Watch musical streams for free on YouTube during coronavirus closures

27 May 2020, 12:39 | Updated: 27 May 2020, 12:44

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

As West End and Broadway theatres brought the curtain down to slow the spread of coronavirus, Andrew Lloyd Webber was treating the public to a free stream of one of his hit musicals every week. Now, the shows are going on without him…

Over the past few weeks, musicals mogul Andrew Lloyd Webber has been treating us to one of his productions every Friday via YouTube channel, The Shows Must Go On, to lift people’s spirits during coronavirus theatre closures.

But as of last week, the legendary composer announced that the shows will continue to be streamed without him as he prepares for his upcoming production, Cinderella.

The latest show to be released was NBC’s 2013 TV special, The Sound of Music Live!, starring Carrie Underwood in the lead role of Maria and based on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s legendary 1959 stage production of the same name.

Read more: The Shows Must Go On: how to watch The Sound of Music Live! for free on YouTube >

Which musical is on this week?

On Friday (29 May), Hairspray Live!, starring Maddie Baillio, Harvey Fierstein, Martin Short, Jennifer Hudson, Ariana Grande and Kristin Chenoweth, among other big names, will be released for free.

The feel-good production was first aired on NBC in 2016, and is based on the 1988 film of the same name. It originally opened in 2002 on Broadway (winning eight Tony Awards), before coming to London’s West End in 2008 and taking home four Oliviers.

Set in 1962 Baltimore, the infectiously catchy musical tells the story of talented teenager Tracy Turnblad, who becomes a local celebrity after winning a role on popular TV dance contest, The Corny Collins Show, and goes on to meet a colourful array of characters.

Hairspray Live! will be available to watch on the YouTube channel The Shows Must Go On from Friday 29 May at 7pm BST, where it will be available for 48 hours in the UK.

Watch Hairspray Live!, starring Maddie Baillio and Ariana Grande, on YouTube this Friday
Watch Hairspray Live!, starring Maddie Baillio and Ariana Grande, on YouTube this Friday. Picture: Getty

Which musicals have already been streamed?

Millions of viewers have been flocking to YouTube every Friday for these free musical streams.

Before The Sound of Music Live!, we were treated to Lloyd Webber’s Cats, starring Elaine Paige, as well as the composer’s 50th birthday concert from 1998, starring Michael Ball, Glenn Close, Sarah Brightman, Elaine Page and Antonio Banderas, who came together at the Royal Albert Hall to pay tribute to the composer.

Before that we saw Love Never Dies, the sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, which streamed the weekend before. The 25th anniversary special from the Royal Albert Hall, starring Ramin Karimloo as the Phantom and Sierra Boggess as Christine, was the biggest yet in the composer’s online series, with 11 million people watching.

The first in the series was the composer’s 2000 production of Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat starring Donny Osmond, Joan Collins and Richard Attenborough. It was followed the week after by the 2012 production of Jesus Christ Superstar, starring Tim Minchin, Mel C. and Chris Moyles.

Read more: Phantom of the Opera orchestra records ‘All I Ask of You’ for Andrew Lloyd Webber >

As theatres around the world close to slow the spread of coronavirus, performers and musicians have been moving their art online.

While The Shows Must Go On is a free service, the organisers are encouraging anyone who is able to donate to a charity that provides support to theatre workers in times of need. They suggest Acting For Others, Broadway Cares and the Actors Benevolent Fund.

In his announcement that he would no longer be involved in the series, Lloyd Webber added: “Thank you for so generously donating. I think we raised half a million dollars for The Actors’ Fund. Absolutely wonderful and if you could still find it in you to give a little tiny bit more, it’d be really appreciated by all of the actors who of course are having a very tough time at the moment.”