Theatre News

Musicals Extend: Sister, Priscilla & Longrunners

Numerous West End musicals – including Theatreland’s longest runners as well as more recent arrivals Sister Act, Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Dreamboats and Petticoats – have all recently announced extensions to their booking periods.
At the Savoy Theatre (See News, 15 Jun 2009), Dreamboats and Petticoats, based around the Fifties and Sixties hits from the two compilation albums of the same name, has added six weeks to its schedule. The rock ‘n’ roll musical, written by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran and featuring former X Factor finalist Scott Bruton, opened in the West End on 27 July 2009 (previews from 22 July) following an extensive regional tour. It’s now booking through to 31 October 2009.

At the London Palladium, the big-budget musical version of screen comedy Sister Act has extended its schedule by ten months. It opened on 2 June 2009 (previews from 7 May) and is now booking through to 18 December 2010. Transplanted to 1970s Philadelphia, Sister Act tells the story of disco diva Deloris, who, after witnessing a murder and being put in protective police custody in a convent, brings some soul to the church choir, much to the initial consternation of the Mother Superior.

The musical has an original score by Alan Menken with lyrics by his long-time collaborator Glenn Slater. Patina Miller stars as Deloris Van Cartier, the part played in the original 1992 film by Whoopi Goldberg, who is co-producing the West End premiere (See News, 14 Nov 2008). The cast also features Sheila Hancock as the Mother Superior and Ian Lavender as Monsignor Howard.

At the Palace Theatre, the European premiere of Australian import Priscilla Queen of the Desert the Musical, starring Jason Donovan, has added another three months to its booking period. Opened in the West End on 23 March 2009 (previews from 10 March), it has now extended to 22 May 2010. Adapted from the 1994 Oscar-winning cult Australian film starring Guy Pearce, Hugo Weaving and Terence Stamp, Priscilla follows Sydney drag queen Mitzi (aka Tick) and her two fish-out-of-water friends, Felicia (Adam) and transsexual Bernardette, as they head west across the desert to Alice Springs in their battered old bus.

Like the film, the musical is fashioned around disco hits including “I Love the Nightlife,” “I Will Survive”, “Shake Your Groove Thing” and “Finally”. It’s directed by Simon Phillips, designed by Brian Thomson, choreography by Ross Coleman, and costumes by Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner. Priscilla Queen of the Desert the Musical stars Australians Jason Donovan (Mitzi/Tick) and Tony Sheldon (Bernadette), who reprises his award-winning performance from the original production, and Brits Clive Carter (Bob) and Oliver Thornton (Felicia/Adam).

At the Shaftesbury Theatre, multi award-winning Broadway import Hairspray, which had its West End premiere on 30 October 2007 (previews from 11 October) and is now starring Brian Conley in the cross-dressing role of Edna Turnblad (See News, 15 Apr 2009), has added seven months to its schedule and is now booking through to 24 October 2010.

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? 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. The new cast also features Chloe Hart as Tracy.

At the Prince of Wales, Mamma Mia! has opened a new 11-month booking period, taking it up to 26 March 2010. The musical had its world premiere at the Prince Edward Theatre in April 1999 and, after five years, moved to the refurbished Prince of Wales in May 2004. The feature film of the musical, starring Meryl Streep, was released last year.

Set on a Greek island, the story centres on young Sophie who, preparing for her wedding day, has invited three of her mother Donna’s ex-lovers in an attempt to discover the identity of her father. The musical’s original book, by Catherine Johnson, is interspersed with Abba disco classics such as “Dancing Queen”, “Thank You for the Music”, “Take a Chance on Me” and the title song. Phyllida Lloyd directs. The current cast is led by Sally Ann Triplett as Donna and Niamh Perry as Sophie.

And finally, the West End’s two longest-running musicals – Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera, both produced by Cameron Mackintosh at the Queen’s and Her Majesty’s theatres respectively – have both announced new 12-month booking periods, taking them up 26 February 2011.

The Phantom of the Opera is based on Gaston Leroux’s gothic novel about a masked man who falls in love with an ingénue singer at the Paris Opera House. The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, which has lyrics by Charles Hart and is directed by Harold Prince, premiered on 9 October 1986 at Her Majesty’s, where it continues to run. The long-awaited Phantom sequel, Love Never Dies, is expect to premiere at the Adelphi Theatre next spring.

One year older, Les Miserables celebrates its 24th birthday next month. Based on Victor Hugo’s classic humanitarian novel about a persecuted man, Jean Valjean, in 19th-century revolutionary France, Les Miserables has a book by Alain Boublil, music by Claude-Michel Schonberg and lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer. It’s directed by Trevor Nunn with John Caird and designed by John Napier.

The landmark Royal Shakespeare Company production had its first performance on 8 October 1985 at the Barbican Theatre before transferring, care of producer Cameron Mackintosh, to the West End’s Palace Theatre two months later. It ran at the Palace for 18 years and over 7,500 performances before moving down the road to the Queen’s on 3 April 2004 (See News, 21 Nov 2003). Globally, the musical has been seen by over 55 million people in 40 countries and 21 languages.