May 17, 2012
First Night photos from What The Butler Saw at the Vaudeville Theatre in London.
Celebrities were out in force last night for the opening of Joe Orton’s classic comedy What The Butler Saw. Stars of the show including Omid Djalili, Tim McInnerny, Samantha Bond and Georgia Moffett were joined by actors and entertainers including Jim Broadbent, Jenny Eclair, Peter Davison, Lesley Garrett, Reece Shearsmith and Neil Pearson.
Joe Orton’s legendary 1967 comedy is an insanely funny, full-throttle tour de farce directed by Sean Foley.
February 10, 2012
A round-up of reviews of Alan Ayckbourn’s classic comedy of manners Absent Friends makes a welcome return to the West End starring The IT Crowd’s Katherine Parkinson, Kara Tointon and Reece Shearsmith.
January 5, 2012
Alan Ayckbourn’s classic comedy of manners makes a welcome return to the West End starring The IT Crowd’s Katherine Parkinson, Kara Tointon and Reece Shearsmith.
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.
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 5, 2011
Two of London’s major new musicals – Cameron Mackintosh’s Betty Blue Eyes and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Wizard of Oz – have both announced new booking periods, extending their runs into 2012.
Betty Blue Eyes, which opened at the Novello Theatre on 13 April 2011, is now booking to 28 January 2012. The show, which is adapted from Alan Bennett and Malcolm Mowbray’s film A Private Function, features a score by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe and the cast includes Sarah Lancashire and Reece Shearsmith.
The Wizard of Oz opened on 1 February 2011 at the London Palladium and stars Danielle Hope as Dorothy, Michael Crawford as the Wizard and Hannah Waddingham as the Wicked Witch. The show is now booking until 15 January 2012. This week has seen Over The Rainbow runner-up Sophie Evans cover the role of Dorothy across all performances whilst Danielle Hope is on holiday. Sophie also plays the role every Tuesday.
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
To celebrate the opening of brand new West End musical Betty Blue Eyes, we bring you some exclusive video footage from rehearsals and behind-the-scenes of the show.
Part one of the webisode features Sarah Lancashire, Reece Shearsmith and the cast and crew of Cameron Mackintosh’s smash hit new musical, now playing at the Novello Theatre in London.
Exclusive behind-the-scenes video from Betty Blue Eyes
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.