Cast: Davison Spams Up, Mel Smith Joins HairsprayDate: 10 July 2007
Former Doctor Who Peter Davison (pictured) has been crowned the new King Arthur in the West End production of Monty Python’s Spamalot. He’ll take over from current monarch Simon Russell Beale from 23 July 2007 at the Palace Theatre.
In addition to Doctor Who, Davison’s television credits include All Creatures Great and Small, The Last Detective, At Home with the Braithwaites and Fear Stress and Anger, for which he’s just won the 2007 Best Actor Award at the Monte Carlo Television Festival. On stage, he has appeared in Chicago (Adelphi), An Absolute Turkey (Globe), The Last Yankee (Young Vic) and Arsenic and Old Lace for Chichester Festival Theatre.
Also joining the cast from 23 July is Bill Ward, who will play Sir Lancelot, taking over from Whatsonstage.com Award winner Tom Goodman-Hill. He also has a strong TV resume, most notably as Coronation Street’s notorious love-rat Charlie Stubbs, a character who was killed off earlier this year. He’s also appeared in Jonathan Creek, Footballers’ Wives, Holby City and EastEnders. Stage credits include The Beggar’s Opera and Antigone (Bristol Old Vic), and Oh What a Lovely War (Theatre Clwyd).
The current cast also features Hannah Waddingham as the Lady of the Lake, Robert Hands as Sir Robin, Steven Kynman as Herbert, Graham MacDuff as Sir Dennis Galahad, Andrew Spillett as Patsy and Tony Timberlake as Sir Bedevere.
“Lovingly ripped off” from the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Broadway import Spamalot tells the tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table in their quest to find the religious relic. It has a book and lyrics by original Python Eric Idle, who has also co-written the music with John Du Prez. The musical opened on 16 October 2006 (previews from 30 September) at the Palace Theatre, where it’s currently booking to 3 November 2007.
Meanwhile, there’s further musical casting news over at the Shaftesbury Theatre, where another camp Broadway musical import, Hairspray, receives its West End premiere on 30 October 2007 (previews from 11 October). As previously reported (See News, 15 Jun 2007), Michael Ball takes on the cross-dressing role of mother Edna Turnblad, but now the identity of his ‘husband’ Wilbur has been revealed, and it is none other than burly comedian Mel Smith. Talking about his role in the Daily Mail, Smith joked that “the idea of playing Michael Ball’s wife – whoops! – husband, is a dream come true”.
A writer, performer and director, Smith, with his comedy partner Griff Rhys-Jones, created and starred in the long-running TV sketch show Alas Smith and Jones (a pun on the American TV series Alias Smith and Jones). The pair also founded Talkback Productions, whose programmes since 1981 have included Smack the Pony, Da Ali G Show and I'm Alan Partridge. Smith has also appeared in Not the Nine O’Clock News and directed the feature films The Tall Guy and Bean.
Last autumn, Smith adapted and starred in the tour of An Hour and a Half Late, the English-language premiere of French playwright Gerald Sibleyras’ Une Heure et Demie de Retard (See News, 7 Jul 2006). Hairspray marks his musical debut - he admitted that he sees himself as “just a sad old rock ’n’ roller”.
Hairspray premiered in August 2002 at Broadway’s Neil Simon Theater, where it’s still running, and went on to win eight 2003 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Based on John Waters' cult retro 1988 film and set in 1960s Baltimore, it tells the story of Tracy (played by newcomer Leanne Jones), who finds celebrity on a TV dance programme. Can she get the guy and still have time to change the world? The musical has a book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan, with music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Whitman and Shaiman. It’s directed by Jack O'Brien and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell.
- by Stuart Denison