Cast: Arena’s Chicago, Whitfield’s Town, New BillyDate: 26 February 2007
Don Johnson has extended his stay as Nathan Detroit in Michael Grandage’s multi-award-winning production of Guys and Dolls at the West End’s Piccadilly Theatre by three weeks; the Miami Vice star will now head the cast of the musical until 31 March 2007.
Samantha Janus will return to the cast as Adelaide, following a short break while Claire Sweeney played the role for a five week stint fresh from the tour earlier this month (See News, 23 Jan 2007). Janus will return on 12 March. Also returning to the cast on 12 March is Norman Bowman as Sky Masterson. Lisa Stokke continues in the role of Sarah Brown.
Based on Damon Runyon’s short stories about New York gamblers and their girls in the 1940s, Frank Loesser’s 1950 musical was made into a 1953 Hollywood film starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons and Frank Sinatra. The current London production is designed by Christopher Oram, with choreography by Rob Ashford. Guys and Dolls is booking to 28 April 2007.
Meanwhile, Australian singer Tina Arena will join the cast of Chicago at the Cambridge Theatre, taking over from How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? runner-up Aoife Mullholland in the role of Roxie Hart, from 2 April 2007 (See News 5 Dec 2006).
Arena starred as Sally Bowles in Sam Mendes’ production of Cabaret in Sydney, and appeared in an Australian production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. She made her West End debut in Notre Dame de Paris at the Dominion in 2000.
Arena will star in Chicago for a five week stint until 5 May 2007, alongside Annette McLaughlin, who stays on as Velma Kelly. No further casting has been confirmed. Spandau Ballet’s Tony Hadley, currently playing Billy Flynn, is due to finish his run on 24 March 2007 (See News, 5 Jan 2007). The current cast also features Brenda Edwards as Mama Morton and Julian Sims as Amos Hart.
The current production of Chicago opened at the Cambridge Theatre (where the musicals’ original London production ran for 603 performances from April 1979) on 28 April 2006, after a eight-and-a-half years at the Adelphi Theatre. It won the 1998 Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Production as well as the 1998 Critics' Circle Award for Best Musical.
Kander and Ebb’s 1975 musical is based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins and has a book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb. The current stage revival, which transferred from Broadway, is directed by Walter Bobbie and designed by John Lee Beatty, with choreography by Ann Reinking in the style of Bob Fosse.
Meanwhile, 12-year-old Layton Williams opens tonight (26 February 2007) in the title role in Billy Elliot at the Victoria Palace. The young dancer from Manchester is the first new Billy of 2007, and makes his West End stage debut in the role alongside other current Billys Leon Cooke, Dean McCarthy and Travis Yates.
Set against the North-eastern mining strikes of the 1980s, the musical recounts the tale of a motherless boy whose father wants him to learn to box but who instead discovers a love for ballet that leads him from secret lessons to a place at the Royal Ballet School. The current cast also includes Sally Dexter (Mrs Wilkinson), Phil Whitchurch (Dad), Ann Emery (Grandma), Chris Lennon (Tony), Alex Delamere (Mr Braithwaite), Paul Broughton (George) and Sara Poyzer (Mum).
Since its opening, Billy Elliot has grossed over Ł30 million and been seen by more than 650,000 people. Amongst the show’s many accolades are the sweep of the UK’s Best Musical/New Musical trophies at the Evening Standard, Critics’ Circles, Whatsonstage.com and Olivier Awards. The stage production reunites the creative team behind the film: director Stephen Daldry, writer Lee Hall and choreographer Peter Darling. It features an original score by pop singer-songwriter Elton John, with lyrics by Hall. It's designed by Ian MacNeil, with costumes by Nicky Gillibrand and musical supervision by Martin Koch.
In other musical casting news, celebrated comedy actress June Whitfield – best known for her television roles in programmes including Absolutely Fabulous and Last of the Summer Wine - will play Madame Maude P. Dilly in ENO’s revival of On the Town, which broke box office records at the Coliseum in 2005 (See News, 18 Mar 2005).
Whitfield’s last London stage appearance was in Bedroom Farce opposite Richard Briers. She stars in the revival of On the Town with original cast members Helen Anker (Ivy Smith), Rodney Clarke (Master of Ceremonies), Janine Duvitski (Lucy Schmeeler), Alison Jiear (Dolores Dolores), Caroline O'Connor (Hildy Esterhazy), Lucy Schaufer (Claire de Loone) and Andrew Shore, sharing the role of Judge Pitkin with Graeme Danby. On the Town runs for 20 performances only from 20 April to 25 May 2007.
With music by Leonard Bernstein (West Side Story), book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green (Singin’ in the Rain) and based on an idea by Jerome Robbins, the musical was famously filmed by MGM starring Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. Set in 1940s New York, three sailors on shore leave embark on the biggest adventure of their lives with just 24 hours to find fun and romance in the world’s most exciting city.
Featuring a cast and orchestra of 105, On the Town is directed by Jude Kelly, choreographed by Stephen Mear, conducted by Simon Lee, designed by Robert Jones with lighting Mark Henderson.
- by Caroline Ansdell