David King (theatre producer)

David King (theatre producer)

David King (born 13 April 1956) is an English composer and producer of musical theatre.

Theatre producer David King pictured at home

King has achieved international popular success in musical theatre, and his management of 20 theatre companies performing around the world has been referred to as "one of the biggest dance organisations in Britain, and certainly the largest in light entertainment."[1]

His first musical Spirit of the Dance has been running for almost 15 years in theatres across the globe since its debut at Bristol Hippodrome in September 1996.[2] Spirit of the Dance soon became one of the world's biggest dance shows and, in the period 1998 to 2000, there were 14 different troupes simultaneously performing the show in 14 different countries.[3] It has received nine global awards, including best choreography and best international production, and has been seen by 30 million people worldwide.[4] It has broken box office records in 15 countries.[5] King has been said to be on a mission to bring musicals to the masses.[6] His international production company, Spirit Productions, currently has around 20 shows on global tour.[7] He employs around 500 dancers, singers and technical crew[8] and owns two theatres[9] in which his companies play for most of the year; the 2,600 capacity Palace Theatre in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and the Branson Variety Theatre in Branson, Missouri. King's American operations are handled from his US headquarters, located at his theatre in Myrtle Beach. King has several ongoing contracts to supply major casinos in the US with entertainment. He is also one of the principal suppliers of entertainment to the Casino de Monte Carlo in Monaco and he has recently produced an erotic burlesque show which is running indefinitely at the adjoining Cabaret nightclub.[10] King's companies tour the US, Europe, Australia and the Far East constantly.

In 2011, he was the subject of a six episode television documentary about his work producing shows. Dancing King: Man in the Mirror was commissioned by Discovery Networks UK.[11] In September 2011, the show was broadcast on ABC2 in Australia. [12]


Early life

David King was born in the Alwoodley district of Leeds, the only son of Stanley and Trudie King. His parents were both performers, having met when his father worked as a music hall comedian and his mother was a dancer.[13] From the age of seven, King was considered a classical protege on the piano and gave concerts in Leeds Town Hall. However, at 12 years old he turned his back on the rigours of classical training in favour of playing with his friends. With his sisters Wendy and Linda, he grew up in a household full of music and every weekend family members would gather to perform in or watch concerts which King organised.[14]

King attended Roundhay School in Leeds until the age of 15 when he left to become a self employed market trader.[8] He sold ladies clothing and, later, moved into jewellery retail. He maintained an interest in music and wrote musical compositions.

Professional career

A poster for the show Spirit of the Dance

In the spring of 1996, King was struggling to forge a successful career in stage management and as an agent in entertainment when he went to see the Irish dance musical Riverdance at the Hammersmith Apollo theatre, starring Michael Flatley. Struck by the phenomenal success of the show, he decided to capitalise on demand for Irish dance and put together his own musical performance, which he called Spirit of the Dance.[8] Riverdance was not scheduled to go to provincial theatres around the UK at that time but the show had created a huge demand and Spirit of the Dance, which also incorporated tango, flamenco and salsa, would step in to meet the demand.[15]

As an unknown, King could not secure financial backing and needed to raise £250,000 to launch his dream. He sold all his possessions, including his house, car and family silver to raise the funds.[16] King singlehandedly wrote the plot and used musical score and songs he had written and boxed away in his younger years. He developed the entire show within three months and tickets for the first week at the Bristol Hippodrome sold out within four hours.[17] He credits his working class Jewish background with giving him determination, good salesmanship and the skills to persuade people to work for him when he could not afford to pay them.[18]

At the end of a four month tour of UK theatres, Spirit of the Dance was declared the season's box office winner in Pollstar, an international trade magazine, and calls from around the world for the show began to flood in. King invested the money he had made[19] to polish the show and take it to the US, Australia, the Far East and South Africa. Within two years, there were 14 companies of Spirit of the Dance appearing in 14 different countries at the same time and the show became one of the biggest dance shows in the world.[3]

After four years of concentrating on Spirit of the Dance, King went on to broaden his portfolio of musical productions. There are currently 22 shows in King's portfolio, all of which he created, financed and produced himself.

A poster for the show Man in the Mirror

Man in the Mirror - The Michael Jackson Show - celebrates three decades of music from the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, including all his number one hits. The show does not attempt to stitch the songs together with a storyline unlike some other tribute shows and has been described as an evening of crowd-pleasing Jackson numbers, energetically performed and pumped out at high volume. Screen tributes come from singers Janet Jackson, Liza Minnelli, Justin Timberlake, Quincy Jones, and Whitney Houston.[20]

In March 2011, a TV documentary, Dancing King: Man in the Mirror, was shown on the DMAX channel. The six part series from Mighty Fine Productions followed King for six months and showed him working on his latest production and auditioning cast members in London, New York and Monte Carlo.[21] King was joined on the audition panel by TV actress Claire Sweeney and King's own daughter Sophie from popular girl band The Dolly Rockers. A clip from the show which included his family was shown on Harry Hill's TV Burp, a British television comedy programme on ITV hosted by comedian Harry Hill. King has readily admitted that when he creates a new production, it is not necessarily his love of the particular music that drives him but whether the show idea can be financially viable.[22] In April 2011, King offered Jackson fan Mohamed Al-Fayed a role in the musical. The offer followed Fayed's unveiling of a statue of the singer at the Fulham Football Club ground which he owns in south London.[23]

