It’s official, London is sweltering. With the sun set to scorch for at least the next couple of weeks, it can be hard to picture yourself doing anything other than slapping on the suncream and eating all the ice lollies you can get your hands on. If, like us, you’d still prefer to be out and about in the city, we’ve compiled a handy list of the top shows that you can go and enjoy in the comfort of an air conditioned theatre.
A new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s multi-award winning musical has landed in the London Palladium for a strictly limited summer run. No need to worry about feeling the Egyptian heat – the London Palladium has air conditioning to keep you cooler than a dip in the Nile. Book tickets now from £24.
Fast-paced and riotously hilarious, The Comedy About A Bank Robbery masterfully unites screw-ball comedy with real theatrical invention, and is guaranteed to have you rolling in the aisles. With air conditioning in the Criterion, it’ll be tears of laughter wetting your face, not sweat! Book tickets from just £11.80.
The record-breaking and top-rated television series Only Fools and Horses is now also a smash-hit, five star West End musical! Join Del Boy, Rodney and Grandad in this brilliant adaptation of the classic sitcom and cool off with the coolest guys that Peckham has to offer. Lovely Jubbly! Book tickets from just £18 this summer.
Tennessee Williams’s last great play comes to the West End for a limited run starring Clive Owen, Lia Williams, Anna Gunn and Julian Glover. Thrown together for one eventful night at a remote coastal Mexican hotel, the only rise in temperature in the Noël Coward Theatre will be from the actors’ chemistry. Book tickets now from £21.
Set in the sunny climates of the Mediterranean, it would be easy with the heatwave to forget that we’re in London at all! Luckily, the Novello Theatre is equipped to keep you cool while you channel your inner dancing queen with this classic jukebox musical. Book tickets for this West End classic from just £18.
Jason joins Sheridan Smith, with the double Olivier Award winning actress recently announced as The Narrator. Casting for the role of Joseph is to be announced soon.
Jason made his defining stage performance as the title character of Joseph in the 1990s, also at the London Palladium, in a sold-out 18-month run which produced a No.1 single and best-selling soundtrack album. It remains one of the most successful revivals of all time. Jason now returns to the show as Pharaoh, who rocks ‘Song of the King’ in the iconic musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, soon to be re-imagined in this brand new production.
“You never know the measure of a moment until it becomes a memory, and what a moment that was for me. Joseph was a ground breaker in 1991, and what a blast it will be to be back on the prestigious Palladium stage and be part of it all again with a brand new cast in this re-imagined 2019 production. I’m looking forward to breathing new life into Pharaoh and I’m so relieved he doesn’t wear a loin cloth!”
– Jason Donovan
Jason became an international star with the role of Scott Robinson in Neighbours. The series went on to become one of the highest-rating shows in the UK, which led to Jason’s association and huge success with acclaimed producers, Stock, Aitken and Waterman. His debut album Ten Good Reasons was the biggest selling album of 1989, with career sales of 13 million albums and 4 UK No.1 singles.
Following his Olivier-nominated portrayal of Joseph, he has gone on to star in The Rocky Horror Show, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Priscilla, Annie Get Your Gun, The Sound of Music, The King’s Speechand Million Dollar Quartet. On television he has featured in I’m A Celebrityand Strictly Come Dancing, Who Do You Think You Are, ITV’s Superstarand Piers Morgan’s Life Stories. Jason also appeared in ITV’s drama Echo Beachand he continues to play sell-out tours across the country.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, the award-winning feel good musical sensation, announced on Friday the opening of a new booking period until Saturday 25 January 2020. Dazzling audiences at London’s Apollo Theatre since November 2017 the musical is currently in its second year in the West End.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamiewon Best Original Cast Recording at the 2019 WhatsOnStage Awards on Sunday 3rd March, adding to its 3 WhatsOnStage Awards, which included Best New Musical in 2018. If you haven’t already bought tickets to this smash-hit sensation, you can grab them here.
“I’m so thrilled to be strutting into 2020 as Jamie New. I love seeing the joy it brings to audience members after every show. It fills my heart and hopefully theirs too!”
LaytonWilliams, currently playing Jamie New
“We are delighted that Layton Williams is having such a ball playing Jamie that he will continue leading the cast into 2020 and will celebrate our second birthday in November 2019. Thank you to our fantastic audiences and critics for continuing to talk about Jamie and keeping us in the West End alongside someof the world’s favourite musicals.”
March 8th marks 2019’s International Women’s Day and we are certainly feeling the empowerment here at From The Box Office. This year we’ve teamed up with Tina – The Tina Turner Musical and Wicked to talk to the cast members and production teams about the importance of the day itself and the progress of women in theatre. Check out our exclusive quickfire interviews below!
The cast and production team of TINA talk about women’s roles in theatre
It’s that time of year again: love is in the air and you’re searching high and low for the perfect Valentine’s date night. Lucky for you, From The Box Office has all rounded up all the romance that the West End has to offer. Read on for the best shows to see this Valentine’s Day…
The Great Gatsby
It’s one of the most famous love stories ever written, and now this unique immersive theatre experience invites you to be part of the romance and excitement of the roaring jazz age. Slip on your dancing shoes and watch the story unfold around you – the party is in full swing! Book now to save up to 53% – tickets from just £15 (ends 6th Feb).
