The iconic musical Cats will return to the London Palladium later this year, playing a final ten week season from 23 October 2015, having already seen its West End revival earlier this year which was a huge success. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s creation will go on sale on 14 May for the run, which plays from 23 October 2015 to 2 January 2016.
Casting is yet to be announced for the production’s strictly limited season, however the original Palladium run has already seen pop star Nicole Scherzinger and musical theatre star Kerry Ellis play Grizabella. Later this year Cats will tour to Blackpool ahead of its return to London, and the iconic singer Jane McDonald will play the iconic role of Grizabella. These three women follow in the footsteps of the original Elaine Paige creating the role.
Lloyd Webber’s musical is directed by Trevor Nunn, with choreography by Gillian Lynne and design by John Napier. 2014’s high-profile return of the show reunited the original creative team, including director Nunn and choreographer Lynne. The musical takes inspiration from T.S. Eliot’s poems about the feline creatures to tell the wonderful story of the Jellicle cats and the Jellicle ball. Its triumphant return to the West End last year was a delight for its original – and new – fans. Only recently did it close after its Olivier Award-nominated run.
Featuring much-loved songs including Mr Mistoffelees, Macavity: The Mystery Cat and the iconic Memory, given its resounding success by Paige as Grizabella, Cats was first staged in 1981, when it went on to run for a record breaking 21 years. The show continues to delight fans and be a favourite amongst musical theatre enthusiasts as it is now enjoying further success from 2014 to 2015 and onwards.
Amazon has upped its presence in the theatre marketplace recently, announcing it will now sell theatre tickets, becoming further involved with the artistic industry. As a giant global retailer, Amazon appears to see UK theatre – and specifically the West End – as an area into which it can expand.
Despite some cynicism, its entry into the arts could potentially be completely transformative for theatres. Amazon has previously been involved in the area of book publishing, for example, so this is not its first dabble into the arts. It is unlikely that the association of Amazon with the arts would be detrimental; ultimately Amazon will bring a whole new market for theatre tickets, as its customers are hugely global.
Amazon has a huge database to promote the arts and theatre tickets to, and this would also be significantly more diverse than the data of traditional ticket sellers. It is also a master in terms of ease of purchase with its one-click model – something that theatre ticketing websites have often struggled with, so it will be interesting to see these developments as they occur.
For tourists, theatre – particularly in London’s West End – is a huge magnetic pull. For many foreign visitors, it is one of the principal reasons they visit the capital city, in order to experience some of the artistic wealth the London theatre scene offers. It is therefore promising to see mayor Boris Johnson recognising the crucial role theatre plays in making people want to visit the city. Proximity to arts and culture are important to many people, so it is important to recognise this effect as a whole, not just for London.
Iconic choreographer Wayne McGregor is set to create a new world-class arts space in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London. The leading company Wayne McGregor | Random Dance has set its sights on 2016 for the space to materialise. Studio Wayne McGregor – to be built within Here East – will be a home for McGregor, his company and collaborators, and a major resource for the arts and for the communities of east London.
Here East is transforming the former Press and Broadcast Centres in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park into a world-class centre of innovation and enterprise, driving the regeneration of east London and stimulating long-term economic growth in the UK. It is a space that combines business, technology, media, education and data in the pursuit of innovation. As the first cultural organisation to move into the Park, Studio Wayne McGregor will be a leader for the new education and cultural district being developed.
Comprising three extraordinary studios and additional work spaces, Studio Wayne McGregor will host all of McGregor’s creative work alongside artist development and creative learning programmes based on the trading of space, time and skills: through ‘FreeSpace’, artists will be offered access to world-class studios regardless of funding or stage of development. Space will be offered in blocks of time for rehearsal, creation, research and development. In return, artists will be asked to trade their time to deliver creative engagement for local schools and communities through ‘Free2Create’.
Studio Wayne McGregor aims to be a shared space for making, where artists can exchange knowledge and invent together to collaborate across disciplines. The space will also provide a base from which the company can work with local communities and young people to share experiences and nurture creativity. This is another major step in delivering a combination of education, employment and innovation, and is a major coup for East London in education and the arts.
When new musicals hit London’s West End in particular, there is often a sense of excitement and anticipation, but possibly now one of cynicism too. How long will it last? What will the audience and box office figures be like? Following such a barrage of shows opening and closing within the same year throughout 2014, it is no wonder these questions are now largely conscious in theatrical minds. Only recently was it announced that the hearty – and seemingly successful – Made in Dagenham was set to close its doors, and the reaction was rather subdued, even expectant.
Equally, there doesn’t seem to be a successful musical theatre model in which to base a new show heading for the West End, except perhaps for The Book of Mormon, of which content includes severe expletives, blasphemy and and downright crude humour. A very different experience for audiences, however; the show has played to 100% capacity since its opening, and continues to book well in advance at high prices. Even shows which have had successful runs at the Chichester Festival Theatre – a surefire breeding ground for West End transfers – such as Singin’ in the Rain, have not managed to survive in the city.
