In the first of a series of interviews with the West End’s top Theatre writers and bloggers, we meet Mark Shenton. Mark co-founded MyTheatreMates.com with friend Terri Paddock, a site which is building a big network of great bloggers and has some terrific contributors.

My-Theatre-Mates-logo
My Theatre Mates – definitely a must read for all thespians!

Mark is associate editor of The Stage, as well as joint lead critic. He has written regularly for The Stage since 2005, including a daily online column.

Hi Mark and thanks for the interview. When did you start writing a blog and what do you wish you’d known back then?

This week we met the enchanting Gemma Sutton who has been wowing audiences in hit West End show Gyspy as Rose’s daughter June and now takes over from Lara Pulver in the role of Louise, a character who undergoes a chrysalis-like transformation to become the complex and eponymous Gypsy.

There’s still time to catch Chichester Festival Theatre’s jaw-dropping West End transfer of possibly the greatest of all American Musical, Gypsy. The show is booking until 28th November at the Savoy Theatre and features music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Arthur Laurents.

Hi Gemma. You’ve been playing June since Gypsy started – when did you take over the role of Louise?

When we last met Murray Lane he was stuck in a lift with Patti Lupone seconds from disaster in Sunset Boulevard. In the second part of our exclusive two part showbiz interview , we talk to the man who dressed Lee Evans in The Producers, once revealed a nearly naked Oliver Thornton in Priscilla, and is now leaving Oompa-Loompas in stitches on a nightly basis at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

Lee Evans and top West End dresser Murray Lane
Lee Evans and top West End dresser Murray Lane

Hi Murray – tell us about your current show…

Right now I’m working on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – I can’t believe it’s been two years! I actually started 3 weeks after the show opened. Before that, I was on Viva Forever!

Fancy rubbing shoulder-pads with Norma Desmond or helping Oliver Thornton out of his Basque? When Tiffany Graves, star of Chicago and The Producers gave us her “leading lady” list of the West End’s most interesting characters, one name was at the very top. Murray Lane has been dressing the biggest stars in the West End for three decadent decades, and we’re thrilled to say that he’s agreed to share his dressing room secrets and tales from the theatrical closet with us. In this two part interview, we meet the man who knows Patti LuPone, Elaine Paige and a host of West End stars very intimately indeed!

Patti Lupone: Every performance is a Masterclass
Murray with Patti LuPone: Every performance is a Masterclass

Hi Murray – let’s start at the very beginning – how long have you been a dresser?

With just over 48 hours to go until the 2015 Olivier Awards, we meet the amazing woman who keeps Awards Day running like clockwork. From Kids Week to West End Live, Emma De Souza truly is the West End’s Wonder Woman.

The stunning Royal Opera House: Red Carpet awaits the most famous feet in Theatreland. [Image: Sarah Jeynes]
London’s stunning Royal Opera House: The Red Carpet awaits the most famous feet in Theatreland. [Image: Sarah Jeynes]

Hi Emma. Thanks for meeting us at such a busy time. Tell us all about your role in the Olivier Awards!

My title is Producer of Red Carpet and Media – in a nutshell that means

In the second part of our two part interview with Anthony Drewe , we talk more to this versatile Actor, Director, Writer and Artist about his work with George Stiles on musicals like Mary Poppins, Peter Pan and Travels with My Aunt, work-shopping Soap Dish with Kristin Chenoweth, writing with Downton Abbey creator Lord Julian Fellowes and spending time in LA with Steven Spielberg.

Anthony, thanks again for giving us so much of your time. Your diary must be pretty full – how do you find time to see new productions of your shows?

I remember when we adapted Peter Pan, the show was

In the week that Disney and Cameron Mackintosh announced a new UK & Ireland tour of Mary Poppins, I met with the show’s talented lyricist, Anthony Drewe. Anthony and his writing partner George Stiles are best known for their musicals Just So, Honk! and Betty Blue Eyes as well as  additional songs for the hugely successful stage version of Mary Poppins. Yet there is an awful lot more to this versatile actor, director, writer and artist and while the tea infuses, we chat about everything from Spielberg to Sondheim.

Stiles & Drewe are synonymous with British Musical Theatre. How did you and George first meet?

If the West End is the beating heart of the UK Theatre scene, then the National Tour is its lifeblood.

One of this year’s (2015) biggest UK tours is undoubtedly Mel Brooks’ Broadway and West End smash hit, The Producers.

The Producers - keeping it gay around the UK!
The Producers 2015 – keeping it gay across the UK! [Photography: Hugo Glendinning]
There was widespread speculation as to who would lead the cast and we think they’ve got it spot on.

  • Jason Manford (who played Pirelli alongside Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton in Sweeney Todd) is

PANTOMIME: UNCOVERED – PART TWO

In Pantomime: Uncovered – Part One, we met the Grand Dame of Panto, Christopher Biggins. Most big Pantomimes rely on “names” – in this case Biggins and David Hasselhoff – to pull in the crowds. But panto is a big beast, and each show only as good as the whole of the cast and crew, who work their collective socks off to make the whole experience sheer and utter magic. For every big name Dame, there’s a Tinkerbell just starting out, or a Wishy Washy with years of tumble-drying behind them.

Every Captain Hook needs a great first mate: Hailing from Torquay, Steve Laister plays Starkey, sidekick to David Hasselhoff’s Seafaring Pirate. Fortunately for us, Steve will do anything for a Slush Puppy….including an impromptu interview!

The Comedy Relief

"Slush Puppy for Mister Starkey?"
“Slush Puppy for Mister Starkey?” – Curtis Bannister-Pond at the Theatre Shop…

So Steve…what first got you into Showbusiness?

“A bet!”

Really?

“Yep. I was a semi-professional snooker player and the snooker lads bet me a coke that I wouldn’t enter a talent show. So I did…”

Is this is your first panto?

“Qdos have asked me for about five years to do it, and I always said no. I gave in this y

PANTOMIME: UNCOVERED – PART ONE

FEATURING AN INTERVIEW WITH THE GRANDEST OF DAMES, CHRISTOPHER BIGGINS

Christopher Biggins prepares for another pantomime...
Theatre Legend Christopher Biggins: Star of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Jesus Christ Superstar…and nearly 40 pantomimes.

Hop aboard the magic carpet, step up into the golden carriage, and cry “anchors aweigh”  as we transport you through the Stage Door into the magical world of Pantomime.

Batboy: It’s a BEAST of a show

Rob Compton as Bat Boy
Rob Compton as the eponymous Bat Boy

Meeting Luke Fredericks – currently directing Batboy which begins previews at the Southwark Playhouse tonight, 9th January 2015 – is unforgettable. Full of energy and passion, it’s a privilege to meet this ebullient young director, whose recent production of Carousel, New York Times critic Ben Brantley described as