In November 2011, King paid tribute to his close friend Sir Jimmy Savile, the disc jockey and Jim'll Fix It television presenter who died two days short of his 85th birthday. Both men were born in Leeds and had known each other for 35 years. King repeated Savile's wish to be buried in his favourite tracksuit and with one of his trademark cigars. [24]

'Le Grand Cirque' is an acrobatics and stunt show drawing on the traditions of circus acts from Russia, China and Eastern Europe. It has a cast of 39, featuring performers from China, Mongolia, Russia, Mexico, the United States, Great Britain and Australia. In 2008-2009 it twice broke box office records after opening at the Sydney Opera House, Australia.[25] It has been referred to as a theatrical blend of eye-popping feats of human endeavour and a modern day indoor circus.[26]

King also operates an international management and agency company, Spirit Artists, which supplies music acts to corporate events and private clients. He has worked with major acts including Sir Elton John, Leona Lewis, Andrea Bocelli, Vanessa Mae, Liza Minnelli, Simply Red, Lily Allen, Duffy, Lionel Ritchie, Gloria Estefan and Jamie Cullum.[7]


David King awarded an honorary doctorate

King was awarded an honorary doctorate for his major contribution to the performing arts industry by Middlesex University on 22 July 2011.[27] The award was presented as part of the university’s annual graduation celebrations and more than 300 performing arts students received their degree certificates during the same ceremony. King described the honorary doctorate as a great honour and encouraged students to be focused and determined in pursuing their careers.[28] The Middlesex University vice chancellor, Michael Driscoll, presented King with his award and said King's skill and determination made him an example for graduates to follow.[29]

Spirit Shows productions

A poster for the show Le Grand Cirque
Spirit of the Dance

Irish dance combined with tango, flamenco and salsa. King's first show opened in September 1996 at the Bristol Hippodrome and is still running today in theatres across the world.

Man in the Mirror

A tribute to Michael Jackson, the King of Pop. Songs include Bad, Thriller, Beat It, Black or White and Earth Song. After premiering in May 2010 at Kings Palace Theatre in Myrtle Beach where the show was made, the production transferred to the UK where it opened in Leeds, King's hometown. It then moved to the Casino de Monte Carlo where it headlined their summer season. It now tours internationally.

Le Grand Cirque

An acrobatics and stunt show, Le Grand Cirque opened a UK tour at the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, in March 2007. In 2008-2009 it twice broke box office records after opening at the Sydney Opera House, Australia.

Spice - the Show

King's burlesque show is a resident production at the cabaret theatre adjoining the Casino de Monte Carlo in Monaco. It opened in December 2010 and King conducted auditions for the show in London in April 2011.[30] None of the names of the 14 women and two men in the cast for the two hour topless show are revealed.[10]

Debbie Reynolds
'Alive and Fabulous'

US movie star Debbie Reynolds' tour of the UK in 2010 culminated in a season at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London's West End.[31] The show was produced, directed and promoted by King.

A poster for the show Rock around the Clock
Rock around the Clock

A parade of 1950s rock and roll classics including music made famous by Buddy Holly, Bill Haley, Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley. Touring since 2009, there are touring troupes of this show in the UK and US, and a resident version at King's Branson Variety Theatre in Branson, Missouri, USA.

Dancing Queen

A cast of 20 dancers and singers perform Abba hits and party classics from the 1970s. It was first made in 2006 and has toured the UK several times, as well as having been performed in casinos in Atlantic City, Reno, and Niagara Falls, Canada.

Solid Gold Motown

A tour of the classics by Motown artists. Songs include Dancing in the Street, Reach Out I'll Be There and Stop in the Name of Love. The show was first conceived in 2005 and has toured ever since with a cast of 16 performers plus a live band.

The Twelve Irish Tenors

Irish classics, opera, pop and swing. Songs include Danny Boy, Cockles and Mussels, My Way and Hey Jude. The show has toured Europe and the US and a resident version is performed at the Branson Variety Theatre.

Twist and Shout

A musical journey through the 1960s which toured the UK in 2009 and 2010. The cast is made up of four singers and 10 dancers and songs include Twist and Shout and Can't Buy Me Love.

A poster for the show Strictly Tap Dance Fever
Strictly Tap Dance Fever

A celebration of tap dance, jive and swing. The show has been touring since 2009 and features tap dance routines made popular in the 1920s through to modern tap from the year 2000. The show includes tributes to Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly.

Red Hot Broadway

A tribute to Broadway productions including Phantom of the Opera, Cabaret, Chicago, Cats, 42nd Street, Hairspray, and Les Miserables. It was first made in 2002 and has toured the world, including venues in China, South Africa and Europe. A cast of four singers and 12 dancers recreate show tunes including 'One' from Chorus Line and All that Jazz from Chicago.

