BODY WORLDS: London’s latest unmissable attraction

Discover more about yourself than you ever thought possible at BODY WORLDS, London’s biggest tourist attraction to open in over a decade! It’s an interactive, fun and endlessly fascinating insight in to our body and mind, including the impact our lifestyle choices have on our health.  

Gunther von Hagens’ BODY WORLDS is the original exhibition of real human bodies. Even after more than 20 years of exhibition history and with 47 million visitors of all ages around the world, the fascination with the mysteries of the human body and the quest for a long, healthy life continue to exude the same magnetism as always. 

This life-changing experience is a unique convergence of art, science and education, defined by its creators’ missions: to make people more health-conscious – with nearly 70% of visitors leaving determined to lead a healthier lifestyle; to reveal the inner workings of the human body; and, in laying bare humanity in its physical state, to posit deeper questions about the meaning of life and the mysteries of the human condition. 

Before your visit, here’s a taster of the awesome facts about our bodies that you’ll learn within the exhibition:

  • Always look on the bright side: being an optimist can help you live longer!
  • In an adult human, blood circulates about 12,000 miles (19,000 km) a day. This is like traveling from east to west across the widest part of the Pacific Ocean.
  • A person’s feet have about 500,000 sweat glands and can produce about a pint of sweat a day.
  • We are all incredibly lucky to be here! One ejaculation contains 200 to 500 million sperm cells. Of these, only about 200 ever reach the Fallopian tubes, and only one sperm eventually manages to penetrate the egg. Another sperm would form a completely different individual. 
  • Although the brain takes up just 2% of our body weight, it uses about 20% of the energy
  • The face contains 60 muscles, it takes 40 to frown but only 20 to smile
  • The smallest bone in the body is called the stirrup – it is located in the ear and is about the same size as just one grain of rice
  • One tiny droplet of blood contains around 5 million blood cells

 Why not join the other 47 million people who have already been inspired by this eye-opening exhibition? Don’t just take our word for it, celebs are raving about BODY WORLDS too:   


Don’t miss out on the wonder of the human body – book your tickets to see BODY WORLDS now right here.

Think you know London’s West End? Test your knowledge in our Theatreland quiz!

Do you know the West End’s streets like the back of your hand? You may think so…but less than half of theatregoers can correctly name 8/10 of these theatrical streets! Can you score a perfect ten?

  1. On which Covent Garden street might you encounter a dark and ghostly female opposite one of London’s Oldest Stage Doors?
  2. Which south London street links an Old Victorian with a Young pretender?
  3. Which Ipswich musical shares its name with any number of streets leading to the nation’s capital city?
  4. What street links Monopoly with a Church of Latter Day Saints?
  5. Which street, sharing its name with a Scottish county, regularly hosts performances of the majestic variety?
  6. On which street might you take a stroll and meet an operatic diva and a grand old Duke?
  7. Which theatrical thoroughfare links a magical potter with a bunch of revolting students?
  8. Which street links a Los Angeles boulevard with a Chichester gypsy?
  9. Which London street will soon see a demonic child at one end and a gothic monster at the other?
  10. Where might you bump into a famous beau on the way to one of central London’s tiniest theatres?

 

Want to check your scores? Get out the answers to our quiz here!

Mad about theatre? Check out our other free to play quizzes and stretch your theatre brain.

The Up & Coming: 7 New Shows Opening In London This Autumn That Will Stir Your Soul!

Do you live for your next Theatre fix? Then you are up for a treat with an extraordinary autumn season in London’s West End. Theatreland is so abuzz with rehearsal gossip it feels like Eros might spontaneously combust! Forget Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – the wizarding world had better get ready to cry “stupefy!” with the flurry of fantastic shows swooping in for their London openings. Here is what you need to know about the next big things:

1. Oslo

When? Playing a the National Theatre From 5 to 23 September, then transferring from 2 October to the Harold Pinter.
What is it? A Broadway smash which flies into the West End via the NT. This Tony-award winning play tells the tale of two maverick Norwegian diplomats who worked, hidden from the world in a forest-shrouded castle outside Oslo, to enable top secret talks between Israel and Palestine – one of the most explosive relationships in history.
Where is it?
National Theatre and then transferring to the Harold Pinter Theatre
Who’s in it?
Toby Stephens (BBC’s Jane Eyre) and Lydia Leonard (Wolf Hall)
How do I get tickets?
Buy tickets here for Oslo and choose your perfect seat

2. Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle

When? In Preview from 3 October
What is it? The UK Premiere from Tony and Olivier Award-winning director Marianne Elliott and playwright Simon Stephens (the creative team behind The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time). In a London train station, two strangers collide…and their lives will never be the same again. Heisenberg spins truth and lies like an infinite ball of string and ponders the question: what brings people together in this uncertain world?
Where is it?
Wyndham’s Theatre
Who’s in it? Anne-Marie Duff (Elizabeth I, Shameless) and Kenneth Cranham (An Inspector Calls)
How do I get tickets?
You can book tickets here for Heisenberg – choose your seats today and take advantage of great preview prices

