Top 5 shows of 2015

Choosing our top five shows of the year has been tough but here it is.
1 – Close To You, Criterion Theatre

  
Our favourite show this year is Close To You: Bacharach Reimagined, a wonderfully innovative show with an extremely talented cast. It is a must-see currently showing at the Criterion Theatre until February 14th.

https://westendblogsite.wordpress.com/2015/10/28/close-to-you-bacharach-reimagined-criterion-theatre/

Twitter: @CloseToYouLDN | @CriTheatre
2 – Memphis, Shaftesbury Theatre

  

A close second is Memphis, a high energy soulful show with a very strong message behind it about segregation and discrimination. The cast were phenomenal singers and dancers. Unfortunately, Memphis closed in the West End on 31st October but a UK tour is planned.

https://westendblogsite.wordpress.com/2015/10/19/return-to-beale-street-memphis-shaftesbury-theatre/

Twitter: @MemphisMusical
3 – Wicked, Apollo Victoria Theatre

  
Wicked is a wonderful show about the witches of Oz. It is moving and powerful with an important message about stereotypes and superficiality. The show features some of the most iconic songs in musical theatre. It is currently defying gravity at the Apollo Victoria Theatre until November 2016.

https://westendblogsite.wordpress.com/2015/11/26/wicked-apollo-victoria-theatre/

Twitter: @WickedUK | @ApolloVictoria


4 – Carrie, Southwark Playhouse

  
Carrie the Musical was a phenomenal adaptation of Stephen King’s book. The show was wonderfully atmospheric and had a talented, youthful cast. There have been rumours of a West End transfer for the show but nothing substantial as yet. Pray for its salvation.

https://westendblogsite.wordpress.com/2015/10/05/shows-from-2015-that-should-transfer-carrie/

Twitter: @CarrieMusicalUK | @swkplay
5 – Assassins, Menier Chocolate Factory

  

Assassins is a show about all of the successful and attempted assassinations of the American presidents. This Sondheim show was fantastically directed by Jamie Lloyd and created a chilling atmosphere. It was a spectacular and intense piece of theatre which ran at the Menier Chocolate Factory from 21st November 2014 to the 7th March 2015.

https://westendblogsite.wordpress.com/2015/10/07/show-from-2015-that-should-transfer-the-assassins/

Twitter: @MenChocFactory

News of the week

War of the Worlds coming to West End
The musical by Jeff Wayne will make its West End debut for a limited run at the Dominion Theatre from 8th February to 9th April 2016. Casting is yet to be announced.
Elf the Musical opens officially

Elf the Musical, playing at the Dominion Theatre until 2nd January, had its opening night on 5th.
Dusty had announced its closure 

Dusty, currently showing at the Charing Cross Theatre, will end its run in the West End on 21st November.
Wicked announces an international tour

The musical will be defying gravity around the world from 20th July 2016 in Bradford before flying to Asia. The tour will continue into 2017.
Legally Blonde cast announcement

Ross Barnes – Emmett

Abbie Chambers – Elle

Robert Colvin – Warner

Jodie Jacobs – Paulette

Hugh Osbourne – Professor Callahan

The ensemble: Suzie Aries, Aimee Barrett, Adam Crossley, Lily De-La-Haye, Chris Durtnal, Emma Ingram and Scott Norton.

Legally Blonde will be showing at Upstairs at the Gatehouse from 16th December (opening night 18th) to 31st January.
Jest End cast announcement 

The cast for the revival of the satirical musical Jest End had been announced: Simon Bailey, Lizzy Connolly, Scott Garnham and Jodie Jacobs. The musical will be showing at the Waterloo East Theatre from 24th November (opening night 26th) until 6th December.

