Barrymore Stages Comeback as Musical ScroogeDate: 7 June 2006
After his success earlier this year in Celebrity Big Brother, in which he came runner-up to “fake” celebrity winner Chantelle Houghton, TV entertainer Michael Barrymore (pictured) will return to the stage this Christmas to take the title role in Scrooge.
The production opens at Wolverhampton’s Grand Theatre (14 to 18 November) before visiting His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen (20 November to 2 December) and Sunderland Empire (5 December to 13 January), with further dates – and a possible West End transfer – to be announced.
It’s a brave stage comeback for the entertainer who, three years ago, fled from his West End debut, one-man comedy show at Wyndham’s Theatre after just three performances and largely damning reviews, emigrating to New Zealand (See News, 19 Sep 2003).
In Scrooge, Barrymore follows in the footsteps of Tommy Steele, who played the miserly Ebenezer in Leslie Bricusse’s musical of Charles Dickens’ seasonal classic at the West End’s London Palladium this past Christmas, and EastEnders’ Shane Richie, who helmed a simultaneous production in Bristol. After a night facing the ghosts of his past, present and frightening future, Scrooge is transformed, his festive spirit restored. The score includes "I Hate Christmas", "It's Not My Fault", "I'll Begin Again" and "Better Life".
Scrooge was originally a 1970 film starring Alec Guinness and Albert Finney. The musical by Bricusse - whose other major musicals include Stop the World - I Want to Get Off, Pickwick and Doctor Dolittle - was famously staged in Birmingham in 1992 when Bricusse's long-time collaborator Anthony Newley took the title role.
Commenting today on his latest casting, Barrymore said: “I’m delighted to be taking to the stage again to lead this magical musical. Scrooge is Dickens’ greatest character and playing this role is a challenge that I will relish.”
Born Michael Parker, Barrymore was inspired to change his name after reading a biography of the famous American acting dynasty. In the 1980s and 1990s, after many years of stage variety and comedy, Barrymore rose to become one of the most powerful figures in British TV entertainment, performing in and presenting myriad series such as New Faces, Strike It Lucky, Saturday Night Out, Kids Say the Funniest Things, Animals Do the Funniest Things and the eponymous Michael Barrymore Show, Barrymore and Barrymore on Broadway. He later starred in the comedy drama Bob Martin.
Controversy came in 1995 when Barrymore announced that he was homosexual, despite being married for nearly 20 years. Over the next several years, he continued to receive a rough ride in the tabloid press for perceived drunken and unruly bad behaviour. The situation culminated in March 2001 when a man was found dead in the pool of Barrymore's Essex home after an impromptu late night party. When pulling out of his 2003 West End comedy season two months early, Barrymore apologised to fans, explaining that "the pressure of the last two years has taken its toll".
Following Celebrity Big Brother, Barrymore has several new TV projects in development and will shortly release his autobiography Awight Now: Setting the Record Straight, “taking us through his rollercoaster life, from his poor London childhood to his triumph as the undisputed king of Saturday night TV”.
Scrooge is directed by Bob Tomson, designed by Paul Farnsworth and produced by Bill Kenwright Ltd.
- by Terri Paddock