From Fleabag to SIX: 7 shows launched by Edinburgh Fringe

Playbill goes to the fringe

Of Flea bag at SIX: 7 shows launched by Edinburgh Fringe

The success of these shows at the festival catapulted them to stages and screens around the world.


Abby Mueller, Samantha Pauly, Adrianna Hicks, Andrea Macasaet, Brittney Mack and Anna Uzele in Six
Joan Marcus

The path to the big stage often starts somewhere smaller, and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has proven to be an important incubator for theater and comedy shows that find their way to the West End and Broadway. Held every August, the world’s largest arts festival has presented more than 3,000 performances in more than 300 venues in recent years.

From the solo exhibition of Phoebe Waller-Bridge Flea bagnow adapted for television, to the pop musical Tudor SIX, read on to discover seven shows launched by Edinburgh Fringe. Playbill writers Margaret Hall and Leah Putnam tackle this year’s festival and its shows that may one day become a hit as part of Playbill Goes Fringe. Check out Playbill Goes Fringe: Meet the Correspondents Who Will Cover the Good, the Surprising, and the Weird, at Edinburgh Fringe to learn more about how to track and “live” the experience with them.

Cambridge Circus
In 1963, Cambridge University’s Footlights Dramatic Club theater group presented A group of skirting boards at Fringe. The revue’s festival success led to a move to the West End and a new title, Cambridge Circus. After the show’s London run, he toured New Zealand in 1964, then made his Broadway debut in October 1964 at the Plymouth Theatre. Co-written by its original cast, the show was created by Tim Broke-Taylor, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, David Hatch, Bill Oddie, Chris Stuart-Clark, Jo Kendall and Tony Buffery with music by Oddie. The show had 23 Broadway performances before moving to Off-Broadway at 15 West Fourth Street. Cleese and Chapman would go on to perform as part of Monty Python.

Jean Hart, David Hatch, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Bill Oddie and John Cleese in Cambridge Circus
Courtesy of New York Public Library Digital Collections

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead
Absurd and Existential by Tom Stoppard Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead was staged at Edinburgh Fringe in 1966 by Oxford Theater Group, the first time the full play was performed. Exploring two minor characters from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern pass the time playing games, including Questions. It then made its debut at the Old Vic Theater in London on April 11, 1967. Transferred to Broadway in October of the same year for a one-year run, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead was Stoppard’s first Broadway play. He performed at the Alvin Theater, then transferred to the Eugene O’Neill Theater. Winner for four of its eight Tony nominations, the production took home Best Play, Best Scenic Design, Best Drama Producer and Best Costume Design.

Brian Murray and John Wood in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead
Martha Swope / Courtesy of New York Public Library Digital Collections

A constant of New York’s Off-Broadway offerings, stomp held previews in 1991 at the Bloomsbury Theater in London before making its official premiere at the Assembly Rooms during the Edinburgh Fringe the same year. Created, produced and directed by Steve McNicholas and Luke Cresswell, the show enjoyed success which led to a tour with the original cast until 1994. After the tour it performed at Sadler’s Wells Theater in London, winning for the one of his two Olivier nominations. The long-running production began its run at New York’s Orpheum Theater in February 1994 with the original cast and continues to run at the Off-Broadway Theater to this day.

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Cast stomp
Steve McNicholas

Jerry Springer: The Opera
After two passes during development in 2001 and 2002, Jerry Springer: The Opera received a gig at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2002, where he was seen by the show’s inspiration, Jerry Springer himself. Following its Fringe run, new National Theater manager Nicholas Hytner offered the show a spot in its inaugural season. The fully staged production hit the London stage in April 2003, completing its run in September before a transfer to the Cambridge Theater in the West End and a UK tour.

Terrence Mann and Will Swenson

Flea bag
Originally a solo show, Phoebe Waller-Bridge was challenged by a friend to write a 10-minute sketch for a standing party. From this challenge, Flea bag was born. Waller-Bridge performed the show at Edinburgh Fringe’s Underbelly in 2013, winning a Fringe First Award. It was then transferred to the Soho Theater in London and adapted for the screen. Co-produced by BBC Three and Amazon, the TV show premiered its first season in 2016 and a second in 2019.


Phoebe Waller Bridge
Joan Marcus

SIX: The Musical
Tony winners Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss staged their musical for the first time SIX, a historic Tudor pop remix about the six women who married King Henry VIII of England at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017. A student at Cambridge, Marlow was selected by the Cambridge University Musical Theater Society to write a new musical for the group of students performing at the festival. Once he had the idea, Marlow brought in Lucy Moss to co-write the show while studying for their senior year final. SIX sold out his Fringe run and was brought to the West End for four performances at the Arts Theatre. The show then toured the UK, returned to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2018, and returned to the West End. Since establishing its current run in the West End, SIX opened productions on Broadway, in Australia, New Zealand and on Norwegian Cruise Lines, in addition to several touring productions.

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Adrianna Hicks, Andrea Macasaet, Abby Mueller, Anna Uzele, Brittney Mack and Samantha Pauly
Joan Marcus

The shark is broken
Written by Ian Shaw and Joseph Nixon, The shark is broken had a three-day run at the Rialto Theater in Brighton before making its Edinburgh Fringe debut in 2019. Staged in Assembly George Square, the play tells the story of what happened behind the scenes among the main cast of the 1975 blockbuster movie Jaws which featured Shaw’s father, Robert Shaw. Postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the show opened in the West End at the Ambassadors Theater on October 9, 2021 and ran until February 13, 2022. It won the 2022 Olivier Award for Best Entertainment or Comedy . The show will have its North American premiere at the Royal Alexandra Theater in Toronto in the fall of 2022.

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Demetri Goritsas, Ian Shaw and Liam Murray Scott in The shark is broken
Helen Maybanks

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