Ruthie Henshall

Ruthie Henshall

Ruthie Henshall, with her multi-award winning career, has starred in some of the best-loved and popular musicals of the last twenty five years on both Broadway and London’s West End, donning character shoes, leotards and tights and tap shoes throughout. In addition to her tremendous success in plays, in concert and on television, Henshall has starred on stage in Cats, Miss Saigon, Crazy For You, She Loves Me, Marguerite, Oliver!, A Chorus Line, Les Misérables and Chicago. Quite the leading lady… not too mention her stint as a judge on TV show Dancing on Ice!

Following Henshall’s training at the prestigious vocational college Laine Theatre Arts, she went on to join the UK tour cast of A Chorus Line and consequently made her West End debut in Cats, having the chance to play Jemima, Demeter, Jellylorum, Griddlebone and Grizabella. Henshall’s comprehensive and arguably illustrious career has seen her become one of the most popular West End artists, having created roles, been nominated for and won Olivier Awards, and revisiting roles when asked to recreate them, such as Fantine for the tenth anniversary of Les Misérables.

Henshall is perhaps most well known, however, for shaking and shimmying in Chicago, firstly as one of the original London company members of the revival. Henshall has since gone on to play both leads (Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly) in London and on Broadway, spending three years in New York City. Aside from all-performing musicals Henshall has toured extensively in the UK, US and Australia, and is currently touring the UK in An Intimate Evening with Ruthie Henshall, providing audiences with snippets or career through songs and amusing anecdotes from her training and musical theatre days. Without a feather boa in sight Henshall provided a snapshot of her hectic yet completely rewarding schedule, and has eight dates to go!

The Post-Olympic West End

London's West End Theatre Scene

Despite much fear that the London 2012 Olympics would quash the West End during last summer, it has actually emerged that the West End not only survived, but broke all previous revenue records, despite business initially reducing by 9%. The West End went on to rectify this, with more shows set to open this year additionally as a result. It was discovered, for example, that The Lion King had its most successful year ever in the West End, grossing over £38.6 million, breaking its own record for the eighth consecutive year and again setting a new record for highest grossing year in West End theatre history.

The approximate 45 theatres open took £529,787,692 across last year, in comparison to the £528,375,874 taken in 2011. In addition there were 305 new productions over the year, whereas 2011 saw only 256. With the inundation of tappers, singers, high-kickers and soliloquy-ers, it is no wonder that theatre-land flourished and grew tremendously. Attendance for 2012 reached 13,992,773 from 13,915,185 the previous year, with the average ticket price reducing enabling more audiences to access some fantastic productions that are on offer in theatres. The unique experiences available, and new initiatives too, are helping to grow audiences and build an appetite for live theatre.

Theatres are now being booked up as far as the eye can see, with new productions ready to jump in, such as at the Wyndham’s Theatre and the Gielgud Theatre. As a result, any current show wishing to extend its run cannot do so unless it relocates to another theatre, which of course has its advantages and disadvantages. With such an array of productions audiences will have a fantastic choice, however show which are popular and successful will not have the luxury of ‘home’ as other long-running shows have in the West End. Currently, 18 of the West End’s 40 or so commercial venues are locked into long runs of a year or more.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

The 2013 Theatre Scene

London's West End Theatre Scene

With a number of new productions hitting the stages of the West End in 2013, casting for roles has reached new appendages. Social media has been utilised more and more recently in order for performers to advertise their skills, recent work and aspirations, making the casting process for directors both easier and harder.

With all this toe-tapping talent on display, it may be easy to imagine that there is a lot of information to compare at the push of a few buttons. However, using social media in order to have an idea of casting for a new production may also mean that less and less talent is promoted, and more so an idealised version of the performer angling for work. Despite this, it is clear that social media platforms such as Twitter and YouTube are extremely useful in communicating messages about roles, rehearsal processes, and reviews, for example, but may not be as useful for other aspects of the production process.

The recently released cast list for the leg-warmer and leotard wearing A Chorus Line is just one of those emerging in 2013. The Broadway classic which is returning to the West End for the first time since it was first staged at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, shouts three leading ladies: Scarlett Strallen as Cassie, Leigh Zimmerman as Sheila, and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt as Diana. Other entries for 2013 are Book of Mormon, Dear World, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and tours such as The Full Monty, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Ghost and Wicked.