3. Venus in Fur 

When? In Preview from 6 October
What is it? An adaptation of the 1870 novel, Venus in Furs by the Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (hence the term “masochism”). When seductively beautiful actress, Vanda Jordan, appears unannounced for an audition with director Thomas Novachek, she’s determined to land the leading role in his new production – despite seeming totally wrong for the part. During a single evening in downtown Manhattan, their sexually charged meeting becomes a seductive dance to the very end.
Where is it?
Theatre Royal, Haymarket
Who’s in it?
Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones) and David Oakes (Shakespeare in Love, Victoria) star, with direction by Patrick Marber
How do I get tickets?
Buy tickets here for Venus in Fur and choose your own seats
Best Quote
‘You don’t have to tell me about sadomasochism. I’m in the theatre’

4. A Woman of No Importance

When?  In preview from 6 October
What is it? Oscar Wilde’s glittering satire on English upper-class society with Wilde’s razor sharp wit shines a spotlight on social hypocrisy at the turn of the nineteenth century…but the upper classes haven’t reckoned on the arrival of Mrs Arbuthnot. Wilde gives snobbery a two-fingered salute with some of the best lines you’ll ever hear in a theatre.
Where is it?
Vaudeville Theatre
Who’s in it?
Eve Best (Hedda Gabler) and Anne Reid (Last Tango in Halifax)
How do I get tickets?
Buy tickets here for A Woman of no Importance and get unbiased seat reviews

 

5. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

When? In preview from 6 November
What is it? A modern fairy tale based on the real-life story of sixteen-year old Jamie New, struggling to fit in on a Sheffield council estate and bursting to tell his secret. The songs, by lead singer-songwriter of The Feeling, Dan Gillespie Sells and writer Tom MacRae (listen here on spotify) are instant classics. With the love of his loving mum and friends, Jamie beats the bullies and steps fearlessly out of the darkness into the spotlight.
Where is it?
Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Theatre
Who’s in it?
John McCrea (The Busker’s Opera), Josie Walker (Matilda), James Gillan (Wicked)
How do I get tickets? Buy tickets for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and get best-seat advice from other theatre lovers

 

6. The Exorcist

When? In preview from 20 October
What is it? The perfect scare-fest for a dark autumn night. Forty-five years after William Peter Blatty’s best-selling novel left an entire generation paralyzed with fear, The Exorcist is unleashed on West End audiences for the very first time in a uniquely theatrical experience directed by award-winning film and theatre Director Sean Mathias (Bent, No Man’s Land). Guaranteed to leave you slightly hysterical.
Where is it? Phoenix Theatre
Who’s in it? Casting is yet to be announced
How do I get tickets?
Tickets for the Exorcist are on sale now – just don’t go alone!
Most likely thing to hear? “I’m telling you that ‘thing’ upstairs isn’t my daughter…” followed by the screams of a terrified audience ducking behind their seats.

the-exorcist-triplet-one-R3d3

7. Hamilton

(of course this is the most highly anticipated show opening in London, but it is already sold-out)

In Preview from 21 November
What is it? Pirates of the Caribbean meets American civil war as a penniless immigrant becomes US Treasury secretary. As is often the case with those rising to power, Hamilton was self-destructive and fallible, qualities that make for a perfect musical – with more riffing than a Christina Aguilera and Beyoncé diva-off. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop score gets under your skin so you’ll be humming it for weeks. Add in pistol fights, fisticuffs and affairs and you’re in for a real treat!
Where is it? Victoria Palace
Who’s in it? Newcomer Jamael Westman plays Alexander Hamilton supported by Giles Terera (Book of Mormon), Michael Jibson (Our House), Rachelle Ann Go (Miss Saigon)
How do I get tickets? Kill someone. If that fails, we’re promised a daily lottery in-person at the theatre prior to each performance and a weekly lottery online for performances taking place the following week. Follow Hamilton’s Twitter account or Facebook page for updates.

Further ahead

Is it too early to mention the C word? Yep… Christmas is only a few months away and we’re SO excited we’ve already booked tickets to see the Old Vic’s new stage production of A Christmas Carol starring Rhys Ifans, arriving in a new adaptation by Harry Potter and the Cursed Child stage writer Jack Thorne. Our other top stocking-filler for Christmas 2017 has to be booking tickets to see Dick Whittington at the London Palladium starring West End royalty Elaine Paige, Charlie Stemp, Nigel Havers and Julian Clary!

Review: Don Juan in Soho – a thrill-ride of debauchery, anarchy, and chaos

David Tennant stars in an update of Patrick Marber’s Don Juan in Soho, loosely based on Moliere’s tragicomedy ‘Don Juan’. Having premiered at the Donmar Warehouse in 2006, Marber describes his new adaptation as ‘naughty but nice’.

Set in contemporary Soho, the focus of the classic French play is transformed to a more intimate – and particularly filthy – insight into the life of Don Juan: a hopelessly sexist, cruel seducer, who lives only for pleasure.

Don Juan in Soho

The play is opened by dancers dressed innocently – and ironically – in white, as the audience awaits what is soon to become a thrill-ride of debauchery, anarchy, and chaos. Anna Fleischle’s classic, simplistic set, featuring the impressive statue of Charles II, provides the perfect backdrop, while tensions rise as Tennant’s arrival on stage is eagerly anticipated.

Tennant thrives in his almost animalistic character: Don Juan (or DJ) seduces women (or at least attempts to) as often as possible – even if they happen to be a newly-wed crying in a hospital waiting room over their husband’s critically-ill state. He pursues his prey until they surrender: he made huge effort with Lottie, played by the compelling Dominique Moore, until their wedding day when she had become less interesting and ‘have-able’. 

