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!

Putting the money where your stage is: Does splashing the cash on a show pay off?

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:

West End

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 Rings musical 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)

Production still from Wicked, one of the highest grossing shows on Broadway

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.

Broadway

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)

Production still from Rent the musical

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 inspired Hamilton 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.

Final verdict

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.

If you are The Lion King, “Hakuna Matata.”

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.

Christmas Crackers: Nudity, Burlesque and Potted Dick

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

Shhhh…Strictly’s West End Secrets Revealed!

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.

THE HOSTS

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 hosted Strictly Come Dancing for ten years
Bruce Forsyth hosted Strictly Come Dancing for ten years

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 came to the rescue when Bruce Forsyth fell ill
Ronnie Corbett came to the rescue when Bruce Forsyth fell ill

Ronnie Corbett (Guest host)
West End Credits:
1963 The Boys from Syracuse – Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
1965 Twang!! – Shaftesbury Theatre

FACT ALERT
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.

THE JUDGES

Strictly’s judges, past and present, have a huge number of West End shows under their collective belts and dance tights…

Strictly judges - fine figures from the many worlds of dance
Strictly judges – fine figures from the many worlds of dance

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.

PHANTOM FACT
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 PROFESSIONALS

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.

THE CONTESTANTS

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…”

Series 14 celebrities line up for the 2016 season
Series 14 celebrities line up for the 2016 season

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)

So tell me what you want, what you really really want...
So tell me what you want, what you really really want, Emma

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)

Tom Chambers tapped his way to Strictly Champion
Tom Chambers tapped his way to Strictly Champion

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.

Kara and Artem...possibly Strictly's most beautiful couple
Kara and Artem…possibly Strictly’s most beautiful couple

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)

Jerry Hall: No stranger to the West End
Jerry Hall: No stranger to the West End

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)

STRICTLY SHOCKING!
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) 

Snake hips Simon Webbe: like ketchup, best with the top off
Snake hips Simon Webbe: like ketchup, best with his top off

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.

Tess and Claudia - back on our screens...we can't wait!
Tess and Claudia – back together for series 14…and we can’t wait!

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!

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

Ronnie Corbett: Theatreland mourns one of their own

Entertainer Ronnie Corbett has died at the age of 85. Best known for entertaining the nation in The Two Ronnies, this diminutive genius also lit up the London Palladium in a glittering career on Stage, Screen and TV.

Ronnie developed a love of the stage performing in amateur pantomimes and attended stage school in Edinburgh. Spotting Ronnie’s enormous talent, Sir Cedric Hardwicke encouraged him to pursue a career on stage.

Before his TV career, Ronnie also appeared in the musical Read more

MURRAY LANE: UNDRESSING THE WEST END (Part Two)

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

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

Hi Murray – tell us about your current show…

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

Read more

Douze Points: A West End Eurovision Love Affair

This weekend sees the 60th anniversary of the camp-fest that is the Eurovision Song Contest.

Laughter and Lycra....nothing beats the drama of a Eurovision final
Laughter and Lycra….nothing beats the drama of a Eurovision final

Vienna has re-phased its traffic lights in anticipation for a competition which started way back in 1956 when Europe was just a group of countries making cheese and squabbling over Poland. Since then, Europe has opened it’s arms to allow countries like Azerbaijan, Israel and anyone else with enough money to take part. This year, it’s Australia.

Austria's Eurovision crossings are anything but pedestrian...
Austria’s Eurovision crossings are anything but pedestrian…

Eurovision is unashamedly camp: Last year’s winner was Austria’s Conchita Wurst – part drag queen part bearded sausage. Before that we had Jedward singing about lipstick and Russia’s dancing grandmothers creating a decoy while the rest of the family invaded Ukraine. The West End has a long standing love affair with all this nonsenseso just how many West End performers have stepped up to “take one for their country”? Read more

Here is how you can still see Nicole in CATS if you haven’t got a ticket yet.

The announcement of Nicole Scherzinger as Grizabella has blown The Palladium Box Office with bookings and tickets were sold out within a few weeks of their release.

Since the show opening in December, reviews have been raving and several celebrities have been spotted in the audience – it seems this is THE West End event of the year (including 2014!) and getting hold of a ticket for performances before the 7 of February can be challenging indeed! So we thought we would help you out so you don’t miss out on all the fun.

GRAB THOSE DAY SEATS!

You will have to queue up. Get up early and arrive at the London Palladium Box Office before 8 am on the day of the performance you are aiming for – Day Seats are for the same day ONLY. There are around 40 tickets available every day (only) and they cost £25 each, but each person can buy only 2 tickets. You also MUST BUY WITH A DEBIT/ CREDIT CARD – they don’t take any cash over the counter. I have rang the Box Office and they haven’t seen anyone staying overnight yet – but I would try arriving very early just to make sure. The Box Office opens at 10 am and it sells out within a few minutes.

TRY THE SECONDARY MARKET

If you have some cash to spare (like over £100 per ticket) and want to book a little bit in advance then try STUBHUB (I have seen some tickets for £35 which seems a fair price to me). If you can’t find then go to SEATWAVE (but the prices are high!)

You can also try GET ME IN and any other re-seller you can think of – but it’s good to have a little browse as prices vary.

WHAT ** NOT TO DO **

Don’t buy off ticket touts on the streets! On top of overpriced, they might be FAKE and you will not be allowed in. Never provide payments in advance to anyone and avoid Ebay. Buying from a ticket seller may be expensive but your entry is guaranteed.

I hope this little guide is useful and that you can still see this wonderful show!