If the musical theatre scene was not enough to entice audiences, other names which will be appearing on London stages throughout 2013 are Dame Judi Dench, Helen Mirrren, Daniel Radcliffe, Jude Law, Rupert Everett, Felicity Kendal, Vanessa Redgrave, James McAvoy, Rowan Atkinson, Lee Evans, Zoe Wanamaker, and Sheila Hancock.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Diversity in 2013

Diversity Limitless

Dance troupe Diversity has announced a new touring show for 2013 – Diversity Limitless – which will be a 12 day UK tour taking place across three weeks in December next year. Diversity announced the news just a few days after their Royal Variety performance, with the tour following on from the release of their previous arena tour show on DVD, Diversity Digitized: Trapped In A Game.

There is currently nothing else known about the show Diversity Limitless, created by dance crew leader Ashley Banjo,  with other details about the show’s storyline yet to be revealed. However, dance fans and street dance fans everywhere should be confident that the show will be full of the crew’s charm and cheek, with some up-to-the-minute urban dancewear and tasty trainers thrown in to add to the flavour.

Since winning the popular TV show Britain’s Got Talent in 2009, Diversity went on to star in the film Street Dance 3D as a cameo appearance. Banjo was then recruited as a judge for Got to Dance on Sky1 and the group went on to release Diversity: Dance Fitness Fusion on DVD. Ahead of the crew’s Diversity: Digitized arena tour, Banjo also filmed a spin off Ashley Banjo’s Secret Street Crew. In addition to their hard work to date, a Diversity film has also been announced named Diversity Rise, set to be filmed in April 2013.

The show will be touring to:

  • Dublin O2 Arena (30 November),
  • Newcastle Metro Radio Arena (3 December),
  • Liverpool Echo Arena (4 December),
  • Nottingham capital FM Arena (6 December),
  • Bournemouth BIC (7 December),
  • Birmingham NIA (8 December),
  • Glasgow Hydro Arena (10 December),
  • Manchester Arena (11 December),
  • Sheffield Motorpoint Arena (12 December),
  • Cardiff Motorpoint Arena (14 December),
  • Brighton Centre (15 December),
  • London O2 Arena (16 December).

Hairspray the Musical on Tour!

Hairspray the Musica

Hairspray the musical, full of big hair and big laughs will be going on tour again in 2013, and the 60s dresses, the cans of hairspray and the loud-and-proud, rather catchy soundtrack, will all be going too.

Mark Benton will be playing the cross-dressing role of Edna Turnblad, with other casting to date including Lucy Benjamin (Lisa Fowler from EastEnders) playing Velma Von Tussle and Freya Sutton (who has recently graduated from Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts) playing Tracy Turnblad. The cast will be joined by X Factor finalist Marcus Collins as Seaweed Stubbs, Gemma Sutton as Amber Von Tussle, Lauren Hood as Penny Pingleton, Sandra Marvin as Motormouth Maybelle, Josh Piterman as Corny Collins and Paul Rider as Wilbur Turnblad. Link Larkin, Tracy’s squeeze, is yet to be cast but already the show looks like not one to be missed!

Hairspray is based on the 1988 film comedy starring Ricki Lake as Tracy. The musical takes place in 1962 with Baltimore’s Tracy Turnblad as a large girl with big hair and an even bigger heart who desperately wants to dance on The Corny Collins Show, sponsored by Ultra Clutch Hairspray. She wins a spot on the show which is a local television programme, and becomes a teenage celebrity overnight. This glory is faced with the indignation of the programme’s reigning princess Amber Von Tussle, complete with matching dress, shoes and handbag, whose overbearing mother Velma produces the show. The girl on the show who gets the highest popularity rating will be crowned Miss Teenage Hairspray – and Amber wants the crown that Tracy seems destined to win.

