Wicked 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.
2012 is set to see two exciting new musicals hit London’s West End Theatreland: The Bodyguardand Viva Forever!. The Bodyguardis adapted from the Oscar-winning 1992 film which saw Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner star, whilst Viva Foreveris 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 Dreamgirlsdonning 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, Whitechapeland Black Mirror, among others.
This 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.
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.
From May 10th until May 12th 2012, Angelin Preljocaj’s darkly adult take on the Brothers Grimm fairytale Snow White will be showing at Sadler’s Wells, showcasing spectacular costumes by fashion icon Jean Paul Gaultier and featuring the symphonic musical score by Gustav Mahler. As one of France’s most successful choreographers, Preljocaj is returning with his award-winning 2008 adaptation, performed as a contemporary ballet by the company of 25 dancers, miles away from the tutu-clad stereotype. Preljocaj’s physical choreography and Thierry Leproust’s dramatic sets transports the audience to a fairytale world of magic, drama and romance, remaining with the classic story but lacking the ballet shoes of a strictly classical company, sporting black unitards and extravagant head pieces.
Since the inception of Ballet Preljocaj in 1985, Preljocaj has created 45 choreographic works, ranging from solos to larger constructions. The company performs internationally and at home in France, where it is recognised as one of the country’s leading dance companies. Snow White has previously been a prize winner at the Globes de Cristal 2009, and in 1996 was welcomed at the Cité du Livre in Aix-en-Provence. Preljocaj’s creations have been restaged by numerous other repertory companies, from which he also receives requests to create new pieces, such as for La Scala in Milan and the New York City Ballet. The collaborations between Preljocaj and numerous other artists have also been notable, extending his influence far beyond his own company.
Beyond the repertory performances, Ballet Preljocaj has been multiplying its local actions in Aix-en-Provence and neighbouring communities in order to share its passion for dance with the broader public. Available are lectures on dance interpretation through video, public rehearsals, contemporary-dance classes and workshops, and dance interventions in urban public space in order to offer the chance to view and understand dance from different perspectives, expanding the company’s reach into the dance sector and beyond.
As one of the UK’s most prestigious and highest profile musical theatre song and dance troupes, West End Kids has gone from strength to strength since its inception in 2001, and is now famous nationwide. Formed by Musical Director and specialist vocal coach Martin-Gwyn Williams, WEKs is based primarily on the American model of training young Broadway performers.
WEKs is renowned for providing exceptionally talented young and aspiring performers with the opportunity to advance their talents further, encouraging them to tighten their tap shoes and step confidently in front of the microphone. The WEKs – approximately 20 – are in high demand due to their unfaltering successes, handling an incredibly busy schedule of high profile events, performances and studio recordings. Just recently, WEKs performed at the Charles Dickens bicentenary dinner, providing a professional and slick spectacle, kicking up the heels of their character shoes! They have previously spread their influence at the London 2012 Olympic Games, West End Live, Move IT and Children In Need, amongst hundreds of other events.
Last year, the WEKs were seen and heard by over 1 million people, and through online technology such as Facebook and Twitter, they have a large following throughout the world. Be it leotards, show tights and New Yorkers, or jazz pants and jazz trainers, the WEKs work to tailor each performance to each individual client. Additionally, the WEKs have recorded and released numerous studio recordings, with the most recent being a new arrangement of Aint No Mountain High Enough which is available on iTunes. In 2011 the world-class WEKs performed for British Prime Minister David Cameron at the Commonwealth State Banquet after being selected as the UKs brightest star within youth music theatre; 2012 looks as though it is set to be another year of success and performance for the WEKs!
Many may argue that Theatreland is the ultimate place for suspending belief amongst other audience members also preferring the stage to reality. Over the years, stages have been inundated with reality TV stars and celebrities eager to step into the dancing shoes of their predecessors, potentially forcing out home-grown talent whose skill would cause their success rather than vice versa.
Many stars have graced the stages of London’s West End and Broadway. Audiences have seen Whoopi Goldberg’s divine descent, jazz shoes and all, into the comedy musical Sister Act as Mother Superior, which she helped produce. With Sister Act already a blockbusting hit, it is easy to see how the legendary Goldberg aided the production rather than carried it.
Others who have wowed audiences are Sheridan Smith in Legally Blonde, and Tamzin Outhwaite and her feisty fishnet tights in Sweet Charity. In particular, Chicago has seen many celebrities take on the character shoes of lead roles, such as Ashlee Simpson, Jennifer Ellison, along with David Hasselhoff and John Barrowman.
Audiences are almost guaranteed when Hollywood actors are billed, with a huge hype being produced – but can these invasions continue to sweep audiences along?
It is commonplace for audiences to book tickets as a result of the cast, to then be disappointed when certain members are absent. Even if the magic atmosphere of theatre is still created, they may never return.
The same could be said for some of the stars of reality TV and where are they now – it is an automatic presumption that this is because they are simply the favourites of the home viewers, rather than the casting director. It is therefore difficult to comprehend the slog that has gone into an actor’s early life before they are finally pipped to the post by a celebrity or TV show shortcut winner, worthy or otherwise.
One of the most notorious unwritten rules of theatre is never to work with children or animals. Difficult divas at the best of times, the combination of the two would arguably be a theatrical nightmare for both the director and the chaperones. Despite this, children, and young children specifically, can often become the selling point of the production, be it a West End musical, touring production or a large-scale ballet, simply due to their irresistible appeal.
Specifically referring to London’s West End theatre scene, musicals such as Mary Poppins, Matilda and Billy Elliot have all focused directly on telling the stories of children. The ballet shoe donning Billy has had a worldwide appeal for its audiences; the story of the aspiring male ballet prodigy warming the hearts and legwarmers of many. The magical world of Matilda has additionally entranced audiences from its inception, with a similar enchantment of Mary Poppins felt for the London and UK stint of the production.
The combination of dance and the charisma of youth is a pure winner. The interweaving of leotard-based animals and little lion cubs of The Lion King has proved a hit, with an extensive run in London and elsewhere in the UK such as Bristol and Manchester. Similarly, the touring and London-based Nutcrackers‘ children are palmed between the twinkling tutus of the Snowflakes and the feisty tights of the Rat King, charming both the children and the adults of the audience alike.
Naturally, the employment of children in theatre does raise many questions, but undoubtedly the largest is… how well can the show sell? The talent of the performers and illusion of the theatre is a main influence in selling tickets, yet the inclusion of children is undoubtedly a sure-fire way to make audiences skip all the way to their seats.