Two West End stars left their roles in major shows this weekend. On Saturday night (29 May) Jason Donovan left Priscilla Queen of the Desert at the Palace Theatre and Broadway star Will Swenson left Hair at the Gielgud Theatre.
Fans and cast members paid tribute to Jason Donovan on Saturday 29 May as he shimmied in his fabulous shoes and frocks for the final time in Priscilla Queen of the Desert at the Palace Theatre in London, after 14 months and over 450 performances.
On Jason’s Facebook page, fan Laura Harvey said: “So sad that it’s your last Priscilla…. you will be greatly missed”. Cast mate Amy Edwards posted on Twitter that, “am going to miss him loads! He’s a fantastic performer and an amazing person”, and Oliver Thornton, who plays Adam in the show said: “So sad to lose my playmate and friend from the show”.
Ben Richards from ITV’s The Bill takes over Donovan’s role from 1 July. Richards is an accomplished musicals actor having played numerous roles in high-profile West End shows including Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls, Danny Zuko in Grease, Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever and Jerry Lukowski in The Full Monty.
In a theatrical circle of life, Saturday also saw Broadway star Will Swenson leave Hair The Musical in the West End – in order to take on Jason Donovan’s role of Tick in a new Broadway production of Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
Swenson, who was Tony Award-nominated for his performance as Berger in Hair, will open in Priscilla in Toronto in October for 12 weeks before moving the show to Broadway.
The Broadway production will also see Tony Sheldon, who played Bernadette in the Australian and London productions of Priscilla, reprise his role.
Steel Burkhardt, a company member in the original Broadway production and the West End transfer, has taken over Swenson’s role as Berger. Hair marked Burkhardt’s Broadway and West End debuts.
Hair will close at the Gielgud Theatre on 4 September 2010.
In other HAIR news, Gavin Creel, fellow Broadway and now London cast member of the show, will make his solo debut in London this summer. He will play one night only at the Pigalle Club in London’s West End on 20 July. See Facebook for further information.
Valid Monday to Friday performances from the 19th April until the 18th June Excludes 3rd May and 31st May to the 4th June
Winner of 10 Tony awards, BILLY ELLIOT is the worldwide smash-hit based on the acclaimed film. Billy Elliot the Musical- now playing at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London - is an inspirational story of one boy’s dream to realise his ambitions against the odds. Set in the North East of England against the background of the historic 1984/85 miners’ strike, Billy pursues his passion for dance in secret to avoid disapproval of his struggling family.
The award-winning creative team behind the film, writer Lee Hall, director Stephen Daldry and choreographer Peter Darling are joined by the incomparable Sir Elton John to create a musical that is funny, uplifting and immensely entertaining.
MORE ABOUT BILLY ELLIOT
‘Billy Boy – this is the greatest musical yet” Daily Telegraph.
“Brit Musical of the decade has arrived” Daily Express.
“Billy’s a whizz! He’ll lift your spirits, make you cry and send you home high with hope” Daily Mail.
A funny, heart-warming and feel-good celebration of one young boy’s dream in a gripping tale of triumph over adversity. This original story captured the hearts and minds of the world when the movie was released in October 2000. Nominated for 3 Oscars and 13 Bafta awards this poignant film broke box office records across the world.
This brilliant new staging is an adaptation of one of the most adored British films of the last decade. The extraordinary movie written by Lee Hall, directed by Stephen Daldry and choreographed by Peter Darling, has been developed for the stage by the same multi-award winning creative team. The score has been composed by music legend Elton John, the most celebrated UK singer songwriter of the last 30 years.
Please note: Due to the prescence of bad language and violence, the producers of the show recommend that children under the age of 12 not be permitted to attend; however, children above the age of 7 will be admitted. Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
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US teen heart-throb Nick Jonas to star in Les Miserables at the Queens Theatre and O2 in London.
In a major coup for theatre impresario and Les Miserables producer Cameron Mackintosh, major pop star Nick Jonas will join the cast of the hit London show for three weeks, from 21 June. He will also join the cast of special one-off concert of the show at the o2 in London.
Member of globally successful boyband Jonas Brothers, Nick will play Marius in the London production of Les Mis.
17 year old Nick is no stranger to performing on stage, having played the role of Gavroche in Les Miserables on Broadway in 2003. He has also appeared in a number of other Broadway shows from the age of 7 years old onwards, including A Christmas Carol, Annie Get Your Gun, Beauty and the Beast and The Sound of Music.
