James Corden famously smooched Daniel Radcliffe when co-presenting our Whatsonstage.com Awards Show last month (See WOS TV, 28 Feb 2008), but at last Thursday’s star-studded gala opening for the new dance extravaganza Into the Hoods, EastEndersNatalie Cassidy got in first to lock her lips on the cheeky Corden.

A hip-hop version of Sondheim’s Into the Woods, Into the Hoods follows two children lost in the ‘hood’. An evil landlord befriends the children and sets them off on a mission that leads them to the flats of Spinderella, where they discover gold Adidas trainers; Lil Red, the owner of the bright red hoodie; Rap-on-Zel, the producer of the finest quality long weave (hair extensions) in the city, and Jaxx (who lives in the basement), the owner of a white I-pod.

The show is directed and choreographed by Kate Prince and performed by a cast of 19 adults and nine children (three on stage). The company, ZooNation, employs its trademark narrative street dance/theatre style against a backdrop of music from Gorillaz, Massive Attack, Prince, Basement Jaxx, Stevie Wonder, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Janet Jackson, James Brown, Snoop Dogg, Dr Dre, Black Eyed Peas, Bob Marley, the Chemical Brothers and others. It’s produced by Phil McIntyre and Adam Speers.

A hit for the past two summers at the Edinburgh Fringe, Into the Hoods had its press performance on 26 March (previews from 14 March) at the Novello Theatre, where it’s currently booking until 10 May (See News, 8 Feb 2008). Owner of the Novello, Cameron Mackintosh, has declared the theatre’s new resident to be “the most exuberant, imaginative and original dance musical since Cats”. But will it have nine lives lasting 21 years in the West End?

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For 1st Night Photos, our Whatsonstage.com photographer Dan Wooller was on hand for arrivals and the curtain call at the Novello Theatre and the post-show party at the Tamarai. Other first night guests included Victoria Wood, Frank Skinner, Alan Yentob, Ben Elton, Mike Rutherford, Jenni Falconer, Beth Cordingley, James Corden and Natalie Cassidy, Duncan James, Ray Fearon and Ben Fogle.

Meanwhile, across the river, it was a lower-key affair at the Menier Chocolate Factory, where diva Maria Friedman, accompanied by her 11-piece band, celebrated the art of the musical arranger, and their handiwork on some of her favourite songs, in the premiere of her new concert Maria Friedman: Re-arranged, which runs until 4 May.

** DON’T MISS our Whatsonstage.com Outing to Maria Friedman: Re-arranged on 10 April 2008 – including a FREE programme & our EXCLUSIVE post-show Q&A with Maria Friedman – click here to book now! **

TO SCROLL THROUGH ALL OF THE MARIA FRIEDMAN: RE-ARRANGED 1st NIGHT PHOTOS, JUST CLICK ON THE "NEXT >" LINKS BELOW THE FOLLOWING FRAME.

-by Terri Paddock