Theatre News

All-star cast to appear at Criterion Theatre’s 150th anniversary gala performance

The star-studded event takes place next week

Zizi Strallen, Stephen Fry and Audrey Brisson
Zizi Strallen, Stephen Fry and Audrey Brisson, provided by the production

A company of over 40 actors and musicians have now been confirmed for the Criterion Theatre’s 150th anniversary gala performance next week.

Under the direction of Michael Fentiman, the evening will be hosted by Stephen Fry and will feature songs, sketches and scenes from productions that have graced the Criterion Theatre stage over the past 150 years.

Fry commented: “To celebrate 150 years of the Criterion Theatre, I am very proud, as chairman of the Criterion Theatre Trust and lover of this gorgeous jewel box of a West End house, to be hosting our 150th anniversary gala on the evening of 24 June.

“Aside from saluting the matchless history of this beloved venue, we are celebrating the work we do, as a charitable trust, to encourage and develop new talent from all over Britain. This will help highlight and fund our 150Tix initiative, which offers 150 free tickets a week to the under 21s throughout the spring and summer, as well as our work in providing experience, mentorship, guidance and opportunity in new writing and all aspects of theatre to young people from around the country. But above all the gala will be a joyous and entertaining occasion, full of fun, mischief, and delight. Out of respect to the wishes of the theatre management, I will be hosting this event fully clothed. For most of the time.”

Performing songs from musicals such as Amélie, Elegies, Mack & Mabel and current production, Two Strangers (Carry A Cake Across New York), will be Roshani Abbey, Audrey Brisson, Tanasha Chege, Jenny Fitzpatrick, Nadine Higgin, Ellis Kirk, Zizi Strallen and Johnson Willis.

Performing excerpts from plays by the likes of Noël Coward, Terrence Rattigan, Tom Stoppard, Joe Orton and more will be Amanda Abbington, Sam Alexander, Tom Bennett, Julian Bleach, Gunnar Cauthery, Forbes Masson, Pippa Nixon, Simon Paisley Day, Mark Quartley, Jenny Rainsford, Ian Redford, Tom Rhys Harries, Rosie Sheehey and Angus Wright.

In addition, Joe Stilgoe is set to present a brand-new opening number composed especially for the show, while (for one night only) the Reduced Criterion Company will also take to the stage.

Finally, the original West End cast of The Comedy About A Bank Robbery will reunite to perform a scene from the hit Mischief show. They are Charlie Russell, Nancy Zammit, Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields, Dave Hearn, Greg Tannahill, Chris Leask, Jeremy Lloyd, Ellie Morris and Holly Sumpton.

Alongside Fentiman, the creative team includes lighting designer Richard Howell, sound designer Dominic Beale and music supervisor Barnaby Race.

Fentiman said: “I am terribly excited to have been invited to direct the Criterion’s 150th anniversary celebration. The Criterion holds a very special place in my heart, as my ‘back to work’ venue in 2021, when the run of my production of Amélie re-opened the theatre after its pandemic closure. It will be a privilege to bring our wonderful cast of ‘Criterion Friends’ back to the stage, to raise funds in aid of such a good cause! We hope to bring an evening of fun and mischief that raises a salute to the history of one of the West End’s most iconic locations – filled with memories, scenes and songs from across the years – both those lost to time and our modern classics. With lots of surprises in store (not least Stephen Fry keeping his clothes on) I’m sure it’s going to be an unmissable evening of entertainment.”

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