News of the Week

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child extends booking period

The musical opening the Palace Theatre in July 2016, due to outstanding demand, has extended its booking period to May 2017. The show sold over 175,000 tickets in eight hours making it an average of 6 tickets per second in the eight hours. Casting is yet to be announced.
Funny Girl transferring to West End

Funny Girl, starring Sheridan Smith and Darius Campbell, opening at the Menier Chocolate Factory on 20th November, is set to transfer to the Savoy Theatre, currently home to Gypsy which closes on 28th November.

Funny Girl is sold out at the Menier Chocolate Factory. Tickets for the Savoy Theatre go on sale on 18th November. The show will open 9th April.
Hangmen cast for West End transfer announced

Hangmen, after a sold out run at Royal Court, will be opening at the Wyndham’s Theatre 1st December for a limited run. As previously announced Josef Davies, James Dryden, Johnny Flynn, John Hodgkinson, Bronwyn James, David Morrissey, Ryan Pope, Sally Rogers and Simon Rouse will star in the transfer. Andy Nyman, Craig Parkinson and Tony Hirst will complete the cast.
Patrice Tipoki to make her West End debut

Patrice Tipoki will take over from Rachelle Ann Go as Fantine in Les Miserables, currently playing at the Queen’s Theatre, between February and May 2016.

Rachelle Ann Go is transferring to the Asian tour of the musical.

Winners of the West End Wilma awards announced

Best West End Show: Gypsy

Best Off-West End Show: Carrie

Best Touring Musical: Wicked

Most Underrated West End Show: Urinetown

Rising Star: Evelyn Hoskins

Most Welcoming Venue: Prince of Wales Theatre

Best Cabaret/Solo Performance: Rachel Tucker

Best Vocal Performance: Beverly Knight

Best Family Show: Bugsy Malone

Best Actor in a Play or Musical: Jon Jon Briones

Best Actress in a Play or Musical: Eva Noblezada

News of the Week

Rachel John takes the lead female in Memphis

Rachel John has taken the microphone after Beverly Knight left to start rehearsals for Cats, playing at the London Palladium from 23rd October – 2nd January. John will perform Felicia Farrell until Memphis closes on 31st of this month.

Wicked hits 7 million viewers

The hit West End musical, Wicked, currently showing at the Apollo Victoria Theatre, welcomed it’s seven millionth visitor through the doors on Monday.

Wicked also had its annual press night on Thursday.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child moves forward with more information being released

The musical will be staged in two parts both opening on 30th July 2016 at the Palace Theatre. It will be based on a new story developed by J K Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany. The tagline for the show is: “Eighth story. Nineteen Years Later.” Tickets go on general sale on 30th October.

Footloose tour announce tour dates

Bridlington Spa – 29th January – 6th February

Dartford Orchard Theatre – 8th-13th February

Edinburgh Festival Theatre – 16th-20th February

Lowestoft Marina Theatre – 2nd-27th February

Cardiff New Theatre – 29th February – 5th March

Manchester Palace Theatre – 14th-19th March

Carlisle Sands Theatre – 21st-26th March

Portsmouth King’s Theatre – 28thMarch – 2nd April

Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre – 12th-16th April

Oxford New Theatre – 19th-23rd April

Weston-Super-Mare Playhouse – 25th-30th April

Wimbledon New Theatre – 2nd-7th May

Liverpool Empire – 9th-14th May

Watford Colosseum – 17th-23rd May

Derry Millennium Forum – 31st May – 4th June

Torquay Princess Theatre – 6th-11th June

Glasgow King’s Theatre – 13th-18th June

Aberdeen His Majesty’s Theatre – 20thth-25th June

Birmingham Alexandra Theatre 0 4th-9th July

Newcastle Opera House – 12th-16th July

Woking New Victoria Theatre – 18th-23rd July

Brighton Theatre Royal – 25th-30th July

Bristol Hippodrome – 1st-6th August

Headlines

Elf the musical (showing at the Dominion Theatre over Christmas) has released a cast recording

Cats opens at the Palladium for a Christmas run

Les Miserables taking the Barricade to Singapore from May 2016

Mamma Mia extends its run at the Novello Theatre – now booking to October 2016

Rocky Horror announce tour cast including Liam Tamne (Frank-N-Furter), Kristian Lavercombe (Riff-Raff), Sophie Linder-Lee (Columbia), and Dominic Anderson (Rocky).

