Earlier this year, Cheryl Nicholls was watching John Barrowman on stage. A senior promoter for a new touring theatre division launched by Lancashire-based promotion company Cuffe & Taylor, Cheryl immediately started texting the her colleague, Ben Hatton. "It's just about being in the right place at the right time," she said. "Ben and I were texting, saying how great he'd be on tour. And he's gone on to sell out."
Since being established last February, Cuffe & Taylor's theatre division have orchestrated over 400 shows and sold 180,000 tickets. Headed by the triumvirate of Cheryl, director of theatre touring Ben, and senior promoter Sam Griffiths, the group is in the business of liaising, facilitating, and budgeting - basically all the behind-the-scenes work that goes making sure into multi-million pound live music and theatre events run smoothly.
"A good analogy is an iceberg: the public may see a show - that's the tip of the iceberg - but under the water, lurking, is all of the hard work that goes into making a show happen," said Ben, 31, who hails from Essex and works in the company's London office. "It's demanding, but rewarding."
From the aforementioned I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! star Barrowman to the likes of Kojo Anim, Lea Salonga, and Britain’s Got Talent's Robert White, the theatre division work with some of the industry's big hitters. Part of the Live Nation Entertainment family - the biggest entertainment company in the world - they put on shows the length and breadth of the UK, and are even expanding their horizons to incorporate Europe and South America.
"No two days are the same, it's thrilling," says Cheryl, 51, from Fulwood. "I build on relationships with venues, theatre managers and directors, and artists' agents and come up with ideas for tours, be it a theatre piece, a comedian, a dance show, [then] we look at popularity, tickets, budgets, and profitability. It's about ideas and as a new department, it's really good to bring something different.
"Seeing a show come to fruition is something I really enjoy," Cheryl added. "Actually seeing the artist on stage at a sold-out venue - that's when you think 'job done', and the buzz is the same when you fill a 200-seater stadium as when you fill the London Palladium. Developing an artist is as important as getting the bigger artists: it's about investing in artists' futures."
From their debut show, What’s Love Got To Do With It? - a Tina Turner-inspired smash hit which premiered at the Liverpool Empire - to Whitney: Queen Of The Night, which exploded onto the West End with its premiere at the Savoy Theatre, the theatre division have been on fine form. The dance spectacular Heartbeat Of Home from the producers of Riverdance has been a box office whirlwind, and a new show for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is also currently in development with the anonymous cult figure West End Producer.
Senior promoter Sam Griffiths recently joined the team from the Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) and can't wait to get stuck in. “I'm excited to be joining the theatre division at a time of exponential growth in the live entertainment industry in the UK and internationally," he said.
Having worked in the business for some 14 years, Ben echoes Sam's enthusiasm. "It's a fast-paced environment, juggling existing tours with securing the next tour and working out all the logistics," he said. "We’ve got one of the most varied rosters out there, from comedians touring small venues up and down the country to tribute shows selling out in the West End.
"It's a creative industry and you're always looking at new artists," he added. "Keeping your eyes peeled for the next big thing."