There is no middle ground particularly in the West End, filled with either established ‘classics’ which have years on their clocks, such as The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables, or young musicals which are just beginning and cannot compete. Perhaps financial and social issues are to blame for the poor survival rates of West End musicals, using up lots of time and money to produce the show, which do not translate to return on investment for that very reason.
With recent reports showing the capital now cannot financially house those that are playing on its stages night after night, perhaps London is becoming to too expensive to reasonably survive in.
As a much loved Christmas classic, ELF the Musical will open at the Dominion Theatre on 24 October, for a strictly limited 10 week season. Following the sold-out UK and Ireland premieres in Plymouth and Dublin in December 2014, ELF the musical will receive its London premiere this autumn, with the run ending on 2 January 2016. What began as a mandatory Christmas film to watch with the family could now become a smash hit!
The musical is based on the 2003 New Line Cinema hit starring Will Ferrell: it is the hilarious tale of Buddy, a young orphan child who mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag of gifts and is transported back to the North Pole. Unaware that he is actually human, Buddy’s enormous size and poor toy-making abilities cause him to face the truth. With Santa’s permission, Buddy embarks on a journey to New York City to find his birth father, discover his true identity, and help New York remember the true meaning of Christmas. Casting for the musical is yet to be announced.
ELF the Musical features a book by Tony Award winners Thomas Meehan (Annie, The Producers, Hairspray) and Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone), with songs by Tony Award nominees Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin (The Wedding Singer). The production will feature direction and choreography by Morgan Young (Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), set design and costumes by Tim Goodchild, lighting design by Tim Lutkin, vocal arrangements by Phil Reno, dance arrangements by David Chase, orchestrations by Doug Besterman, video design by Ian William Galloway and sound design by Clement Rawling. Musical direction and supervision will be by Stuart Morley.
Michael Rose and U-Live, in association with the Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Dublin, will present the Theatre Royal Plymouth production of ELF at the Dominion.
Mack and Mabel, the musical story of the tumultuous relationship between Keystone Cops director Mack Sennett and actress Mabel Normand, one of Sennett’s Bathing Beauties, is set to run at the Chichester Festival Theatre from 13 July–5 September. The pair had a rocky relationship however the tale is lifted by the wonderful score including numbers ‘I Won’t Send Roses’, ‘Wherever He Ain’t’ and ‘Tap Your Troubles Away’.
Michael Ball will star in the musical, written by Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart. Following its run at the Chichester Festival Theatre the show will go on a national tour at the end of the year, followed by a possible West End transfer to the delight of fans. The Chichester Festival Theatre production will be directed Jonathan Church, with choreography by Stephen Mear and design by Robert Jones.
The classic show was first produced in the UK in 1981 at the Nottingham Playhouse, starring Denis Quilley as Mack and Imelda Staunton as Mabel. Despite a successful run the show failed to transfer to the West End, however there are high hopes for the 2015 production. Soon afterwards, champion ice dancers Jane Torvill and Christopher Dean used the Mack & Mabel overture for one of their routines and consequently won the gold medal in the 1982 World Figure Skating Championships. In February 1988, a one-off charity concert featuring George Hearn, Georgia Brown, Denis Quilley and Tommy Tune was staged at the Theatre Royal in London’s West End. The show was also revived at the Leicester Haymarket theatre in 1995, and at the Piccadilly Theatre with Caroline O’Connor starring as Mabel. A recently revival at the Southwark Playhouse saw Laura Pitt-Pulford play Mabel
Dates so far released:
- Plymouth Theatre Royal 1–10 October
- Manchester Opera House 12–24 October
- Dublin Bord Gais 27 October–7 November
- Edinburgh Playhouse 10–21 November
- Nottingham Theatre Royal 23–28 November
- Cardiff Millennium Centre 1–6 December
The long-awaited debut of the musical version of The Addams Family, which premiered on Broadway in 2010, may finally be setting its sights on London’s West End. The show has been rumoured to be heading to London since it opened on Broadway five years ago, where it defied critics who had no faith that the musical would even survive this long.
The ‘page-to-stage’ show opened to poor reviews but proved to be a box office hit with US audiences. It is based on the family of characters created by cartoonist Charles Addams, including parents Morticia and Gomez, children Wednesday and Pugsley, Uncle Fester, Cousin Itt and a butler named Lurch. The show features music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice.
Despite the rumours that was coming to the West End, the transfer never materialised. Many productions have been staged in the UK since its premiere in the hope that the show would transfer across the pond – including at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe – however amateur rights have been restricted ahead of a professional London production.
