Theatre impresario Cameron Mackintosh talked to Michael Ball today about his new musical project, Betty Blue Eyes.
Speaking on The Michael Ball Show on ITV1, Mackintosh revealed that it will be his next musical. The new show, which is written by Mackintosh protégés George Stiles and Anthony Drewe (Mary Poppins, Just So), is based on Alan Bennett’s screenplay A Private Function.
The original 1984 film starred Michael Palin and Maggie Smith and is set in a small Northern town shortly after the war, when rations were still biting hard. A group of local businessmen plan to hold a patriotic party to celebrate the impending royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth to Prince Philip, and decide to illegally raise a pig for the occasion. But hen-pecked chiropodist Gilbert Chilvers (Michael Palin) and his wife Joyce (Maggie Smith) have other plans…
Late last year Mackintosh told the Daily Mail: “The title (of the show) is in honour of our lovely Queen. Well, they are both catalysts of the story. We have the marriage of Elizabeth and Philip – and our heroine, the pig, is Betty Blue Eyes. I haven’t checked the Queen’s eye colour recently, but they’re rumoured to be blue.”
The musical is slated to begin rehearsals early next year, trying out at the West Yorkshire Playhouse before coming to the West End at Easter. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee begins the following year in 2012.
Mackintosh also talked about the 25th anniversary celebrations planned for Les Miserables, and said that the show is, “doing better than it has for 15 years”.
He was at pains to emphasise that the new touring production had “new costumes, new sets and new direction” following a recent public spat with original directors of the musical Trevor Nunn and John Caird, who were not invited to work on the 25th anniversary tour, which will play its original home at the Barbican Theatre in September. Gareth Gates, who is starring in the touring production, joined Mackintosh on the show, to sing Empty Chairs At Empty Tables from Les Mis.
Mackintosh also spoke to Michael Ball about the current resurgence in musical theatre: “Ten years ago if you said you were in the theatre you’d duck” he said, but now it’s trendy, with people “fed up with just sitting looking at a computer”. Despite popular TV talent shows, such as BBC1’s Over The Rainbow, finding new a new generation of musicals stars, Mackintosh said that “if you have a raw talent and you have a platform then you can make a career” but that few people have the staying power to make a career out of the theatre.
Cameron Mackintosh, producer of some of the world’s most successful shows including Miss Saigon, Cats, Mary Poppins and current West End musicals Oliver!, Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, Avenue Q and Hair!, also revealed that his favourite musical of all time is My Fair Lady.