Cirque Du Soleil’s presents Totem
For a truly dazzling date night, it doesn’t get much better than Cirque Du Soleil! Totem is a fantastic combination of impressive acrobatics and mind-blowing displays of human ability. Enjoy a night of wonder and romance that will leave a lasting impression – book you tickets for Totem now to save up to % (ends 11th Feb).
Phantom of the Opera
One of the West End’s most notorious musicals, now celebrating over 30 years at Her Majesty’s Theatre! Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic and compelling tale of The Phantom and his only companion and love, Christiane Daae, has romance enough for any Valentine’s date night. Book tickets now from £28.99, or get tickets to this infamous show with a free meal here.
Weaving together various different tales of love, Company explores what love is and what it can mean to us. This gender-reversed remake, which stars Rosalie Craig and Patti LuPone, is a musical comedy about life, love, and marriage, and features some of Stephen Sondheim’s most iconic songs, a perfect show for an entertaining date night! Book tickets now with no fees (ends 8th February).
What could be more exciting than seeing a brand new West End show for Valentine’s Day? “Waitress is a little slice of heaven!” says Entertainment Weekly, and is “sweet, sassy and passionate,” according to New York Magazine. Don’t miss this uplifting and hilarious musical! Book tickets now from £47.50 for a Valentine’s Date Night that’s sweet as pie.
Showstopper! The Musical
For a truly unique date night experience, it doesn’t get better than Showstopper! The Improvised Musical! You’ll be the first and last audience members to experience the show as you see it, because the entire performance will be thought of before your very eyes, and with your ideas forming the story. Book now for the most original Valentine’s date the West End has to offer!
Motown The Musical
Toe-tap your way to the perfect, fun-filled Valentine’s Day with a trip to see the catchiest musical. Filled to the brim with all of your favourite classic romantic Motown hits, including ‘My Girl’ and ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’, a trip to see Motown is guaranteed to leave you feeling the love. Book tickets now from £22.50, or book with a free meal for the perfect date night package.
Take a romantic magic carpet ride to a whole new world with your loved one this Valentine’s Day – it doesn’t get more magical than Disney’s Aladdin! From award-winning Disney movie to smash hit musical comedy, Aladdin is an exuberant West End spectacular, featuring all the unforgettable songs from the much-loved Disney film, as well as some brand new musical numbers for you to fall in love with. Book now from just £27.50.
If these sensational shows aren’t quite what you’re looking for this Valentine’s Day, why not take a browse of our top picks?
Decorations are down, the excitement of Christmas and New Year is over and it feels like it should at least be April by now… January is a drag! Thank goodness we’ve got a West End filled to the brim with fantastic shows to get us through the cold, long nights and get us feeling pumped again…
For Musical Lovers Tap your toes, click your fingers, clap your hands and rejoice in the feel-good comfort of London’s finest musicals. From Olivier award-winners to brand new productions, there’s a musical for every taste.
Experience Company, the legendary Broadway musical, as never before. Winner of two Evening Standard Awards 2018, this riotous reimagining of Stephen Sondheim’s classic features all of the classic Broadway hits, with a new twist. Don’t miss out on the hilarious adaptation, book tickets now!
DIVORCED. BEHEADED. LIVE IN CONCERT! From Tudor queens to pop princesses, the six wives of Henry VIII finally take the mic to tell their tale, remixing five hundred years of her-storical and hilarious heartbreak. Book tickets now from just £21.60.
Showstopper! The Musical
★★★★★ ‘If this is what improv can do, you wonder why anyone bothers writing anything down’ -The Times
Do you want to be the first, and last, to see a brand-new musical? The Showstoppers transform audience suggestions into all-singing, all-dancing productions with hilarious results. Come watch an entirely different show every single night! Book tickets now from just £18.
For a unique theatre experience…
The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby at the Gatsby Drugstore is now booking through the end of the year due to overwhelming demand!Step into a heart-racing immersive adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald’s seminal jazz-age novel which puts you in the heart of the action. Slip on your dancing shoes and watch the story unfold around you. Book tickets for this unique theatrical performance here.
Plays If you prefer to have your heart strings pulled or your tummy aching with laughter, we’ve still got you covered with the best plays to see this January!
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
The smash-hit National Theatre production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has returned to London for a strictly limited season, following an acclaimed UK and International tour. Winner of 7 Olivier Awards and 5 Tony Awards® including ‘Best Play’, this is a perfect heart-warming tale to help you shake off the cold of January. Even better, you can book tickets now with no fees!
The Wider Earth
Join a 22-year-old Charles Darwin on HMS Beagle’s daring voyage to the far side of the world, and discover the gripping story behind one of the most important discoveries in history. A perfect theatre trip for families this January, book tickets now from £23.50.
The Royal Shakespeare Company’s ‘joyous’ (Guardian) production of this legendary comic novel is told by a company of 20 actors accompanied by a band of live musicians. Featuring riotous performances by Rufus Hound and David Threlfall, don’t miss out on this hilarious adaptation. Book now and save up to 56% on selected tickets.
The Comedy About A Bank Robbery
From the comedy masterminds behind five-star hits The Play That Goes Wrong (Olivier Award for Best New Comedy) and Peter Pan Goes Wrong, The Comedy About A Bank Robbery is fast-paced and riotously hilarious, masterfully uniting screw-ball comedy with real theatrical invention, and is guaranteed to have you rolling in the aisles. Book now from just £11.80.
