Kenny Wax is sitting in his office, looking out over Shaftesbury Avenue, surrounded by billboards of his shows and stacks of awards. The theatrical impressario has been behind a string of hits including the Mischief Theatre Play that Goes Wrong shows; the wives of Henry VIII smash, Six; and some of the best children’s picture book adaptations of recent years, from The Gruffalo to his most recent, Oi Frog.
Kenny is in many ways an old-school Theatreland man. He started out as an usher in Miss Saigon. His foray into children’s productions began while reading The Gruffalo to his 3-year-old son. He was friends with Olivia Jacobs whose Tall Stories company had adapted the story for stage. But the economics of touring with small shows is such that it is almost impossible to make money. West End theatres, however, are empty during the day... you can fit in two shows before the matinee performance.
Kenny is the first to say they couldn’t have done it without the support of Nimax whose commercial director also had a young child. It is a win:win – a fantastic first experience of theatre for children and great for the West End. He says he has learnt a huge amount about buggy parks and booster seats over the years and is proud that Soho is now a much more child-friendly place to visit. So what makes a great children’s show? For Kenny it is essential it does more than putting a page on a stage, however good the book. It should provoke, be a bit anarchic.
He has exciting projects in the pipeline, not least of which is Identical! a musical adaptation of the Parent Trap. We went to a casting workshop which was fascinating and the tunes ace. We will keep you posted.
In the meantime, head to the Lyric Shaftesbury Avenue with littles of 3+ for a magical first introduction to theatre. Oi Frog is runs from 29 Nov to 5 Jan. Click here to book.