Cameron Mackintosh, producer of Les Miserables, told the Daily Mail today that, “He and his father and I agreed that it would be great if he came and played Marius here in London.”
Nick and his brothers are currently performing a major series of concerts across the US.
Nick said today, “The amazing Cameron Macintosh reached out to me last year about portraying the role of Marius in London at the West End. When I was ten years old I was in Les Miserables as Gavroche. On my closing night in 2003 I told my parents that I would come back to be Marius one day. It is truly a dream come true. “I Dreamed a Dream” and they seem to be coming true”.
The Jonas Brothers, Kevin, Joe and Nick, released their first album, It’s About Time, in 2006, which spawned the TRL hit “Mandy”. Their next album, 2007′s Jonas Brothers, went platinum, as did their 2008 release A Little Bit Longer and 2009′s Lines, Vines and Trying Times. They found fame through the Disney Channel movie Camp Rock.
Les Miserables, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, is currently playing at the Queens Theatre in London as well as touring the UK. The tour will be coming to the Barbican Theatre in September starring Gareth Gates.
There will also be a special concert performance of Les Mis on Sunday 3 October at the O2 in London, featuring more than 300 actors and musicians, including Alfie Boe as Jean Valjean, Nick Jonas as Marius, Norm Lewis as Javert, Little Britain star Matt Lucas as Thenardier, Miss Saigon star Lea Salonga as Fantine, Jenny Galloway as Madame Thenardier, Camilla Kerslake as Cosette and the casts of the original production at the Queen’s Theatre, the UK touring production, including Gareth Gates, and members of the original 1985 London cast.
The news comes in the week that Mackintosh announced that his Broadway transfer of Hair would close early at the Gielgud Theatre in London. Originally booking until January 2011, the show will now end when the Broadway cast, who have all been brought over for the UK production, end their run in the show on 4 September.
June is proving to be a busy month for West End Theatre with a number of high-profile openings, including work from big name directors such as Sam Mendes, Richard Eyre and Matthew Warchus.
At the National Theatre, a revival of Terence Rattigan’s After The Dance starts previews from 1 June 2010 featuring Benedict Cumberbatch, and Richard Eye directs Moira Buffini’s new play Welcome to Thebes from 15 June. Also starting on the 15th is Tap Dogs at the Novello Theatre, which returns to London starring hot song and dance man Adam Garcia.
Wartime land girls play Lilies on the Land begins previews at the Arts Theatre from 8 June, and at the Almeida Ruth Wilson stars in a stage version of Ingmar Bergman’s Through a Glass Darkly from 10 June.
The Old Vic sees the next of its Bridge Project plays start on 12 June, in a new Sam Mendes production of As You Like It starring Stephen Dillane and Juliet Rylance.
Sticking with the Shakespeare theme, the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park starts previews of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors on 24 June, and the following day the Lyric Hammersmith transfers its sell-out fright-night chiller Ghost Stories to the Duke of York’s Theatre.
Finally, all-star, Broadway-bound comedy La Bete opens at the Comedy Theatre from 26 June starring Joanna Lumley, Mark Rylance and David Hyde Pierce.
MORE INFORMATION AND BOOKING
National Theatre, from 1 June 2010
With next year’s centenary of playwright Terence Rattigan fast approaching, expect to see a number of high-profile revivals of his work – both on stage and screen.
This new production of his 1939 play After the Dance is directed for the National by Thea Sharrock (The Misanthrope, Equus) and is a subtle expose of the hedonistic 1920s generation, dealing with themes of repression and love.
As the world races towards catastrophe, a crowd of Mayfair socialites party their way to oblivion. At its centre is David, who idles away his sober moments researching a futile book until the beautiful Helen decides to save him, shattering his marriage and learning too late the depth of both David’s indolence and his wife’s undeclared love. But with finances about to crash and humanity on the brink of global conflict, the drink keeps flowing and the revellers dance on.
Arts Theatre, from 8 June 2010
Lilies On The Land is moving and funny portrait of some of Britain’s pluckiest, unsung heroes. This charming, gripping tale celebrates the Women’s Land Army during World War II – an extraordinary episode in Britain’s history. This play charts the personal journeys of four women who sign up to become Land Girls, determined to work backbreaking hours on the land in a bid to do their bit for the war effort.
