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Extensions: Dancing, Lion, Billy, Les Mis, Phantom

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Come Dancing, the new musical written by and starring former Kinks singer-songwriter Ray Davies (pictured), has extended its limited season at east London’s Theatre Royal Stratford East by a fortnight. The musical received its world premiere on 24 September 2008 (previews from 13 September), and had been booking until 25 October (See Review Round-up, 29 Sep 2008). It will now continue until 8 November.

According to Straford East, audiences have been coming from as far afield as the US and Japan to see the musical. Artistic director Kerry Micheal, who helms the production, commented: “The decision to extend comes in direct response to suggestions and requests from patrons seeking to book beyond 25 October 2008 to see the show. Our audiences have so far been outstanding, and it is wonderful how Come Dancing, an original British musical set in east London, has managed to capture the imagination of not only a local audience but also the wider national and international audience as well!

“It’s absolutely fantastic, especially when you consider that many people have already returned to see the show several times. We at Stratford East are very proud of Come Dancing and believe that it continues our tradition of producing high-quality, entertaining and relevant work.”

The new musical takes its title from The Kinks\' 1983 song of the same name. However, Come Dancing, which is set in the Ilford Palais in the 1950s, is not a compilation of the band’s hits. It features new music and lyrics specially written for it by Davies, who has also conceived the story and co-written the book with Paul Sirett. Davies narrates the musical. The cast also includes: Alasdair Harvey, Anthony Flaum, Bradley Clarkson, Delroy Atkinson, Gemma Salter, Katey Munroe, Katherine James, Martin George, Samantha Hughes, Stephen Lloyd and Wendy Mae Brown.

At the Lyceum Theatre, The Lion King had added six months to its schedule and is taking bookings up to 19 July 2009. The Disney screen-to-stage adaptation opened on 19 October 1999 (previews from 24 September). The current company features Shaun Escoffery (as Mufasa).

Based on Disney\'s 1994 animated feature film, the stage adaptation opened first on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theatre in November 1997. The original Broadway creative team, led by director and designer Julie Taymor, reunited for the London production, with choreography by Garth Fagan, costumes by Taymor, puppetry and masks by Taymor and Michael Curry and set design by Richard Hudson.

The Lion King features 15 songs, including the five from the film. Unlike the screen version, however, African sounds and rhythms are fused on stage with Western popular music to create the musical\'s distinctive sound. The stage score comprises three new songs written by Elton John and Tim Rice, with additional numbers by South African-born Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Hans Zimmer and Julie Taymor. The book is by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi.

At the Victoria Palace, Billy Elliot has added six months to its current booking period, releasing another 300,000 new tickets and taking it up to 24 October 2009. Set against the North-eastern mining strikes of the 1980s, the musical recounts the tale of a motherless boy whose father wants him to learn to box but who instead discovers a love for ballet that leads him from secret lessons to a place at the Royal Ballet School.

Current Billys, who share the role on rota, are: Tom Holland, Tanner Pflueger, Fox Jackson-Keen, Layton Williams and Joshua Fedrick. The cast also features: Jackie Clune (as Mrs Wilkinson), Phil Whitchurch (Dad), Ann Emery (Grandma), Chris Lennon (Tony) and Alex Delamere (Mr Braithwaite).

Billy Elliot has played to over 2.5 million people worldwide since it had its world premiere in May 2005 at the Victoria Palace. The musical – which scooped Best Musical prizes in the Laurence Olivier, Evening Standard, Critics’ Circle and Whatsonstage.com Awards in the UK - opened in Australia last year and, in next month (13 November 2008), it make its Broadway premiere.

The stage production reunites the creative team behind the 2000 film: director Stephen Daldry, writer Lee Hall and choreographer Peter Darling. It features an original score by pop singer-songwriter Elton John, with lyrics by Lee Hall.

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 ten-month booking periods, taking them up 27 February 2010.

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 current cast features Simon Bailey (as Raoul), Gina Beck (as Christine) and, in the title role, Ramin Karimloo.

One year older, Les Miserables celebrated its 23rd birthday last week (See Photos, 9 Sep 2008). 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 current cast is led by Broadway star Drew Sarich as Jean Valjean, Earl Carpenter as Javert and Jon Robyns as Marius.

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.

- by Terri Paddock


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