Dickens Unplugged - the new musical comedy that does for Charles Dickens what The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) did for the Bard – will receive its West End premiere on 9 June 2008 (previews from 23 May) at the Comedy Theatre.

Commissioned in 2006 and premiered at the 2007 Edinburgh Fringe, this new production of Dickens Unplugged launched a regional tour after opening at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in February.

The musical is written and directed by Adam Long, a founder member of the Reduced Shakespeare Company who co-wrote, directed and performed in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), which holds the title as the West End’s longest-running comedy, residing for nearly a decade at the Criterion Theatre from 1996. Dickens Unplugged is presented by Complete Work producer Mark Goucher and Wimpole Theatre (in association with the Araca Group New York).

According to promotional material, Dickens Unplugged presents the life and works of Charles Dickens as never seen before: fast, furious and in five-part harmony. Audiences are given a light-hearted insight into an incredible man: from his bleak childhood to his complicated marriage, numerous children and his final years. With instruments from acoustic guitar to accordion and harmonica to horns, and using an incredible mix of musical styles, the cast give voice to a host of Dickens' most eccentric and loved characters. Oliver Twist, Tiny Tim, David Copperfield, Miss Havisham, Charles Darnay and many more appear in Long’s 20 original songs which include “Aint Goin Back to Blackin” and “Far Far Better Thing”.

Dickens was born in Portsmouth in February 1812 and died in Kent on 2 June 1870. His work has been prolifically adapted for the stage and with notable productions including: a 1963 production of Pickwick starring Harry Secombe; Leslie Bricusse’s stage and film musical Scrooge; the Royal Shakespeare Company’s two-part adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby; and, of course, Lionel Bart’s 1960 musical Oliver!, which will be revived, with Rowan Atkinson and the new stars discovered via TV’s I’d Do Anything competition, at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in January care of Cameron Mackintosh (See News, 26 Mar 2008).

Dickens Unplugged is designed by Lez Brotherston, with lighting by Jon Clark. The cast includes author/director Adam Long, Joseph Atteborough, Matthew Hendrickson, Simon Jermond and Gabriel Vick.

Currently at the Comedy Theatre, The Lover and The Collection - a double bill of short Harold Pinter plays starring Richard Coyle, Gina McKee, Charlie Cox and Timothy West – is due to complete its limited season on 3 May at the Comedy Theatre (See Review Round-up, 31 Jan 2008).

- by Terri Paddock