Following its rather shaky West End start, Umoja seems to be going from strength to strength - and from venue to venue. The show was first seen in London at the West End's Shaftesbury Theatre where it opened in November 2001 but then closed prematurely this past February, following noise complaints and the intervention of Camden Council. It was resurrected in June 2002 at the Queen's where it finished its limited season on 31 August.
Now at the Cats' former home the New London, which it transferred to on 6 September, Umoja has added a further eight weeks to its West End run, now taking bookings up to 29 March 2003.
Created by Todd Twala and Thembi Nyandeni, Umoja incorporates the rhythms of tribal music, gumboot dancing, jazz, gospel and the contemporary sounds of Kwaito and Pantsula. South Africa's musical heritage is represented throughout the show by a company of versatile young singers, dancers, drummers and marimba players, many of whom come from severely disadvantaged township backgrounds.
Meanwhile, at the Prince of Wales Theatre, The Full Monty has extended its booking period by six months to 6 September 2003. An American spin on the award-winning 1997 British film of the same name, the musical opened on 12 March 2002 (previews from 27 February). An all-British cast - featuring Ben Richards, Paul Keating and Cornell John - took over from the Broadway leads at the beginning of September.
The Full Monty is the creation of American bookwriter Terrence McNally and composer David Yazbek. The West End production is staged by the entire Broadway creative team, headed by director Jack O'Brien and choreographer Jerry Mitchell. It is designed by John Arnone, with costumes by Bob Morgan, lighting by Howell Binkley and sound by Mike Walker. Orchestrations are by Harold Wheeler, music dance arrangements by Zane Mark and musical direction by Ted Sperling. The UK musical director is Martin Lowe.
- by Terri Paddock