Following a limited debut run last autumn (See News, 14 Oct 2005), the stage version of BBC Two’s hit TV show Grumpy Old Women is launching a 39-date UK tour this spring. Grumpy Old Women Live opens on 21 April 2006 at Wycombe’s Swan Theatre with regular TV contributors Jenny Eclair, Dillie Keane and Linda Robson (pictured together) playing host to the “orgy of middle-aged mayhem: theatrical HRT with not a thong in sight”.

Following Wycombe, the production will visit Nottingham, Bristol, Southampton, Dorking, Warwick, Peterborough, Cambridge, Grimsby, Northampton, Bradford, Newcastle, Tunbridge Wells, York, Leamington Spa, Stoke-on-Trent, Llandudno, Liverpool, Bromley, King’s Lynn, Chatham, Ipswich, St Albans, Reading, Richmond, Halifax, Edinburgh, Oxford, Derby, Milton Keynes, Dartford, Manchester, Birmingham, Leicester, Basingstoke, Cardiff and Croydon, where it concludes on 9 June 2006.

Grumpy Old Women Live has been co-written by comedian, writer and performer Eclair with Judith Holder, producer of the BBC2 television series, and script-edited by Richard Herring (Talking Cock, Christ on a Bike on stage, TV’s Little Britain, Fist of Fun). The show is directed by Chris George and designed by Dora Schweitzer.

Meanwhile, the planned 14-week tour of musical comedy Personals, starring Gary Wilmot, has been cancelled. It was due to open on 3 March 2006 at Blackpool’s Grand Theatre before continuing to Bournemouth, Torquay, Darlington, Wimbledon, Hull, York, Manchester, Jersey, Dartford, Plymouth, Cardiff, Oxford and Nottingham.

In addition to Wilmot (who was last on stage in Regents Park Open Air Theatre’s production of HMS Pinafore), Paul Baker (Taboo, Chicago), Cassidy Janson (Tick Tick Boom!), Gerard Bentall and Katy Secombe were lined up to star in the new production, which was to be directed by Christian Durham and presented by Paul M Coxwell for Oscada Ltd (See News, 27 Dec 2005).

The brainchild of Friends’ creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane, Personals was written in 1985 - several years before Friends was conceived and went on to become an international phenomenon – but the characters are recognisable as early versions of the TV sextet Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Ross, Joey and Chandler. The musical received its West End debut in June 2000 at the Apollo Theatre and has also had several successful runs on the London fringe, including its 1998 UK premiere at the New End and, most recently, a sell-out season at the Jermyn Street Theatre.

Personals has music by Broadway’s Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Wicked) and Alan Menken (Little Shop of Horrors, Beauty and the Beast) as well as William Dreskin, Joel Phillip Friedman, Seth Friedman and Michael Skloff, who wrote Friends’ theme tune “I'll Be There for You”. An updated UK book and lyrics by Kelly Marcel with additional music and lyrics by Grant Olding was being specially written for the new tour.

No reason has been given for the production’s cancellation. A spokesperson for the show told “Personals has indeed been cancelled. Currently, there is no further statement to add to the fact that the producer has decided to withdraw the tour.”

- by Caroline Ansdell & Terri Paddock