Based on letters and interviews with the original Land Girls, these women, who are all from different backgrounds and torn from their families, must survive the hardships of farming and the pressures of war. The cast of this compelling play features Rosalind Cressy, Sarah Finch, Dorothy Lawrence and Kali Peacock.
The Old Vic, from 12 June
Part of the successful Bridge Project – a transatlantic collaboration between the Old Vic in London and the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York – this year sees Oscar winning director Sam Mendes direct Shakespeare’s As You Like It and The Tempest.
The company is led by Stephan Dillane, Christian Camargo, Ron Cephas Jones and Juliet Rylance.
As You Like It is Shakespeare’s pastoral romantic comedy that features Juliet Rylance and Michelle Beck as the heroines Rosalind and Celia, and Christian Camargo and Thomas Sadoski as Orlando and Touchstone.
Young British actress Rylance, the daughter of acclaimed actor Mark Rylance, has appeared on stage both in New York and London, including Shakespeare’s Globe. Dillane, who plays Jacques in As You Like It, returns to the stage for the first time since winning a Tony Award for Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing.
Novello Theatre, from 15 June 2010
Tap Dogs is a worldwide hit that combines the strength and power of workmen with the precision and talent of tap dancing. The adrenalin-pumped cast of this award-winning show inject raw passion and power into the ultimate visual dance spectacular.
Adam Garcia started his career in 1992 in the Australian tour of Hot Shoe Shuffle – which transferred to the West End – and went on to perform in Grease, Saturday Night Fever, Wicked and as a judge on Sky 1 entertainment show Got To Dance.
Duke of York’s Theatre, from 25 June 2010
A truly terrifying theatrical experience written and directed by The League of Gentlemen’s master of the macabre, Jeremy Dyson, and Andy Nyman, co-creator and director of Derren Brown’s television and stage shows and star of Dead Set and Severance.
As three men gather together, each has an uncanny, chilling tale to tell. Ghost Stories played a hugely successful run at the Lyric Hammersmith before transferring to the Duke of York’s theatre in the West End. The show stars Nicholas Burns, David Cardy, Ryan Gage and Andy Nyman.
Strictly for theatregoers aged 16 and older.
“Brilliant and deeply unsettling” The Telegraph
“A pant-wetter of a night. It’s terrifying” Daily Mail
“Yes, I gulped and others screeched” The Times
“Hugely entertaining piece of theatre” The Stage
Comedy Theatre, from 26 June 2010
American playwright David Hirson’s rollicking 1991 play, La Bete is a comic tour de force about Elomire (David Hyde Pierce – “Frasier”), a high-minded classical dramatist who loves only the theatre, and Valere (Mark Rylance – “Jerusalem”), a low-brow street clown who loves only himself. When the fickle princess (Joanna Lumley – “Absolutely Fabulous”) decides she’s grown weary of Elomire’s royal theatre troupe, he and Valere are left fighting for survival as art squares off with ego in a literary showdown for the ages.
Other cast include Stephen Ouimette, Lisa Joyce, Greta Lee, Robert Lonsdale, Michael Milligan, Liza Sadovy and Sally Wingert. The play will be directed by Matthew Warchus and run for a limited season at the Comedy Theatre before heading to Broadway.
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The Fantasticks, The Crucible, All My Sons and Dream of the Dog
New shows starting this week in the West End include long-running Broadway musical The Fantasticks, which began previews at the Duchess Theatre last night. Also previewing from last night is The Crucible, Arthur Miller’s play at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park. Another Arthur Miller play, All My Sons, gets its first night premiere on Thursday 27 May at the Apollo Theatre starring David Suchet and Zoe Wanamaker. Also opening on Thursday 27 May is South African-set Dream of the Dog at the Trafalgar Studios starring Janet Suzman. Finally, previewing from this Thursday is Simon Gray’s play The Late Middle Classes at the Donmar Warehouse starring Helen McCrory, Eleanor Bron and Robert Glenister.
Duchess Theatre, from 24 May 2010
The world’s longest-running musical finally makes it to London after first wowing audiences on Broadway 50 years ago. Since its debut in 1960 it has played in over 2,000 cities and towns in 67 countries worldwide, and now makes its UK debut at the Duchess Theatre in London.