Show from 2015 that should transfer – I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change – Over the Arts

  

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change is a show containing numerous sketches about love, relationships and marriage created by Joe DePietro (also wrote Memphis with David Bryan) and Jimmy Roberts. The idea is find someone you think is perfect and then spend the rest of your life trying to change them. It is different from other shows I’ve seen because there are no constant characters as it’s made up of individual sketches, which can make for a stop and start performance. 
The production was played at Over the Arts, a new theatre space above the Arts Theatre, holding only 80 people. It is a very small theatre and makes for a very personal and intimate performance. The actors are very on display as you see every detail. West End theatre tickets are expensive and unaffordable for a lot of people. For this venue, they’re £15 a ticket and, even if you’re in the back row, you get a perfect view (like row G of a West End theatre). If you paid £15 for a West End ticket you’d probably be back row, in ‘the Gods’, behind a pillar!

The show is very simple when referring to sets and lighting and only requires four actors. Because of its simplicity it has been a favourite for college performances. Director, Kirk Jameson, started this production with the idea of having experienced, comedy actors performing it.

This vision was realised. Julie Atherton (Avenue Q, Sister Act, Mamma Mia) was cast as Woman 1 who performs her solo number, ‘I Will Be Loved Tonight’, a subtle but beautiful song which is very moving and something all women can relate to. Gina Beck (Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Wicked) played Woman 2 who performs a solo number, ‘Always a Bridesmaid’, is one of my favourite songs from the show, it’s just so funny and Beck’s vocals were perfect.

Simon Lipkin (Rock of Ages, Avenue Q, I Can’t Sing) was cast as Man 1 who performs ‘Shouldn’t I Be Less In Love with You’ is one of tenderest moments of the show, so lovely and soft and subtle – beautiful. Samuel Holmes (White Christmas, Spamalot, Kiss me Kate) completes the cast as Man 2 who performs ‘Baby Song’ which is a nice little song sung by Holmes playing a new father who is caught the ‘baby talk’ bug. Man 1 explores the more masculine qualities of men when Man 2 explores the softer, possibly gay qualities and the pair make for a nice contrast. 

The first sketch is ‘Cantana For A First Date’ which was superbly done with the four cast member dressing for their first dates and going through the usual gitters associated with it. The number ends with them ringing the doorbell and saying ‘hi’. It sets the tone perfectly and, in this production, the cast connect immediately.

‘Stud and a Babe’ is one of my favourite moments in the show which is between Man 2 and Woman 1. It is the first date of an awkward couple. After discussing getting his phone fixed, she tells him a ‘cute’ story about her brother having eleven toes. They break into song and decide to try to seduce each other by being a stud and a babe but fail miserably. 

‘Single Man Drought’ involves all four cast member with the two ladies being on dates with boring men who talk a lot. A truly hilarious number which relies on timing and tone of voice and was achieved stunningly well by Atherton and Beck. It morphs into ‘Why? Cos I’m a Guy’ joins onto this sketch after the women decide to go to the ladies room and the men are paying the bill.

‘He Called Me’ is another personal favourite of mine. It’s sung primarily by Woman 2 who is waiting for a guy to call and believes he won’t call on the day he said he would. To her surprise, he does and there is a song and dance which is interrupted when he calls again – he’s needy!

The ‘Marriage Tango’, performed by Man 1 and Woman 2, is a hilarious moment in the show where a married couple with two kids see the opportunity to have sex. The whole scene is about them trying to get it on but constantly getting interrupted.

