Research looks into the Diversity of West End Musicals

Research looks into the Diversity of West End Musicals f

Statistics which have looked into the gender and ethnicity diversity of casts in the West End have been revealed for the first time.

Research has looked into the performers appearing in some of the West End’s most high-profile shows. It has also analysed how gender and ethnicity affect the types of roles cast.

The research will be repeated in the future to look at whether the representation levels change.

The results from 2019 highlighted that BAME performers make up 38% of cast members in the 19 commercial West End musicals researched.

This shows that West End musicals are more ethnically diverse than their counterparts on Broadway where 34% are from a BAME background.

The West End is also much more diverse than programming on UK television. BAME actors make up 18% of performers, according to the data.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s foundation produced the 2016 report that labelled the British theatre industry “hideously white”

He said he was “delighted to see the wonderful diversity of London’s population is to some extent represented” on West End stage, but that “more needs to be done” to open up training and careers in theatre to a wider pool.

Black actors make up a majority of BAME performers in the West End. They account for 85% of the total number. East and South Asian actors represent just 3% and 7% respectively.

The proportion is at odds with the UK at large. The Asian population is double the size of the black population.

Even though the overall percentage of BAME performers in West End musicals is greater than in the UK population as a whole, it is roughly in line with London’s BAME population.

Meanwhile, the West End figures are boosted by six productions that feature predominantly BAME casts.

This includes some of their newer shows such as Hamilton and Tina – The Tina Turner Musical, as well as longer-running shows like The Lion King, Thriller Live, Motown and Aladdin.

Combined, these six shows make up 70% of all BAME performers counted. If they are removed from the figures, the percentage of BAME cast members drops to 18% across the remaining 13 shows. These include long-running musicals like The Phantom of the Opera and Mamma Mia!

These contain overwhelmingly white casts even though the writing or direction not requiring this not to be the case.

Actor Kobna Holdbrook-Smith said: “While I embrace conversations about inclusion and diversity, they have yet to become real or visible on our stages and screens.”

Gender was also covered. Fifty-eight per cent of performers are men while 42% are women.

White males were the largest group by a large margin as they made up 37% of all performers. BAME women were the smallest group, making up 17%. White women accounted for 25% and BAME men made up 21%.

In terms of cast breakdown, BAME performers and women are much more likely to be in an ensemble role than a named role. There is twice the number of BAME ensemble performers as there are BAME leads.

For white men, there are more performers in named roles than there are in ensemble ones.

BAME men and women are twice as likely to be cast in an ensemble role rather than in a named role.

This shows that there is twice the number of BAME men and women in ensemble roles as there are BAME actors in lead roles, with BAME women the least likely to be cast in a named role.

This is the opposite for white men as they are more likely to play a named role than they are to be an ensemble member.

White women are more likely to be in an ensemble role than a named character but the difference is not as obvious.

Ethnicity in West End Musicals

  • 62.2% White
  • 31.7% Black
  • 2.6% South Asian
  • 1.1% East Asian
  • 2.2% other ethnicities

The ethnicity of the UK Population

  • 87.1% White
  • 6.9% Asian
  • 3% Black
  • 2% Mixed race
  • 0.9% other ethnicities

How the Percentage (38%) of BAME Performers in the West End Compares to…

  • London population: 40%
  • Performers in Broadway musicals: 34%
  • Performers on UK TV: 17.5%
  • UK population: 13%