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RTÉ ignored suggestion to cancel Toy Show the Musical after poor ticket sales, report says

Grant Thornton report notes concerns about ‘lacklustre public reaction’ following the initial launch of the ill-fated musical in 2022

Toy Show The Musical. Photograph: Ste Murray

A suggestion was made to cancel RTÉ's controversial Toy Show the Musical in the weeks after it was first announced due to poor ticket sales, a report on the production reveals.

Auditors Grant Thornton said the musical, which made a loss of €2.2 million, had not been signed off by the RTÉ board, or its audit committee, and there had been a lack of interrogation of the figures underpinning the project.

The production, which ran for several weeks from December 2022, only sold 11,044 tickets despite early internal projections it could reach audiences of more than 100,000 people.

The report, published on Thursday, revealed that shortly after the musical was launched in May 2022, it was suggested RTÉ might consider “pulling the show”, given initial low ticket sales.


The report stated that despite the internal concerns raised about the “lacklustre public reaction”, cancelling the project was not seen as an option. The identity of the senior figure who made the suggestion is unclear, as the report anonymised the names of all individuals it referenced.

The board of RTÉ was not formally told about the production until after a contract had already been signed with the Convention Centre Dublin to host the musical, at significant cost.

The report found a commitment by senior RTÉ executives to bring the proposed project to the board’s audit committee never happened. Board approval should have been required for the project, but the report said there was no evidence it was sought, or that directors flagged concerns about how the musical was approved.

Sponsorship revenue from the musical was overstated by €75,000, with “no objective justification” for the manner in which revenue from elsewhere in RTÉ was recorded as sponsorship income from the musical. The Grant Thornton report stated the reclassification of other revenue as sponsorship “would not have significantly improved the reported loss” of the production.

The report, which was based on interviews with 25 people involved in the ill-fated project and searches of thousands of internal records, said RTÉ faced “significant risk” of losing money before the first curtain was raised. While early financial projections were based on staging between 44 and 54 shows, the report said the fact tickets were only ever sold for 35 shows meant the project was always unlikely to break even.

Several board members interviewed admitted that “more questions should have been asked” about the project, while one figure involved said there was “conspicuously little interrogation” of the projections and figures behind the proposal.

One director told the review the prospect of the board trying to shelve the musical in the spring of 2022 would have been “catastrophic” and would have inflicted “severe reputational damage” to RTÉ given the amount already spent at that point.

Siún Ní Raghallaigh, chair of the RTÉ board since November 2022, said it was clear the broadcaster had “grossly underestimated” the risks involved in the undertaking. The report outlined how information had been “withheld” from the board during the musical’s production and there was a “significant lapse” in oversight of the project, she said.

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Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times