US screen and stage star Stockard Channing, aka the First Lady from The West Wing, returned to the London stage last night (6 September 2007, previews from 31 August) to star in the Almeida Theatre revival of Clifford Odets’ 1935 American classic Awake and Sing!, directed by artistic director Michael Attenborough (See News, 22 May 2007).

Channing plays Bessie Berger, the strong-willed matriarch of a lower middle-class, three-generation Jewish family living in a Bronx apartment during the Great Depression. She’s joined in the ensemble cast by Jodie Whittaker (recently seen with Peter O’Toole in the film Venus), Trevor Cooper, Paul Jesson, Nigel Lindsay, Ben Turner and John Rogan. The play’s limited season at the Almeida continues until 20 October 2007.

TO SCROLL THROUGH ALL OF THE AWAKE & SING! 1st NIGHT PHOTOS,
JUST CLICK ON THE "NEXT >" LINKS BELOW THE FOLLOWING FRAME.

For 1st Night Photos, our Whatsonstage.com photographer Dan Wooller was on hand for the post-show party at Almeida Theatre with the Awake and Sing! company, artistic director Michael Attenborough and other first night guests including Rufus Norris, Malcolm Sinclair and Alastair Mackenzie (from TV’s Monarch of the Glen).

Stockard Channing is best known internationally for her screen work including, early in her career, playing Rizzo in the film of Grease and, more recently, Abigail Bartlet wife of Martin Sheen’s US president in American TV series The West Wing. However, she started her career in the theatre and has continued to appear regularly on stage with Broadway credits including Little Foxes, They’re Playing Our Song, Love Letters, The Lion in Winter, The House of Blue Leaves and A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, for which she won a Best Actress Tony Award.

The actress has previously appeared on the London stage in John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation (transferred from the Royal Court to the West End’s Comedy Theatre), which she also performed on Broadway and on screen (for which she was Oscar nominated), and, for a handful of performances last year, in death row documentary drama The Exonerated at Riverside Studios (See News, 3 Feb 2006). Channing’s other screen credits include Up Close and Personal, Moll Flanders, Bright Young Things and The Business of Strangers.

- by Terri Paddock