As if the bright lights and dazzling shows of the West End aren’t enough to get us running to London’s illustrious theatres, the chance of seeing our favourite celebrities certainly gives us all the more reason to snap up tickets. Take a scroll through the list below to see the stars we’re most excited to see in 2019…
Pinter At The Pinter After what has so far been a star-studded, critically acclaimed season, there’s still plenty of excitement and celebrity appearances in store in Pinter At The Pinter. Don’t miss out on the likes of Martin Freeman, Danny Dyer, Gary Kemp and Rupert Graves in the final shows of the season, book tickets now.
Betrayal The final of the Pinter season plays is set to star Hollywood charmer and Golden Globe winner Tom Hiddleston. The Night Manager and Avengers star will be playing the lead role in Harold Pinter’s Betrayal for a strictly limited 12 week season from March 8th, book tickets here now.
Waitress Katharine McPhee (American Idol, Waitress on Broadway, Smash) joins the WAITRESS London cast to play Jenna, a waitress and expert pie-maker who dreams of a way out of her small town and rocky marriage. Pouring her heart into her pies, she crafts desserts that mirror her topsy-turvy life. Opening in February, book tickets now.
COMPANY Starring Rosalie Craig, Patti Lupone & Mel Giedroyc, experience Company, the legendary Broadway musical, as never before. Winner of two Evening Standard Awards 2018, don’t miss out on the limited run at the Gielgud Theatre. Book tickets now from £13.50 – ends March 30th.
Man of La Mancha The award winning musical Man of La Mancha returns to London, starring Kelsey Grammer and Danielle de Niese. Featuring the iconic song ‘Dream the Impossible Dream’, Man of La Mancha is inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’s masterpiece. Tickets start from just £18, book now.
True West Kit Harington (Game of Thrones, Doctor Faustus) and Johnny Flynn (Beast, Genius) star as warring brothers Austin and Lee in the West End Premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winner Sam Shepard’s ferociously funny, modern classic, True West. Book now and save up to 45% on tickets – ends 23rd February!
Dolly Parton Presents: 9 to 5 9 to 5 is about to get down to business – with a strictly limited season at the West End’s Savoy Theatre. Starring Louise Redknapp, Amber Davies, Natalie McQueen and Brian Conley, the smash-hit musical features a book by the iconic movie’s original screenwriter. Book tickets now from £24.
Home, I’m Darling Katherine Parkinson (The IT Crowd, Humans) reprises her acclaimed role as Judy, in Laura Wade’s fizzing comedy about one woman’s quest to be the perfect 1950’s housewife. How happily married are the happily married? You can find out from January 26th, book tickets now.
The Lehman Trilogy Critically-acclaimed director Sam Mendes (Skyfall, King Lear) returned to the National Theatre to direct Ben Power’s English version of Stefano Massini’s vast and poetic play, which was a hit across Europe, with Simon Russell Beale, Adam Godley and Ben Miles playing the Lehman Brothers, their sons and their grandsons. The West End transfer opens in May and you can book tickets now from just £21.60.
Get ready to celebrate #Hiddlestoners, Tom Hiddleston is set to return to the London stage following his acclaimed performance in Hamlet, directed by Kenneth Branagh, and his Evening Standard Award-winning performance in Coriolanus at the Donmar Warehouse in 2014.
Forty years to the day of the first ever performance of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal on 15 November 1978, The Jamie Lloyd Company announced that Golden Globe, Olivier and Evening Standard Award winner Tom Hiddleston will play Robert in Jamie Lloyd’s new production at the Harold Pinter Theatre from 5 March 2019 for a strictly limited season ending on 1 June. Further casting to be announced.
“Betrayal is a masterpiece. Jamie Lloyd’s Pinter at the Pinterseason is terrific and I am so pleased that he’s asked me to be part of it.” – Tom Hiddleston
With poetic precision, rich humour and an extraordinary emotional force, Betrayal charts a compelling seven-year romance, thrillingly captured in reverse chronological order. The complexities of the human heart are explored in this, “the greatest, and the most moving, of all Pinter’s plays” (The Daily Telegraph). Betrayal was first produced by the National Theatre in 1978. The original cast featured Pinter at the Pinter company members Penelope Wilton and Michael Gambon.
Pinter at the Pinter is the unprecedented season of Harold Pinter’s work, marking ten years since the Nobel Prize winner’s death. The season celebrates the most important playwright of the 20th century in the theatre that bears his name. Tickets for the final show of the critically-acclaimed season will go on sale on 30th November. You can book tickets now for the rest of the season, which stars Lee Evans, Martin Freeman, Danny Dyer and Gary Kemp, to name just a few.
It’s the story that shaped not only a young man’s life, but the understanding of life as we now know it. Now, Charles Darwin’s inspiring journey will be put on stage for all to see in the first show of its kind at the Natural History Museum. We asked playwright David Morton for all of the exciting details, ahead of the production’s historic opening on Tuesday 2nd October…
The Wider Earth tells the story of Darwin’s voyage on HMS Beagle. How did that voyage affect the rest of his life and work? On 25 October 1831, a 22-year-old Charles Darwin boarded a ship preparing for a voyage around the world. What he saw on the five-year voyage that followed led him to think deeply about the natural world, and to question received opinion about its origins. He also collected specimens – thousands of them – and these specimens, studied in the field and on his return to England, provided vital evidence in support of his ideas, especially on the theory of evolution.
