Friday, February 24

Gary Barlow's musical The Band due to open in Manchester in September

Hot on the heels of the triumphant and record-breaking opening of his musical The Girls earlier this week,  news of Gary Barlow's next musical The Band (based on the music of Take That) has just been revealed. 

The producers David Pugh and Dafydd Rogers are due to start work on it this Sunday following the finale of Let It Shine (the show to cast the band members) on BBC on Saturday night.  The new musical is written by The Girls  Tim Firth & with Take that as co-producers.  It is due to open in Manchester on 8th September with a view to transferring it into the West End.

More news to follow.

Tour of Cilla The Musical

Breaking news this morning is that Bill  Kenwright And Laurie Mansfield are producing  a tour of Cilla the Musical which  is based on Jeff Pope’s brilliant, three-part ITV drama Cilla that screened in 2014 and starred Sheridan Smith (who is currently starring in the tour of Funny Girl). Pope has adapted his screenplay for the theatre.Cilla's eldest son Robert Willis is executiive producer of the show. Apparently the musical was the last project Cilla gave her blessing to before she died at her villa in Spain in 2015.

Pope said: Essentially, it’s the story of a young girl from Liverpool’s ‘Scottie Road’ who aims for the stars and gets there, ‘but finds that it’s not all she thought it was going to be.

The show will concentrate more on the music than the TV programme did featuring Cilla classics including  Anyone Who Had A Heart, Alfie, You’re My World, Step Inside Love and Liverpool Lullaby. It will also cover  the early Merseybeat sound with groups like The Big Three, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, and some early Beatles numbers.

The tour will be directed by Bill Kenwright and Bob Tomson with rehearsals running through August opening at Liverpool Empire on 7th September where it will run until September 16th. Willis said: It was a theatre my mother loved.  Before she became well known, she would wait by the stage door and ask for autographs. It will go on tour  with the possibility of a West End transfer.  Open auditions will be held in Liverpool this Spring (and elsewhere in the UK ) to find an actress to portray the young Cilla.

Tickets go on sale on Monday 27th February.

Thursday, February 23

Sister Act heading back to London?

Talking at a launch to promote the new film version of Beauty and the Beast legendary musical composer Alan Menken  has said he expects Sister Act to head back into the West End soon.

Saying: " Sister Act is coming back to the West End soon. The nuns play their own instruments!"

Craig Revel Horwood's production is currently touring the UK until 3rd September with Alexandra Burke in the lead role.

Wednesday, February 22

Michael Ball and Alfie Boe performing at Greenwich Music Time

Michael Ball and Alfie Boe are  to appear at Greenwich Music Time following the success of their platinum-selling album and tour Together which is due to go out on the road again in June. They are  one of the headliners for this summer’s Greenwich Music Time, which returns to the The Old Royal Naval College on June 30th 2017

Ball and Boe join Cliff Richard and Little Mix on the line-up for the week-long event (now in its fourth year) which takes place from June 30th – July 7th 2017.

Tickets for Greenwich Music Time with Michael Ball and Alfie Boe

Gary Barlow's The Girls extends booking period and adds Tuesday matinee

Following well deserved rave reviews from its opening last night, from Monday 27th February Gary Barlow and Tim Firth's award-winning new British musical, The Girls, will extend its booking period at the Phoenix Theatre (where it has broken box office records) to 15th July 2017, plus a Tuesday matinee will be added from 25th April.
In the West End the producers have made a commitment to there being no 'premium-rated' seats and no booking fees if tickets are purchased via the official show and theatre websites or direct from the theatre.

Monday, February 20

Katie Brayben, Tyrone Huntley, Oliver Savile, Sabrina Aloueche and More to perform at West End Live Lounge

L&M Productions will present West End Live Lounge at the Union Theatre on Sunday 19th March at 7:30 pm.    It will be the company's first concert with a  line up including Katie Brayben, Tyrone Huntley, Sabrina Aloueche and Oliver Savile and other West End performers singing renditions of some of their favourite songs from the world of popular music. Musical direction by Sam Coates and the compere for the evening will be Benjamin Vivian-Jones.

Katie Brayben won an Olivier Award for 'Best actress in a musical' for her portrayal of Carole King in the original London cast of Beautiful. Since then her credits have included Sarah in The Spoils alongside Hollywood talent Jesse Eisenberg (Trafalgar Studios) and Jackie in My Mother said I never should (St James Theatre).

Tyrone Huntley's  credits include Hairspray, Memphis, Book of Mormon and Jesus Christ Superstar for which he won the Evening Standard Theatre Award for his  performance as Judas at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre. He is currently in the London cast of Dreamgirls playing the role of CC.

