The new gala staging of The Last Five Years celebrates the first anniversary of Notes from New York, the concert series promoting the work of contemporary musical theatre composers. The two-hander is performed by series regulars Julie Atherton and Paul Spicer (pictured together) and directed by Fiona Laird and Amelia Sears.
Launched in 2003, Notes from New York began by providing a West End showcase for American talent such as Jason Robert Brown, Andrew Lippa and the late Jonathan Larson (See News, 9 Oct 2003). After five concerts of US material, the company presented Not(es) from New York, featuring the music of British composer Charles Miller and Grant Olding, and created a seasonal show, Christmas in New York, which has been running for the past two years. The most recent concert in the continuing series, Notes in Heels, focused on female composers from New York.
First seen in Chicago in 2001, The Last Five Years was staged Off-Broadway in 2002 and received its UK premiere at London’s Menier Chocolate Factory two years ago (See News, 21 Jun 2006). Robert Brown’s other credits include the Tony Award-winning Parade, which had its UK premiere at the Donmar Warehouse last year, and Songs for a New World, which won a Whatsonstage.com Award after its UK premiere at the Bridewell Theatre in 2001. His most recently musical, 13, opens on Broadway next month.
The Last Five Years traces a marital breakdown over five years, with the husband, newly published novelist Jamie, starting at the couple’s first meeting and ending in the present, and by the wife, aspiring actress Cathy, working backwards from the break-up.
In other musical extension news, Wicked has recently added a further six months to its schedule at the West End’s Apollo Victoria, where it’s now taking bookings through to 26 September 2009.
Wicked tells the “untold story” of the Witches of Oz - popular blonde Glinda, aka the Good Witch of the North, and her spin-victim friend Elphaba – who were both immortalised in the 1939 film classic The Wizard of Oz. The musical has a book by Winnie Holtzman, based on Gregory Maguire’s novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. It’s directed by Joe Mantello.
Opened in 2003 on Broadway, where it’s still running, Wicked received its West End premiere on 27 September 2006 (previews from 6 September). In the 2007 Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, covering the 2006 theatre year, it won four top awards, including Best New Musical.
The current London company is led by Alexia Khadime (who plays the green-skinned Elphaba until 1 December, when her predecessor, Whatsonstage.com Award winner Kerry Ellis, currently on Broadway, returns to the role), Dianne Pilkington (“good witch” Glinda), Harriet Thorpe (Madame Morrible), Oliver Tompsett (Fiyero) and Desmond Barrit (The Wizard).
And finally, at the Piccadilly Theatre, Grease, which opened on 8 August 2007 (previews from 25 July), has added another nine months to its booking period, taking it up to 31 October 2009. As announced last week (See News, 4 Sep 2008), Seventies pop star Jimmy Osmond joins the cast for a limited season from 19 January to 14 March 2009.
Grease is directed by David Gilmore, choreographed by Arlene Phillips, and produced by Grease Is the Word judge David Ian and Paul Nicholas, by arrangement with Robert Stigwood. The current West End cast is led by Danny Bayne, winner of last year’s Grease Is the Word competition on ITV, as Danny Zuko and Nicola Brazil as Sandy.
The 1972 Broadway musical was immortalised by the 1979 film version, in which John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John played Danny and Sandy. The musical originally ran for six years in the West End, first at the Dominion and then at the Cambridge Theatre, returning to London for a short run back at the Dominion in 2001 and at the Victoria Palace in 2002/3. In between, it has toured the UK extensively, produced since 1993 by Ian.
Grease has book, music and lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. It’s now-famous songs include “Summer Nights”, “Look at Me I’m Sandra Dee”, “We Go Together”, “Hopelessly Devoted to You”, “Beauty School Dropout”, “You’re the One That I Want”, “Greased Lightnin’” and “Grease Is the Word”.
- by Terri Paddock