Flatley’s Farewell

Michael FlatleyFollowing a sold out run at the London Palladium in 2014, Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games is returning to the West End at the Dominion Theatre from 13 March to begin a farewell tour following the six month run at the Dominion. The show’s 2014 run was intended to mark Flatley’s last West End appearance, but the star couldn’t resist returning for one last time to the capital’s stage.

Flatley will take to the stage for the first 12 days of performances before young star James Keegan takes over the role for the rest of the run of the hit Irish dance spectacular. Flatley will also be returning to the 3 Arena in Dublin and the Odyssey Arena in Belfast at the end of March. His only performances in the multi-date UK tour will be at the Brighton Centre from 2-5 April, where the tour begins, and at the Wembley Arena on 4 July, where the tour ends.

The production, which combines executing and groundbreaking technology, including holographs, dancing robots and world champion acrobats, also includes musical appearances from Girls Aloud’s Nadine Coyle. A new score composed by Gerard Fahy, new costumes and special effects lighting add a breathtaking new dimension to the original masterpiece. “My dancers are the real stars,” says Michael of his troupe of dancers, some of whom have been with the company for 10 years. He is immensely proud of their hard work and dedication, and to bring the show back to the West End in the magnificently refurbished Dominion Theatre is a dream come true.

The global phenomenon that is Lord of the Dance will be bigger than ever in 2015, with Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games on a 200-plus date tour across 15 countries over the next 18 months. In the UK, the show will be performed concurrently in London at the Dominion Theatre from 13 March-5 September and on a UK tour from 2 April-4 July.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Dates Revealed For Mack And Mabel Tour

Mack & MabelMack 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

Theatre… Or Real Life?

The Journal Tyne TheatreTheatre is renowned for providing an escape from the mundane everyday, by transporting audiences into a story which is nothing like their own. Stories of theatre can contain anything from the sublime to the ridiculous, but either way they are travel machines away from the world outside the theatre door. For much of the time, theatre creates an illusion for its audiences in which what is performed on stage becomes real in the minds of the audience.

Even if what is portrayed on stage is based on a true story or real events, the very essence of theatre usually means that the audience are transported there too, as they are taken on a journey by the actors. What happens when the action on stage is depicting something that did once happen? The theatrical ‘suspension of disbelief’ by the audience is no longer required, as they are educated in their seats about something very real.

Current West End productions in the capital include an array of narratives: those at the fantasy end of the spectrum, such as Wicked, Cats and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the middle ground including The Lion King, Miss Saigon and Les Misérables, and the far end of the scale, where little fiction is added to the events which are portrayed. The Scottsboro Boys, for example, tells the story of nine black men and how they were wrongly accused of raping two white women on a train, something which is still very raw.

Other musicals which also tell stories of real events include Jersey Boys and Sunny Afternoon, about musical bands, in addition to Made In Dagenham and Stephen Ward which tell stories of strength and scandal respectively. It is interesting to consider if productions of this type have a particular effect on audiences, and how their response differs following the viewing a production of this kind.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

ROH Production Of The Wind In The Willows To Return!

The Wind In The WillowsDirected and choreographed by Will Tuckett, the Vaudeville Theatre will see the Royal Opera House production of The Wind in the Willows return to London’s West End this Christmas, running from 26 November 2014.

The Olivier Award-winning production will play an eight week season at the Vaudeville Theatre with full casting to be announced soon. The production’s transfer to the Duchess Theatre in December 2013 marked the Royal Opera House’s first commercial transfer and the production was named Best Entertainment and Family at the 2014 Oliviers.

Based on Kenneth Grahame’s timeless classic, the adventures of four woodland friends are retold through dance, song, music and puppetry along a peaceful riverbank, with a speeding car, a racing train and criminal deeds from the Wild Wood. The escapades of Toad, Ratty, Mole and Badger are brought to life in a production that has charmed audiences of all ages, suitable for all from the age of 5. Drawing inspiration from the music of Edwardian composer George Butterworth, the action is set to a score by Martin Ward. Tuckett’s choreography is accompanied by narration written by former Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion.

Tuckett is an award-winning choreographer, dancer and director. He was a member of The Royal Ballet 1990–2005, with whom he is now a Guest Principal Character Artist. His work as a choreographer and director includes The Wind in the Willows, The Soldier’s Tale, Timecode, Pinocchio, The Thief of Baghdad, Faeries, Into the Woods and Pleasure’s Progress (ROH2), The Seven Deadly Sins, ‘Diana and Actaeon’ in Metamorphosis: Titian 2012, (Royal Ballet), West Side Story (Sage, Gateshead), The Canterville Ghost (ENB), Hansel and Gretel (Ilford Arts Festival) movement and puppet direction on The Orphan of Zhao (RSC), as well as projects in Europe, the USA, Japan and China. He has choreographed widely for film and television, was Creative Associate for ROH2 and was the Clore Dance Fellow 2008-10. Tuckett’s production of The Wind in the Willows is in its eleventh year.

