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Musicals Extend: Blood Brothers, Lion King, Sunset

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Several West End musicals – long-runners The Lion King and Blood Brothers and more recent arrival Sunset Boulevard - have announced extensions to their booking periods.

At the Comedy Theatre, the Watermill’s actor-musician revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard has extended by two months (See News, 12 Nov 2008). Following its initial run last summer at the Watermill in Newbury, Berkshire, the production opened in the West End on 15 December 2008 (previews from 5 December) and had been scheduled until 18 April 2009. It is now booking until 27 June.

Based on Billy Wilder\'s 1950 Oscar-winning film of the same name, Sunset Boulevard depicts the faded glamour of the former Hollywood icon Norma Desmond, who’s now living in isolation, with only memories for company. When struggling young screenwriter Joe Gillis appears at her crumbling mansion, she demands a second chance in the limelight.

Kathryn Evans (pictured) and Ben Goddard play Norma and Joe, with Dave Willetts as the actress’ devoted servant, Max von Meyerling. The production is directed and choreographed by Craig Revel Horwood, with musical arrangements by Sarah Travis. Lloyd Webber’s musical was last seen in the West End, in a much bigger production, at the Adelphi Theatre, where it premiered in July 1993, with Patti LuPone starring as Norma Desmond, closed in March 1994 for rewrites and reopened five weeks later in a revised version that ran for another three years.

At the Phoenix Theatre, one of the West End’s longest-runners, Blood Brothers, has opened a new four-month booking period and is now taking bookings through to 28 November 2009. This production of Willy Russell\'s Liverpool-set musical about twin brothers separated at birth first opened on 27 August 1988 at the Albery Theatre before transferring to its current home at the Phoenix in November 1991. Blood Brothers is directed by Bob Thomson and Bill Kenwright and designed by Marty Flood.

And at the Lyceum Theatre, The Lion King had added four months to its schedule and is taking bookings up to 31 January 2010. 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.

- by Terri Paddock


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