October 11, 2010
This week’s West End openings range from classic American drama to modern Greek tragedy, with Pittsburgh flashdancing and West End blues thrown in. Plus the 80th birthday of a Wicked West End theatre.
THE COUNTRY GIRL
Opening tonight, Monday 11 October, at the Apollo Theatre is Clifford Odets’s classic drama The Country Girl, about a once-great theatre star who is given the chance to make a major comeback.
Jenny Seagrove and Martin Shaw reunite on stage after their onscreen appearance in Judge John Deed to star in the show.
On Tuesday 12 October at the Novello Theatre Robert Lindsay opens in Onassis, playing controversial Greek tycoon Aristotle in Martin Sherman’s new play. Based on the last years of this life, this powerful drama reveals his passionate and interwoven relationships with Jackie Kennedy and Maria Callas, and his son Alexandros. Stand-out supporting performances come from Anna Francolini as Callas and Lydia Leonard as Jackie.
FLASHDANCE THE MUSICAL
Despite technical problems with the rain machine that postponed the start of previews, Flashdance the Musical is set for a trouble-free first night on Thursday 14 October at the Shaftesbury Theatre.
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. Grease producer David Ian is the man behind the show, with direction by Nikolai Foster and choreography by the ubiquitous Arlene Phillips. 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.
THE BARBER OF SEVILLE
Thursday also sees the opening night for the new venture at the King’s Head pub theatre in Islington: London’s Little Opera House opens with a new version of The Barber of Seville, directed by Robin Norton-Hale. Artistic director Adam Spreadbury-Maher is promising an exciting season of opera on a small scale including Madame Butterfly as a Bangkok lady-boy.
THE MUSIC OF THE BLUES BROTHERS – A TRIBUTE
Finally, on Friday 15 October Hartshorn – Hook Productions presents ‘The Music of the Blues Brothers – a Tribute’, the most electric rock’n'roll party of the year. Following spectacular success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this summer with a month of sell-out shows and 5-star reviews, this raucous live tribute show is now rolling into London. This Tribute is directed by the award-winning Patrick Wilde and is backed by the tightest rhythm and blues band in the city. We tear through the best in American Blues, Soul and Rock’n'Roll classics including Gimme Some Lovin, Think, Minnie The Moocher, Sweet Home Chicago, and Jailhouse Rock. So dig out your sunglasses and get ready to shake your tail feather because this supercharged high-octane Tribute is about to take London by storm.
APOLLO VICTORIA THEATRE
Friday also sees the 80th birthday of the Apollo Victoria Theatre in London. Celebrations have included an all-star charity gala yesterday, Sunday 10 October, featuring the cast of the venue’s current show, Wicked, and past productions including Starlight Express. The Apollo Victoria forms part of a historic year for West End theatres, with a number of venues celebrating their 80th anniversaries this year.
Designed by E. Wamsley Lewis and W E Trent, the Apollo Victoria originally opened as a cinema on 15 October 1930 showing George Arlis movie “Old English”.
September 24, 2010
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”.
September 22, 2010
Apollo Victoria Theatre, 17 Wilton Road, London, SW1V 1LL
Nearest Underground: Victoria (Victoria line, District line, Circle line)
Nearest Buses: 38, 73, 8, 24
Opened: 15 October 1930
Designed by: E. Wamsley Lewis and W E Trent
First production: originally opened as a cinema (film: George Arlis in Old English)
Number of seats: 2,304
August 20, 2010
An historic number of West End theatres celebrate important anniversaries this year, including 80th birthdays for three theatres in September.
A boom in theatre building in the Art Deco 1930′s has resulted in six West End theatres celebrating their 80th anniversaries in 2010.
September proves a particularly important month, with three theatres celebrating their 80th: the Cambridge Theatre on Earlham Street on 4 September; Charing Cross Road’s Phoenix Theatre on 24 September; and the Trafalgar Studios on Whitehall, formerly known as the Whitehall Theatre, on 29 September.
Already this year the Prince Edward Theatre has celebrated its 80th birthday on 3 April, and later in the year the Apollo Victoria Theatre will mark its 80th on 15 October and the Adelphi Theatre on 3 December.
Celebrations will include a charity gala for the Apollo Victoria on 10 October featuring the cast of the venue’s current show, Wicked, and past productions including Starlight Express.
Advisory Body, The Theatres Trust, commented on the anniversaries: “The West End theatres that celebrate their 80th anniversaries this year are among the UK’s best examples of art deco and moderne style venues. Each is distinctive and unique, built to appeal to a public eager for entertainment, plays, films, variety and musicals. It is a mark of their quality that they continue to do so to this day.”
2010 also marks theatrical milestones for a number of other venues, notably the 100th anniversary of the famous London Palladium on 26 December. A special Facebook page has been set up for the London Palladium’s centenary allowing theatregoers and theatre professionals to remember the historic venue. Also, on Radio 2 this autumn a two-part documentary series, The London Palladium Story, will tell the story of the theatre, narrated by Michael Grade.
