RTÉ officials were warned musicals were ‘notoriously difficult’, early Toy Show the Musical documents show

Earliest copy of €2.2m loss-making Toy Show the Musical business case released to PAC on Thursday

Toy Show The Musical. Photograph: Ste Murray

RTÉ officials were warned that musicals are “notoriously difficult” and that “significant expectations” would have to be exceeded in order to succeed, an internal report about the Toy Show the Musical reveals.

Director general Kevin Bakhurst has sent the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee (PAC) fresh documentation around the musical, telling members the document is the earliest known version of the project’s business case. The musical would go on to lose €2.2m, despite the internal business case projecting multi-million euro profits over a three-year period.

The internal report, seen by The Irish Times, warns that “musicals are a notoriously difficult endeavour and success in this market is dependent on delivery of a product that exceeds significant expectations”.

The document, from November 2021, also warned the Christmas period was “well served with many well-established events occupying prime calendar dates”.


Furthermore, “RTÉ's expertise is predominantly in broadcast output rather than events, particularly commercial events, and RTÉ's dedicated public events team is small and stretched in delivering the current slate”.

There would be “significant upfront funding” required to develop production, while the events would also require a lot of personnel resources “at a time when RTÉ is losing a significant number of staff”.

Despite the warnings, the business case estimated a profit of €704,870 for year one, € 1,095,870 for year two and €1,226,028 for year three.

Auditors Grant Thornton said in a recent report that the musical 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 Grant Thornton analysis 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.

Former RTÉ chair Siún Ní Raghallaigh said the Grant Thornton report clearly illustrated that the board “was not kept appropriately informed about the project as it was being developed” and the “commercial risks associated with an undertaking of this nature were grossly underestimated”.

She also said, however, it was clear that RTÉ executives “should have been interrogated by the board on the project, on an ongoing basis and in a much more rigorous fashion. In this regard the board acknowledge that they should have asked more questions, and it is a source of regret for each member that they did not. We take collective responsibility for the Board’s responsibility in this debacle.”

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Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times