‘On the Highway of Love’ is where a married couple with two kids (Man 1 and Woman 2) in the back are fighting and hanging out of the car windows. The husband, Man 2, believes driving is a right of manhood, the wife, Woman 1, shares her “never ending opinions” with him and driving as a simple means of getting from a to b. 

The show finishes on ‘I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change’ which says find somebody to love that you think is perfect and then spend the rest of your life trying to change them. It sums up the whole show so well bringing it to a good end.

This production was an outstanding piece of theatre – we love it, it’s perfect, don’t want it to change. The actors were all outstanding and maintained an easy flow to the show with no low points. We’re hoping for a transfer because it ended up sold out and we found it funnier than a lot of ‘funny’ shows on West End at the moment. It’s unique, quirky, comical,and relatable.

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change and Julie Atherton have been nominated for BroadwayWorldWestEndAwards.  Vote here: http://www.broadwayworld.com/westend/vote2015region.cfm

Return to Beale Street – Memphis, Shaftesbury Theatre

  

Memphis is a wonderful show which closes on 31st of this month. It touches the important, historic issue of discrimination and segregation between white people and black people. The story begins when Huey, played by Matt Cardle, walks into a black club on Beale Street where he is the only white person there, attracting strange looks. The club is owned by Delray, played by Rolan Bell, Felicia’s protective brother. The tale of forbidden love begins between Huey and Felicia who risk their own safety to be together believing that ‘love will stand when all else falls’. Huey rises from poverty to Memphis radio number one playing the music of his soul. He gets his own TV show but loses everything when he kisses Felicia on live TV and she leaves to pursue her singing career in New York. He decides he couldn’t leave Memphis singing ‘Memphis Lives In Me’ which links nicely to when Huey’s mother talked about his late father who never left Memphis. The show finishes with Felicia returning to Memphis on her first national tour and stopped by Huey’s office where he is a radio DJ with one listener, she asks him to join her on stage at her concert. He agrees and they close the show on (you’ll never let anyone) ‘Steal your Rock ‘n’ Roll’.

Beverley Knight had her final performance as Felicia Farell on Saturday 17th. For the remainder of the run, Rachel John will be stepping into Knight’s shoes and taking the microphone. Having seen her impressive and emotional performance of ‘Coloured Woman’ at West End Live where she demonstrated outstanding vocal ability, she’ll be able to fill the place.

Memphis will embark in a UK tour from autumn 2016. Dates, venues and casting haven’t been announced. Beale Street is coming to a theatre near you. Head along, you’ll have a ball with amazing music, energetic dance numbers, and humour. You might just find the music of your soul too.

News of the Week

In The Heights has press night at the Kings Cross Theatre
In The Heights officially arrived in London on Tuesday after having its press night and receiving rave reviews. The show had transferred to the West End for a limited (although recently extended) run until June next year after a sold out and highly acclaimed run at the Southwark Playhouse. 
Beverly Knight’s final week in Memphis

This was Beverly Knight’s final week as Felecia Farrell in Memphis. Knight is leaving Memphis, which itself is closing on the 31st of this month, to join the Cats cast at the London Palladium as Grizabella.

Rachel John is set to replace Knight for the rest of the show’s run in the West End prior to its UK tour.
Emma Hatton marks 350 shows at Wicked

Emma Hatton, London’s current Elphaba, celebrated 350 shows in Wicked on Tuesday. Wicked is currently playing at the Apollo Victoria Theatre and booking until November next year. 
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory reaches the 1000 milestone and extends its run in the West End

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory celebrated 1000 performances at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane on Monday and also extended its booking period to 3rd Decemeber 2016.
Close to You opens officially

Close to You had its press night yesterday at the Criterion Theatre. Close to You transferred to the West End after a run at the Menier Chocolate Factory, called What’s it all about? at the time, and is a celebration of the music of Burt Bacharach.
American Idiot announces a UK Tour 2016

