Home and Away’s Alf Stewart, aka Australian actor Ray Meagher, has joined the London cast of Priscilla Queen of the Desert this week at the Palace Theatre.
Ray plays ocker mechanic Bob who falls for Bernadette, one of the three Sydney drag queens who go bush across Australia in the fun show based on the hit movie.
Ray has already played the role of Bob in the Sydney run of the show, and will play London for a strictly limited time.
Other cast in the long-running show include The Bill’s Ben Richards as Tick, Oliver Thornton as Adam and Don Gallagher as Berndaette.
Krapp’s Last Tape at the Duchess Theatre – Round-up of reviews
Michael Colgan’s production of Samuel Beckett’s 1958 play, first seen at the Gate Theatre in Dublin, is a critical hit. After Michael Gambon was forced to pull out of the National’s The Habit of Art last year due to illness, the critics hailed his return to the stage and his extraordinary performance as nothing short of a triumph.
Read extracts from Krapp’s Last Tape reviews below, including The Times, The Telegraph, The Stage and The Guardian.
It’s a busy week for London theatre as comedy, Shakespeare, showgirls and Ben Barnes hit the West End stage.
OPENING THIS WEEK
Monday 27 September
Yes, Prime Minister opens at the Gielgud Theatre. Following a sell-out season at Chichester Festival Theatre, the original writers of the BBC series, Antony Jay & Jonathan Lynn, have reunited for this 30th anniversary production of Yes, Prime Minister starring Henry Goodman and David Haig. BOOK TICKETS
Tuesday 28 September
Birdsong opens at the Comedy Theatre. A new stage adaptation of Sebastian Faulks’ acclaimed novel Birdsong, adapted by Rachel Wagstaff, directed by Trevor Nunn and starring the Chronicles of Narnia’s Ben Barnes, Nicholas Farrell, Iain Mitchell, Genevieve O’Reilly and Lee Ross. BOOK TICKETS
Wednesday 29 September
Caroline O’Connor – The Showgirl Within opens at the Garrick Theatre. The international award-winning musicals star Caroline O’Connor is back in London with a new one-woman show following sell-out seasons in New York and Sydney. BOOK TICKETS
Traces opens at the Peacock Theatre. After a sell-out run in 2009, The 7 Fingers return to London with their fresh, urban and seriously high-energy smash-hit circus show Traces. Circus with a distinctly 21st century edge. BOOK TICKETS
Thursday 30 September
Hamlet starts previews at the National Theatre. Following his celebrated performances at the National in Burnt by the Sun , The Revenger’s Tragedy , Philistines and The Man of Mode, Rory Kinnear plays Hamlet, joined by Clare Higgins as Gertrude, Patrick Malahide as Claudius and David Calder as Polonius.
Pam Ann – Flying High opens at the Vaudeville Theatre. The fabulous Pam Ann will be winging her way into the Vaudeville Theatre featuring the glamorous Australian viper-tongued airline hostess from hell in an hilarious new show co-written by Pam Ann creator Caroline Reid. BOOK TICKETS
Saturday 2 October
All My Sons at the Apollo Theatre. Howard Davies’ powerful production of Arthur Miller’s classic play comes to an end at the Apollo, starring David Suchet and Zoe Wanamaker.
Flashdance The Musical starts previews Saturday at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London
After technical problems postponed the start of previews yesterday for Flashdance the Musical, the show starts tonight, 25 September, at the Shaftesbury Theatre, with its press night on 14 October 2010.
Based on the 80s movie about an 18 year old girl from Pittsburgh who is a welder by day and a ‘flashdancer” by night, the musical features the star of the UK tour, Victoria Hamilton Barritt, and former Busted boyband member Matt Willis.
The David Ian production is directed by Nikolai Foster with choreography by Arlene Phillips (Grease, Strictly Come Dancing), and the show’s well-known score includes Maniac, Manhunt, Gloria and the Academy Award winning title song Flashdance – What a Feeling. Ten original songs have also been created for the musical.
Saturday 25 September: The Prisoner of Second Avenue at the Vaudeville Theatre. Jeff Goldblum and Mercedes Ruehl end their run in Neil Simon’s brilliant New York comedy.
The Royal & Derngate Northampton’s latest production is a Phyllis Nagy reworking of Patricia Highsmith’s dark 50s novel The Talented Mr Ripley, famously turned into a film by the late Anthony Minghella.