Recently however, a representative of Theatrical Rights Worldwide released a statement announcing: “The Addams Family musical authors are considering many exciting opportunities for The Addams Family in the UK territory, including the West End. At present, amateur rights remain fully available as hundreds of organisations prepare for their local productions.” It is apt that the London venue remains a mystery, but fans would be delighted with an opening in the capital. It is thought that producers hope to open the show in late 2015 or early 2016.
Christine Baranski, Russell Watson and Ruthie Henshall are set to star in a concert production of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Follies at the Royal Albert Hall on 28 April. Directed by Craig Revel Horwood, with choreography by Andrew Wright, the music for the production will be performed by the City of London Philharmonic Orchestra.
The Follies musical, performed in the West End in 1987, reached London after successful stage productions across the US, including in Manhattan, Los Angeles, Michigan, Texas, Washington and Massachusetts. Follies went on to experience a world-wide theatre revival between 2001 and 2013, where it was then performed at the Toulon Opera House in France.
The musical has its historical roots in 19th century Parisian musical theatre. Follies first hit Broadway in 1971 and enjoyed 522 performances across New York. Written by Sondheim, one of America’s most renowned musical theatre composers, Follies benefitted from Sondheim’s huge musical talent. Oscar Hammerstein II became a surrogate mentor to Sondheim, who was rapidly enchanted with musical theatre. The inspiration for Follies came from reading a New York Times article about showgirls from the real-life Ziegfeld Follies and their lives.
A story was created focusing on two ex-showgirls who attend a reunion act for the Weismann Follies. Based on the Ziegfeld Follies, which entertained America in the roaring 20s, the story tells us how showgirls performing in the US became celebrities very quickly. Despite this, fame was fickle, and short-lived for most.
Follies has been just as much a success recently as it was in the 1970s. It has thematic implications for feminism and women’s emancipation, which first struck a chord with the American political classes. The narrative focuses on the culture behind making stars of people overnight, and the fascination with celebrity life. Unsurprisingly, the musical won seven Tony Awards in 1972, including Best Score for Sondheim.
It has been rumoured that West End star Kerry Ellis is set to take over the role of Grizabella from pop princess Nicole Scherzinger in Cats at the London Palladium in 2015, a huge theatrical coup for musical theatre fans. Scherzinger has previously received mixed reactions from musical theatre-goers however for many, the most important aspect of the news is that Cats will most likely be extending further than it’s previously advertised 12 week run.
Ellis, best known for starring in Wicked in the West End and on Broadway, will play Grizabella from 9 February, according to the Daily Mail newspaper. Ellis trained at Laine Theatre Arts in Surrey and has a firm place in the group of Laine’s successful alumni.
Cats the musical, which has returned to the West End after a 12 year period, opened to rave reviews at the Palladium in December, and is currently booking to 27 February 2015, although an extension is likely. The cast and creatives have been praised for the revival of the timeless production, with undefeated choreography from Dame Gillian Lynne who continues to surprise at nearly 90 years old.
For Ellis it was after appearing as one of Martine McCutcheon’s understudies in My Fair Lady that her breakthrough role came in 2002: she played Meat in the premiere of the Queen musical We Will Rock You at the Dominion Theatre to great acclaim. Her other credits include Wicked (for which she has won awards such as the 2008 WhatsOnStage Award for Best Takeover in a Role), Oliver!, Miss Saigon, Les Miserables and Rent, earning her a firm place in the line up of iconic musical theatre artists.
It has been revealed that Imelda Staunton will reprise her role as the iconic Momma Rose in Chichester Festival Theatre’s hit production of Gypsy when it transfers to the West End for a strictly limited season in spring 2015. This will be the first London production of Stephen Sondheim’s much-loved musical for more than 40 years, playing at the Savoy Theatre from 28 March.
Gypsy is often cited as one of Broadway’s greatest ever musicals: the rarely staged piece tells the true story of the ultimate showbiz mother Momma Rose who took her daughters Baby June and Louise across America in search of fame and fortune with their homespun vaudeville act. Momma Rose is forced to accept the demise of vaudeville and the rise of burlesque, as well as her daughters’ quest for freedom and individuality.
The musical features a book by West Side Story’s Arthur Laurents, music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Sondheim. It was inspired by the memoirs of the real-life Louise, Gypsy Rose Lee, and boasts a classic score of hits including Everything’s Coming Up Roses, Small World, Let Me Entertain You and Together (Wherever We Go).
Imelda Staunton is often referred to as one of Britain’s best-loved performers. Her credits on stage include Guys And Dolls, A Chorus Of Disapproval and Life X 3 at the National Theatre, Entertaining Mr Sloane at the Trafalgar Studios and A Delicate Balance at the Almeida. She is also a household name for her screen appearances, as Staunton has starred in films including Pride, the Harry Potter series, Maleficent, Vera Drake and The Awakening.
Further casting as to who will join Staunton in the West End transfer is yet to be announced. The production will follow Dirty Rotten Scoundrels into the Savoy Theatre, which ends it run on 7 March 2015.