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1st Night Photos: Rivers Progresses, Hairspray 500k

By • West End
The London transfer of notorious American comedienne Joan Rivers’ biographical show, Joan Rivers: A Work in Progress by a Life in Progress, opened last night (5 September 2008, previews from 29 August) at the newly relaunched Leicester Square theatre (formerly The Venue), where it runs initially until 18 September.

The show returns later in the year for a longer stint, from 2 December to 29 January 2009, prior to a planned New York transfer. During her second visit, Rivers will also be performing hostess duties at the launch party for the 2009 Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards at the Café de Paris on 5 December (See News, 26 Jun 2008).

Part-confession, part-performance comedy drama, Joan Rivers: A Work in Progress by a Life in Progress presents the public Rivers from TV appearances and stand-up shows, as well as the private one. In her dressing room backstage at the Oscars ceremony, Rivers is preparing for one of her legendary annual TV catwalk commentaries on the fashion hits and disasters at Hollywood's biggest night of the year.

But all is not well... her dressing room is B, not A; her complimentary cheese is puny, not plentiful; and her producer is the bigwig's nephew, not the bigwig! The tension prompts an introspective look at aging, going through life's ups and downs (including her famous break-up with Johnny Carson and her husband’s suicide) and being a woman in Hollywood.

TO SCROLL THROUGH ALL OF JOAN RIVERS' 1st NIGHT PHOTOS,
JUST CLICK ON THE "NEXT >" LINKS BELOW THE FOLLOWING FRAME.
PHOTOS BY DAN WOOLLER FOR WHATSONSTAGE.COM.

For 1st Night Photos, our Whatsonstage.com photographer Dan Wooller was on hand for the curtain call and post-show party at the Leicester Square Theatre, along with the cast, director and guests including Derren Brown and Julie Goodyear.

Written in celebration of Rivers’ 75th birthday (there are a total of 75 London performances), Joan Rivers: A Work in Progress by a Life in Progress had its world premiere in Los Angeles this past February, and previewed at last month’s Edinburgh Fringe festival (7 to 25 August 2008). The London production is directed by the Right Size’s Sean Foley, who directed Pinter’s People in the West End last year. Rivers is joined in the cast by Emily Kosloski, Carrie Paff and Mark Philips.

For the first time, with the 2009 Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, a limited number of sponsorship packages – normally reserved for corporate partners – are available to private theatregoers. These include tickets to the invitation-only, industry-attended launch party at Café de Paris (not normally open to the public) as well as VIP passes to the winners’ concert next February. For more information on theatregoers’ sponsorship options, click here.


Also celebrating last night were the cast of Hairspray, led by a cross-dressing Michael Ball, at the West End’s Shaftesbury Theatre. The London production marked its 500,000th ticket sale with a curtain call presentation of a “golden ticket plaque” to the lucky theatregoer, Kate Saunders from Stoke Newington.

TO SCROLL THROUGH ALL OF HAIRSPRAY' 500,000th TICKET PHOTOS,
JUST CLICK ON THE "NEXT >" LINKS BELOW THE FOLLOWING FRAME.
PHOTOS BY DAN WOOLLER FOR WHATSONSTAGE.COM.

Hairspray premiered in August 2002 at Broadway’s Neil Simon Theater, where it’s still running, going on to win eight 2003 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Based on John Waters' cult retro 1988 film and set in 1960s Baltimore, it tells the story of geeky overweight teen Tracy Turnblad, who finds celebrity on a TV dance programme. Can she get the guy and still have time to change the world?

In the West End, Michael Ball is Tracy’s mum Edna Turnblad, starring alongside newcomer Leanne Jones (understudied by Charlotte Riby) as Tracy. The current cast also features Ian Talbot (as Wilbur Turnblad), Ben James-Ellis (Link Larkin), Tracie Bennett, Rachel Wooding, Paul Manuel, Adrian Hansell, Elinor Collett, Natalie Best and Johnnie Fiori. The musical has a book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan, with music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Whitman and Shaiman. As on Broadway, it’s directed by Jack O'Brien and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell. A big screen version, starring John Travolta as Edna, was released last summer.

Amongst its accolades to date, the West End production of Hairspray - which opened at the Shaftesbury on 30 October 2007 (previews from 11 October) – won the Evening Standard Best Musical award, two Critics’ Circle Awards (Best Musical, Best Newcomer for Jones), four Oliviers (Best New Musical, Best Actor and Actress in a Musical for Michael Ball and Leanne Jones respectively and Best Supporting Performance in a Musical for Tracie Bennett) and a remarkable seven Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, including Best New Musical, Best Actor and Actress in a Musical for Ball and Jones and, Best Supporting Actor and Actress in a Musical, for Ben James-Ellis and Bennett respectively).

-by Theo Bosanquet


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