Hairspray will be touring to Salford, Sunderland, Bradford, Milton Keynes, Southampton, Liverpool, Glasgow, Birmingham, Belfast, Cardiff, Nottingham, Dublin, Bristol, Leeds, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Norwich from 11 February to 29 September 2013.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Flawless Set to Appear in Bristol Panto


Flawless, famous by the hit TV show Britain’s Got Talent, is heading to Bristol on December 7 2012 to take part in Aladdin at the Hippodrome, pulling on their festive costumes and thinking ‘panto time’!

The street dance sensations will star alongside Carol McGiffin, Josie Gibson and Andy Ford in this family pantomime which will run from December 7 – January 6 2013, complete with all the audience’s favourite pantomime gags and a special injection of street dance talent from Flawless, starring as the Peking Police Squad.

The group shot to fame by competing in the third series of Britain’s Got Talent where they wowed both audiences and judges alike, even winning the notorious Simon Cowell over. Since then the eight members have rocketed to stardom having appeared in the popular StreetDance films and most recently headlined alongside Kylie Minogue at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert. In addition to this, the group featured in the Paralympic opening ceremony 2012 and will be making an appearance on an upcoming results show of this season’s Strictly Come Dancing.

Flawless has also collaborated with English National Ballet earlier this year on their production of Against Time – a fusion of street dance and ballet which dazzled audiences – as well as their own successful 110 date tour Chase the Dream. Aladdin at the Bristol Hippodrome will mark their pantomime debut.

Kevin Wood, Chief Executive of the pantomime producers First Family Entertainment said: “We are thrilled to have secured Flawless to join the cast of Aladdin and look forward to them adding a modern twist to our traditional family pantomime…we have worked extremely hard in securing the boys to give South West audiences the best show ever”.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Tour of Wicked the Musical

Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of OzWicked the musical, complete with its witchy dresses and green body paint, is set to tour the UK and Ireland from 12 September 2013 for the first time, beginning at Manchester’s Palace Theatre with further dates and locations yet to be announced. Fans all over the country and beyond will be able to engage further with the spell-binding, all-singing, all-dancing show which has taken the world of musicals by storm. Manchester has a prestigious history of hosting the regional premieres of so many world class musicals, full of tap shoes, coloured costumes and ballet tights.

The London show, which premiered in 2006, will be continuing at the Apollo Victoria Theatre where tickets are on sale until 2 November 2013. There will also be six other productions of Wicked simultaneously playing around the world including those in Broadway, Japan and Holland plus two North American and one South East Asia tour.

Wicked’s music and lyrics were written by Grammy award-winner Stephen Schwartz, with a book written by Winnie Holzman and directed by Tony award-winner Joe Mantello. As the story of what happened before Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Wicked is based on the best-selling novel, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire.

The show is produced by Marc Platt, Universal Pictures Stage Productions, The Araca Group, Jon B. Platt and David Stone, with its UK executive producer Michael McCabe. With so many members of the team involved in the production of Wicked it is easy to comprehend how the show has become so popular and successful.

Dance arrangements are covered by James Lynn Abbott, orchestration is by William David Brohn, musical supervision by Stephen Oremus and musical staging by Wayne Cilento.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

New Musicals to Hit London’s West End

London Shows

2012 is set to see two exciting new musicals hit London’s West End Theatreland: The Bodyguard and Viva Forever!The Bodyguard is adapted from the Oscar-winning 1992 film which saw Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner star, whilst Viva Forever is an original story based on the music of the hit British girl band the Spice Girls, opening at the Adelphi and Piccadilly Theatres respectively.

Broadway actress Heather Headley will be making her West End debut complete with New Yorkers and sparkling dresses when she begins her role in The Bodyguard, with the book by Alex Dinelaris and directed by Thea Sharrock. She plays world-famous singer Rachel Marron opposite Lloyd Owen as ex-Secret Service agent-turned-bodyguard Frank Farmer who is hired to protect her when threats are made against her life, with love unexpectedly blossoming. Headley is a Tony and Grammy Award winning actress who first became known when she originated the role of Nala in the Broadway production of The Lion King. She then went on to originate the title role in Aida, for which she won the Tony Award for ‘Best Actress in a Musical’ (2000), and also took part in the concert production of musical Dreamgirls donning similar high-heeled shoes and big hair.