Billy Elliot Screenings!

Billy ElliotIt has been rumoured that the hit musical Billy Elliot is to be screened in over 300 cinemas in September. A special matinee performance on 28 September will be broadcast live, with a repeat showing to be broadcast in the evening and Ruthie Henshall, who recently joined the cast as Mrs Wilkinson, will star in performance alongside some special guests making the screenings a milestone in the musical’s history.

In addition, the musical has recently announced that it will be continuing its hugely successful run at the Victoria Palace Theatre long into 2015, continuing to delight audiences. The record-breaking show centres around the 1980s miners’ strikes in North East England and Billy’s struggle to break free from his family’s expectations and fulfil his dream of becoming a ballet dancer. The Thatcher-era presented many obstacles but audiences will observe Billy defy the odds and go on to achieve great things.

In May 2015, the show will celebrate its 10th birthday, making it one of the longest running shows in London, as well as being a blockbuster film. The feel-good show has recently welcomed its 37th Billy to the cast, and other new cast members, led by Olivier Award nominee and musical theatre icon Ruthie Henshall in the role of Billy’s dance teacher Mrs Wilkinson. Henshall has had a fantastic career in the West End to date, starring in musicals including Les Misérables, Chicago and Crazy for You having trained at the prestigious musical theatre institution, Laine Theatre Arts.

As a result, the booking period for the show has been extended until May 2015, with more tickets on sale next month. This will extend the booking period until October 2015, great news for fans all over.

Miss Saigon To Hit Broadway?

Miss SaigonProducer Cameron Mackintosh may be considering taking his new London production of Miss Saigon to Broadway in 2015, depending on the success of the production currently running in the West End, and if a suitable theatre becomes available in New York.

Miss Saigon is an iconic musical production about a doomed romance between a young Vietnamese woman and a marine before the fall of the city Saigon. The show opened on Broadway in 1991 and became a huge hit, grossing $285 million before closing in 2001; it remains the 12th longest running show in Broadway history. The London revival began performances in May, with extremely strong sales. There have been new designs for the scenery and the helicopter, and a new song “Maybe” has been added, performed by the character of Ellen, and not included in the Broadway run.

It has been claimed that Mackintosh, who led the British musical invasion of Broadway in the 1980s with Cats, Les Misérables, and The Phantom of the Opera, would like to open the new Miss Saigon in Toronto first and then go to Broadway. The London-Toronto-Broadway path would be similar to the one taken by his latest revival of Les Misérables, which opened in New York in March.

When asked for his comments on the Broadway run, Mackintosh confirmed the gossip as speculative but highlighted that he would like to take the show to both Toronto and New York, especially due to the fact the Princess of Wales theatre in Toronto was built to house the original production of Miss Saigon. However, with incredibly busy international openings of several different titles over the next two years, and the very limited number of theatres that could house a production as big as Miss Saigon on Broadway, it looks unlikely that the production will hit New York soon.

Mamma Mia! Celebrates 15 Years!

Mamma Mia!On 6 April, the global smash hit musical MAMMA MIA! celebrated its 15th birthday in London’s West End. Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, stars of iconic band group ABBA who have rarely performed together since the four disbanded in 1982, then joined the cast of MAMMA MIA! in a musical finale at this year’s Olivier Awards as part of the celebrations. The show was televised for the ITV highlights show, broadcast on 13 April. 2014 also marks the 40th anniversary of the start of ABBA’s global success with the release of the hit track ‘Waterloo’.

MAMMA MIA! is Judy Craymer’s ingenious vision of staging the story-telling magic of ABBA’s timeless songs with an enchanting tale of family and friendship unfolding on a Greek island. To date, it has been seen by more than 54 million people in 39 productions, in 14 different languages, grossing more than $2 billion at the box office. MAMMA MIA! originally opened in London at the Prince Edward Theatre on 6 April 1999, before transferring to the Prince of Wales Theatre in 2004. The musical re-opened at the Novello Theatre in 2012 and has now extended its booking period to 25 April 2015.

Now a global phenomenon, the London production of MAMMA MIA! has been seen by more than 10% of the entire UK population. The show has celebrated over 6,200 performances in London and has broken box office records in all three of its London homes. In 2011, it became the first Western musical ever to be staged in Mandarin in the People’s Republic of China. This summer, the MAMMA MIA! International Tour will play an exclusive UK Summer Season at the Blackpool Opera House from 20 June to 14 September 2014: Blackpool will be the only UK venue outside of London to host the worldwide hit musical this year.