Since this play is based on a real, historical voyage, how did you find the balance between giving a historically true account and telling a good story? To strike the balance we’ve tried to include nothing in the story that doesn’t at least have some reference to actual events. There are definitely some leaps of imagination to heighten the drama but we’ve tried to keep true to the memories of the characters and the contributions they all made.
David Morton’s The Wider Earth
Was there any part of the writing or development process that you found especially challenging? The most challenging part was trying to work out which parts of the history to use. The records of the voyage are so rich with information that it was hard not to include everything.
What do you think will surprise audiences most about the Darwin you’re presenting versus the Darwin they think they know? In the show we try and capture Darwin’s energy, his drive, and his excitement. We wanted to show the Darwin behind the long grey beard, and paint a portrait of Charles as the young man.
In your opinion, what do puppets add to the story (or to theatre in general)? The process of bringing a puppet to life on stage takes an incredible degree of commitment and discipline. Unlike an actor who spends a rehearsal period developing a character, a puppet has to first learn how to be alive before we can even start to wonder as to what its character might be. Ultimately, the process isn’t complete until the imagination of an audience turns the movement cues that we give into the illusion of life. I think that puppets deepen the possibilities of storytelling in theatre, and can provoke a real sense of wonder in an audience.
Of the 30 puppets featured in this production, do you have a favourite? The Galapagos tortoise! And the flightless cormorant.
Since it’s a bit unconventional to stage a play in the Museum, have there been any logistical challenges? Converting the Jerwood Gallery into a theatre for the first time has been a challenge, but the outcome is absolutely worth it!
What has it been like working with the Museum’s scientists? Working with Professor Adrian Lister has been an absolute honour. To receive input into the story from someone who has lived and breathed everything Darwinian for so long has allowed the script to flourish. Adrian has an amazing sense of Charles as a person, and has been just as excited as us about making the story fresh, and bringing the voyage to life.
There are so many incredible and unique aspects to this production: its staging in the Natural History Museum, its 30 hand-made puppets, its blending of animations and live performance. What are you most excited to share with audiences? The experience of the whole thing. I think what’s so special about this work is the integration of the elements. There’s so much to look at, and the world of the play is so rich. Also the amazing cast, their dedication to the characters and the story has been just awe inspiring and I’m so grateful to the whole team.
If you’re as excited as we are for this groundbreaking new production you can book tickets now! Watch the trailer below:
Paul Anderson and Audrey Fleurot will star in the West End’s first ever dual language production: a new adaptation of Moliere’s Tartuffe. Adaptor Christopher Hampton and director Gerald Garutti have reimagined this 1600s French classic as a darkly comic story of human frailties set in present-day L.A.
When French film tycoon Orgon relocates to Tinsel town with his family, he has his heart set on becoming Hollywood royalty. And with a palatial Beverly Hills mansion and new studio to his name, he seems well on his way to establishing an infallible empire. But Orgon soon falls under the seductive spell of a radical American evangelist named Tartuffe. Completely hoodwinked, Orgon risks losing his fortune and family to Tartuffe’s sly machinations. The so-called evangelist plans to steal Orgon’s vast wealth, drive away his son, seduce his wife, and marry his daughter. Will Orgon come to his senses before it’s too late?
In 1664, Tartuffe, or The Imposter was regarded as one of Moliere’s best plays. Today, it’s a trenchant mockery of human frailties set against the backdrop of Donald Trump’s America. Both then and now, it’s a humorous tale with an undercurrent that’s frighteningly relevant.
The production finds a fitting home at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, which was nicknamed “The New French Theatre” after its opening in 1720. To reflect its swiftly unfolding plot, the play will alternate between English with French surtitles and French with English surtitles.
In the title role of the radical evangelist is Paul Anderson, known for his star turn in the hit drama Peaky Blinders, as well as leading roles in The Revenant, In the Heart of the Sea, and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.
Playing Orgon’s wily, strong-willed wife Elmire is French star Audrey Fleurot. Fleurot’s stage and screen roles include playing The Lady of the Lake in Kaamelott, Joséphine Karlsson in Spiral (BAFTA nominated), Hortense Larcher in Un village francais, and Magalie in international hit The Intouchables. She also played herself in Netflix’s Call My Agent! / Dix pour cent!
Additional casting has not yet been announced.
Adapting Moliere’s classic comedy is Academy, BAFTA, and Olivier Award-winning writer and director Christopher Hampton, whose vast screenplay credits include Dangerous Liaisons (Oscar winner), and Atonement. For the stage, Hampton has worked on an Olivier Award-winning adaptation of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Sunset Boulevard, and several original plays including Appomatox and The Talking Cure.
Director Gerald Garutti is well-poised at the helm of this dual-language production: he’s directed an English performance of Dangerous Liaisons at the Royal Shakespeare Company and is the former dramaturg of the French National Theatre (Théâtre National Populaire, 2006-11). His many other productions include Notes from the Underground, The Fall Of The House of Usher, and the sell-out French production Brief Praise of Night.