David is suitably mischievous, revealing a side to his acting capabilities that is far removed from the sci-fi protagonist we knew and loved in Doctor Who, and the dour Detective Inspector in Broadchurch. He is no stranger to the stage, however, having played in Hamlet in Gregory Doran’s critically-acclaimed RSC production and in Richard II at The Barbican more recently.

Don Juan in Soho

Adrian Scarborough shines as Stan, a highly amusing but often disloyal side-kick to DJ, who claims that DJ will “do it with anything… even a hole in the o-zone layer”. As the play progresses, you find yourself growing increasingly empathetic towards sweet, stumpy Stan; the moment DJ admits the admiration he has for his companion is almost touching (it’s difficult to commit to describing a character as outrageously amoral as DJ as ‘touching’).

The hilarity of the play is certainly enhanced by its modern additions, perhaps most notably the reference to one of Trump’s many controversial remarks, but also DJ’s lecture on modern society having the need to be “friended, followed, and liked” and how we have so-called ‘progressed’ from “charcoal to the iPhone”. 

Don Juan in Soho

Despite DJ’s barbaric behaviour and severely out-dated views, Tennant succeeds in winning the audience over: you somehow forgive his lifestyle and find yourself planted firmly by his side.

Don Juan in Soho is running at the Wyndham’s Theatre until Saturday 10 June. For an unmissable, scandalous evening, book your tickets here.

3 Things To Know About the New Cast of Les Mis London

Les Mis London just announced a new cast starting on June 12: just in time for you to get in a little revolution this summer!(Though if they’d pushed it back a week earlier, the new cast could have officially stepped in on Barricade Day, just saying….)

Major cast changes include Killian Donnelly as Jean Valjean, Carly Stenson as Fantine, Hayden Tee as Javert, and Karis Jack as Eponine. Steven Meo will step in as Thenardier, Jacqueline Tate as Madame Thenardier, and Hyoie O’Grady as Enjolras. Paul Wilkins and Charlotte Kennedy will continue in their current roles as Marius and Cosette, respectively.

Here are 3 things to know about the new cast of Les Misérables London:

1. Killian Donnelly has already played half the characters in the show – including in the film
So transitioning to the role of Jean Valjean should be fairly smooth. The Irish-born actor first joined the cast of Les Misérables in 2008 as swing. Shortly after joining the company, he understudied several roles, including Javert, Enjolras, and Jean Valjean (a role he performed on several occasions). His performances as an understudy must have impressed someone, because he officially took on the role of Enjolras shortly thereafter, and continued in that role from 2009 to 2011. But the buck doesn’t stop there. Donnelly also played Courfeyrac in the 25th Anniversary Concert of Les Misérables at the O2, and Combeferre in the 2012 film adaptation.It’s been a few years since Donnelly has been involved in Les Mis, though. He’s currently playing the role of Charlie Price in Kinky Boots on Broadway – a role that got him nominated for an Olivier Award.

2. Carley Stenson once received a nomination for Best Exit (not to be mistaken for Brexit)

From 2000 to 2010, Stenson played Steph Cunningham in Hollyoaks, a popular soap opera about a group of college kids. Stenson’s character eventually died in a burning building after struggling with cervical cancer (apparently she decided to go out with a bang, since she was dying anyway). Stenson’s exit from the show created quite a stir and even brought her a nomination for Best Exit. That seems particularly relevant to her new role as Fantine – a character who has possibly one of the most moving exits in theater history. But Stenson isn’t all doom and gloom: she’s also starred in West End productions of Legally Blonde, Shrek the Musical, and Spamalot.

3. Hayden Tee has played Javert in three different countries – UK will be the fourthThe New Zealander has played Javert in Australia, New York, and Dubai. He first performed the role in the 25th Anniversary production of Les Misérables in Australia. Before the Australian run began in 2015, though, Tee attended a Broadway production of Les Misérables and hid a note to himself in one of the chairs inside the theater. The note read, “Dear Hayden, Congratulations on your Broadway Debut as Javert, March 2016.” It was a self-fulfilling prophecy: Tee debuted as Javert on Broadway in January 2016 and won several awards for his performance. Anyone who’s tried reading Les Misérables will also appreciate the fact that Tee has read Hugo’s 1400-page novel three times. I’d give him an award just for that.

Bonus:
Here’s our light-hearted look at this most serious-sounding of musicals

Where Does London’s West End END? The answer is in this map

Not all London Theatre is West End, not all West End is THE West End. But how are you supposed to know the difference? We’re here to help you with that.

The term West End is used with no official geographical definition as such, therefore, it varies depending on the subject being discussed.

For example, some people refer to the West End as the Central West part of London.  Ed Glinert’s West End Chronicles (2006)  describes the districts falling within the West End as Mayfair, Soho, Covent Garden, Fitzrovia and Marylebone. By this definition, the West End borders Temple, Holborn and Bloomsbury to the east, Regent’s Park to the north, Paddington, Hyde Park and Knightsbridge to the west, and Victoria and Westminster to the south. This is a large area in comparison to the Theatreland definition of the West End.