From Here To Eternity

From Here To Eternity - The MusicalFrom Here To Eternity, the hit West End musical which sadly closed on 29 March, may reemerge in another form. It seems it is not yet over for Tim Rice’s latest musical venture: ahead of its 2015 Broadway run, a screening of the West End’s production of From Here To Eternity will be broadcast in theatres around the US. Entertainment companies Omniverse Vision and Fathom Events are collaborating to capture the musical, following in the footsteps of shows such as War Horse and Noël Coward’s Private Lives which have been screened previously.

It is fantastic that the magnificent tale of the futile waiting for the American army ahead of the attacks on Peal Harbour in 1941. With Fathom and Omniverse collaborating to capture the ambitious musical version of the iconic story, it means the production and Stuart Brayson’s score will receive the permanent recognition they deserve.

From Here To Eternity is based on James Jones’ award-winning novel about those US soldiers and their illicit affairs during the Second World War. The 1953 film adaptation, which starred Frank Sinatra, won eight Oscars including Best Picture. The West End musical version stars Darius Campbell (previously Danesh) in the lead role alongside Robert Lonsdale.

Despite many rave reviews and popularity on social media, the musical and company suffered falling ticket sales and the close was seemingly inevitable.

Cirque du Soleil launch theatrical branch

Cirque Du SoleilCirque du Soleil, the renowned theatrical company famous for its incredible show performances, has announced it has formed Cirque du Soleil Theatrical, a New York-based division that will focus on developing new shows for Broadway, the West End and touring.

This comes as exciting news for the UK capital, in the hope that Cirque du Soleil will create a show for Theatreland rather than just the outskirts at the Royal Albert Hall and other similar venues. Cirque du Soleil is based in Montreal, Canada, and has travelled all over the world performing to the masses who adore their numerous productions. The company began as a troupe of street performers and, over 30 years, has grown into a multi-billion dollar international company.

Scott Zeiger, a founder and partner in BASE entertainment, which produced Phantom – The Vegas Spectacular, has been named president and managing director of the theatrical division. Zeiger’s other Las Vegas-based productions include Jersey Boys and Rock of Ages, with Broadway credits including The Who’s Tommy. Zeiger will also work with Cirque du Soleil’s sister troupe, Cirque Éloize, which appeared at the Peacock Theatre, London, in 2013 to great acclaim.

Previous theatre ventures ahead of the creation of the theatrical division for Cirque have had a mixed history. Wintuk, a music-based narrative, played four holiday seasons at Madison Square Garden, US. Banana Shpeel, a vaudeville-themed piece, played an extended preview period and season at the Beacon Theatre, with a revamped version gathering more success on tour in the US. Zarkana, a touring show developed for a summer residency at Radio City Musical Hall, ran for two seasons before becoming a production in Las Vegas. Iris, a Hollywood-themed show created for the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, home to the annual Academy Awards, ran for a year.

I Can’t Sing! Casting Announced

I Can't SingFull casting has been announced for new Wet End production I Can’t Sing, The X Factor Musical which premieres in Spring 2014 at the London Palladium.

Earlier this year it was announced that Olivier Award-winner Nigel Harman had been cast as X Factor supremo Simon and that Color Purple star Cynthia Erivo and Holby City actor Alan Morrissey had been cast as lovestruck contestants Chenice and Max. Joining Nigel as judge will be Ashley Knight as positive boyband manager Louis and Victoria Elliot as pop queen Jordy. Simon Bailey will play the affectionate X Factor host Liam O’Deary, with Billy Carter as Executive Producer and Simon’s right hand man, Gerard Smalls. Simon Lipkin plays Chenice’s canine sidekick and Joe Speare is her powerful singer Grandad. Along with Chenice and Max, the I Can’t Sing hopefuls include Katy Secombe as supermarket checkout girl Brenda, Charlie Baker as The Hunchback and Shaun Smith and Rowen Hawkins as Irish pop duo Alterboyz.

The I Can’t Sing! cast is completed by Luke Baker, Adam J Bernard, Jenna Boyd, Cyrus Brandon, Gabrielle Brooks, Scarlette Douglas, Kelly Ewins, Scott Garnham, Cherelle Jay, Faisal Khodaukus, Jaye Marshall, Brian McCann, Max Parker, Joseph Prouse, Steven Serlin, Kirstie Skivington, Philippa Stefani, Gary Trainor and Alex Young.

The brand new musical comedy, written by Harry Hill and Steve Brown, will feature 19 original songs, telling the sensational(ised) story of heartache and laughter that keeps millions tuning in to the X Factor every week. Harry Hill has worked with a lot of the cast in the workshops for I Can’t Sing! and have some new company faces. Harry has even commented on the uncanny likeness between Nigel Harman and Simon Cowell, especially with a wig and false teeth!