Oliver Savile can currently be seen playing Fiyero in the West End production of Wicked. His past credits include Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Cats and Mamma Mia.

Sabrina Aloueche is no stranger to the West End Stage with credits including Eponine in Les Miserables and Scaramouche in We Will Rock You..

L&M Productions was set up by West End performers Leigh Lothian (Currently in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and Shaun McCourt (most recently seen in The Railway Children and the National's War Horse at the New London Theatre). This new venture was put together with a vision to raising money for those in unspeakable situations around the world. Each concert will donate proceedings towards a different cause with The UNICEF 'Syria Appeal' being the chosen charity for the first concert. Having seen such terrible footage of what is going on in this part of the world, both Leigh and Shaun wanted to do something to help these people in anyway possible and thus West End Live Lounge was born.

The full cast for the evening (subject to availabilty) are: Kelly Agbowu, Jamal Andreas, Marcus Ayton, Andrew Bateup, Arun Blair, Adam Bailey, Dale Evans, Gabriela Garcia,Natalie Green,  Lauren Ingram, Brady Issacs-Pearce, Sejal Keshwala, Laura Mansell, Iain Mattley,  Matthew Seadon-Young, Laura Tebbutt,Phoebe Street, Paul Wilkins, Gary Wood.

Magic at the Musicals Royal Albert Hall in May

Presented by Magic FM and TBI Media, Magic at the Musicals returns to the Royal Albert Hall for one night only at 7:30 pm on Thursday 4th May.

Following rave reviews last year, this brand new show, complete with 60 piece orchestra, will feature  performances from leading West End performers singing numbers from the  most celebrated shows including: The Wind in the Willows, Disney's Aladdin, School of Rock!,Jesus Christ Superstar, Blood Brothers and Mamma Mia!

Casting news to follow. 

Casting and booking details for new 20th anniversary production of Stiles & Drewe's musical HONK!

A 20th anniversary production of Stiles & Drewe's HONK! the musical  returns to London this Easter  playing at the Union Theatre from  29th March – 22nd April 2017 (press night Saturday 1st  April)

It is a brand new actor-musican versionwith puppetry, illusions - and water guns. This heartwarming reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling tells the story of Ugly, a plucky little bird who gets picked on by the other farmyard animals because he’s different. Pushed out of the flock, he embarks on an adventure across the marsh, meeting an array of characters who teach him that it takes all sorts to make a world, and that he is much more than just his fowl looks.

Ugly looks quite a bit different from his darling duckling brothers and sisters. The other animals on the farm are quick to notice and point this out, despite his mother’s protective flapping. Feeling rather foul about himself, the little fowl finds himself on adventure of self discovery all the while unknowingly outwitting a very hungry Cat. Along the way Ugly meets a whole flock of unique characters and finds out being different is not a bad thing to be.

Honk! has gone on to receive over 8,000 productions around the world, and is now returning to London in its 20th anniversary year for  the third time since its celebrated National Theatre production in 2000

British writing duo Stiles and Drewe’s other works include current West End award winning  Half a Sixpence, Mary Poppins and the soon-to-open The Wind in the Willows starring Rufus Hound at the London Palladium.

Honk! is produced Paul Virides & Lian Wilkinson for Dot By Dot Productions, directed by Andy Room, with Oli Rew as musical director, choreography by Lily Howkins,  designer Anna Reid with  puppet designer Phoebe Hill. The cast includes:

Glaswegian Liam Vincent-Kilbride plays Ugly,  making his London stage debut. He trained at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and has played Che in Evita and Mark Cohen in Rent.

Emily Goad (Maureen/Henrietta/Penny/Lowbutt/Pinkfoot). Previous roles include Rosemary in How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Julie Jordan, Carousel.

Emma Jane Morton (Grace/Dot/Queenie/Mother Swann). Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Windsor), Leader of the Pack (Waterloo East).

Ellie Nunn
(Ida, Ugly’s mother). Shakespeare in Love in the West End, Lady Windermere in Lady Windermere’s Fan (King’s Head).

Robert Pearce (Turkey/Bullfrog/Jack Daw). Col. Chambers in The Glenn Miller Story (Tommy Steele No1 UK tour), Jitters in Hoods! The Musical, directed  by Craig Revel-Horwood, at the Arts Theatre.

Leon Scott (Drake, Ugly’s father). Thor in Norseome (UK tour), and Montano in Othello (Shakespeare’s Globe).

