Toy Show the Musical report: Four new things we learned about controversial flop

Report details overstated sponsorship figures, ‘wildly optimistic’ projections and a ‘disappointing’ reality

Toy Show The Musical. Photograph: Ste Murray

The long awaited report by Grant Thornton into RTÉ's controversial Toy Show the Musical (TSTM) production was published on Thursday. Here are four key findings that we learned:

Sponsorship overstated

The amount the musical drew in through sponsorship was significantly overstated from €45,000 to €120,000, the report found.

After a difficult run starting in December 2022, amid low ticket sales and the cancellation of several shows due to illness among the cast, the musical had made a loss of more than €2 million.

Figures presented to an RTÉ board meeting and an audit committee meeting afterwards in early 2023 overstated the amount of sponsorship the production had brought in by €75,000. Some €75,000 earned from TV and radio advertising was incorrectly attributed to sponsorship income from the musical, with “no objective justification”, the report found.


The Grant Thornton report said at the time of the overstatement the losses from the production were known, so the accounting “did not materially affect the overall scale of the loss”. The report said that, on balance, misstating €75,000 as coming from TSTM sponsorship “would not have significantly improved the reported loss” of the production.

No board or audit committee sign off

As senior RTÉ executives’ plans for the production were ramping up, the report found a commitment to bring the project to the board’s audit committee never happened.

Senior RTÉ managers discussed the show at an executive meeting on March 1st, 2022, which heard the musical looked like a “phenomenal project”. Notes stated the “next steps” would be for the plans to be brought to the RTÉ board’s audit and risk committee, which the Grant Thornton report found did not happen.

Later that month some board members were invited to a briefing about what was only described beforehand as an “exciting” opportunity RTÉ “will be announcing shortly”.

Senior figures interviewed said they felt there had been “implicit approval” for the musical when it was discussed during an April 28th, 2022 board meeting, a claim several directors rejected. Board members recalled a “briefing” provided at the meeting about the musical as a “fait accompli”, rather than a request for the green light.

The report said a May 26th, 2022 board meeting was the first time a written presentation on the musical was circulated to directors, nearly two weeks after the launch of the production on the Late Late Show. Grant Thornton concluded that while board approval would have been required, there was “no evidence” of directors signing off on the musical.

Contracts signed before board heard about project

The report outlined the contract to book out the 1,995 seat-capacity Convention Centre for the musical was signed before the board formally hearing about the project.

Emails show that while RTÉ board members did not learn of the project until late March 2022, the broadcaster had been in negotiations to rent out the Convention Centre since at least November 2021.

The contract was signed on April 19th, 2022, nine days before directors first discussed the musical at a board meeting. The report said RTÉ spent more than €660,000 on venue hire and production set up, one of the single largest costs of the project.

Ticket projections versus ‘disappointing’ reality

Ambitious projections detailed in internal presentations estimated the musical could make a box office profit of €1.2 million if it sold more than 100,000 tickets across 54 shows.

The report stated that “at no point in time” were tickets on sale for any more than 35 shows, meaning ticket sales and the number of shows “represented a significant risk” that the musical would not break even.

In the end just 11,044 tickets were sold, with large amounts given away for free in promotions. The report laid out how some people inside RTÉ raised concerns at the low uptake after the musical was first launched.

While a May 2022 board meeting was told that ticket sales were “good”, in fact a little over 5,000 had been sold at that point. A breakdown shows in one month, July, just 72 tickets were sold. Sales picked up closer to the opening of the musical in December, but not significantly.

One figure interviewed in the report said the initial take-up of “3,000 tickets out of 108,000 was very disappointing”. However, at that point RTÉ were “locked in” to the production and could not countenance pulling the plug.

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Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times