Traditionally, the West End sits within the boundaries of Regent Street, Oxford Street, Kingsway and The Strand. However, The Apollo Victoria and the Victoria Palace Theatre are both also considered “West End Theatres” despite being in Victoria, which is outside this area. They are part of a classification of West End Theatre by means of the ‘type’ of shows they host – Big, blockbuster Andrew Lloyd Webber type of shows. It seems they are self-proclaimed West End Theatres and no one really dared to say otherwise!

Anyhow, If you are planning on getting yourself into a walking self-tour of the West End in a theatrical sense, I’d keep within the classical boundaries, because Victoria is a little bit far to go by foot, and it is also not very pretty as it stands now in 2017, being cramped with construction work – there isn’t much to see there!

A Map Of London's West End
An easy visualisation of London’s iconic Theatre District, the West End, and its boundaries.

Must-See London Theatre 2017: When, Where, Who & Why + How To Book

Mad about Lin-Manuel Miranda? Crazy about Sienna Miller? Intrigued by immersive theatre? 2017 has already been a blockbuster year for London & West End theatre. So what else is in store? When can you go? And how can you get the best seats?
Here, with our top ticketing tips, are the unmissable shows that the rest of 2017 has to offer.

sienna miller plain edit.pngCAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF

When? 13 July – 7 October

Where? The Apollo Theatre. Shaftesbury Ave, Soho, London, W1D 7EZ.

Who? Sienna Miller (Layer Cake; American Sniper) and Jack O’Connell (Skins) star in this new production of Tennessee William’s Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece.

Why? The play is one of Tennessee Williams’ best known works and was his personal favourite. Dubbed a twentieth century masterpiece, and with its star-studded cast, it’s potentially the biggest must-see of the year (after Hamilton, of course).
In the play, a southern family gather at Big Daddy’s cotton plantation to celebrate his birthday; Maggie (Miller) fights to save her marriage to his son Brick (O’Connell) as they tiptoe around family secrets and sexual tensions that threaten their relationship. Sounds intense, right?

How do I book? Book tickets for Cat On A Hot Tin Roof online or in person at the Apollo Theatre. Book in advance to get the best seats and prices (best availability from August).

aaip blogAN AMERICAN IN PARIS

When? Currently open until January 2018

Where? The Dominion Theatre. 268-269 Tottenham Court Rd, Fitzrovia, London W1T 7AQ.

Who? Featuring the Royal Ballet’s Leanne Cope and New York City Ballet’s Robert Fairchild.

Why? The multi-award-winning production is dancing up a storm in the West End after opening to a record-setting 28 five-star reviews in March. American GI Jerry Mulligan is starting his career as a painter in Paris when he meets beautiful young dancer Lise. With songs from George and Ira Gershwin, choreography that truly takes your breath away, and a whopping 28 five-stars, it’s probably worth seeing what all the fuss is about.

How do I book? You can book tickets for An American in Paris online (there is a no booking fee offer on until the 22 July) or rock-up at the venue and queue-up from 10 a.m. on the day of the performance to get some limited-release day tickets for £20.

Top tip: The Dominion has some of the best leg-room in the West End. Even rear stalls seats are good, and because the theatre is wide, you won’t feel far away.

amber riley blogDREAMGIRLS

When? Currently open until February 2018

Where? The Savoy Theatre. Savoy Court, Strand, London WC2R 0ET.

Who? Amber Riley, the American actress best known for her portrayal of Mercedes Jones in Fox comedy-drama series Glee, plays Effie White.

Why? The much-anticipated new production, featuring classics ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going’, ‘One Night Only’ and ‘Listen’, follows the journey of a trio of young female singers called The Dreams on their stormy journey from their hometown of Chicago up the greasy pole of success and celebrity. You’ll probably have goosebumps by the interval, and you’ll definitely be standing by the end. Dreamgirls is truly an unmissable show.

How do I book? You can book tickets for Dreamgirls online. And for the more spontaneous (or perhaps last-minute) people, you can queue at the venue from 10 a.m. Monday – Friday to get £20 tickets for same-day performances. Also, any returned tickets will be sold on a first-come-first-served basis, so there’s still a chance of bagging some decent seats!
hamilton blog.pngHAMILTON

When? Opening November 2017

Where? The Victoria Palace Theatre. Victoria St, Westminster, London SW1E 5EA

Why? Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton is a history lesson in American independence, covering the real events surrounding America’s political foundation as well as Alexander Hamilton’s intriguing love life. In 2016, the show was nominated for a record-breaking 16 Tony awards, and won 11, as well as breaking all sorts of records on Broadway – not least for the amount of money it can demand for tickets.

How do I book? As anticipated, demand was extremely high and tickets sold out pretty swiftly after going on sale earlier this year. However, it’s rumoured that more tickets will be released in early autumn. Follow Hamilton’s Facebook and Twitter accounts for updates.

ross noble blog.pngYOUNG FRANKENSTEIN

When? 28th September 2017 – 10th February 2018

Where? The Garrick Theatre. Charing Cross Rd, London WC2H 0HH.

Who? Stand-up comedian Ross Noble, Lesley Joseph (Birds of a Feather), Summer Strallen (The Sound of Music), and Hadley Fraser (Les Misérables) star in this musical version of the classic 1974 film.

Why? Wickedly inspired by Mary Shelley’s classic novel, the revamped, restyled production reunites legendary filmmaker and comedian Mel Brooks and Tony-award winning director and choreographer Susan Stroman with the creative team behind their previous hit, The Producers. Think about it. A comical cult horror film parody featuring the one and only Ross Noble. What is there not to love?

