As previously tipped (See The Goss, 21 Feb 2005), Theatre Royal Stratford East’s The Big Life will next month become the West End’s first-ever black British musical. Following its recent sell-out return season in east London, it will reopen at the West End’s Apollo Theatre on 23 May 2005 (previews from 11 May).

The Big Life, which transports Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost to 1950s London, was first seen for a month-long run last spring at Theatre Royal Stratford East, where it returned for a limited run from 4 February and extended to 12 March 2005 (See News, 25 Nov 2004 & 8 Mar 2005).

On the Windrush over from the Caribbean to England, a pact is made by a group of men not to get involved with women for three years whilst they ‘institute a regime of work and betterment’. Each man’s resolve is tested as one by one they fall prey to Cupid’s arrow. With period-style ska music, The Big Life charts the story of the Caribbean immigrants in their quest for a better life in Britain and their struggle to find work, homes and acceptance in their adopted country.

West End casting is still to be confirmed. Amongst the original actors, who reprised their roles this year at Stratford, were: Jason Pennycooke, Claudia Cadette, Chris Tummings, Geoff Aymer, Marcus Powell, Victor Romero Evans, Yaa, Amanda Horlock and Neil Reidman. The Big Life is directed by actor Clint Dyer, who made his theatrical directorial debut with the show, and designed by Jenny Tiramani, with lighting by Gerry Jenkinson.

While Stratford East’s hit musical Five Guys Named Moe transferred to the West End in 1992 for a successful run, that show was based on the music of American Louis Jordan. The Big Life has an original score by Paul Joseph, lead singer of British reggae band Nazarites, with a book by Paul Sirett (See News, 8 Apr 2004). It’s presented in the West End by Bill Kenwright Ltd.

Currently at the Apollo Theatre, the West End revival of David Mamet’s A Life in the Theatre, starring Patrick Stewart and Joshua Jackson, is now due to finish its limited season on 30 April 2005, having extended by a week (See News, 15 Feb 2005).

- by Terri Paddock