An Oireachtas committee has heard that musical theatre should be treated equally to other art forms including opera, theatre and dance where funding is concerned.

The Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media today heard from performers, producers and educators working in musical theatre here and in the UK.

The tenor and West End performer Killian Donnelly told the committee that although he has been working in musical theatre in London since 2006, it was 2018 before he got to perform professionally on an Irish stage.

Mr Donnelly played the role of Jean Valjean in Les Misérables in the West End and the production subsequently toured the UK and Ireland, including performances at the Bord Gáis theatre in Dublin in 2008 which, he said was the first time he was able to perform at home in a professional show.

He said at the moment he is based in the UK and flies home to his family once a week, that there are others in the UK like him and that musical theatre needs to be seen not as a hobby, but a way of life.

Director Séimí Campbell who works in the UK and is also currently directing Toy Show The Musical said it can be very hard to get funding for musicals as they are seen as ‘commercial’.

He is also artistic director of Irish Youth Musical Theatre which he says does not receive Arts Council funding even though it works with groups like the National Symphony Orchestra.

Mr Campbell says although they are seen as 'commercial' - musicals are a 'massive beast' in terms of cost.

Deirdre Masterson of the Irish College of Music Theatre said musical theatre is not recognised as a separate entity but is caught between the two stools of arts funding – there is funding for theatre, dance etc she said, but no clear structure for musical theatre and she called for musical theatre to be given a funding structure similar to theatre and opera.

Deborah Kelleher of the Royal Irish Academy of Music musical theatre is probably the most popular art form in the world and has huge societal benefits.

But she said it is expensive and needs ringfenced additional support.

Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne proposed that the committee write to the Arts Council to see if musical theatre could be recognised as an art form similar to music and dance and opera and if they would outline their strategy to promote and develop musical theatre in Ireland.

He also suggested writing to the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment to see if musical theatre can be incorporated on the secondary school curriculum.