British television actress Hannah John-Karmen will also make her West End debut in the Spice Girls musical Viva Forever!, based on a book by Jennifer Saunders and directed by Paul Carrington. John-Karmen plays Viva, a young girl who lives on a houseboat with her mother – to be played by Sally-Ann Triplett – and forms a girl band with her friends, entering an X Factor-style TV talent show. John-Karmen took part in the developmental, leg-warmer clad workshops of the musical alongside Triplett and was offered the lead role after impressing the creative team. The 22-year-old actress, a huge Spice Girls fan, trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama and is most known for her TV work, most prominently as burlesque dancer Rosa Maria Ramirez in The Hour and Jo ‘the ice-cream girl’ Portman in Misfits, but has also appeared in The Syndicate, Whitechapel and Black Mirror, among others.

Image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons.

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Big Dance and Sadler’s Wells’ Sampled

Sampled - Presented by Sadler's Wells and Big DanceThis year’s Sampled is due to run at Sadler’s Wells’ West End venue, the Peacock Theatre on Friday 29 and Saturday 30 June 2012, in order to give audiences a taste of what the UK’s leading dance house has to offer to both leotard-clad and non-dancing fans. Presented by Sadler’s Wells and Big Dance 2012, Sampled is now well established as a highlight of London’s vibrant dance calendar. It is filled with delights such as jazz dance sneakers to the more eclectic fusions of ballet skirts and urban dancewear, as anticipated in 2012.

Despite being in its sixth year, 2012 marks Sampled’s first appearance at the Peacock, containing two incredible and inspiring days of dance, music and workshops. Audiences are privy to a wealth of dance spectacle, displaying world-class hip hop and the pink pointe shoes of ballet, to bare-footed contemporary dance and flamenco in one sitting. This unique mix of Sampled demonstrates the complete diversity of the UK dance scene in the twenty-first century, and the increasing number of collaborations which are taking place throughout the industry in order to create new works of art, and even masterpieces.

The 2012 line up includes Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company, English National Ballet, Jonzi D, Da Bratz (the youth group of Olivier Award-winning hip hop dance company Boy Blue Entertainment), Cathy Waller – who won the Blueprint Bursary Award earlier this year for her fusion of contemporary and hip hop dance theatre – and the winner of the New Adventures Choreographer Award,  James Cousins. Trussed up in their tutus, English National Ballet will perform a pas de deux from their magnificent production Swan Lake, which was choreographed by Derek Deane. In addition, Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist and hip hop legend Jonzi D will perform Aeroplane Man, his witty solo and a true story, and Da Bratz will perform Generation: Next 2012, which was well received at its premiere at Breakin’ Convention earlier this year.

Find out more and purchase tickets online at the Sadler’s Wells website.

West End LIVE 2012

West End Live 2012

West End LIVE, in association with MasterCard, is returning to Trafalgar Square on June 23 and 24 2012 for free! Presented by Westminster City Council and the Society of London Theatre, West End LIVE showcases the quality and diversity of performing arts entertainment on offer in the heart of London… free for all. The iconic setting of Trafalgar Square demonstrates and promotes the West End as an exciting venue for all the family, whether it is musical theatre, contemporary dance or show-stopping voices that take your fancy.

Featuring showcase performances from every West End musical alongside interactive exhibits from London’s top attractions such as live bands, museums, galleries and cultural institutions, West End LIVE has been a great success in previous years, and 2012 looks to provide no less. It is a unique event that has grown and emerged as a hugely popular fixture in London’s entertainment calendar. As an all dancing and all singing spectacular, West End LIVE is a whirlwind of coloured costumes and performance tights, showing off the high kicking character shoes and the daring moves of jazz sneakers whilst providing a fantastic musical soundtrack.

Featuring highlights from west end musicals such as Thriller Live, The Wizard of Oz, Matilda the Musical and Chicago, West End LIVE is a sure-fire way to get your theatrical taste buds tingling as you experience a wealth of performances free of charge. Other exhibitors include Madame Tussauds, the Science Museum and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, with performances from the Angelina Ballerina Dance Academy, National Youth Music Theatre, West End Kids and Big Dance. With something for everyone of all ages and interests, West End LIVE looks sure to entice and excite you with its fantastic offerings for 2012.