How do I book? You can book tickets for Young Frankenstein online or in person at the venue.

iris theatre blogIRIS THEATRE

When? 21 June – 3 September

Where? St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden. Bedford St, London WC2E 9ED.

Why? Promenade around the world-famous grounds of St. Paul’s Church with Iris Theatre’s signature-style immersive productions of Hansel and Gretel and Macbeth. Their fresh and vibrant shows are affordable, accessible and cater to all ages in the heart of London. Guaranteed to fright and delight, you’d be a fool to miss this unique experience.

How do I book? You can book tickets for Iris Theatre productions online.

gatsby blog.pngTHE GREAT GATSBY

When? Currently open until 10 September

Where? Gatsby’s Drugstore. 2 Pilgrimage Street, London, United Kingdom, SE1 4AU. 

Why? Described as the theatrical event of the year, this immersive adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgeral’s seminal jazz-age novel is a night you’ll remember! The cocktails are flowing, the music is playing, the party is in full swing, and there’s the chance of more than a little scandal. Slip on your best 1920s dress and your dancing shoes, and step into the heart of the action in one of the greatest stories or the 20th century!

How do I book? You can book tickets for The Great Gatsby online. And if you fancy a late one with a little less theatre and a little more partying, book tickets for The Great Gatsby Lates.

Top tip: Due to high demand, tickets sell fast, so it’s a good idea to book in advance.

hair blog.pngHAIR THE MUSICAL

When? 4 October – 3 December 2017

Where? The Vaults Theatre. Arch 236, Leake Street, London SE1 7NN.

Why? 50 years since its debut, Hair The Musical has become more of a cultural and social phenomenon than a show, and is just as relevant now as it was back then.
Walk through the 60s to explore what it is to be free in this fully-immersive production, featuring psychedelic design and artwork, 60s-themed pop-up restaurants, and stalls brimming with tie-dye masterpieces and flower headdresses.

How do I book? You can book tickets for Hair The Musical online.

 

shit faced blogSHIT-FACED SHAKESPEARE

When? Currently open until 16 September

Where? The Leicester Square Theatre. 6 Leicester Pl, London WC2H 7BX.

Why? 2017 sees Shit-faced Shakespeare stagger to London with a brand spanking new take on Much Ado About Nothing. Described as a ‘deeply highbrow fusion of an entirely serious Shakespeare play with an entirely shit-faced cast member’, this show is perfect if you’re feeling a little less than equipped to take on a deeply moving, thought-provoking drama. Sit back, relax and giggle away at this ludicrously funny, light-hearted show.

How do I book? You can book tickets for Shit-faced Shakespeare online or in person at the venue. The box office is open 2 hours prior to the first performance.

trump blog.pngTRUMP – THE PANTO!

When? 12 – 30 December

Where? The Leicester Square Theatre. 6 Leicester Pl, London WC2H 7BX.

Why? London’s number one dream-team panto producers are back to present their seasonal sauciness with Trump – the Panto! In a magical land far, far away, political overlords expel a ragtag bunch of fairy tale characters from the mystical woods. The intrepid characters embark on an unthinkable quest over the wall in search of the great Trump. Based on “a true story of alternative facts”, this adult pantomime is guaranteed to be a a night of hilarity (depending on your political stance, of course). You can read more about the show here.

How do I book? You can book tickets for Trump – the Panto! online or in person at the venue. The box office is open 2 hours prior to the first performance.

harry potter blogHARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD PARTS 1& 2

When? Currently booking until 22 July 2018

Where? The Palace Theatre. Shaftesbury Ave, Soho, London W1D 5AY.

Why? The play recently won a record-breaking nine Olivier Awards, including Best New Play and Best Director, making it the most awarded West End production in the history of the Olivier Awards. If that isn’t reason enough to see a play, then I’m not sure what is…

How do I book? We’d strongly advise registering for updates. Each time tickets have been released they have sold out within hours. The next release of advance tickets is in Autumn 2017. You can sign up to the newsletter for here. If you’re a little hesitant to hand over your email address, you can follow the play on Twitter, Facebook and Instgram for updates.

Check out all the exciting shows the West End has to offer and get the very best seats via From The Box Office. Enjoy the rest of 2017 and happy theatre-going!

If you’d like to be the first to know of new shows, reviews, ticket offers and more, sign-up to our newsletter below!

Stars of Kinky Boots party at Mint Leaf for first birthday

Top London nightspot Mint Leaf rocked into the wee small hours last night as the venue played host to the new cast for Kinky Boots 1st Birthday. London’s tightest, brightest, kinkiest show celebrated the big day a whole week early, with champagne flowing and celebrity guests joining in with the sorts of shenanigans that would make a drag queen blush.

Sinitta - the press pounce before the partying gets wild!
Sinitta arrives at the Adelphi – the paparazzi pounce before the partying gets wild!

Read more

Seven things you never knew about Mamma Mia!

We’ve all been there: You have 3 one night stands in a row, fall pregnant and then 20 years later your daughter tracks all three possible fathers down on her wedding day using only the songs of ABBA. Sound familiar?

