November 11, 2013
A new stage musical adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s classic novel The Wind in the Willows is set to open in London’s West End, and producers are giving theatregoers the chance to invest in the show.
A big new £6.5 million musical adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s much-loved children’s classic The Wind in the Willows is to get a lavish new production in the West End.
A high profile creative team for the show includes Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes writing the show’s book, and music and lyrics by Betty Blue Eyes creators George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. Fellows, Stiles and Drewe are reuniting following their success working on Cameron Mackintosh and Disney’s stage adaptation of Mary Poppins.
And in a new twist the musical is offering the public a chance to invest in the production and share in its success. Producer Jamie Hendry is running a Kickstarter-like scheme offering theatregoers the chance to part-finance the West End musical. Investors can put in from £1,000 up to £5,000 in the production.
Producer Jamie Hendry said: “Kenneth Grahame’s classic is such an iconic piece of British literary heritage that we are thrilled to have created the means for as many people as possible to own a stake in this new adaptation. Traditionally commercial theatre investment has only been available to a small group of individuals from whom significant funding has already been secured. Crowd funding has become a growing trend in the arts, however this scheme converts the idea into a financial investment with potential for return. Given the national ownership of the piece, I am delighted to reserve a limited 10% of the Capitalisation for individual investors in amounts from as little as £1,000.”
The investment opportunity also has the backing of Mark Rubinstein, President of The Society of London Theatre.
West End producers have long tapped theatregoers, or Angels as they are known, to invest in productions, forever immortalized in Broadway movie and musical The Producers! Cameron Mackintosh famously made millionaires of a number of people in the 1980′s after persuading them to invest in Cats.
Producer Jamie Hendry’s recent work includes Let It Be, currently playing at the Savoy Theatre in London, Legally Blonde the Musical and La Cage Aux Folles.
There is no current news on which London theatre will house the musical or the cast of the show.
It’s a great idea to open up opportunities for people to invest in shows, allowing them to get closer to the action and enjoy a small part of the magic of putting on a musical. This might be the time for someone entrepreneurial to set up a Kickstarter-like platform for shows, or even just fund a major West End musical using Kickstarter.
But it is also worth highlighting that investing in musicals remains a risky business with as much chance (maybe more chance) of losing money than making it. The general rule, with all investment decisions but especially musical theatre investments, is don’t invest any more than you can afford to lose.
August 7, 2012
Production Photos of Soho Cinders at the Soho Theatre.
Jenna Russell and Michael Xavier star in the West End premiere of the first fully staged production of Stiles and Drewe’s fabulous new musical Soho Cinders.
Following the critical success of George Stiles and Anthony Drewe’s Betty Blue Eyes last year, this edgy, fun and deliciously naughty new musical directed by Jonathan Butterell celebrates London’s colourful district with a tale of politics, sex-scandals and true love.
Soho Cinders is running at the Soho Theatre in London until 9 September 2012.
Soho Cinders. Music by George Stiles and lyrics by Anthony Drewe and a book by Anthony Drewe and Elliot Davis. ,
Stars Jenna Russell, Michael Xavier, Raj Chatak, Thomas Milner, Gerard Carey, Neil McCaul, Beverley Rudd – and the voice of Stephen Fry.
Directed by Jonathan Butterell, choreography by Drew McOnie, design by Morgan Large and lighting design by Hugh Vanstone.
Photos by RoyTan.
August 7, 2012
Jenna Russell and Michael Xavier star in the West End premiere of Stiles and Drewe’s fabulous new musical Soho Cinders. Following the critical success of George Stiles and Anthony Drewe’s Betty Blue Eyes last year, this edgy, fun and deliciously naughty new musical directed by Jonathan Butterell celebrates London’s colourful district with a tale of politics, sex-scandals and true love.
August 19, 2011
Good news for Betty Blue Eyes fans.
The Cameron Mackintosh show at the Novello Theatre in London is going to release a cast recording – although there’s still no news of an exact release date.
To get fans whipped up a first track has been released via Betty’s Facebook page, with Sarah Lancashire and cast singing Lionheart from the show.
Adapted from Alan Bennett and Malcolm Mowbray’s comic film ‘A Private Function’, Betty Blue Eyes features a score by Stiles and Drewe (Mary Poppins) and a cast led by Sarah Lancashire as Joyce and Reece Shearsmith as Gilbert.
Betty Blue Eyes is directed by Richard Eyre with a book by Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman.
July 29, 2011
The writers of Betty Blue Eyes to present their new musical Soho Cinders in a one-off charity concert.
George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, whose recent work includes Betty Blue Eyes at the Novello Theatre in London, are set to premiere a brand new work at the venue.
Soho Cinders will get its world premiere in a one-off charity concert at the Novello Theatre on Sunday 9 October 2011, in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust.
An all-star cast of West End big-hitters has been announced to star in the show including Kerry Ellis, Hannah Waddingham, Beverly Rudd, David Bedella and Sandi Toksvig, and the concert will be directed by Jonathan Butterell.
Soho Cinders, which is billed as “Cinderella remixed”, is a modern musical satirical comedy about the love life of prospective Mayoral candidate James Prince, his fiancée and his law-student lover, Robbie.
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.
May 6, 2011
West End actress Caroline Sheen is to return to London this summer following a year-long tour of the USA starring in Cameron Mackintosh’s production of Mary Poppins.
The actress, who is a cousin of actor Michael Sheen, will return to Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theatre in June to play the role of Fantine. Caroline originally played Eponine in the show ten years ago. She will join some high-profile new starters on the show this summer including Alfie Boe and Matt Lucas.
Ahead of returning to Les Mis she will sing musical interludes to accompany These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things at the Jermyn Street Theatre, where theatre critic of The Stage, Mark Shenton, will interview a host of well-known theatre names.
The show, in aid of charity the Theatrical Guild which supports backstage and front of house theatre workers, will feature Shrek The Musical and Anna Christie director Rob Ashford, director and choreographer Craig Revel Horwood, Blood Brothers and Dreamboats and Petticoats producer Bill Kenwright, producer Michael Codron, the National Theatre’s director Nicholas Hytner, West End actress and current Shakespeare’s Globe star Janie Dee, veteran theatre school director Sylvia Young, and Betty Blue Eyes and Mary Poppins songwriting team George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.
The show will run at the Jermyn Street Theatre from 29 May to 4 June 2011.
Caroline Sheen has appeared in numerous West End shows including Grease, Into the Woods, Mamma Mia!, The Witches of Eastwick, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Last month she played a cabaret show alongside Evita and Zorro star Matt Rawle at the Battersea Barge in London. She is married to actor Michael Jibson, who will star alongside David Bedella this summer in the Menier Chocolate Factory’s premiere of new Stephen Sondheim’s latest musical, Road 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.