Also this year the Peacock Theatre, originally called the Royalty Theatre, will celebrate its 40th birthday in June, and the former Leicester Square Theatre, now the Odeon West End cinema, will turn 80.
QUICK THEATRE FACTS
Opened: 3 December 1930
Designed: Ernest Schaufelberg, incorporating parts of the former Sans Pareil theatre
Location: Strand, London, WC2E 7NA Adelphi Theatre Map
First production: Ever Green by Benn W. Levy and Lorenz Hart
Current production: Love Never Dies
Apollo Victoria Theatre
Opened: 15 October 1930
Designed: E. Wamsley Lewis and W E Trent
Location: 17 Wilton Road, London, SW1V 1LL Apollo Victoria Theatre Map
First production: originally opened as a cinema (film: George Arlis in Old English)
Current production: Wicked
Opened: 4 September 1930
Designed: Wimperis, Simpson and Guthrie with Serge Chermayeff
Location: Earlham Street, London, WC2 9HU Cambridge Theatre Map
First production: Charlot’s Masquerade by Ronald Jeans
Current production: Chicago
Opened: 26 December 1910
Designed: Frank Matcham
Location: London Palladium, Argyll Street, London, W1F 7TF London Palladium Map
First production: A Variety Show and one act play called The Conspiracy.
Current production: Sister Act
Opened: June 1960
Designed: Lewis Solomon and Kaye and Partners
Location: Portugal Street, London, WC2A 2HT Peacock Theatre Map
First production: opened as a cinema
Current productions: include La Boheme, Euridice
Opened: 24 September 1930
Designed: Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, Bertie Crew, and Cecil Masey, with Theodore Komisarjevsky
Location: Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0JP Phoenix Theatre Map
First production: Noel Coward’s Private Lives
Current production: Blood Brothers
Opened: 3 April 1930
Designed: Edward A. Stone with Marc-Henri and Laverdet and Gaston Laverdet
Location: Old Compton Street, London, W1D 4HS Prince Edward Theatre Map
First production: Rio Rita by Harry Tierney
Current production: Jersey Boys
Opened: 29 September 1930
Designed: Edward A. Stone with Marc-Henri and Laverdet and Gaston Laverdet
Location: Whitehall, London, SW1A 2DY Trafalgar Studios Map
First production: The Way To Treat A Woman by Walter Hackett
August 17, 2010
We read with interest Ambassador Theatre Group co-owner Howard Panter’s spread in the Sunday Times Money section this weekend, “Fame and fortune: I put my savings on the stage”, in the hope of getting some tips.
Alongside his wife and business partner Rosemary Squire, they are now the most powerful people in British Theatre and certainly the largest theatre owners. Their deal last year to buy Live Nation’s venues boosted their portfolio to 39 theatres in the UK, including London’s Apollo Victoria, Comedy, Duke of York’s, Fortune, Lyceum, Phoenix, Piccadilly, Playhouse, Savoy, Trafalgar Studios and Donmar Warehouse. That means they manage more than 11,000 theatre seats in London. Powerful indeed.
In the feature, Panter, 61, revealed his ambition to capitalise on the current overseas interest in London shows. His aim is to export shows to other countries by selling the intellectual property of a show but getting it backed by investment from the home country, and populating it with the host country’s local talent.
Presumably it’s a similar model to Cameron Mackintosh but without actually producing the show – more in line with TV companies exporting formats overseas. This makes sense given ATG’s increasing emphasis on production (recent examples include Keira Knightly in The Misanthrope, Legally Blonde at the Savoy and a new tour of The Rocky Horror Show – which Panter owns the rights to). This virtuous circle of owning venues and then producing plays for them makes perfect business sense and mirrors Mackintosh in reverse (a producer who moved into theatre ownership).
Panter is also lobbying hard for tax breaks to help “angels” invest in commercial theatre. Angels – usually rich theatre-loving individuals who take a punt on backing a show in the hope of making some money (rare) and getting a bit of West End glamour (guaranteed) – have long been the life-blood of commercial theatre financing. As Panter says, “With the cuts that are coming, commercial theatre is the bit that’s going to grow, while the publicly subsidised sector of the theatre will be under huge additional strain. The problem, though, is how you sell this politically right now”.
Hard to do, I imagine, when you put it like that.
If commercial theatre is going to grow then tax breaks are going to be less likely. The argument needs to be that, like productions and venues, the subsidised and commercial theatre run in a virtuous circle of talent and creativity – generating lots of money for the UK in the process. It doesn’t pay to have one without the other, so in the short-term commercial theatre will grow as it takes audiences away from a dwindling subsidised world, but in the long-run the whole thing dries up.