Tartuffe premieres for a limited ten-week engagement at the Theatre Royal Haymarket starting Friday 25th May 2018. (Press Night is Tuesday 29th May.)
2017 was a great year for London theatre, and there were certainly more than just 12 things we loved about it. But it’s Christmastime… which means we feel obliged to put a holiday spin on everything. Inspired by “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, here are 12 gifts given to the London theatre world in 2017:
On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…
12,000 performances of ThePhantom of the Opera in London
That’s right: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical The Phantom of the Opera has now played over 12,000 performances at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London. In fact, it’s the second longest running musical in the West End.
On the 11th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…
11 years of Wicked in London
The popular musical about the witches of Oz opened in London in September 2006. That means it’s now been defying gravity for a little over 11 years.
On the 10th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…
£10 lottery tickets to Hamilton
But seriously, if your true love did get you tickets to Hamilton, marry him or her immediately. The Tony-winning musical from Lin-Manuel Miranda transferred to the West End earlier this month, but tickets are hard to come by. If you’re feeling lucky, try entering the £10 ticket lottery.
On the 9th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…
9 Olivier Awards
That’s what Harry Potter and the Cursed Child got for an early Christmas present this year. In racking up all those Tony wins, the play broke a record. Magic? Quite possibly.
On the 8th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…
8 theatres owned by Sir Cameron Mackintosh
This year, Delfont Mackintosh Theatres (owned by Sir Cameron Mackintosh) finished restoring the Victoria Palace Theatre just in time for Hamilton. Sir Cameron Mackintosh, producer of shows like Les Misérables and Phantom of the Opera, owns a total of eight theatres in London: Prince Edward, Prince of Wales, Novello, Gielgud, Queen’s, Noël Coward, Wyndham’s, and the Victoria Palace.
On the 7th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…
7½ hours of Angels in America
That’s the runtime for the National Theatre’s production of Tony Kushner’s landmark play. With a great cast including Andrew Garfield (who won Best Actor at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards for his performance), no one seems to mind the incredible length of this production.
On the 6th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…
6 autism-friendly performances
We counted at least six theatre performances this year that catered to autistic audiences – including plays in both London and New York. Here’s to even more autism friendly performances in 2018.
On the 5th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…
That’s what Jez Butterworth’s new play The Ferryman got this year – in addition to a host of awards and a great deal of hype – which according to The Evening Standard is fully justified. The Ferryman received five-star reviews from The Independent, The Stage, The Guardian, The Evening Standard, The Financial Times, and others.
On the 4th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…
You’re very likely to see four ghosts if you attend The Old Vic’s new production of A Christmas Carol this holiday season. This version of the Dickens classic, which looks gorgeous, stars Rhys Ifans and features a script by Jack Thorne.
On the 3rd day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…
2017 was the year of Hamlet. At the same time last summer, there were not one, not two, but three productions of Hamlet running in London. In one production, Kenneth Branagh directed Tom Hiddleston in the role of the Danish prince; in another, Robert Icke directed Andrew Scott; and yet another starred Gyles Brandreth at the Park Theatre. Now, which one to go to? That was the question.
On the 2nd day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…
2 Norwegian diplomats
After making a name for itself on Broadway, J.T. Rogers’ Tony Award-winning play Oslo touched down in the West End in September and is now playing at the Harold Pinter Theatre. The play tells the story of two Norwegian diplomats who arranged top-secret meetings between Israel and Palestine, culminating in the Oslo Accords of 1993.
On the 1st day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…
1 Day More
The Act I finale from Les Misérables is officially Britain’s favourite showtune – according to a recent poll by theatre website WhatsOnStage. “Defying Gravity” ranked as the second most popular, followed by “The Phantom of the Opera”, “Bring Him Home”, and “Being Alive.” All good songs, indeed.
What was the best theatre-related gift you received this year?
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:
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
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.
(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.
Mounting a world-class Broadway or West End show is a risky business: in the hopes of wooing big audiences, producers often pour millions of dollars into a production. But if the show flops, no one gets their money (and sometimes reputation) back.
So is the budget of a show a predictor of its success?
To find an answer, we looked into the most costly productions in musical theatre history and compared production cost to ticketing revenue – first in London’s West End, then on Broadway. Here’s what we found:
The Lord of the Rings – £22 million ($29.5 million)
Also known as the most expensive mistake in West End history, The Lord of the Ringsmusical ended up costing £19 million to mount (with inflation, that’s about £22 million), making it the costliest West End musical ever. But the show got mixed reviews and closed after barely a year in the West End. According to Baz Bamigboye (Daily Mail) “selling the story of Middle Earth to Middle England in term-time has proved difficult.” That was an understatement: the show lost the whole of its initial investment.
Definitely didn’t “rule them all” or even “bring them all” to the theatre….
The Lion King – £22.5 million ($30 million)
Following its successful Broadway run, Disney opened a London production of The Lion King musical in 1999 that cost an estimated £18 million (£22.5 million with inflation). That staggering investment has proven worthwhile, though.
An incredibly clever stage design mixed with a classic Disney story have ensured enough bums on the Lyceum Theatre’s seats for over 10 years so far, despite tickets priced at an eye-watering £150 per seat.
Not only has the show merely paid itself off; it’s also become one of the most profitable shows in the history of the West End, grossing more than $6.2 billion worldwide as of 2014 – and much more than that by now.
