Friday, July 20

Jennifer Hudson cast as Grizabella in Cats the Movie

According to  this morning's  Mail , Dreamgirls  Academy Award-winner Jennifer Hudson will  play the iconic role of Grizabella in the film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's CATS! which Tom Hooper will direct Working Title pictures to  begin shooting in November in London. Andrew Lloyd Webber has composed a new song for the adaptation, for the white kitten Victoria and is also considering adding more new numbers to the score.

Baz has also reported that other stars including Sir Ian McKellen, James Corden, and  Taylor Swift are currently in talks to join the film, with deals yet  confirmed.
Spielberg wanted to turn Cats into a Hollywood blockbuster thirty years ago, but couldn’t figure out how to make it work.Now he’s billed as an executive producer (not with a hands-on role), which will see the actors wearing feline costumes - different from the ones worn on stage.

Director Hooper has spent almost two years working with a team of designers and technical wizards on closely guarded methods to come up with an innovative form of computer-generated imagery (CGI) that he will mix with live footage. His  innovations have won the approval of film moguls Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan, who run  London-based  Working Title, and their colleague, producer Debra Hayward, who oversaw the day-to-day production of the Les Miserables movie.

Dancers and singers are being auditioned and begin rehearsing the huge production numbers with choreographer Wayne McGregor next month. Production designer Eve Stewart, director of photography Danny Cohen and costume designer Paco Delgado have already been busy on various test shoots to see how Cats will move.

Thursday, July 19

Suzie Mathers, Lucas Rush, Madalena Alberto and Cedric Neal appearing in I Wish My Life Were Like A Musical

Casting has been announced for the return of Alexander S Bermange's musical revue, I Wish My Life Were Like A Musical, show about being a musical theatre performer, from eager drama school graduate to brattish diva with anecdotes, revelations and confessions - in song - that lift the lid on awful auditions, debilitating dance routines, mid-performance mishaps, and backstage backstabbing - alongside celebrations of those magical moments that make it all seem worthwhile. It  runs at Crazy Coqs from 13th-19th August and 21st -26th  August.

Bermange's credits include The 24 Hour Musicals at the Old Vic, Plague Over England at the Duchess Theatre, and Murder on Air.

Directed by Derek Bond, Suzie Mathers (Wicked, Mamma Mia!) reprises her role and is joined by a sensational new all-star cast comprising Madalena Alberto (Evita, War of the Worlds), Cedric Neal (Motown The Musical, Chess) and Lucas Rush (American Idiot, Thoroughly Modern Millie).

Tickets for I Wish My Life Were Like A Musical

Cast announced for new tour of Dirty Dancing

Casting has just been announced for the new 2018/19 tour of Dirty Dancing along with new dates in  Ipswich, Halifax, Manchester, Guildford, Grimsby, Glasgow and  Bristol.

Michael O'Reilly, making his professional debut, will star as Johnny Castle alongside Kira Malou who returns to the role of Frances 'Baby' Houseman' after regularly playing the role during the 2016-17 UK tour. Simone Covele is Penny Johnson, Colin Charles is Tito Suarez with Lynden Edwards as Dr. Jake. Mark Faith/Mr Schumacher, Greg Fossard/Neil Kellerman, Sian Gentle-Green/Elizabeth, Lori Haley Fox/Marjorie Houseman, Jack McKenzie/Max Kellerman, Lizzie Ottley/Lisa Houseman and Alex Wheeler/ Billy Kostecki. 

With ensemble members Amelia Armstrong/Vivian Pressman, Tom Bowen / Robbie, Millie Hood, Kieran Kuypers/Kellerman's Band / Sax & Clarinet, BenMabberley/Kellerman's Band / Guitar & Bass, Miles Russell/Kellerman's Band / Trumpet & Piano, Alessia McDermott, Oliver Ramsdale, Ashley Rumble / Moe Pressman  plus  swings Shaquille Brush, Stan Doughty, Katie Eccles, Sophia McAvoy, Carlie Milner/ Assistant Dance Captain and Austin Wilks Dance Captain

Austin Wilks

Casting news for tour of Dr Dolittle

Brian Capron, Vicky Entwistle (probably best known as Richard Hillman and Janice Bateersby from Corrie) Mollie Melia-Redgrave and Patrick Sullivan are confirmed to join Mark Williams, who plays the title role in the UK & Ireland Tour of Doctor Dolittle. 

Brian  will play Albert Blossom/Straight Arrow, Vicky is  Polynesia, Mollie is Emma Fairfax and Patrick is Matthew Mugg. Brian Capron and Mark Williams will appear from 9 November – 4 May at Bromley, Salford, Oxford, Wolverhampton, Newcastle, Hull, Aberdeen, Northampton, Nottingham and  Sheffield only. Vicky Entwistle will play the full tour dates.

