Who can believe ten years have passed since since Billy Elliot fouettéd his way onto the stage of the Victoria Palace Theatre? Back in 2005, three incredible young actors created the stage role of Billy and wey aye man, they’ve grown up. In writing this post, I seem to have unearthed a wiki-leak…the curious case of the two George Maguires. But more of that later…

Tonight, some 40,000 theatregoers will try to escape the UK general election by voting with their cheeks and parking their bottoms on the red velvet plush seats of London’s Theatreland. But Theatreland’s writers, actors and directors have a long standing fascination with their expense-dodging power hungry counterparts. Tonight, we take an irreverent look at the Politics of Theatreland – a place where neither Monarch nor Prime Minister is above derision. Famously described as “show business for ugly people”, Politics is a whole lot closer to theatre than we might like to admit, and when you look at the leaps of Eddie Izzard, Glenda Jackson and Russell Brand from the theatrical onto the political stage, you see how easily the lines can blur.

The Vote

Election night broadcast live from the Donmar Warehouse

Catherine Tate and Samuel West will be voting Donmar [Photograh Johan Persson]
Catherine Tate and Timothy West will be voting Donmar [Photograh Johan Persson]
Judi Dench and Mark Gatiss tonight lead a stellar cast

London’s Theatreland isn’t short of celebrity hangouts or private members clubs. Along with The Ivy, The Groucho Club and Soho House there is also a plethora of night spots further west in uber-trendy (and uber-expensive) Mayfair, where you might bump into the likes of Prince Harry, Rihanna, or if you’re really unlucky, Girls Aloud.

West End Watering Holes
West End Watering Holes: A far more relaxed affair than hurrying an interval drink!

But why waste your hard earned cash when there are more authentic places to chat theatre over a G&T or toast Oscar Wilde with a Guinness? Places where you will find the producers and actors, the stage hands and orchestra….

A disgruntled Kayleigh..!
A disgruntled Kayleigh..!

One of our favourite offbeat commentaries on London Theatreland is Kayleigh Llewellyn’s insider and alternative perspective at My So Called Life In A Box. Documenting her interactions and overheard conversations with the public, during her job at a West-End ticket selling booth, the blog is both insightful and hilarious. Though it consists of ‘found material’ and real-life incidents, Kayleigh self identifies as a “writer, improviser, feminist” and her nuanced sarcasm and astute observation never fails to have us in stitches. Without further ado, here are five of our top recent moments (click on titles for full posts):

Like pubs, the Royal Family and cheese rolling, Kenneth Branagh is one of Britain’s greatest phenomena. Hollywood loves him, and so have a succession of incredibly talented and high-flying British women.

Kenneth Branagh
Knight of a Thousand Stars: Sir Kenneth Branagh

So, what is it about our Ken that attracts the likes of Emma Thompson and Dame Judi Dench to love and

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

From Females to She-males and from Queens of Carthage to Queens of the Desert, The West-End and Broadway both have long lived love affairs with not-to-be-messed-with women who’ve been pushed just that bit too far. Let’s face it, if you’d been left to raise a child in a warzone by a bloke who married you in a fake wedding and then dumped you for a helicopter before the interval, or had to sell your hair to pay for medicine for your French daughter and then had to spend the whole of Act Two making ghost noises behind a curtain, you’d be pretty hacked off too.

From the big and ballsy (think Hairspray’s Edna Turnblad or Chicago’s murderous Roxie & Velma) to the emotionally over-wrought (Sunset Boulevard’s Norma Desmond or Miss Saigon’s Kim), it’s tough to pick our favourite Woman on the Verge – the type of terrifying leading lady you might love to watch from the safety of the Dress Circle, but definitely wouldn’t want to leave alone with your kids.

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?

Its Valentine’s Day again. Posh restaurants, overpriced hotels and ticket touts flogging seats to panicked looking gentlemen who forgot to arrange anything. For the rest of us, it’s probably either a bunch of flowers, some chocolates, or most likely another February wondering what’s happened to the postman…

For all us Bridget Joneses, Shirley Valentines and Edward Scissorhands, fear not! There’s a whole world of Musical Theatre couples out there whose love lives are so complicated and messy, you’ll find yourselves thanking your lucky stars you’re treating yourself to a bottle of Chardonnay and a night in singing All By Myself and waiting to be eaten by Alsatians…

Oh well…Take a look at these Musical Theatre news headlines from Valentines past as we skip through the rose-beds of Theatre’s great romances. And then ruin them.

COUPLE NUMBER ONE: CHRISTINE DAAE AND “ERIK” (THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA)

Phantom of the Opera - The Real News Headlines
Phantom of the Opera – The Real News Headlines circa 1986….

This dysfunctional couple makes the Addams Family look like

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.