Wicked – £13 million ($17 million)
Wicked opened in London in 2006, after a successful Broadway run. By today’s standards, the show cost around £13 million to produce. Initially, it got poor reviews. But with its unique spin on a classic story, an indomitable heroine, and the central friendship between Glinda and Elphaba, Wicked quickly grew into one of the most popular musicals out today.
The show has repeatedly broken box office records in both London and on Broadway, grossing $1.12 billion on Broadway and $4 billion worldwide over the course of its 13+ year run. In fact, the musical just surpassed Phantom of the Opera as the second highest grossing show in Broadway history, and the London show has been playing for nearly eleven years.
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark – $81.6 million (£62 million)
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark had a lot going for it: everyone’s favorite human spider, music by Bono, and crazy special effects. Sadly, none of that helped the producers recoup the $75 million (now $81.6 million with inflation) they spent on the show. It opened in 2011 and closed in early 2014. The producers lost about $60 million.
So why did it fail? Reviews emphasized how the show’s crazy number of acrobatics and effects came at the expense of character development and good storytelling. Spider-Man also had a long trial period (183 previews) during which an infinite number of things went wrong: there were often technical difficulties, and several actors were injured.
Shrek the Musical – $28.5 million (£21.7 million)
Shrek the Musical opened in December 2008 with a budget that amounts to $28.5 million with inflation. Despite fairly good reviews, the show closed in January 2010 after a run of just over 12 months. In the end, it seems Shrek was just too expensive to run, and audiences just weren’t that into it. Currently, the show is on tour, trying to recoup its financial losses.
The Lion King – $28.4 million (£21.6 million)
When it comes to musicals, Disney spares no expense. And in this case at least, the expense was justified. The Lion King – the third most expensive musical in Broadway history – opened in 1997 and is still going strong, with productions on Broadway and in the West End. It’s currently the highest grossing musical in Broadway history, having made around $1.38 billion on Broadway during its nearly 20 year run.
The Lion King’s appeal is timeless and spans generations – with a multi-layered story, memorable characters, dazzling costumes, and a killer score – this may explain why it’s been so successful.
So which other musicals have recouped their production costs and then some?
Highest grossing Broadway and West End musicals ever
The Lion King – grossed over $6 billion worldwide
Phantom of the Opera – grossed over $6 billion worldwide
When it opened in 1988 with a production cost of $8 million ($16.5 million today), Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera set a record. It’s since been outstripped by more expensive shows, but in terms of popularity, it’s still up there. The musical has been running in London for 30 years, and has made $1.11 billion on Broadway and over $6 billion worldwide.
Other distinctions include seven Tony Awards, a feature film, and a record as the longest running show in Broadway history and the second longest running show in the West End. Best of all, it didn’t cost $75 million to mount (sorry, Spider-Man).
Like Lion King, Phantom has a gorgeous aesthetic and a story that appeals to both older and younger audiences. It also has some of the most memorable music in theatre, and special effects that are jaw-dropping but don’t detract from the story.
Wicked – grossed over $4 billion worldwide
Other notable production costs
Hamilton – $12.9 million (£9.8 million)
Hamilton cost over $12 million to mount, but its producers have already earned that money back with a bonus. Currently in its second year, the show makes roughly $600,000 a week, $100 million a year on Broadway, and $80 million a year in Chicago.
Its inventive score (American Founding Fathers rapping), engaging historical narrative, diverse casting, and strong emotional appeal are all factors in Hamilton’s success. But beyond that, the show’s use of social media for publicity is (dare we say?) revolutionary, and Hamilton has also received a lot of attention from celebrities and politicians.
Les Miserables – $9.6 million (£7 million)
Les Miserables opened on Broadway in 1987 with a production cost of $4.5 million ($9.6 today). Despite that relatively low cost, the show went on to enjoy a 30 year run on Broadway and a 32 year (and counting) run in London, where it’s currently the longest running musical in West End history. 50 major theatre awards, 31 cast recordings, a major motion picture, multiple tours, and a school edition round out the musical’s many accomplishments.
Elements that contribute to this show’s success include a highly singable score, seamless choreography and stage transitions, a host of varied but deeply engaging characters, and a high emotional impact. Les Miserables demonstrates that, “at the end of the day,” a musical without a high production budget can still be extremely successful.
Billy Elliot the Musical – £7.7 million ($10 million)
Billy Elliot the Musical premiered in London in 2005, and ran successfully for 11 years, until 2016. The £5.5 (£7.7 today) million which the producers poured into the show appears to have paid off. Despite some “rough edges,” critic Charles Benson (The Telegraph) wrote that the musical has “a rawness, a warm humour and a sheer humanity… that are worlds removed from the soulless slickness of most musicals.” The show won four Olivier awards, including Best New Musical, and went on to play in Australia and New York, where it picked up 10 Tony Awards.
Rent – $3.5 million (£2.6 million)
Even further down the scale is Jonathan Larson’s Rent, which only cost $3.5 million to produce. Nevertheless, it ended up grossing nearly $300 million, and won a Pulitzer Prize and four Tony Awards (including Best Musical, Best Score, and Best Book). The musical also got a film adaptation, a touring production, and a 12 year run on Broadway. It launched Idina Menzel’s career and heavily inspiredHamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. So why did a show with such a small production budget do so well, when Spider-Man flopped despite its $75 million?
