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.

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