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Anniversaries: Phoenix, Wicked, Stomp

September 24, 2010 

A number of West End anniversaries are celebrated in London this week, including the 80th birthday of the Phoenix Theatre.

Phoenix Theatre

Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence in Private Lives

Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence in Private Lives

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

Lee Mead in Wicked

Lee Mead in 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”.

LINKS

News: Historic year for West End venues

ArthurLloyd.co.uk: Phoenix history

Blood Brothers – book tickets

Stomp – book tickets

Wicked – book tickets

Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre

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.

THE STORY

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

Search for tickets

More information

Theatre: Apollo Victoria Theatre

Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre

 

A Wickedly Good Show

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.

Wicked

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

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