The fate of Toy Show The Musical is hanging in the balance as RTÉ is unable to say if, or how, the production will be revived for Christmas 2023.
he stage adaptation of a tale centred on the much-loved TV show was a large-scale and costly venture for the state broadcaster. But it struggled through its first run last year.
The expensive production underwhelmed at the box office, while illness striking the cast was blamed for the decision to cancel seven shows during its run.
RTÉ had refused a Freedom of Information request from the Irish Independent asking for financial details about the production, including how many tickets RTÉ would need to sell to break even on its financial outlay.
We are continuing to consult with a range of people from theatre and beyond on different options
The broadcaster then came under pressure from the Public Accounts Committee (Pac), the Dáil’s spending watchdog, to account for how much money it had spent on the production.
In correspondence to Pac, seen by the Irish Independent, RTÉ stated that it does not know if or how the Christmas musical will be staged this year.
Dee Forbes, director general of RTÉ, said the broadcaster is “currently considering our options on how we might remount the show based on lessons we have learned from our experience in 2022”.
Ms Forbes added: “We are continuing to consult with a range of people from theatre and beyond on different options and have not yet made any decisions.
“Considerations around the future staging/reimagining of the show are ongoing and we are therefore not in a position to definitively state our plans with regard to 2023.”
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Bookings were lower than we had hoped for in year one, but as with all creative investments, we remain focused on exploring all opportunities which could deliver a return over time
Ms Forbes also revealed that the reason RTÉ had signed off on the costs of the production – which are understood to have been significant – was because it had originally intended to run the show for multiple Christmases.
“From the outset and consistent with new original musicals of this scale and ambition, Toy Show The Musical was conceived and planned as a multi-annual proposition, and as such many of the creative costs – such as story and script development, music and lyrics composition, set and costume design, production design etc – are frontloaded.
“As RTÉ has made clear, bookings were lower than we had hoped for in year one, but as with all creative investments, we remain focused on exploring all opportunities which could deliver a return over time.”
The musical was the brainchild of The Late Late Show producers Jane Murphy and Katherine Drohan.
It tells the story of Nell Mooney, a little girl who tries to recreate some of her mother’s favourite traditions on the eve of The Late Late Toy Show to cheer up her family following a loss.
The production was initially scheduled to run several times a day between December 10, 2022, and New Year’s Eve.
Seven billed performances were cancelled just before Christmas week, which RTÉ said was due to illness. One performance was cancelled when audience members had already taken their seats.