Many fans like to buy merchandise relative to their favourite TV shows, music artists, hobbies and so forth, and while some are happy to just make the odd purchase here and there, others keep spending until they have enough items to be termed a collection. These memorabilia collections are often the result of years of hard work and can range in size from single digits to a record-breaking collection; some have even made The Guinness World Records, such as Doctor Who fan Rob Hull with his Dalek collection, Liz West with her Spice Girls collection and Bob Bretall with his comic book collection, to name a few.
The musical theatre industry is no exception when it comes to zealous fans and their propensity for collecting. There is plenty of musical-related merchandise out there just waiting to be bought and displayed in some happy fan’s house, with items to suit every budget and every taste.
Walk into the home of any musical fan and you’ll likely find some sign of their fondness for the art, whether it be a poster on the wall, a cast recording amongst their CDs, a tote bag in the hallway or perhaps a t-shirt hanging on the washing line. Most have something in particular that they like to collect though, bought from the theatre when seeing a show as a memento of the experience. The same is true of me. I have an assortment of musical theatre items in my home, such as a Phantom mask on the wall, various anniversary recordings/film versions amongst my DVDs, books, and even Les Miserables drinks coasters, for example, but on every visit to a show, I buy a program. Whether it be my first time seeing it or a return visit, it’s the one thing I have to do, and for me, there is no better memento of seeing a show than the program. The other reason I personally like to collect them, apart from as a reminder of all the shows I’ve seen, is that they also serve as a list of each and every member of the company at that time. I’ve often heard other musical fans talking about how they’ve been surprised when looking back through their program collection, finding a well-known stage performer named in the show’s ensemble and realising they’d seen them on stage before they became stars. I value them highly because of the fact that they offer a snap shot of a particular period of time – for that reason, it still irks me to this day that a souvenir brochure I got from The Phantom of the Opera right after a cast change in September 2012 wasn’t an updated version, and so features photos of the previous cast in it, such as Killian Donnelly as Raoul instead of Simon Thomas. I also save every ticket from every visit.
In years to come, my program collection will lead me on a lovely trip down memory lane, and to me, they are uniquely special. Other fans collect different merchandise some similar reasons of sentiment. My mum for instance, who is a huge musical theatre fan, always likes to buy a mug and a fridge magnet when she goes to see a show. They are her personal choice of musical memorabilia as programs/tickets are mine, and as such, gets equally irritated if her collection is impaired in some way. There was a period when every theatre seemed to be continuously out of stock of mugs…she failed to return home with a memento mug every time and it became something of a running joke for a while. Funny to the rest if the family perhaps, but not to my mum, who was genuinely annoyed that she was unable to buy her mugs at the theatre, which is an important factor of her collection.
Others may collect key rings or t-shirts, or some such other item from their musical theatre visits, but whatever the choice of memorabilia, every fan is united in the value they hold their collection in. I’m sure someone out there has some kind of record for the largest collection of musical theatre items, general or specialised – my mum is surely well on her way with her recent hoarding of Phantom-themed collectables, which currently includes music boxes, figurines, ornamental globes, and more. Being that Phantom is my all-time favourite show, it’s a collection that fills me with both joy and jealousy!
It’d be interesting to find out what item of merchandise is the most popular purchase from the West End’s theatres, as well as what musical theatre fans commonly like to collect, and why.
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Thursday 16th April 2015