Gyles Brandreth's musical revue Zipp! opens the new year with a three-month UK tour ahead of a New York production in October 2004. The tour opens at Darlingon’s Civic Theatre on 27 January 2004 before continuing, until 1 May, to 33 further venues.

Co-devised by Stewart Nicholls and Brandreth who also stars, donning fishnet stockings and garters, Zipp! does for musical theatre what the Reduced Shakespeare Company did for the bard, promising "100 musicals in 90 minutes or your money back". From the 1900 hit Floradora to this year's Bombay Dreams and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the production whizzes through a century of Broadway and West End musicals, including the complete works of Andrew Lloyd Webber in 60 seconds.

Brandreth, the former MP turned author-broadcaster-columnist-Countdown guest, made his professional stage debut with Zipp!. At the 2002 Edinburgh Fringe, the show won the Strathmore Select Audience Award for best show. It transferred in February 2003 to the West End’s Duchess Theatre, where it had a two-month run. In Whatsonstage.com’s own Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, it has been nominated for Best New Musical, while Brandreth himself has been shortlisted for London Newcomer of the Year. (Click here to vote!)

In addition to Brandreth, the PMT company includes Andrew C Wadsworth (whose West End musical credits include Les Miserables, Sweeney Todd, Guys and Dolls, South Pacific, Oklahoma! and Kiss Me Kate), Amanda Symonds (Godspell, One Mo' Time, Stepping Out) and musical director Stuart Barr.

Following Darlington, Zipp! calls at Dartford, Winchester, Truro, Bath, High Wycombe, Surrey, Poole, Lichfield, Epsom, Swansea, Llandudno, Peterborough, Buxton, Newbury, Guildford, Jersey, Blackpool, Bradford, Tunbridge Wells, Worthing, Stevenage, Aberdare, Chelmsford, Sevenoaks, Plymouth, Huddersfield, Potters Bar, Crawley, Eastbourne, Leicester, Crewe, Bedworth and Croydon.


Meanwhile, another recent West End resident, the 25th anniversary production of Mike Leigh's Abigail's Party, has announced the second leg of its extensive UK-wide tour, which reopens on 19 January 2004 in Truro, Cornwall, before continuing until 3 April to ten further venues.

The revival originally opened in Bath for a week in July 2002, before transferring to mark the final production at the old Hampstead Theatre, where the play was first seen in 1977 and where the new staging ran from July to September and then returned for an additional month from October 2002. It then transferred to the West End's New Ambassadors Theatre from 3 December 2002 to 5 April 2003, moving to the nearby Whitehall from 9 April to 12 July 2003.

Directed by David Grindley, the 1970s-set social satire was recast for its original regional dates – which took in 12 venues from 25 August to 29 November 2003 - with Lizzy McInnerney playing excruciating hostess Beverley, the part originated by Mike Leigh's ex-wife Alison Steadman.

Following Truro, the tour continues to Bath, Coventry, Nottingham, Liverpool, Plymouth, Oxford, Malvern and Woking, with additional venues to be confirmed.

- by Terri Paddock