They will be joined by Harry Cross, Elliot Morris, Quillan O’Meara McDonald, Louis Parker, Thomas Ryan and Elliott Rose who alternate as  Tommy Stubbins (the boy who takes an injured squirrel to Doctor Dolittle and becomes his friend) with ensemble members Femi Akinfolarin, Erica Jayne Alden, Lydia Bannister, Joel Bayliss, Evonnee Bentley-Holder, Jane Crawshaw, Emily Essery, Jacob Fisher,  George Hankers, Catherine Hannay, Evan James, Leon Kay, Emma Lloyd, Ross Meagrow, Owen McHugh, Tom Norman, Emily Ann Potter, Ellie Seaton and Richard Vorster.

Tuesday, July 17

Simon Lipkin and Daniel Boys appearing in Nativity Rocks! Movie

Following three hit films and a very successful musical version touring the UK at the end of last year,  there is more to come in the Nativity series with  a fourth film called  Nativity Rocks! heading into UK cinemas from November 23rd this year.  There is also a new tour of Nativity the Musical! which opens in Coventry in October.

Debbie Isitt will be writing and directing again, with Nicky Ager as composer .Names in the cast so far include Celia Imrie, Helen George, Anna Chancellor, Meera Syal, Ruth Jones, Hugh Dennis, Gabriel Vick, Craig Revel Horwood and  Simon Lipkin and Daniel Boys  (who played Mr Maddens and Mr Poppy in the musical tour)

 You can view a trailer on Nativity Rocks! here

Tickets for Collabro album launch in August

Collabro have just announced a special night to celebrate the release of their fourth studio album, Road to the Royal Albert Hall at The Other Palace on Monday 27th August at 7:00 pm. This is prior to their extensive new tour of the same name which kicks off next February.

Four days before its release they  will perform the entire album which features  songs from favourite musicals, including Les Miserables, Wicked, The Greatest Showman, Miss Saigon and  West Side Story  plus you will have the chance to ask them questions about their four years together as a band in a special Q&A session during the performance!

VIP packages are available where you can meet the boys, hear a special ‘a capella’ preview of one of the songs and have a glass of bubbly before the show, plus get some exclusive gifts - including an album four days before it’s released Albums will be on sale  after the show.

Tickets for Collabro album launch

Friday, July 13

Craig Gallivan to take over as Dewey as new School of Rock cast announced

Welsh actor Craig Gallivan is to take over the role of substitute teacher and wannabe rocker Dewey Finn from Stephen  Leask  in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical School of Rock at the newly renamed Gillian Lynne Theatre from 22nd August.

Gallivan was first cover for Dewey and has appeared with Ruth Jones in her Rhondda Valley-set comedy Stella, and before that he was in TV series Footballers’ Wives and Torchwood.

He joins the show with Laura Tebbutt as Rosalie Mullins, Alan Pearson as Ned Schneebly, Michelle Francis as Patty DiMarco and Jake Sharp who will play Dewey Finn at certain performances.

The remaining adult cast will be composed of John Addison, Nick Butcher, Rob Falconer, Martina Isibor, Claudia Kariuki, Jessica Louise Parkinson, Richard Morse, Andy Rees, Hannah Stratton, Alex Tomkins and James Wolstenholme with swings Paul Kemble, Jessica Kirton, Billy Mitchell, Catherine Morris and Andy Prosser.

42nd Street to close but Bonnie Langford to join cast

With the sad news this morning that 42nd Street is to close at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane on 5th January 2019 when the theatre will undergo extensive refurbishment, comes the good news that the production is due to tour the UK , Australia and possibly head for Broadway: and the even better news that West End star BONNIE LANGFORD is to return to her roots from 5th September to play the lead role of Dorothy Brock - the tough Broadway star who fractures her ankle on the eve of the opening night.

Bonnie has had one of the most amazing careers in showbusiness and last played Drury Lane in 1972. ‘I was seven years old. I was playing the role of Bonnie in a musical of Gone With The Wind,’ she recalled, adding that she can still remember standing in the wings, waiting to go on. Since then she has worked with Broadway giants Jerome Robbins, Arthur Laurents and Angela Lansbury on a Seventies revival of Gypsy that transferred from London to Broadway and was in the original company of Cats.

She  is looking forward to treading  the boards again saying ‘The thing about Dorothy Brock is that she’s a bit of a diva — which I’m not,But I will find the Dorothy diva in me.

The spectacular show has far exceeded initial expectations and  extended its booking period several times.

It is good to see Bonnie back in the West End.  She has been playing over-protective Carmel Kazemi in BBC's Eastenders for more than three years and will leave Albert Square in the autumn as her character tries to cope with son Shakil’s stab death.

