Martin McCallum (1950 - 2024) Managing Director of Cameron Mackintosh Ltd, 1981 – 2000 and Vice Chairman, 2000 - 2003
Martin McCallum's death is a great shock. Martin was a brilliant organiser of theatre and he had an extraordinary grasp of how shows are put together, both practically and financially. Before working for me he had worked as Production Manager for Laurence Olivier at the Old Vic and had helped Peter Hall move the National Theatre onto the South Bank. He also helped the Impresario Robert Stigwood stage his many musical successes around the world.
Martin joined my Company in 1981 after Cats opened and was hugely instrumental, along with Nick Allott, in establishing my Company as a major world-wide theatre business, allowing me the time to concentrate on creating new shows. Separately, he was a tireless supporter of the subsidised theatre sector and for many years was both Chairman of the Donmar Warehouse and an influential President of the Society of West End Theatre.
My Companies’ ongoing success are in no small part due to the enduring foundations Martin laid so wisely in the '80's and 90's. We are all very sad at his loss and our hearts go out to his family especially to his dear youngest sons Gabriel and Fabian.
Martin McCallum was born in Blackpool on 6 April 1950. He was educated at Frensham Heights, an arts orientated school near Farnham, and briefly at Guildford Technical College before beginning his theatrical career in 1967 as an ASM at the Castle Theatre Farnham. After a number of years in rep he became a production manager at the Old Vic, then home to the National Theatre and under the leadership of Laurence Olivier. He managed numerous shows at the National, including Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night (1971), starring Olivier and Constance Cummings, and the premiere production of Harold Pinter's No Man's Land (1975), with John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson. Martin remained at the National Theatre after Olivier's departure and in 1975 worked on the opening of the NT on the South Bank with director Peter Hall.
He left the National Theatre in 1978 and, with his colleague Richard Bullimore, established The Production Office in Covent Garden. It was the first technical and general production management firm of its kind that was quickly engaged to supervise shows including Zeffirelli’s Filumena, Harold Prince’s Evita & Sweeney Todd and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar. In 1981 their engagement to work on Cats and contribution to its success led to Cameron asking Martin to join his company. It was clear they would need to expand to accommodate the international rollout of productions of this and subsequent shows such as Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera and Miss Saigon. Martin offered Consulting as part of their service and Cameron asked him to help restructure Cameron Mackintosh Ltd. It quickly became apparent that Martin’s role at CML could not be achieved part time and Cameron invited him to become Managing Director of the company. Thus began a relationship which saw them opening offices in New York, France and Australia and creating a financial and organisational structure that survives today. Abroad, they worked to transform the way Broadway productions were managed and how touring in the US was set up and financed. Martin loved the detail of production and had exceptional organisational skills that he used to create the support and structure for Cameron’s big picture.
In tandem he loved the architecture of theatre buildings, both restoring old and building new and with the then Technical Director Peter Roberts he created a new Company, Cameron Mackintosh Consultants, which worked not only on Cameron’s own theatres in the West End but on building projects in the US, Asia and Germany. He also worked closely with Freddie Gershon, Chairman of the Broadway licensing company Music Theatre International, when Gershon invited Cameron to buy into MTI and take its operation into the 21st Century.
It was a chance encounter with Cameron’s Australian publicist, Mary Ann Rolfe, in Sydney for the opening of Cats in 1985 that began his love affair with both her and Australia and where, having commuted between both countries for several years he eventually decided to settle, designing and building his dream house on Palm Beach looking over the sea and winning architectural awards in the process.
Other shows Martin produced include Matthew Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands, winner of the New York Drama Desk Award in 2007, Philip Quast – Live at the Donmar, Spider Man, The Cripple of Inishmaan, Dirty Dancing. From 1992 to 2003 he was Chairman of the Donmar Warehouse and from 2005 to 2014 was on the Board of Sydney Theatre Company.
Martin became President of the Society of London Theatre in 1999, the previous year having initiated The Wyndham Report that studied the economic impact of London’s West End Theatre. He was on the Arts Council of England’s Drama Panel (1999-2003), and a member of its Advisory Task Group (2003-2005). He was also a member of London’s Cultural Strategy Group (2000-2003).
Martin died peacefully in Sydney on 14 January 2024 aged 73 and is profoundly missed by his partner Gwynne and his five children.