The Spirit of Christmas

A New York style festive show including White Christmas, and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. The show premiered in 2002 and is performed each year in November and December in theatres across the US. It is based on the format of the Radio City Rockettes in New York.

I Can't Stop Loving You

A recreation of the music of Ray Charles. The show was first produced in 2007 at the Eldorado Casino in Reno, Nevada, USA. It transferred to London's West End, and played at the Theatre Royale, Haymarket. It then went on to tour the UK, Europe and the US. The show has an eight piece live band, eight dancers and six singers.

A poster for the show The Tenors
  • The Tenors

A corporate show modelled on the success of Il Divo. Seven of the 12 Irish Tenors perform at private functions.

Frank, Dean and Sammy

A tribute to the Rat Pack, featuring three American 'lookalikes' of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. The three stars perform with three back-up female singers and an eight-piece swing band. The show has appeared in casinos in the US and has toured the UK and Europe since 2004. Songs include My Way and That's Amore.


A 1970s and 1980s disco show. The anthem songs include "Footloose", "Night Fever", "Fame", "Car Wash", "Relax", "Eye of the Tiger", "What a Feeling" and "YMCA".

Cirque Hilarious

A mix of surreal comedy and acrobatic mayhem. The show first appeared in 2007 and was the first comedy production amongst King's productions.

Erotiq de Paris

A late night casino production for adult audiences only. This show was the prototype for his new production 'Spice- the Show' in Monte Carlo.

Sin City Rocks

An adult-only rock party show.

Personal life

King has five daughters and four grandchildren. He spends part of the year in Monaco and part in the US. He also tours extensively with his shows and visits family in the UK regularly.


  1. ^ Peter Hepple "Crowning Glory" "The Stage", 17 March 2005
  2. ^ [1] "Preview: Spirit of the Dance at the Liverpool Empire" "The Liverpool Echo", 11 June 2011
  3. ^ a b Laura Davis, [2] "Spirit of the Dance producer David King on how to make a successful show" "The Liverpool Daily Post", 14 June 2011
  4. ^ [3] "Spirit of the Dance" "theatrebristol.net"
  5. ^ Simon Wilson "The Whole World at their Feet" "Nottingham Evening Post", 5 April 2011
  6. ^ Sarah Freeman, [4] "Life in the limelight for mogul of the musicals", "The Yorkshire Post", 19 May 2011
  7. ^ a b Kari Rosenberg, [5] "Talent Show Secrets of the Dancing King", "totallyjewish.com", 5 May 2011
  8. ^ a b c [6] "Life in the limelight for mogul of the musicals", "The Yorkshire Post", 19 May 2011
  9. ^ [7] "Producer's pride as circus rolls into his home town", "The Yorkshire Post", 24 July 2009
  10. ^ a b Liz Arratoon [8] "Spice - The Show", "The Stage", 25 January 2011
  11. ^ Kelly Anderson, [9] "Discovery enlists celebrities for its MIPTV offerings", "realscreen.com", 24 March 2011
  12. ^ [10] "Dancing King: Man In The Mirror", "ABC Television"
  13. ^ [11]"David King: Meet Moortown's own international theatre producer"], 29 July 2009
  14. ^ [12] "David King: Meet Moortown's own international theatre producer", "Roundhay Today", 29 July 2009
  15. ^ Victoria Finlay "New Lord of the Irish Dance" "South China Morning Post", [13], Jaunary 30, 2000
  16. ^ [14] "Producer's pride as circus rolls into his home town", "The Yorkshire Post", 24 July 2009
  17. ^ The Sunday Times Perth, Australia, 27 June 1999
  18. ^ Risking it all on dance, The Jerusalem Post, 15 January 2008
  19. ^ From stage hand to the Irish King, The Daily Telegraph Sydney, Australia, 19 May 1999
  20. ^ John Jeffay, [15] "Review: Man in the Mirror", "The Jewish Chronicle", 29 July 2010
  21. ^ Kelly Anderson, [16] "Discovery enlists celebrities for its MIPTV offerings", "Real Screen", 24 March 2011
  22. ^ Kari Rosenberg, [17] "Talent Show Secrets of the Dancing King", "TotallyJewish.com", 5 May 2011
  23. ^ Jamie Pyatt, [18] "Fayed lands part in Jacko musical", "The Sun", 14 April 2011
  24. ^ Aaron Tinney, [19] "Jimmy Savile's fixed it to be buried with cigar", "Daily Star", 1 November 2011
  25. ^ Chris Hook, [20] "High Flyers", "The Telegraph Australia", 1 January 2011
  26. ^ Christina Kennedy, [21] "Dazzling circus with a contemporary twist", "Sunday Times South Africa", 1 August 2010
  27. ^ [22] "Internationally Acclaimed Producer Honoured by Middlesex University", 22 July 2011
  28. ^ [23] "Internationally Acclaimed Producer Honoured by Middlesex University", 22 July 2011
  29. ^ [24] "Internationally Acclaimed Producer Honoured by Middlesex University", 22 July 2011
  30. ^ [25] "Brazen babes' Burlesque bid", "The Sun Online", 26 April 2011
  31. ^ [26] "Hit show with plenty of spirit", "Ripley and Heanor News", 17 April 2011

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