After its sudden closure more than two years ago, London's historic Players’ Theatre in Villiers Street will reopen next month with the 21st anniversary West End production of Snoopy! The Musical. Directed by Broadway director and producer Arthur Whitelaw – who conceived, co-wrote, produced and directed the original production, it begins an open-ended run on 21 July 2004 (following previews from 14 July).

The Players, believed to have been the world’s longest-running Victorian Music Hall, was dramatically shut down in March 2002, when bailiffs for the building’s landlord intervened, claiming debts in unpaid rent amounting to an estimated £500,000 (See News, 28 Mar 2002). The New Players is being launched under new management, which is running it under a collective umbrella along with the Shaw Theatre and Hampstead’s New End.

Based on the world-famous Peanuts comic-strip - which debuted in 1950 and continued for 50 years until January 2000, just weeks before the death of its creator, Charles M Schulz - Snoopy had its West End premiere in 1983 with an Olivier award-winning run at the Duchess Theatre that starred Susie Blake (who later found fame on TV with Victoria Wood) and Teddy Kempner. It has since had runs on the London fringe at the Rosemary Branch and the Jermyn Street theatres (See News, 22 Jan 2003).

This new anniversary production reunites two of the Jermyn Street cast members: Sarah Lark (The Witches of Eastwick and Beautiful and Damned) and Stuart Piper (Bugsy Malone, Honk) as Lucy and Linus Van Pelt. They’re joined by Clare Louise Connelly (as Sally Brown), Alex Woodhall (Woodstock), Steven Kynman (Charlie Brown), Kellie Ryan (Peppermint Patty) and Robin Armstrong (as Snoopy).

Atop his kennel, Snoopy surveys the skies, scene of his triumph as a First World War flying ace. Modestly, he considers his genius. Stoically, he accepts that his brilliance in nearly every field of endeavour will forever go unremarked by humankind. He can but uphold his own high standards.

Snoopy – The Musical has a book by Charles M Schulz Creative Associates, Warren Lockhart, Arthur Whitelaw and Michael L Grace, with music by Larry Grossman (best known for scoring The Muppet Show) and lyrics by Hal Hackady. It’s choreographed by Lizzi Gee, designed by David Graden, and produced by Morning Vicar Productions, set up by actor-producers Stephen Carlile and Stuart Piper who first produced the show for the Jermyn Street engagement.

Note: Booking for this production opens on 21 June 2004..

- by Hannah Kennedy