That’s the basic premise of Mamma Mia!, the hit musical featuring the songs of Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson. The show has now been running in London’s West End for an incredible 18 years and since then, national tours and productions have sprung up around the world. So what is it that makes the show such an enduring hit? And who are the characters? Let’s take a tour through the Greek Islands to the fabulous world of Mamma Mia:

Here we have our Seven Things you never knew about Mamma Mia!, followed by pretty much everything there is to know about the show

  1. During early London previews, audiences laughed so hard at the actors’ serious delivery of dialogue like “Chiquitita, tell me…what’s wrong?” that scenes had to be hastily redirected with tongues firmly in cheeks – it worked and the show became a monster hit.
  2. Producer Judy Craymer met Benny & Björn while they were in London promoting their first musical, Chess. She loved the theatricality of The Winner Takes It All and suggested a musical using ABBA’s back catalogue. At first the boys were less than enthusiastic but thankfully Judy changed their minds!
  3. Mamma Mia! has strong female leads – and the team behind the show was also comprised of three amazing women: Producer Judy Craymer, writer Catherine Johnson and director Phyllida Lloyd.
  4. The cast gets through 121 bras per show – That’s a lot of underwire!
  5. And is the 8th longest running show in West End history. It first opened in the West End in 1999 at the Prince Edward Theatre, transferred to the Prince of Wales in 2004 and in September 2012 it transferred to the Novello Theatre.
  6. 33,000 Rhinestones have to be individually sewn on to the costumes used in Super Trouper. If just one rhinestone were to come loose, it’s believed the whole Swedish economy could collapse.
  7. Mamma Mia! is the shows with the most number of people per booking – more than The Lion King – with an astonishing average of 3.5 tickets per single booking. Groups of women, maybe? We don’t know, but it could be as there is plenty of male flesh on show in the show…

Meet the characters (in order of appearance):

MAMMA MIA! London 2016 - 2017 cast. Photos by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg
MAMMA MIA! London 2016 – 2017 cast. Photos by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

Sophie Sheridan
Sophie managed to grow up in Greece without a trace of a Greek accent. She is getting married to Sky. Her mother, Donna, has a terrible habit of leaving her diary lying around. Sophie’s main hobbies are reading other people’s diaries and singing Abba songs.

Lisa & Ali
Lisa & Ali are Sophie’s best friends. They perform important Musical Theatre duties such as singing, acting and explaining elements of plot which cannot otherwise be explained through Swedish Pop Music.

Tania
Best friend of Donna, Tania has developed a deliciously cynical view of the world. Once a member of “Donna and the Dynamos” she has since made a living by divorcing as many times as possible.

Rosie
An unmarried British author and other best friend to Donna. Rosie also sang with “Donna and the Dynamos”. Now dumpy frumpy and middle aged but still a up for a laugh, she remains quite a man-eater if left unwatched.

Donna Sheridan
Mamma Mia is set on a Greek Island, so book writer Catherine Johnson decided to name the lead character after a kebab. To complete the cliché, Donna owns a taverna and wears dungarees – presumably to cover the chilli sauce stains.

MAMMA MIA! London 2016 - 2017 cast. Photos by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg
MAMMA MIA! London 2016 – 2017 cast. Photos by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

Sky
Sky is the boyfriend of Sophie and soon-to-be-son-in-law of Donna. He set off around the world in search of himself, but only made it as far as the West End. He now earns a living designing Greek versions of Tripadvisor and taking his top off.

Pepper
The slightly crazy sidekick/best man to Sky, Pepper (not to be confused with the cartoon pig) tends bar for Donna and is quite the smitten kitten when he bumps into her best friend and Musical Theatre cougar, Tania.

Bill
One of Sophie’s three possible fathers. A writer and adventurer, Bill falls in love with Rosie. Bill is only Swedish in the film – presumably to keep Scandinavian cinema-goers, the chef in the muppets and the rest of ABBA happy?

Sam
An architect and the second of Sophie’s three possible fathers. Sam broke Donna’s heart 20 years before when he returned to his wife-to-be. But Sam soon realised he loved Donna and returned to win her back, only to find she had found a new way to keep her kebabs warm.

Harry
The third of Sophie’s three possible fathers, Harry confesses that Donna was the first – and last – woman that he loved. He then realised why – and ended up with two dogs and a husband.

MAMMA MIA! London 2016 - 2017 cast. Photos by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg
MAMMA MIA! London 2016 – 2017 cast. Photos by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

The Creative Team

The Writer
Catherine Johnson wrote the book for both the Stage and Screen versions of Mamma Mia, spurred on by earlier successes including writing many of the best lines in series 9 of Byker Grove.

The Producer
Judy Craymer reportedly made £90m from the success of Mamma Mia. She later turned her back on success by developing Viva Forever, a musical featuring the songs of the Spice Girls. Sadly it turned out to be Viva Not Forever and the show quickly waved Goodbye.

The Director
Now a CBE, Phyllida Lloyd directed Mamma Mia on both stage and screen. She loved Meryl Streep so much that she stalked her until she finally gave in and agreed to play Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.

Mamma Mia: The Movie
Following the incredible success of Mamma Mia on stage, in 2008 the decision was taken to make as much money as possible by releasing a movie version. This also gave several screen hunks, including Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth, the chance to demonstrate why singing is sometimes best left to the professionals. Despite some bum notes, the film became the highest grossing British movie of all time.