Part of Rent‘s popularity hinged on its new approach to musical theatre. The show took an old story (Puccini’s La Boheme), infused it with a pop-style score in the vein of Hair, and adapted it for a contemporary audience. It also sold the first-ever Broadway rush tickets, opening up the theatre to people who couldn’t normally afford it.
In most cases, a higher production cost doesn’t necessarily mean a higher rate of success. In fact, many of the most popular musicals in Broadway history were produced at a relatively low cost.
By contrast, pouring a ton of money into a show still in its infancy is a big risk, and much of the time, you won’t get that money back. Some of the shows with the highest production costs (both West End and Broadway) have also been some of the biggest flops.
So unless you’re The Lion King, it’s probably best to cut production costs where possible. In most cases, a budget of around £13 million ($16 million) or less seems to be the sweet spot. You can increase your show’s chances by avoiding crazy special effects and not just rehashing a story that’s already been told. Rather, be inventive, master the art of publicity, and get a rock-solid score. Even then, show business is a risky enterprise.
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.
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!
Thrills, stockings, drag queens and swingers – Christmas in London never disappoints and this year along with the traditional treats, there are some real crackers to chase the winter blues away.
So while the wine is mulling, the goose is getting fat and the halls are decked with boughs of holly, it’s high time y’all get yourselves into the wonderful West End – here are our top tinselly tips for a Rocking Yule and an unforgettable Xmas! Read more →
Who is the mysterious man in Row Q that terrifies staff at the Apollo Victoria? What’s the most haunted building in Theatreland? Why do so many actors and crew report supernatural encounters and where do Front of House staff refuse to work alone? Read more →
The glitter ball is back…and it might be borrowing more from the West End’s Theatres than you think! This weekend is the Series 14 launch of Strictly Come Dancing and since the show began back in 2004, we’ve seen hundreds of celebs shimmy, foxtrot and cha-cha-cha their way across the sequin-strewn dance floor. Little surprise then that so many of the judges, contestants and professional dancers have appeared in the West End, prior to, or in some cases as a result of appearances on TV’s top rated entertainment show! Join us for a waltz around the world of Strictly West End Theatre.
Strictly Come Dancing owes much to the traditions of light entertainment, where TV personalities learned their trade in the theatres and musical halls of Britain’s towns and cities.
Bruce Forsyth (2004-2013) West End Credits:
1962 Every Night At The Palladium, starring alongside Morecambe and Wise
1964 Little Me – Cambridge Theatre
1978 The Traveling Music Show – Her Majesty’s Theatre
DID YOU KNOW?
Brucie also appeared in numerous films, including Star! with Julie Andrews and Bedknobs and Broomsticks with Angela Lansbury.
Ronnie Corbett (Guest host) West End Credits: 1963 The Boys from Syracuse – Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
1965 Twang!! – Shaftesbury Theatre
Ronnie Corbett is one of only five people ever to present the SCD main show…the others being Bruce Forsyth, Tess Daly, Natasha Kaplinsky and Zoe Ball.
Strictly’s judges, past and present, have a huge number of West End shows under their collective belts and dance tights…
Bruno Tonioli (Judge 2004-Present) West End Credits as a choreographer:
1993 Viva España – Arts Theatre
1998 Steve Coogan’s The Man Who Thinks He’s It – Lyceum Theatre
2006 Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens – The Venue/Leicester Square Theatre
Craig Revel Horwood (Judge 2004-Present) West End Credits as a performer:
Cats (Munkustrap), Miss Saigon and Crazy for You (Dance Captain)
West End Credits as a choreographer: Spend, Spend, Spend, Beautiful and Damned, Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks, Hey Mr Producer!
Arlene Phillips (Judge 2004-2008) West End Credits as a choreographer: Time, Fire Angel, Starlight Express, Grease, Saturday Night Fever, We Will Rock You, The Sound of Music, Flashdance and The Wizard of Oz.
Darcey Bussell (Judge 2009-Present) An illustrious career at the Royal Ballet, Covent Garden propelled Darcey Bussell to worldwide fame as a Prima Ballerina. Before joining the Royal Ballet School at 13, Darcey attended Arts Ed.
Judge Arlene Phillips was a member of Hot Gossip, a dance troupe who backed Sarah Brightman in I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trouper
The Strictly pros are all uber talented, and many have now brought those talents to the West End stage…
Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace Vincent & Flavia have enjoyed West End seasons at the Phoenix Theatre (Midnight Tango) and Aldwych Theatre (Dance ‘til Dawn). The pair returns in 2016 for The Last Tango.
Kristina Rihanoff and Robin Windsor Kristina and Robin fronted the 2013 return of Burn the Floor (see also Ali Bastian & Brian Fortuna) at the Shaftesbury Theatre. The show also featured the then less well-known Kevin Clifton, Karen Hauer and Aljaz Skorjanec.
Anton Du Beke and Erin Boag Anton and Erin Cheek to Cheek was seen as part of the 2009 Sadler’s Wells Dance Season at the London Coliseum.
