Leeds’ West Yorkshire Playhouse will premiere two new musicals this spring: the world premiere of Alan Plater’s Blonde Bombshells of 1943, inspired by his 2002 television film The Last of the Blonde Bombshells (See The Goss, 2 Jan 2002), and the UK premiere of cult Off-Broadway hit Bat Boy (See The Goss, 30 May 2003), both of which have also previously been tipped for West End seasons.

Blonde Bombshells of 1943 looks back at the early years of the Blonde Bombshells, the most glamorous swing band in the land. In the screen version, Judi Dench played Elizabeth, the saxophonist widow who reunites her friends from the wartime group. The film also starred Ian Holm, Billie Whitelaw, Olympia Dukakis, Joan Sims, June Whitfield and Cleo Laine.

The stage version will feature music by Fats Waller, the Andrews Sisters, Glenn Miller, George Formby and others from the 1940s. Blonde Bombshells of 1943 will be directed by Roxana Silbert and designed by Michael Vale, with costumes by Stephen Snell. It will run from 28 April to 22 May 2004 (previews from 24 April).

Bat Boy flies in to Leeds from 21 June to 17 July 2004. Set in small town West Virginia, this is a Weekly World News tabloid tale brought to life, the story of a half-boy, half-bat who takes up with a veterinarian's family while struggling with his self-image and thirst for blood. The pop musical has a story and book by Keythe Farley and Brian Fleming, music and lyrics by Lawrence O'Keefe. Songs include "Apology to a Cow", "Ugly Boy" and "More Blood".

Originally seen in Los Angeles in 1997, the cult show opened Off-Broadway in March 2001, but closed the following December having been badly hit after 9/11. Despite its premature departure, Bat Boy won both New York’s Outer Critics Circle and the Lucille Lortel Awards for Best Off-Broadway Musical. In the UK, it’s co-produced by WYP in association with Michael Alden Productions and Robert Mackintosh and Martin Yates for West End International Ltd.

Other in-house productions in WYP’s spring/summer season include: Murray Gold’s Electricity, directed by artistic director Ian Brown (26 March to 24 April); Vodou Nation – Out of This World, created and designed by Brett Bailey (1 to 26 June); and, as previously reported, the stage adaptation of George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, an international collaboration between WYP, northern stage, Theatre Romea, Forum Barcelona 2004 and MC93 Bobigny (See News, 2 Feb 2004). In conjunction with Bradford’s Theatre in the Mill, the Playhouse will also host “Northern Exposure”, a month-long festival of new plays by northern writers, running from 15 May to 12 June.

- by Terri Paddock