MAMMA MIA! London 2016 - 2017 cast. Photos by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg
MAMMA MIA! London 2016 – 2017 cast. Photos by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

Top Five reasons people love Mamma Mia on Stage:

  1. It reminds them of being on holiday
  2. The show is packed full of great Abba songs and Pierce Brosnan doesn’t sing any of them
  3. The cast is full of young pretty people dancing and singing
  4. You always leave the theatre on cloud nine
  5. The French and Saunders spoof of Mamma Mia for Comic Relief

Mamma Mia also has its own YouTube channel, where you can find a series of behind-the-scenes videos, see them all here:

Abba Songs featured in Mamma Mia (in order)

Act I
Honey Honey (Sophie)
Money, Money, Money (Donna, Tanya, Rosie, Pepper & Ensemble)
Thank You for the Music (Sophie, Sam, Harry & Bill)
Mamma Mia (Donna & Ensemble)
Chiquitita (Donna, Tanya & Rosie)
Dancing Queen (Donna, Tanya & Rosie)
Lay All Your Love on Me (Sky, Sophie, Male Ensemble)
Super Trouper (Donna, Tanya, Rosie, Female Ensemble)
Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) (Male ensemble)
The Name of the Game (Sophie and Bill)
Voulez Vous (Ensemble)

Act II
Under Attack (Sophie and Ensemble)
One of Us (Donna)
SOS (Donna & Sam)
Does Your Mother Know (Tanya, Pepper & Ensemble)
Knowing Me, Knowing You (Sam)
Our Last Summer (Harry & Donna)
Slipping Through My Fingers (Donna & Sophie)
The Winner Takes It All (Donna)
Take a Chance on Me (Rosie & Bill)
I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do (Sam, Donna and Company)
I have a Dream (Sophie)

Encore

Mamma Mia (Company)
Dancing Queen (Donna, Tanya, Rosie & Company)
Waterloo (Company)

MAMMA MIA! London 2016 - 2017 cast. Photos by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg
MAMMA MIA! London 2016 – 2017 cast. Photos by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

So, what are you waiting for? Unleash your inner Dancing Queen and book tickets for Mamma Mia today – it’s about the most fun you can have in a theatre!

Mamma Mia is now showing at London’s Novello Theatre.
Running Time (including interval): 2h 45m

Could you see Mamma Mia again and again and again? Check out our feature on Musical Theatre Superfans!

MAMMA MIA! London 2016 - 2017 cast. Photos by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg
MAMMA MIA! London 2016 – 2017 cast. Photos by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

London Theatre Guide – a cat’s eye view of West End theatre

londontheareguide

I’m Winston. The Theatre Cat.

TheatrePaws

Want to bag front row seats on the day for twenty quid? Fancy a gamble on the Book of Mormon Lottery? Missed out on City of Angels at the Donmar Warehouse?

Maybe you want to avoid wasting money on a complete turkey, but don’t have time to plough through endless reviews?

Read more

An unforgettable chat with Luke Fredericks on his latest Bat Boy!

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 Read more

Memphis -Review, 5 November 2014

From the first moment Beverley Knight slinks an elegantly turned ankle on to the stage of the Shaftesbury theatre, Memphis the Musical pulsates with mesmeric star quality. A Soul career has prepared Beverley well – holding the audience in rapt thrall at every note. Yet more than that, her recent leading lady status in The Bodyguard means that, crucially, she also grasps theatre stagecraft.

Ms Knight is easily the best thing about Memphis – though that’s a statement of her talent more than a criticism of the show. Musical numbers fire off in rapid succession, with inch perfect choreography and a tightly drilled cast which delivers with more energy than a large Hadron collider.

Memphis started life in 2001, the concept of George W George with book & lyrics by Tony© Award nominee Joe DiPietro, and tells the story of Radio DJ Huey Calhoun’s fight to bring Rock’n’Roll to a still racially segregated 1950s America. Colour blind Huey falls for singer Felicia (Knight) and unlike the Radio and TV executives, is colour blind – much to the chagrin of his mother Gladys (Claire Machin) and Felicia’s protective brother Delray (Rolan Bell).

I had the nagging feeling that this monochrome story has been told before, either more colourfully (Hairspray), more powerfully (Ragtime) or more enduringly (West Side Story). Memphis feels for all the world like a jukebox musical, and in less gifted hands, it could have been. The music at times seems a little painted on, but that’s also the show’s unique charm. Grammy® Award-winner (and Bon Jovi founding member) David Bryan’s songs have that familiar ring which truly great works inspire on their very first listening. As musical theatre numbers they may fail to move the story along, but for once that doesn’t really matter. They are instant classics; they are also in very safe hands.

When Knight unfurls her full vocal splendour, there are shades of Randy Crawford, Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan. Her vocal chords are strung as tightly as a Tennessee banjo; there’s more light and shade in a single lyric than a Southern forest floor in the fall. The worry for producers must be what happens when her contract ends?

In such company, it would be easy to overlook Killian Donnelly as Radio DJ Huey Calhoun. Like Marmite, he works well with cheese but isn’t everyone’s thing. When Huey asks his mother “Did you ever expect me to be good at anything” her reply is a droll “No”. In early scenes I almost felt the same, with Donnelly seeming to play Calhoun with an emotional range somewhere between Sylvester Sneekly and

Chandler Bing. But as the show ramps up so does Donnelly and by the finale, he is a vocal surfer riding the quest of a sound-wave, matching Ms Knight note for note. Donnelly’s strength lies in a natural ability to internalise emotion; at times he is a coiled spring, at others a combustion engine.

Structurally, I felt that there was some back story missing. Two opening musical numbers in quick succession, rather than setting the scene, come at the expense of characterisation. Act one is a little like watching an identity parade with characters simply rock’n’rolling on and off. Act two is more mellifluous and only hits the rapids with a poorly staged fight which could (and should) send you reeling, but rather leaves you feeling like you’ve just been roughed up by a couple of escaped chorus boys and will probably be fine after a nice lie down.

In an otherwise competent production, the stage lighting proves a challenge too far for the cameras used in Huey’s TV show. There were technical problems for a few moments when the camera seemed to be following the action back-to-front which, even if it was a stylistic choice, just looked odd.

Despite all this, the sensational final few numbers are belted out with power and passion, delivering one spine tingling note after another, and any flaws are forgotten. Would I see Memphis again? Yep. Would I buy the soundtrack? You betcha.

Memphis.

From 9 October 2014 to 31 October 2015 at the Shaftesbury Theatre

Niall R Palmer

Gypsy – Chichester Festival Theatre

Theatrepaws review, 26 October 2014

“You Gotta Get a Ticket”.

a

When Imelda Staunton battles onto the Chichester Festival stage, you could be forgiven for at first feeling underwhelmed. Rose Hovick (Momma Rose) is drab, diminutive and like the apartment in which she later performs her opening number (Some People), a little dowdy. Less Ethel Merman, more Mrs Overall. But there’s a delicious hint of what’s to come when, faced with a child covered entirely in balloons threatening to upstage her daughter Dainty June, she takes out a hatpin like she’s unsheathing a dagger. If looks could kill…

Staunton won the 2013 Best Actress Olivier Award© for her portrayal of Mrs Lovett in another Chichester Festival production, Sweeney Todd. If she repeats that success as Rose Hovick depends on two factors; firstly will Gypsy transfer to a West End Theatre (a prerequisite for nomination), and secondly, will the other nominees seek out and kill her in time? Because they’re going to have to.

Staunton brings such guts and bravery to Momma Rose that it’s impossible to despise her; and despicable she most certainly is. The ultimate pushy show-business parent, Momma Rose pushed so hard that one daughter, forced to dance on point at the age of two, eloped at 15 – the other became a burlesque stripper. Both were suffocated by the nightmare of a mother making her children live her own dream.

“What I got in me– what I been holding down inside of me– if I ever let it out, there wouldn’t be signs big enough! There wouldn’t be lights bright enough!” By the time Momma Rose utters those immortal lines, you can hear a pin drop (presumably a hat pin). Staunton proves every bit as big and ballsy as Merman, let there be no doubt.

Behind the greasepaint and limelight beats the dark heart of the American Dream at its very worst. Despite the scrolling marquees and razzamatazz, Gypsy is so bleak that that at times one has to pinch oneself to remember that this is a true story.

Staunton describes playing the part as like “competing in my own mini-Olympics”. But it’s not just Staunton who deserves plaudits. Gypsy is a masterclass of writing, direction and performance that render this harridan’s story as horrific as it is spellbinding – like a terrible accident that you can’t look away from. Staunton’s Rose Hovick is part Mommie Dearest, part Rose West. Hearing her shout “Sing out Louise” brings a shiver to the spine. One can only imagine the terror it inspired in her daughter.

There are deliciously funny moments – any woman who furnishes her entire kitchen by stealing cutlery from the local Chinese restaurant is my kind of woman. There are stand-out comic set pieces – one a panto-like farm sequence with June, her Farmboys and a cow, during which Staunton inadvertently steals the show by simply trying to move a chicken on wheels – with achingly funny results. The other propels June into Burlesque (Gotta Get a Gimmick) performed with sass by Louise Gold, Anita Louise Combe and Julie Legrand as three deliciously ropey strippers.

Dan Burton sings and dances (All I Need Is The Girl) like a young Gene Kelly, oozing masculinity through sublime Stephen Mear choreography. I have a feeling if the Olivier committee ever bring in an award for Best Featured Dancer, then Burton’s got it in the bag. Gemma Sutton and Lara Pulver excel as Rose’s long-

suffering daughters, and its credit to their acting strength that they aren’t completely blown off the stage at times by their mother. Kevin Whately (TV’s Lewis) makes a credible and likeable Herbie, supported by a company who work their socks off.

With the combined talents of Jule Styne (Music), Stephen Sondheim (Lyrics) and Arthur Laurents (Book), its small wonder that Gypsy is widely acknowledged as one of the great oeuvres of American Musical Theatre. Gypsy takes no prisoners. The show is littered with sparkling dialogue and show stopping songs. It sings to anyone who has ever dreamed and ever failed. Momma Rose sums up her desperation late in Act Two:

“You wanna know what I did it for? Because I was born too soon and started too late, that’s why! With what I have in me I could have been better than any of you!”

Staunton’s greatest triumph is that even at her most monstrously selfish, we never doubt that she loves her children. She is simply ruthless in pursuit of success. It is perhaps because we can all relate to her feeling of unfulfilled destiny that Gypsy is so hugely moving and so utterly chilling.

Gypsy plays at the Chichester Festival Theatre until 8th November 2014
http://www.cft.org.uk/gypsy
A West End Transfer surely beckons