BETTY BLUE EYES
A little less obvious than most of its genre – it’s changed its name and doesn’t feel the need to add “The Musical” as a suffix – Betty Blue Eyes is based on the Alan Bennett-scripted 1984 film comedy A Private Function, which starred Michael Palin and Maggie Smith as a chiropodist and his social-climbing wife who foil their Yorkshire village big-wigs’ plans to hold an illegal pig feast in celebration of the royal wedding of Queen Elizabeth II to Prince Philip. The musical is the brainchild of American book writers Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman and has music and lyrics by Britain’s Stiles & Drewe, direction by Richard Eyre and choreography by Stephen Mear. Reece Shearsmith and Sarah Lancashire lead a cast that also features Adrian Scarborough, David Bamber, Ann Emery and, star of the show, an animatronic pig named Betty.
BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL
Based on the 2000 Brit flick, Billy Elliot follows an 11-year-old boy’s dream to study at the Royal Ballet School, despite his father’s wishes and the economic hardships of the 1980s miners' strike. The multi award-winning musical has a score by Elton John and lyrics and book by Lee Hall, who wrote the screenplay. It reunites the film’s director Stephen Daldry and choreographer Peter Darling, and since premiering in London in 2005, has taken Broadway by storm and become one of UK theatre’s biggest exports.
“Nobody puts Baby in a corner,” was one of the classic lines from the seminal 1987 film starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. Now it’s uttered every night on stage at the Aldwych Theatre – but only until 9 July, when Dirty Dancing finishes its five-year West End run and launches a UK tour. Dirty Dancing, written by Eleanor Bergstein who also penned the screenplay,centres on teenager Baby Houseman, who falls in love with Johnny Castle, the working-class dance instructor at her family’s summer camp. There’s no original music, but favourites from the film, not least “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”, and other period 1960s hits are all accounted for.
GHOST THE MUSICAL
Patrick Swayze in a film must make it prime musical material. (Next up, Road House The Musical?) In this 1990 weepie, Swayze’s Sam is murdered and seeks the help of a clairvoyant to protect his girlfriend Molly (Demi Moore) and identify his killer. There’s music by the Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart and Grammy winner Glen Ballard, and lots of special effects to connect us with the afterlife. Richard Fleeshman and Caissie Levy star in Matthew Warchus’ production of Ghost The Musical, which has its West End premiere on 19 July (previews from 24 June) following a Manchester tryout.
LEGALLY BLONDE THE MUSICAL
Based on the 2001 smash starring Reese Witherspoon, Legally Blonde had its West End premiere last January and this year scooped four Whatsonstage.com Awards and three Oliviers, including Best New Musical. Sassy sorority sister Elle Woods packs up her pink closet in Los Angeles and heads to Harvard Law School in the hopes of winning back her man. The West End production currently stars Susan McFadden as Elle and Lee Mead as Emmett, in a cast that also features Natalie Casey, Simon Thomas and Chris Ellis-Stanton.
THE LION KING
As far as musicals based on animated features, this is the one that really got the ball rolling. Premiered on Broadway in 1997 and the West End two years later, The Lion King is based on the 1994 Disney film about young lion prince Simba whose evil uncle Scar plots to kill him to become King of the jungle. The musical has 15 songs, including “Circle of Life” and three songs written specially by Elton John (pre-Billy Elliot) and Tim Rice for the stage. The design is renowned for its puppetry designs created by director Julie Taymor (before her Spider-Man ignominy).
PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT - THE MUSICAL
The 1994 cult Australian film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert provides the source material for this Down Under dance hit, with the journey of three drag queens across the Australian Outback recreated on stage in a whirlwind of coiffed drag queens, extravagant costumes and a life-sized bus. Chart-toppers – performed by three divas and lip-synched by the drag queens – include "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun", "I Will Survive" and more than a nod to Kylie. The current cast features Richard Grieve, Don Gallagher, Mark Moraghan and Whatsonstage.com Award winner Oliver Thornton.
SHREK THE MUSICAL
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
Dreamworks’ 2001 animated film is an irreverent fairy tale about an ogre who conquers a dragon with the help of a wise-cracking donkey and a tough-talking princess. The musical version (of the first film in the series) has been reworked since its 2008 Broadway premiere and has now received its West End opening (on 14 June, previews from 6 May) care of the film studio and Sam Mendes’ Neal Street Productions. Nigel Lindsay greens up in the title role, leading a 33-strong company that also stars Amanda Holden, Richard Blackwood and Nigel Harman as the vertically challenged Lord Farquaad.
THE WIZARD OF OZ
L Frank Baum wrote the first 1903 stage version of his 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but the story is best known from the 1939 Hollywood classic, which also provided the basis (and most of the songs – “Over the Rainbow”, “We’re Off to See the Wizard”) for the stage musical, which was premiered by the RSC in 1987. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice penned new songs for this version, opened in March, which stars Over the Rainbow winner Danielle Hope as Dorothy and Michael Crawford as the Wizard.
THE 39 STEPS
Oops. Okay, this isn’t a musical, but thanks to the early closure of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, we were one short of a perfect ten. Patrick Barlow's award-winning comedy is based on the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock spy film, and with just four actors playing all “150 roles” between them, we reckon they deserve top marks anyway. The current cast comprises Laura Rogers, Rufus Wright, Dermot Canavan and Sean Kearns. Maria Aitken directs.