This brand new production of the much-loved musical is directed by Amon Miyamoto, bringing a fresh visual, emotional and musical energy to the show. The Fantasticks tells an allegorical story about two neighbouring fathers who put up a wall between their houses to ensure that their children fall in love, because they know children always do what their parents forbid.
After the children do fall in love, they discover their fathers’ plot and each go off and experience the world. Finally, they return to each other and appreciate the love they had after learning to recognise their true feelings.
An impressive cast includes David Burt (Les Miserables, Chess, Taboo), Edward Petherbridge (The Woman in White ), Clive Rowe (Chicago, Caroline, or Change), Carl Au (High School Musical), Luke Brady (Nightfall), Hadley Fraser (Peter Pan), Paul Hunter (The Fahrenheit Twins), and Lorna Want (Footloose The Musical).
Open Air Theare Regent’s Park, from 24 May 2010
One of Arthur Miller’s greatest plays, The Crucible is set amid the Salem witch hunts of the 1600s, in which a community is divided by jealousy and superstition.
The cast of this powerful new production includes Patrick O’Kane, Emma Cunniffe, Emily Taaffe, Oliver Ford Davies, Lucy May Barker, Charlie Cameron, Philip Cumbus, Anni Domingo, Susan Engel, Christopher Fulford, Patrick Godfrey, Christopher Hunter, Bettrys Jones, Paul Kemp, Geoff Leesley, Alexandra Mathie, Gary Milner, Ellie Paskell and Malcolm Rogers. The director is Timothy Sheader.
Apollo Theatre, opens 27 May 2010
All My Sons is Arthur Miller’s compelling story of forbidden love, loyalty, guilt and the corrupting power of greed, and marks the first great success of Miller’s influential career.
Acclaimed actors David Suchet and Zoe Wanamaker return to the West End to star in the play, directed by Howard Davies.
In All My Sons, Joe Keller (Suchet) is alleged to have supplied World War II fighter planes with defective engines, leading to the deaths of innocent pilots, a crime for which his business partner took the fall. One of Keller’s sons, himself a pilot, is thought to have been killed in action. His mother (Wanamaker) can’t accept his death and equally can’t accept that her dead son’s fiancée has transferred her affections to her other son. The confrontations that ensue lead to the uncovering of a world-shaking family secret.
Director Howard Davies previously won a Laurence Olivier Award for his 2000 production of All My Sons, which was staged at the National Theatre.
Trafalgar Studios, from 27 May 2010
Oscar nominated actress Janet Suzman returns to London to star in Dream of the Dog, a rich and complex story set in South Africa. Dream Of The Dog takes an unflinching look at the twin mantras of the post-Mandela age, reconciliation and forgiveness, asking whether black and white can ever live together peacefully.
The cast includes Janet Suzman alongside Ariyon Bakare, Gracy Goldman and Bernard Kay, is written by Craig Higginson and directed by Katie McAleese.
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London theatre tickets can be purchased from a number of sources including established ticket agencies such as UK Tickets, who offer a variety of shows including Wizard of Oz Tickets and Lion King Tickets.
The Wizard of Oz at the London Palladium
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s multi-million pound production of The Wizard of Oz starring Over The Rainbow winner Danielle Hope as Dorothy, Michael Crawford as the Wizard, Hannah Waddingham as the Wicked Witch of the West and Paul Keating as the Scarecrow.
The show will start performances on 7 February 2011 at the London Palladium (CLICK HERE TO BOOK TICKETS).
Lord Webber is producing the show, following his search for a Dorothy in BBC One’s Over The Rainbow.
The first stage version of L Frank Baum’s classic book was in 1902 starring Anna Laughlin. The 1939 MGM film starring Judy Garland is the most famous version of the show, and was adapted into a stage musical in 1945 by Frank Gabrielson for the St. Louis Municipal Opera. In 1987 the RSC produced a new stage musical version which was much closer to the film, and starred Imelda Staunton as Dorothy, who was nominated for an Olivier award for Outstanding Performance of the Year by an Actress in a Musical.
Andrew Lloyd Webber will look to add some new songs to the stage show: “The film worked fantastically but we need some new songs for the stage show”, said Lloyd Webber.
FURTHER INFORMATION ABOUT THE WIZARD OF OZ: