Theatre News

West End Extensions: War Horse, Stomp, Oliver!

Three West End productions have recently announced extensions to their booking periods, including Cameron Mackintosh blockbuster Oliver! which is now setting out its stall at Drury Lane through to early 2011.

At the New London, the National Theatre’s adaptation of War Horse has added five months to it schedule. After two seasons on the South Bank, where it premiered in October 2007, it transferred to the West End, opening on 3 April 2009 (previews from 28 March) and originally booking until 26 September 2009 only (See News, 18 Dec 2008). In May, after a record-breaking week of sales of over £330,000, it recouped its transfer costs. The show is now booking through to 12 February 2010.

In Nick Stafford’s stage version of Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 children’s book, young Albert’s beloved horse Joey is sold to the cavalry and shipped to France during the First World War. Unable to forget Joey and still too young to enlist, the boy embarks on a treacherous mission to find the horse and bring him home.

On stage, horses, children and other selected characters are brought to life by life-sized puppets created by Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler for South African puppet company Handspring. The puppets, and set designs by Rae Smith, earned War Horse Best Design prizes at the Evening Standard, Critics’ Circle and Laurence Olivier awards. The production is co-directed by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris and designed by Rae Smith, with lighting by Paule Constable, movement by Toby Sedgwick and music by Adrian Sutton.

At the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Oliver! has extended by a full year, taking it through to 26 February 2011! The production opened, with the West End’s largest-ever advance of £15 million, on 14 January 2009 (previews from 12 December) and currently stars I’d Do Anything victor Jodie Prenger as Nancy and Rowan Atkinson as Fagin. Atkinson will be replaced by Iranian comedian Omid Djalili from 20 July (See News, 11 Feb 2009).

Lionel Bart’s musical is based on Charles Dickens’ literary classic Oliver Twist and, beyond its theatre fanbase, found legions of fans from the 1968 film version. The score includes now-famous songs including “Consider Yourself”, “It’s a Fine Life”, “As Long as He Needs Me”, “Oom-pah-pah”, “Food, Glorious Food”, “I’d Do Anything” and the title song.

The production is directed by Rupert Goold, based on Sam Mendes’ 1994 staging at the London Palladium. Goold is joined by two key members of Mendes’ original creative team, Matthew Bourne, who co-directs and choreographs the new outing, and set designer Anthony Ward.

The cast also features Burn Gorman (as Bill Sikes), I’d Do Anything’s Harry Stott, Gwion Jones and Laurence Jeffcoate (alternating as Oliver), Ross McCormack, Eric Dibb Fuller and Robert Madge (alternate as the Artful Dodger), Julian Glover (Mr Brownlow), Julius D’Silva (Mr Bumble), Wendy Ferguson (Widow Corney), Julian Bleach (Mr Sowerberry/Dr Grimwig), Louise Gold (Mrs Sowerberry/Mrs Bedwin) and Tamsin Carroll (alternate Nancy).

And at the Ambassadors Theatre, Stomp, which transforms the junk and clutter of urban life into a source of rhythm and dance, has added six months to its schedule and is now taking bookings through to 4 April 2010. After international touring success, Stomp, which originated in Brighton in 1991, had its West End premiere in September 2002 at the Vaudeville Theatre, where it ran for five years before transferring to the Ambassadors (See News, 5 Sep 2007). A revamped version, with new “surround sound” music and routines, was introduced earlier this year (See News, 6 Feb 2009). Stomp was created by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas.