September 13, 2012
A round-up of reviews of Hedda Gabler starring Sheridan Smith at the Old Vic Theatre in London
Anna Mackmin’s new production of Ibsen’s drama Hedda Gabler as opened at the Old Vic Theatre in London starring Olivier Award-winning actress Sheridan Smith (Legally Blonde, Flare Path) in the title role.
This adaptation of Ibsen’s play by Brian Friel also stars Buffy Davis, Anne Reid, Adrian Scarborough and Fenella Woolgar.
The critics have heaped lavish praise on Sheridan Smith, who has been hailed as “superb” by Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph and “one of the stage stars of her generation” by Henry Hitchings in the Standard.
Read more reviews below.
July 23, 2012
Olivier Award-winning actress Sheridan Smith stars as Hedda Gabler in Anna Mackmin’s brand new production of Ibsen’s drama, in an adaptation by Brian Friel. Also stars Buffy Davis, Anne Reid, Adrian Scarborough and Fenella Woolgar.
June 15, 2011
Valid Monday to Friday performances until the 31 August
Adapted from Alan Bennett and Malcolm Mowbray’s hilarious comic film ‘A Private Function’, Betty Blue Eyes is the joyous new musical from Cameron Mackintosh.
This utterly British musical has a deliciously witty score by Stiles and Drewe (Mary Poppins) and a marvellous cast of great British actors, headed by Sarah Lancashire as Joyce, Reece Shearsmith as Gilbert and, of course, Betty as Herself.
Enjoy a very special offer on tickets to see this smash-hit new show.
April 19, 2011
SPECIAL OFFER: Enjoy a delicious free theatre dinner at either Porter’s English restaurant or Maxwell’s restaurant – both in Covent Garden – when booking a full price £59.50 ticket to see Betty Blue Eyes.
Package Availability: Valid Monday to Thursday evenings. Excludes bank holidays and school holidays
IT’S 1947 – AUSTERITY BRITAIN, BELTS ARE BEING TIGHTENED, FAIR SHARES FOR ALL, THE COLDEST WINTER IN DECADES AND A ROYAL WEDDING. SOUND FAMILIAR?
Adapted from Alan Bennett and Malcolm Mowbray’s hilarious comic film ‘A Private Function’; a tale that centres around Betty, an adorable pig who is being illegally reared to ensure that the local dignitaries can celebrate the forthcoming Royal Wedding with a lavish banquet while everyone else makes do with Spam!
This utterly British musical, full of eccentric characters, has a deliciously witty score by Stiles and Drewe and a marvellous cast of great British actors, headed by Sarah Lancashire as Joyce, Reece Shearsmith as Gilbert and, of course, Betty as Herself.
April 15, 2011
One of the highlights of the West End’s year took place on Wednesday, as a star-studded audience gathered at the Novello Theatre in London for the first night of Betty Blue Eyes, produced by Cameron Mackintosh.
The show is Cameron’s first new musical for a decade and wowed both the audience and critics alike with its porky tale starring Sarah Lancashire and Reece Shearsmith.
Our official photographer Roy Tan was invited to follow the show’s composer George Stiles on his journey through the day and night of the launch of the show, meeting the creative team including the show’s lyricist Anthony Drewe, book writers Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman, director Richard Eyre, and a host of famous faces.
Here we take a fascinating behind-the-scenes peek at final preparations for the show and the glamorous after-party at the Waldorf Hilton in London.
April 14, 2011
A review of Betty Blue Eyes at the Novello Theatre in London
BETTY BLUE EYES
A little bit of austerity joy has sprung up at the Novello Theatre where Cameron Mackintosh’s latest West End venture, Betty Blue Eyes, based on Malcolm Mowbray’s 1984 film A Private Function, has started a squealingly good run.
Set in a small Yorkshire town just after the Second World War, when austerity and food rationing is starting to bite hard, a group of local dignitaries plan to raise and slaughter an illegal pig for an exclusive, private function to celebrate the impending wedding of Princess Elizabeth to Phillip.
Alongside this runs the story of timid chiropodist Gilbert (Reece Shearsmith) and his social-climbing wife Joyce (Sarah Lancashire), who are thwarted in their efforts to get a foothold on the town’s social ladder and decide to steal the pig as an act of revenge (and hunger!).
Given the peculiarly British subject matter and source material, Mackintosh has clearly taken a gamble in hiring US screenwriters Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman to pen the book of the show, particularly as it’s their first musical. However, having a bit of distance from a subject is not a bad thing and they’ve written some pacey, witty dialogue that captures the spirit of the times without paying undue reverence to the movie.
But it’s the musical numbers by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe that go much further than the book in rounding out the themes of the show, without ever losing sight of the “let’s have fun” element which is writ large throughout this production.
Betty Blue Eyes is the most tuneful, humorous and inventive original score we’ve heard in the West End for some time, with a number of songs guaranteed to be around forever. Cameron Mackintosh has championed Stiles & Drewe for decades and they have enjoyed notable success but never a big West End production to truly call their own. Mackintosh had to step up to the plate at some point, and he’s done so with a show that will, finally, put this writing duo firmly on the international map of Class A theatre composers.
There is also no doubt that Alan Bennett’s screenplay for A Private Function, written with the movie’s director Malcolm Mowbray, is a major factor in the night’s success. Whilst the film was a little too depressing to be jolly good farce and too much like comedy to be a decent observation of post-war Britain, it was carried by Bennett’s beautifully observed characters – and the performances of Maggie Smith, Michael Palin, Denholm Elliot et al.
Much of the success of Richard Eyre’s production is based on the same factors. An animatronics pig may be the title lead of Betty Blue Eyes (given the rumoured expense of the pig, it was strangely unanimated, with stellar facial gestures but nothing that a good Jim Henson puppet couldn’t have achieved), but the real leads act Betty off the stage.
Sarah Lancashire in the role of Joyce Chivers is as close to a musical theatre revelation as you are likely to get, and plays her like she has been at the epicentre of musical theatre life in Britain for the last thirty years. There’s no question that the song of the night is “Nobody”, which she delivers with a fierce gusto that will be sung back to Cameron Mackintosh by thousands of auditioning gals for decades to come.
Lancashire plays Joyce much warmer than Maggie Smith, which in some ways highlights the tonal difference between the show and the film. Anyone who can play a sexy, house-proud Northern matriarch whilst singing big, show-stopping numbers, all the while adding an emotional heart, a dry wit and a beautifully composed showbiz smile, gets my vote!
The League of Gentlemen’s Reece Shearsmith puts in a surprisingly emotive and convincing performance as Gilbert, presumably honed from years of playing it straight in macabre (or farcical) surrounds, and whilst he is not an obvious song and dance man, he makes Gilbert his own.
Adrian Scarborough doesn’t have a lot of room for manoeuvre with Wormwold, the government food inspector who, in true ‘Allo ‘Allo! style, is not only dressed as the Gestapo, but continually referred to as the Gestapo, taking the show more in the direction of Panto through no fault of his own. His big number, Painting By Heart, which reveals his passion for his work – and the painting of illegal meat to render it inedible – seems to come too early, and we need to see more of his evil ways before he can lighten up and show us his passionate side.
Also, painting Wormwold as the evil villain takes some of the meanness away from the town’s elite, reinforced by turning Allardyce (a lovely performance by Jack Edwards) into a warm and cuddly “pigophile” and Dr Swayby, played by David Bamber, as a rather one-dimensional bigot (his anti-Semitic remarks may have been historically accurate, but don’t fit well in a show that presents itself as nothing less than a joyous romp through the post-war years). All of this slightly undermines what’s at the story’s heart: that British class meant that not everyone was living in austere times.
Richard Eyre has put together a fine, National Theatre-quality supporting cast, notably Ann Emery as Mother Dear. It could have just have been me, but there felt like a subtle nod to Les Miserables in a number of scenes, perhaps some light Cameron Mackintosh ribbing by the creative team, with barricades stormed by headscarf-clad matriarchs through Stephen Mear’s quirky and inventive choreography.
Design by Tim Hatley ensures that the show keeps momentum, beautifully set against a cartoon-like blue sky and green hills.
For Mackintosh, Betty Blue Eyes must feel like a small, austerity production. The Novello is not quite a tiny, converted chocolate factory in South London, but for a producer more used to enormous productions that go global, Betty Blue Eyes must feel small-scale. However, Mackintosh is a canny producer, not only for capitalising on our current austerity and impending Royal wedding, but in creating a show that can tour to any sized venue in Britain, filling gaps in Arts funding-cut theatres nationwide, and a production that can be played out in village halls for the next fifty years.
April 4, 2011
Exclusive photos of new Cameron Mackintosh musical Betty Blue Eyes at the Novello Theatre in London
Cameron Mackintosh’s latest stage production is a joyous new musical based on Alan Bennett and Malcolm Mowbray’s acclaimed screenplay A Private Function.
Betty Blue Eyes, currently in previews at the Novello Theatre, stars multi-talented actress Sarah Lancashire and The League of Gentlemen’s Reece Shearsmith as formidable social climber Joyce Chilvers and her downtrodden husband Gilbert, played in the film by Maggie Smith and Michael Palin.
They join a talented cast including Olivier Award winner Adrian Scarborough (After the Dance, Gavin & Stacey) as Wormold, David Bamber (My Night With Reg) as Swaby, Ann Emery (Billy Elliot) as Mother Dear, Jack Edwards as Allardyce, Mark Meadows as Lockwood… and a rather talented animatronic pig called Betty!
Betty Blue Eyes is directed by the award-winning Richard Eyre and penned by George Stiles (music) and Anthony Drewe (lyrics), with a book by Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman.
March 25, 2011
Thea Sharrock’s award-winning production of Terence Rattigan’s drama After The Dance at the National Theatre may be Broadway-bound.
And its star – Benedict Cumberbatch, who is currently wowing audiences at the National Theatre in Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein, may be heading with it.
The success of Sherlock in the US, which the New York Times dubbed as “highly entertaining” and having “a brio that sets it apart” when it premiered on PBS last year, means that his profile has been raised Stateside, which would be good timing for his Broadway debut. Plus his starring roles in forthcoming Spielberg movie War Horse and in a new version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy will aid the move.
It is unclear whether fellow After The Dance performers Nancy Carroll and Adrian Scarborough would join him. Both won Olivier Awards for their performances in the play, although Carroll is heavily pregnant and Adrian Scarborough is in previews for Cameron Mackintosh’s new show Betty Blue Eyes at the Novello Theatre – and is rumoured to be putting in an award-worthy performance as Inspector Wormold.
- Show: After The Dance
- Director: Thea Sharrock
- Broadway Theatre: TBC
- Producer: Stuart Thompson
- Casting: Benedict Cumberbatch
- London Dates: TBC
Source: Daily Mail (25/03/11)
March 14, 2011
In a star-studded awards ceremony last night, Sunday 13 March, at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London, the Society of London Theatre held their 35th annual theatre awards ceremony.
Hosted by musicals star Michael Ball and actress Imelda Staunton, the awards celebrate the best of the year’s London theatre.
Big winners last night included the National Theatre, which swept up seven awards for two of its productions: Thea Sharrock’s revival of Terence Rattigan’s After the Dance, which won awards including best revival, best actress for Nancy Carroll and best actor in a supporting role for Adrian Scarborough; and its production of Mikhail Bulgakov’s The White Guard, including best director for Howard Davies and best set design for Bunny Christie.
In other subsidised venues the Royal Court picked up three awards, including best new play for Bruce Norris’s comedy Clybourne Park, which is now playing at the Wyndham’s Theatre in the West End, and two awards for the Donmar Warehouse, including David Thaxton picking up best actor in a musical for Passion.
Roger Allam won best actor for his performance as Falstaff in Shakespeare’s Globe’s production of Henry IV Parts 1 & 2, beating stiff competition from Rory Kinnear, Derek Jacobi, David Suchet and Mark Rylance.
The most successful musical of the night was Legally Blonde at the Savoy Theatre, which picked up three major awards: best new musical, best actress in a musical for Sheridan Smith and best performance in a supporting role in a Musical for Jill Halfpenny.
Other musicals rewarded at the event included We Will Rock You, which won the Olivier Audience Award voted for by members of the theatregoing public, and the Open Air Theatre’s summer production of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods.
Stephen Sondheim was presented with an Olivier Special Award for his enormous contribution to theatre, with the award presented by Sir Cameron Mackintosh and legendary actress Angela Lansbury.
Big shows to miss out on awards this year included Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies, which failed to pick up any awards despite seven nominations, and End of the Rainbow at the Trafalgar Studios, which was nominated for four awards including best actress for Tracie Bennett in her performance as Judy Garland.
Notable performances during the ceremony included a star turn by legendary American singer Barry Manilow, who also sang a duet with Wicked and Oliver! star Kerry Ellis; current and former stars of The Phantom of the Opera and Love Never Dies – Ramin Karimloo, John Owen-Jones and Sierra Boggess; Emma Williams and Michael Xavier singing Everything We Know from Love Story; Alfie Boe, who is soon to star in Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theatre, singing Some Enchanted Evening from South Pacific; Susan McFadden and the current cast of Legally Blonde; and Adrian Lester paying tribute to Stephen Sondheim by singing Being Alive from Company, along with Angela Lansbury singing a moving rendition of Liaisons from A Little Night Music and 400 students from national drama schools singing Our Time from Merrily We Roll Along.
LISTEN & WATCH AGAIN
January 31, 2011
The League of Gentlemen’s Reece Shearsmith in Betty Blue Eyes.
Reece Shearsmith usually does the scaring rather than being scared: his recent work in Ghost Stories at the Duke of York’s Theatre and as part of The League of Gentlemen, have often left audiences feeling very unnerved.
But in Betty Blue Eyes, Cameron Mackintosh’s latest stage musical, he is the one scared to death – by a formidable wife!
Shearsmith plays hen-pecked, down-trodden husband Gilbert Chilvers, whose wife Joyce (played by Sarah Lancashire) is a social climber who will stop at nothing within their small Yorkshire village. Set just after the Second World War, when the locals of the village want to celebrate the forthcoming Royal wedding, post-war rationing prompts them to illegally raise a pig for the event. But Gilbert and Joyce have their own ideas for the animal – a plan that throws the village into chaos.
The show is based on Alan Bennett and Malcolm Mowbray’s acclaimed screenplay A Private Function, with husband and wife famously played by Michael Palin and Maggie Smith.
Reece Shearsmith has built up an impressive list of stage credits alongside his TV and movie work, including Comedians at the Lyric Hammersmith, The Common Pursuit (Menier Chocolate Factory), The Producers (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane), As You Like It (Wyndham’s Theatre) and Art (Whitehall Theatre), as well as The League of Gentlemen shows at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and on national tour.
Reece’s TV work includes the biopic of Morecambe and Wise, scary and twistedly funny series Psychoville and, of course, The League of Gentleman. Film includes Burke and Hare, The Cottage, The League of Gentleman’s Apocalypse, Shaun of the Dead and This Year’s Love.
Produced by Cameron Mackintosh, Betty Blue Eyes opens at the Novello Theatre from 19 March 2011, directed by Richard Eyre and penned by George Stiles (music) and Anthony Drewe (lyrics), with a book by Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman. The show also stars Sarah Lancashire (Coronation Street, Clocking Off) as Joyce Chilvers, Adrian Scarborough (After the Dance, Gavin & Stacey) as Wormold, David Bamber (My Night With Reg) as Swaby, Ann Emery (Billy Elliot) as Mother Dear, Jack Edwards as Allardyce and Mark Meadows as Lockwood.