British Civil War in 1642. Britain, at that time, was riven with political, religious and civil unrest, financial crisis and distrust of the monarchy - all set against the backdrop of regular outbreaks of the plague.

#50Days creator Thabo Stuck.

Creator and writer Thabo Stuck tells the story of this country’s history through Grime music – which he calls, “the modern soundtrack of Britain”. Retelling this period of history through Grime - the voice of inner city East London – demands that we draw parallels between the conditions that created the British Civil War and the conditions which exist in Britain today.


#50Days is refreshing – it’s very cool, it’s entertaining and it gives us a retelling of our country’s history that is not steeped in white privilege. I can’t wait to see it.


Number 2: Ukulele Days

Written by Amy Clare Taster.

Ukulele Days is a sheer joy. Up till now, I haven’t been a particular fan of the ukulele, but the pure delight, energy, sunshine and fun that saturates this happy-go-lucky piece has converted me. Ukulele Days is very loosely based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

Ukulele Days' creator Amy Clare Tasker. Photo by Aslam Husain.

After a fraught break-up, ex-band mates Bibi and Ben meet at a Seaside Ukulele Festival to compete at the song writing contest. What follows is a seaside rom com, featuring uplifting music in a variety of genres including folk, jazz, blues and even hip-hop. Writer Amy Clare Tasker has written a little gem, which I think will encourage everyone to pick up a ukulele (available at the merch stand) and have a go.


Number 3: Miss Wales

Created by Francesca Goodridge, Daniel Lloyd, Emma Reeves and Dylan Townley.

Miss Wales tells the story of Rosemarie Frankland, the first Welsh woman to win the Miss World beauty pageant in 1961. Miss Wales charts Frankland’s transformation from small village girl to prominent figure on the world stage. This is a traditional musical – and its strength is the big, fabulous, conventional songs that come to life with a phenomenal performer. This musical will be a hit in Wales, and deserves to be a hit beyond the Welsh borders.


Number 4: Feet Keep Me Flying

Feet Keep Me Flying tells the story of Buck, a gifted street performer in the 1930s whose talent contributes to popularising tap dancing; and Sammy – a young woman in the present, who wants to break free of the rigid rules of tap dancing to create her own unique, and extremely cool style.


Feet Keep Me Flying is a story told through dance – and sheds some light on the contribution of African American artists in creating and popularising tap dancing as a distinct art form in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The dancing and music in Feet Keep Me Flying are absolutely mesmerising – it is fantastic to see what contemporary tap dancing has become. With Anasatasia Osei-Kuffour as dramaturg - I can see Feet Keep Me Flying becoming a popular hit and creating a whole new trend for cool new contemporary tap dancing


Number 5: Chosen

Written by Dominic Varney and Taiyo Yoshida.

Chosen is sheer, silly fun. It follows the story of Sue, in IT support, who wakes from a coma to discover there has been a zombie apocalypse. Through a series of ridiculous events, she is mistaken for the “Chosen One” who is prophesised to save humanity.


Chosen is carefree comedy – the songs are hilarious – and the story is absurd. Creators Dominic Varney and Taiyo Yoshida set out to have as much fun as possible in the process of creating this musical and it really shows. With a kind of “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures” sensibility – Chosen will be a great fun night out.

 

If you enjoyed reading my review of Beam 2023, you may enjoy reading my reviews of other musicals here.

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