American Idiot currently playing at the Arts Theatre has announced a UK tour in 2016. Amelia Lily will be reprising her role as Whatshername. Further casting to be announced and some dates have been set. The tour starts 19th March.
Aladdin confirmed and first casting announced

Aladdin had been confirmed for June 2016 at the Prince Edward Theatre (currently home to Miss Saigon). Trevor Dion Nicholas will play the Genie. 
Full casting for Funny Girl announced 

Funny Girl, opening at the Menier Chocolate Factory on 2nd December, has announced full casting: Valda Aviks, Natasha Barnes, Emma Caffrey, Danis Campbell, Matthew Croke, Marilyn Cutts, Joelle Dyson, Rebecca Fennelly, Luke Fetherston, Leah Harris, Kelly Homewood, Sammy Kelly, Maurice Lane, Bruce Montague, Joel Montague, Stuart Ramsay, Sheridan Smith and Gay Soper.
Kinky Boots extends its run

Kinky Boots, currently showing at the Adelphi Theatre, has extended its booking period to May next year.

News of the Week

Motown cast announcement

Motown is opening in the Shaftesbury Theatre in February 2016 featuring 50 classic songs from the Motown era. This production is directed by Charles Randolph-Wright.

The following actors will be starring in the production with final casting to be announced soon. Keisha Amponsa Banson as Mary Wells, Cindy Belliot as Anna Gordy, Samuel Edwards as Jackie Wilson, Aisha Jawondo as Martha Reeves, Joshua Liburd as Eddie Kendricks, Lucy St. Louis as Diana Ross, Simeon Montague as Jermaine Jackson, Cedric Neal as Berry Gordy, Cleopatra Rey as Gladys Knight, Brandon Lee Sears as Tito Jackson, and Cherelle Williams as Mary Williams.
Dirty Dancing UK tour 2016 announcement

Producers of the musical, Karl Sydow and Paul Elliot, announced earlier this week the Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage will tour the UK from August 2016. The tour opens in Blackpool on 11th August and then going around the country.

Further dates, casting and creative teams are to announced.
Les Miserables 30 years in the West End

Les Miserables had an anniversary concert on 8th October marking its 30th year running in the West End. It welcomed back from past stars from their cast including Alfie Bowe, John Owen-Jones, Geronimo Rauch and members of the original cast to perform along side the current cast.

Having been performed in 22 languages, 44 countries and for nearly 70 million people, this show continues to make history.

For pictures visit:

https://www.londontheatre1.com/news/118263/les-miserables-30th-anniversary-gala-images/
Sondheim 85th Birthday concert

A concert has been announced for Stephen Sondheim’s 85th birthday. A one-night special at the Theatre Royal with 30 West End stars and a 40 piece orchestra led by Gareth Valentine celebrating the music of Sondheim.

The cast includes: Bonnie Langford, Alistair McGowan, Michael Xavier, Anton du Beke, Anna Francolini and Laura Pitt-Pulford.

For more information and for ticket booking visit: http://www.reallyusefultheatres.co.uk/events/event/hey-old-friends-an-85th-birthday-tribute-to-stephen-sondheim
The Phantom of the Opera celebrates 29 years 

The Phantom of the Opera opened on 9th October 1986, making this its 29th birthday. An enchanting, ensnaring, mystical and wonderful show.
Mrs Henderson Presents transferring to the West End

Mrs Henderson Presents has confirmed it is transferring to the West End. The production will open in February 2016 until June at the Noel Coward Theatre. Casting is yet to be confirmed. Tickets go on sale midnight tonight.

Introduction

Hi,

This blog is written about shows I have seen myself and with knowledge of the West End.  To make a musical, you need: 

  1. A story, 
  2. Music,
  3. And people. 

These will be the structure of my blog – the story of the musical, the music and the people involved – as they are the essential elements and the quality of each of them which the quality of the complete show. I will also make some mention of the theatre facilities, merchandising and staging. 

I sincerely hope you enjoy my blog!