Bonnie said: “I’ve had a wonderful three-and-a-half years at EastEnders and it’s been a privilege to be part of such an iconic show. My storyline has been such an incredible experience and I’m honoured to be part of something so powerful and poignant. However, I’ve known since the beginning of this storyline it would always lead to Carmel having to take a break from Walford.” 

She was due to stay for six months but proved so popular she stayed on and in 2016 won Best Newcomer at the British Soap Awards. Her  character leaves Walford alone and will not be killed off so the door is open.

Thursday, July 12

Alex Gaumond & Jonathan Bailey join cast of Company

Final casting news  for Marianne Elliott's new production of Stephen Sondheim's Company, which opens at the Gielgud Theatre in September is that the composer has given his blessing for another twist   -  the musical's first same-sex couple. Joining the previously announced Rosalie Craig and Patti LuPone will be Broadchurch star Jonathan Bailey (The York Realist) as Jamie, (who was originally Amy - the character created for an actress ) and Alex Gaumond (Matilda) takes the role of Jamie’s partner, Paul. Also announced today is Daisy Maywood (Promises, Promises) who who will play Susan.

The complete Company company is now: Rosalie Craig as Bobbie, Patti LuPone as Joanne, Mel Giedroyc as Sarah, Jonathan Bailey as Jamie, George Blagden as PJ, Ashley Campbell as Peter, Richard Fleeshman as Andy, Alex Gaumond as Paul, Richard Henders as David, Ben Lewis as Larry, Daisy Maywood as Susan, Jennifer Saayeng as Jenny, Matthew Seadon-Young as Theo, Gavin Spokes as Harry, Michael Colbourne, Francesca Ellis, Ewan Gillies, Grant Neal and Jaimie Pruden.

Hayley Tamaddon to take over from Natasha Hamilton in new Closets Musical

Atomic Kitten star Natasha Hamilton has dropped out of new musical Closets, which opens on 14th August  at the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester. She will be replaced by Hayley Tamaddon (who recently finished a tour playing the lead in Thoroughly Modern Millie).

According to a tweet earlier today, Hamilton is leaving for personal reasons. She said: due to personal reasons, I will sadly no longer be able to take part in @ClosetsMusical Apologies to those who booked tickets but I know the role of Susan will be in very capable hands. I’d like to wish the cast & crew all the best for an amazing show

A spokesperson for Closets the Musical said: "Natasha Hamilton is sadly no longer able to perform in Closets the Musical next month due to personal reasons. However, producers are delighted to welcome the incredibly talented Hayley Tamaddon, who will takeover the role of Susan at the forthcoming run of Closets at Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester."

Based on the award-winning short film of the same name, Closets  musical is about the history of LGBTQ rights told with a time-travelling closet featuring  a mix of pop music numbers and contemporary ballads. The show also features The X Factor finalist Lloyd Daniels, Sam Retford, Kim Tatum, Sophie Anne-Ellicott and Georgia Conlan

The production has lyrics and book by Lloyd Eyre-Morgan and Neil Ely, with music by Ashley M A Walsh and choreography by William Whelton (Yank!, Pippin). .

Buy tickets for Closets which runs at the Hope Mill Theatre from 14 to 23 August.

The Simon & Garfunkel Story announces more dates at Lyric

As 76 year old Paul Simon plays his final London concert in Hyde Park this Sunday, The Simon & Garfunkel Story, has announced it is extending its residency at the Lyric Theatre to December 2018.

New dates on sale today are October 1, October 29 and December 10. It had previously been booking to Monday 23 July.

 The Simon & Garfunkel Story - the critically acclaimed concert style theatre show about how two young boys from the same neighbourhood in Queens, New York went on to become the world's most successful music duo of all time continues to thrill and entertain its army of fans.

Cast and booking details for new tour of Evita

The cast for the new tour of Evita which starts in Woking on 18th July will be Lucy O'Byrne as Evita. She  rose to fame after reaching the finals of The Voice UK in 2015, then  took up the role of Fantine in the West End production of Les Miserables as well as playing Maria in two UK tours of The Sound of Music. Joining her as the Argentine dictator Juan Péron is Mike Sterling (The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables), alongside Oscar Balmaseda as Magaldi and Cristina Hoey as the Mistress. Known for his roles in the stage and screen productions of Jesus Christ Superstar as well as Les Misérables, Glenn Carter also takes on the role of the revolutionary Ché.

Completing the cast in ensemble roles will be Emmanuel Alba, Verity Burgess, Callum Fitzgerald, Riva Grant, Samuel John Humphreys, Bethan Jacks, Joe McCourt, Benjamin McMillan, Chrissie Perkins, Oliver Slade, Chris Stoddart, Mike Ward, Kirsty Whelan, and Yuval Zoref.