THEY say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – in David King’s case, it’s certainly the most lucrative.
The theatre producer is perfectly frank about where he finds the ideas for his shows. They come from existing successful productions.
Take Spirit of the Dance, which is touring to the Liverpool Empire later this week. King came up with the idea after watching Riverdance.
“Although Irish dance is great, two hours of Irish dance can really give you a headache,” he says.
So he added in a mixture of styles, got the show up and running, and within two years it was the biggest on the road, with 14 troupes in 14 countries.
There are currently four permanent Spirit of the Dance based in America and up to a further 10 on international tour.
“It was amazing. I went from nothing – I was having a bad time, wasn’t working, didn’t even own a car – to within two years having shows all round the world,” he says.
“I was very fortunate to have come up with the right idea at the right time.”
King’s success comes, he says, from being able to “drive through the jungle and pick out the winners”.
Not every one of his ideas has been successful, but most of them have been big moneyspinners.
Two of his largest productions have both visited the Empire – Le Grand Cirque, in the style of Cirque du Soleil, and Dancing Queen, “sort of like Mamma Mia! but without the story”.
“You don’t know if something’s going to be successful and that’s why so many people who are making shows that lose money and go bankrupt,” he explains.
“They often find a topic they are passionate about, but it doesn’t mean anyone’s going to by any tickets.
“Something like 90% of new productions fail, so you’ve really got to have your eyes wide open and be able to afford the risk, which people usually can’t.”
Perhaps some of King’s success comes from his family background.
If it weren’t for showbusiness, he would not exist to come up with ideas like Spirit of the Dance and Le Grand Cirque.
His parents met through the music halls – his father as a “George Formby-type act” and his mother as a dancer.
They had long given up life on the road by the time King was born. His father had swapped joke-telling for running a menswear store, but he never stopped strumming his ukulele.
“Every weekend at our house, there was a concert with all the family and everybody seemed to be able to sing or play something. I’d be playing the piano,” he says – although the upright version he tinkled as a child was a less impressive instrument that the baby grand he owns “now we’re a bit posher”.
“I think I was born into it,” he continues, “although I didn’t get involved in showbusiness for quite a few years.
“I suppose it was always inside me, it was just waiting to come out.”
SPIRIT of the Dance is at the Liverpool Empire on June 16 and 17.