Sam Sugarman (Cat) was in Stephen Sondheim’s Road Show, Union Theatre, and Smee in Stiles & Drewe’s Peter Pan: A MusicalAdventure.

Anthony Drewe said: Hans Christian Andersen has been described as ‘a tall, ugly boy with a big nose and big feet, and when he grew up with a beautiful singing voice and a passion for the theatre he was cruelly teased and mocked by other children’. Sadly, cruel teasing and mocking is still prevalent today whenever someone is perceived as being ‘different’, and it’s not only children who perpetrate this injustice. Some truly ugly attitudes revealed themselves in the lead up to the Brexit vote, and recent events in the US have only served to shake our wonderfully diverse, multicultural society.
When George and I wrote Honk! it was, in part, in response to the reaction that my young mixed–race nephews were receiving at school, because their skin was of a different colour. But bullying is not limited to racial diversity. A recent study in the UK found that 45% of 13 to 18 year-olds have experienced bullying by the age of 18, with the majority saying the primary reason was their physical appearance. It’s a sobering fact that 1 in 10 teenagers bullied at school have attempted to commit suicide, and at least half of the suicides among young people are related to bullying. Sadly, it is true that the victims of bullying are most likely to become bullies themselves. Maybe one day this vicious cycle will be broken, then we will all have something to quack about.

I think the reason Honk! has enjoyed such success and been seen in so many productions around the world is that everyone can relate to the plight of an outsider trying to fit in – we have all felt it at some point in our lives. We wanted to write a musical about acceptance – a celebration of being different, where diversity is welcomed and embraced, and where everyone plays their own part in a multicultural community, albeit on a duck pond.

Friday, February 17

Rachel Tucker announces May & June tour dates

Rachel Tucker (Elphaba in the West End and Broadway productions of Wicked) has announced dates  for her UK tour which opens in Belfast in May.

The musical theare star rose to fame on Andrew Lloyd Webber's BBC show I'd Do Anything, has played the green witch in Stephen Schwartz's production for more performances than any other actress in the show's history. Her other recent theatre credits include Queen's  We Will Rock You at the Dominion, and Sting's musical The Last Ship on Broadway.

Her  solo tour will be  directed by her husband Guy Retallack, when she will be performing musical theatre songs as well as some jazz and soul.

The tour opens at the MAC Belfast on 13th May before moving to the Gate Theatre, Cardiff (19th May), Gala Theatre, Durham (29th  May), Grand Theatre, Lancaster (3th May), The Apex, Bury St Edmund's (31st May), Capitol Theatre, Horsham (3rd June), Live At Zedel, London (5th-7th June), and Pizza Express Live, Birmingham (9th and 10th  June).

Caroline Flack to join Tom Chambers in Tour of Crazy for You

It has just been announced that Caroline Flack is to  make her stage debut as Irene in the national tour of the Watermill Theatre’s acclaimed production of CRAZY FOR YOU. Caroline joins the previously announced Tom Chambers as Bobby. From the producers of “Sister Act” and “Nativity! The Musical”, the national tour of ”CRAZY FOR YOU” opens at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth on 17th August.

Prior to presenting, Caroline trained in musical theatre. She won the 12th season of “Strictly Come Dancing” in 2014. She currently presents  ITV’s Love Island with previous presenting credits including “I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here NOW!” and “The Xtra Factor”. She has also presented “The X Factor”.

Peter Polycarpou and Tracie Bennett lead cast for Mrs Henderson Presents in Toronto

Peter Polycarpou is playing the role of Vivian Van Damm opposite Tracie Bennett in Mrs Henderson Presents when it tours to Toronto and plays at The Royal Alexandra Theatre from March 12th  to April 23rd.

The cast includes Evelyn Hoskins, Matt Slack, Matthew Malthouse, Adam Rhys Charles, Jenny Huxley Golden, Tricia Adele Turner, Kimberly Powell, Alex Delamere, Grace Mckee, Ross Carpenter, Fenton Gray, Piers Bate, Lucy Carter, Maria Garrett, Lauren Hall, Ross Carpenter, Mark Prendergast, Matthew Jeans,Tania Newton, Anne Smith, Simon Green and Piers Bate.

The Girls Cast Album?

According to Baz in today's Mail,  writer Gary Barlow, director Tim Firth and producers of The Girls David Pugh and Dafydd Rogers ,  are believed to be in discussions with Disney and Decca about collaborating on the cast album for the new musical , which opens on Tuesday and  is getting standing ovations and rave reviews while it previews at he Phoenix Theatre.