The film served her book well, but watching this intelligent and powerful adaptation makes you realise how much more dark angst and psychological twisting and turning lies in this strange story. The key to Raz Shaw’s revival is a very talented cast; Matt Damon, who played the title role of Tom Ripley in the movie, was essentially miscast compared to Kyle Soller in the play. Soller gives nothing short of a powerhouse performance as eerie, dark and hugely magnetic Tom.
And it’s this magnetism that holds this period story together. A story about a troubled young social parasite, Tom Ripley, who is commissioned by a rich New York couple to journey to Italy to persuade their son, Richard Greenleaf, to return, but who turns to murder to fuel his ambition and deception.
You could argue it’s a pretty homophobic little tale: the gay man as twisted, deceiving, clever, talented, vain and arrogant serial killer. Ripley is talented in all the wrong ways, using a gay person’s creativity and charm as a mask for evil and wrongdoing. But in Nagy’s play it is hard to hate Tom Ripley, as we revel in his ability to outwit and beguile, despite his deadly deeds.
A strong supporting cast is led by the gorgeous pairing of Sam Heughan as Richard Greenleaf and Michelle Ryan as Marge Sherwood, with Miranda Foster in the dual roles of Emily Greenleaf and Tom’s aunt Dottie standing out for her beautiful comic timing.
For all the play’s casting success, the production felt a little inconsistent in places, particularly through direction and design. Elements of modern dance, back projection, overlapping scenes, freeze frame, slow motion, realism and expressionism are all shoved in there, together with a set that looks less 1950s Italy than 1970s Blackpool.
But it’s worth the ticket for Kyle Soller alone.
Les Miserables at the Barbican Theatre – Reviews Round-up
The critics were on a state of humble-pie alert when reviewing the new, 25th anniversary touring production of Les Miserables. The show has come back to where it all began, the Barbican theatre in London, for a celebratory hurrah. The first time they reviewed it, a number of critics gave it a good mauling, but 25 years and millions of pounds in box office takings later, they were gathered again, this time to rave and appreciate the success of the world’s longest running musical. They also celebrated the slimmed down new production, with new direction, sets (out with the revolve, in with projections) and costumes, despite the criticism of original directors Trevor Nunn and John Caird.
Read extracts from Les Miserables reviews below, including The Times, The Telegraph, The Stage and The Guardian.
Theatre veteran Michael Crawford is to reunite with Andrew Lloyd Webber 24 years after playing the original Phantom of the Opera.
The actor will take on the role of the Wizard in Lloyd Webber’s multi-million pound production of The Wizard of Oz at the London Palladium, starting 7 February 2011.
Crawford, 68, made his last appearance in the West End 7 years ago as Count Fosco in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Woman In White at the Palace Theatre, although had to leave the show early due to illness. He is most famous for playing Frank Spencer in BBC sitcom Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em.
Michael told the Daily Telegraph that, “I’ve been fortunate working with Andrew before so I thought there was no harm in trying again. We’re all very excited about the show. It’s a slightly different interpretation of the story and we are sort of developing our own character of the Wizard. He’s quite a crafty character. He was played by Frank Morgan very successfully in the film so I’ve got a lot to live up to.”
The show will also star Danielle Hope, 18, who won the BBC talent show Over the Rainbow to become Dorothy in the new production. The cast will also include Over The Rainbow runner-up Sophie Evans covering the part of Dorothy on Tuesdays and when Ms Hope is on holiday.
The major musical starts rehearsals in December featuring songs from the original Harold Arlen film score plus new songs penned from a reunited Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Rice and Lloyd Webber are arguably the world’s most successful living composer-lyricists with shows including Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar and Joseph.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group will produce the show, with performances starting from 7 February 2011 at the London Palladium. The creative team behind the 2006 revival of The Sound of Music, including director Jeremy Sams, designer Robert Jones and choreographer Arlene Phillips, will work on the show.
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.
We were delighted to read that Baz ‘Moulin Rouge’ Luhrmann is to bring his first movie – Strictly Ballroom – to the stage.
There is always much speculation about Baz converting his films into stage spectaculars (Moulin Rouge has been on the cards for ages), and their flamboyance and theatricality seem a natural fit with the sparkle of a show.
But as Baz tells Baz in the Daily Mail today, he’s unwilling to let just anyone have a play with his children: “A cynical version would have been to find some bright spark and say “Why don’t you go off and do a jukebox version and I turn up on opening night and go ‘Isn’t it lovely?”, which is clearly Baz having a dig at the general trend for stars and creatives to put their name to things without any creative input.