We also learnt that Howard has minor dyslexia, likes a good holiday, started in theatre with £1 but now turns over about £230m a year, and has got showbiz in his bones: he originally studied lighting, sound, design, stage management and direction at Lamda.
Which is good to know because with great power comes great responsibility (ref: Spider-man), and we are going to need some seriously passionate, powerful and benevolent theatre people to see us through the next few years.
August 12, 2010
A charity gala is being held at the Apollo Victoria this October to celebrate the West End theatre’s 80th birthday.
Opened on 15 October 1930, the Art Deco theatre was designed by E. Wamsley Lewis with W.E. Trent and originally built as a super cinema.
To celebrate its 80th birthday, a special gala concert will be held on 10 October 2010 featuring the cast of the venue’s current show, Wicked, alongside a number of musicals stars from shows including Saturday Night Fever, Bombay Dreams, Movin’ Out and Jersey Boys. Also a reunion of some of the cast of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Starlight Express, which played at the theatre from 1984 for 18 years, is also promised. Celebrities to appear include Wicked’s Lee Mead and Oliver Thompsett, Sharon D Clarke and Patina Miller from Sister Act.
All proceeds from the evening will go to Cancer Research UK, plus a raffle will be held in aid of the Entertainment Artiste’s Benevolent Fund.
The gala is being put together by Wicked’s UK Associate Director Petra Siniawski and Dance Supervisor Adam Murray. Other events at the theatre on 10 October include talks, tours and a curated display of the theatre’s history.
Tickets are on sale from tomorrow, Friday 13 August 2010, on 0844 847 2288.
July 29, 2010
Experience the unforgettable, award-winning musical WICKED and discover that you’ve not been told the whole story about the land of Oz…
Now in its 8th year in the West End, WICKED is the extraordinary musical with music and lyrics by Oscar winner Stephen Schwartz, a book by Winnie Holzman and is directed by Tony Award winner Joe Mantello.
Based on the acclaimed novel by Gregory Maguire that re-imagined the stories and characters created by L. Frank Baum in ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’, WICKED tells the incredible untold story of an unlikely but profound friendship between two girls who first meet as sorcery students. Their extraordinary adventures in Oz ultimately see them fulfil their destinies as Glinda The Good and the Wicked Witch of the West.
Wicked opened at the Apollo Victoria Theatre on 27 September 2006 (previews from 7 September 2006) and has been wildly successful ever since.
An acclaimed cast includes Willemijn Verkaik as Elphaba, Savannah Stevenson as Glinda, Jeremy Taylor as Fiyero, Sue Kelvin as Madame Morrible, Sam Kelly as The Wizard, Paul Clarkson as Doctor Dillamond, Sam Lupton as Boq, and Katie Rowley Jones as Nessarose, plus Emma Hatton as Standby Elphaba and Sophie Linder-Lee as Standby Glinda.
Wicked tells the untold story of an unlikely friendship between the blonde and popular witch Glinda and a misunderstood green witch named Elphaba. Following an encounter with The Wizard, their friendship reaches a crossroads and their lives take very different paths. Glinda’s unflinching desire for popularity sees her seduced by power while Elphaba’s determination to remain true to herself, and to those around her, will have unexpected and shocking consequences for her future. Their extraordinary adventures in Oz will ultimately see them fulfil their destinies as Glinda The Good and the Wicked Witch of the West.
“Sexy, sassy and sensational – it is magnificent to see a musical that manages to be both populist and intelligent at the same time.” The Daily Telegraph
“A magical mystery tour through the fantasy land of Oz” London Evening Standard
Theatre: Apollo Victoria Theatre
February 10, 2009
Written by UK Theatre Tickets
Based on the best-selling book by Gregory Maguire, Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz is a spellbinding tale that will fascinate theatregoers of all ages. Opening in 2003 to mixed reviews it has since gone on to take Broadway by storm and it’s no wonder that over one million London theatregoers have enjoyed it so far.
The script by Winnie Holzman and music by Stephen Schwartz tell the enchanting tale of two witches, Elphaba and Glinda who go on to become the Wicked Witch of the West and the Good Witch of the North. Not only does the show challenge our perceptions of these characters, it draws a parallel to real life with its witty references to political figures and social norms.
The messages run deep as friendship, love, good and evil are all examined in turn and the audience is invited to think again about their preconceptions – Elphaba in particular seems not so much wicked as misunderstood. The questions we’ve all been asking are finally answered – namely how did the Lion lose his courage, and where did Scarecrow’s brain go?
Not only does the show compress Maguire’s book into a mesmerising narrative, it offers up spectacular dance numbers, soaring ballads and vocal performances that will send shivers down your spine. Coupled with incredible costumes and gravity-defying stunts, Wicked is a truly unmissable show.
Tickets are available from UK Theatre Tickets now.
This piece was authored by UK Theatre Tickets