There are so many Strictly contestants who have come from or gone on to appear on the West End stage that it’s hard to know where to start. So, to quote Julie Andrews, “let’s start at the very beginning…”
Claire Sweeney (Series 1)
West End Credits: Roxie Hart (Chicago), Adelaide (Guys & Dolls)
Lesley Garrett (Series 1) West End Credits: Mother Abbess (The Sound of Music), Nettie Fowler (Carousel)
Aled Jones (Series 2) West End Credits: Bob Wallace (White Christmas)
Jill Halfpenny (Series 2) West End Credits: Beverly (Abigail’s Party), Cora (Calendar Girls), Roxie Hart (Chicago), Paulette (Legally Blonde)
Emma Bunton (Series 4) West End Credits: The Narrator (Charity Performance of The Rocky Horror Picture Show)
Kelly Brook (Series 5) West End Credits: Jeannie (Fat Pig) and Celia (Calendar Girls)
Letitia Dean (Series 5) West End Credits: Ms Darbus (High School Musical*) and, as a juvenile, Pepper (Annie) *Hammersmith Apollo isn’t Strictly the West End we know…
Phil Daniels (Series 6) West End Credits: Various roles at the National Theatre, Royal Court, and earlier in 2016, Thenardier (Les Miserables)
Jessie Wallace (Series 6) West End Credits: Maureen (Rent Remixed)
Tom Chambers (Series 7) West End Credits: Jerry Travers (Top Hat), Phil Davis (White Christmas)
Lynda Bellingham (Series 7)
West End Credits: Anita (Vincent River), Chris (Calendar Girls)
Ali Bastian (Series 7)
West End Credits: Burn The Floor, Shaftesbury Theatre (2010) *Ali is the only Strictly celebrity to perform on the West End stage with her professional partner (Brian Fortuna).
Felicity Kendal (Series 8) West End Credits: Judith Bliss (Hay Fever), Sheila (Relatively Speaking), Mrs Warren (Mrs Warren’s Profession), Florence (The Vortex), Julia (Fallen Angels) plus many more performances at the National Theatre and throughout the West End.
Kara Tointon (Series 8) West End Credits: Eliza Doolittle (Pygmalion), Evelyn (Absent Friends), Giny (Relatively Speaking). *Away from the West End, in 2015, Kara played Maria in the live TV broadcast of The Sound of Music to rave reviews.
Rory Bremner (Series 9)
West End Credits: Crestwell (Relative Values)
Anita Dobson (Series 9)
West End Credits: Mama Morton (Chicago), Joan Crawford (Bette & Joan), Chris Harper (Calendar Girls), Mrs Meers (Thoroughly Modern Millie) Gladys (Pyjama Game) and Budgie with Adam Faith.
Jason Donovan (Series 9)
West End Credits: Joseph (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat), Tick/Mitzi (Priscilla Queen of the Desert)
Russell Grant (Series 9)
West End Credits: The Wizard (Wizard of Oz)
Jerry Hall (Series 10)
West End Credits: Cherie (Bus Stop), Mrs Robinson (The Graduate), Mother Lord (High Society), Celia (Calendar Girls)
Denise Van Outen (Series 10)
West End Credits: Roxie Hart (Chicago), Herself (The Play What I Wrote), The Girl (Tell Me on a Sunday), Maureen (Rent Remixed), Paulette (Legally Blonde)
Kimberley Walsh (Series 10)
West End Credits: Jovie (Elf) and Princess Fiona (Shrek! The Musical)
Series 3 and 11 are the ONLY series where we couldn’t find a contestant with links to West End Theatre.
Pixie Lott (Series 12)
West End Credits: Holly Golightly (Breakfast at Tiffany’s) *Pixie trained at Italia Conti and appeared in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the Palladium aged just 13.
Simon Webbe (Series 12) West End Credits: Curtis Shank (Sister Act) and Big Bad Wolf (The 3 Little Pigs)
Helen George (Series 13) West End Credits: Woman in White and Love Never Dies
So, what sequinned surprises lie in store for the contestants of series 14? Well, keep a close eye Eastenders’ Tameka Empson who has West End form and put in a fine comedy turn as Billie in Our House, Pop Star Will Young whose performance as the Emcee in Cabaret earned him an Olivier Award nomination, and Lesley Joseph whose packed career includes a West End stint as Miss Hannigan – a role she has shared on tour with Judge Craig Revel Horwood.
SCD Series 14 contestants also include: Anastacia, Claudia Frangapane, Daisy Lowe, Danny Mac, Ed Balls, Greg Rutherford, Laura Whitmore, Louise Redknapp, Melvin Odoom, Naga Munchetty, Ore Oduba and Robert Rinder.
The new series launches on Saturday 3rd September BBC One at 6.50pm and runs until 8.15pm and will be available on BBC iplayer immediately after broadcast. It seems likely that the full series 14 will then begin on Friday 23rd & Saturday 24th if BBC scheduling runs to form, with the series finale broadcast on Saturday 17th December (the weekend before Christmas).
Be sure to vote for your favourites and most important of all…keeeeeep dancing!
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
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.
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!
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.
The cast gets through 121 bras per show – That’s a lot of underwire!
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.
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.
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):
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
The Creative Team
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.
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.
Top Five reasons people love Mamma Mia on Stage:
It reminds them of being on holiday
The show is packed full of great Abba songs and Pierce Brosnan doesn’t sing any of them
The cast is full of young pretty people dancing and singing
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)
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)