But he goes on, “One has to be both honest and true to what the movie was, but also daring with the execution on stage”, and in the new stage version he intends to “aggressively address the question of the theatrical invention one has to go through to make the piece alive, edgy and forward-moving”.
We love you Baz, we love Strictly Ballroom, and if anyone can reinvent musical theatre its you, but isn’t it simply a jolly old story set to sequins?
Just get on with it man.
Australian Entertainment company Global Creatures seems an odd choice for Baz Luhrmann to team up with on Strictly Ballroom, although they are clearly not short of money having hoovered up the rights to the show worldwide and forever. The company has mainly specialised in bringing animatronics to the stage having scored a huge success with the arena tour of Walking with Dinosaurs, and are in current development on a Broadway production of King Kong (yes, really) and DreamWorks Animation’s How to Train Your Dragon. We wonder if they will try popping a couple of animatronic ballroom dancers into Strictly?
Our favourite quote from Global Creatures CEO Carmen Pavlovic on the creation of King Kong for the new stage show: “If we put Kong in that very contained environment of a proscenium, we’ve got to make sure that in swiping his arms he doesn’t inadvertently knock over a cast member in the process. We had a lot to resolve before we did that.”
Passion at the Donmar Warehouse – Reviews Round-up
Passion is not the easy crowd-pleaser with which many thought the Donmar would choose to celebrate Stephen Sondheim’s 80th year. But it is certainly a powerful, though-provoking piece, and one which allows director Jamie Lloyd to team up again with Elena Roger following their 2008 success with Piaf.
Critics hail Elena’s performance as another triumph for the actress who continues to choose brave, demanding roles. Much praise is also heaped on the other strong supporting performances, notably David Thaxton and Scarlett Strallen, if not universally for the musical itself.
Read extracts from Passion reviews below, including The Times, The Telegraph, The Observer and The Guardian.
A number of West End anniversaries are celebrated in London this week, including the 80th birthday of the Phoenix Theatre.
Today, 24 September 2010, marks the 80th anniversary of London’s Phoenix Theatre. Commissioned by Sidney Bernstein, who started Granada television, the Charing Cross Road theatre opened in 1930 with Noel Coward’s classic play Private Lives, staring Coward, Gertrude Lawrence, Laurence Olivier and Adrianne Allen.
Other notable successes for the theatre included Noel Coward again, this time with his Tonight at 8.30 one-act plays in 1936, Canterbury Tales in 1968, Night and Day in 1978 and a long list of famous players including John Gielgud, Vivien Leigh, Paul Scofield and Vanessa Redgrave. The Phoenix Theatre currently hosts Willy Russell’s musical Blood Brothers, which opened at the venue in November 1991.
The Phoenix theatre was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, Bertie Crew and Cecil Masey with Theodore Komisarjevsky.
A number of West End venues are celebrating their 80th birthdays this year, following a boom in theatre building in the Art Deco 1930′s, including the Prince Edward, Cambridge, Trafalgar Studios, Apollo Victoria and Adelphi theatres.
Stomp and Wicked
Long-running West End shows Stomp at the Ambassadors Theatre and Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre also celebrate birthdays this month. Stomp celebrates its 8th birthday tomorrow, having opened at the Vaudeville Theatre on 25 September 2002. The high-energy show, which combines theatre, dance, comedy and percussion, moved to its current home at the Ambassadors in 2007.
On Monday 27 September big-budget Broadway musical Wicked celebrates its 4th birthday at the Apollo Victoria Theatre in London. Currently starring Lee Mead, Rachel Tucker and Louise Dearman, Wicked remains one of the most successful shows on both sides of the Atlantic. The Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman musical is based on the best-selling novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire, a companion novel to L. Frank Baum’s classic story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
PHOENIX THEATRE QUICK FACTS
Hard to now imagine but the original site had been a factory, before becoming a Music Hall called the Alcazar.
In 1969 the owners of the Phoenix, Gerald and Veronica Flint-Shipman, organised a midnight matinee for Noel Coward’s 70th birthday, attended by Princess Margaret. A few days before, he opened the Noel Coward bar in the theatre’s foyer.
In 1976 the Phoenix hosted a Hollywood season of four plays featuring particularly starry names: Rock Hudson and Juliet Prowse in I Do I Do, Glynis Johns and Louis Jordan in 13, Rue De L’Amour, Lee Remick in Bus Stop and Douglas Fairbanks Jr in The Pleasure of His Company.
On reviewing the theatre when it first opened, The Stage newspaper said that, “Each seat has sufficient body and leg room and is provided with its own hat rack”.