Renowned cabaret diva Meow Meow got The Umbrellas of Cherbourg off to a high-kicking start with an industry launch event on Friday (28 January 2011). It was a decidedly Francophile affair for Kneehigh’s new adaptation of Michel Legrand's 1964 film musical, held at French luxury hotel Sofitel in St James, where foie gras and other appropriate culinary treats were served up.

Meow Meow raised the temperature with a flirtatious number in front of the crowd. There were additional performances by co-star Joanna Riding and the ensemble, as well as Carly Bawden and Andrew Durand, who play the story’s young lovers Guy and Genevieve and who sang the film’s most famous ballad, “I Will Wait for You”.

Though composer Michel Legrand was unable to attend, octogenarian Sheldon Harnick – who wrote the English-language lyrics for the original 1979 stage adaptation and whose other credits include Fiddler on the Roof - did make it across the pond especially for the event, and in spite of adverse weather that nearly had his plane frozen in out New York.

Speaking at the event, Kneehigh artistic director Emma Rice promised that the sung-through musical would be “the most romantic, glorious and special event in the West End” this year. And one that came about almost by accident on her part. She admitted: “I didn’t find The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg found me.” After seeing Rice’s last Kneehigh production in the West End, the multimedia Brief Encounter which ran at a Haymarket cinema before transferring to New York, Michel Legrand “stalked” Rice until she agreed to watch the film, directed by Jaques Demy, and agreed to translate it anew to the stage.

Following a tryout from 11 to 26 February at Leicester Curve, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg transfers to the West End's Gielgud Theatre from 22 March 2011 (previews from 5 March). It’s adapted and directed by Emma Rice and designed by Lez Brotherston, with lighting by Malcolm Rippeth, sound by Simon Baker and music supervision by Nigel Lilley. It’s produced in the West End by Daniel Sparrow and Mike Walsh Productions, Curve Leicester and City Lights International in association with Be Yu Productions.


Prior to its West End opening, London theatregoers can get a sneak-peek at The Umbrellas of Cherbourg at the 2011 Whatsonstage.com Awards Concert at the Prince of Wales Theatre on Sunday 20 February at the West End’s Prince of Wales Theatre, where Meow Meow and members of the company will be performing extracts. The Awards Concert is co-hosted by Sheridan Smith, Christopher Biggins and Miranda Hart, and features a stellar line-up of performers as well as trophy presentations to your winners...

Concert tickets, which range from £25-£47.50, are now on sale and can be booked by phone on 0844 482 5133 or online at www.whatsonstage.com/concert.