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Musicals Extend: Dirty, Hoods, Avenue & Les Mis

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Four West End musicals - recently arrived hip-hop dance extravaganza Into the Hoods and longer-runners Dirty Dancing, Avenue Q and Les Miserables - have all recently announced extensions to their booking periods.

At the Novello Theatre, Into the Hoods has added four weeks to its schedule (See News, 8 Feb 2008). A hit for the past two summers at the Edinburgh Fringe, the show had its West End premiere on 26 March 2008 (previews from 14 March) and was initially booking until 10 May. It will now continue until 7 June.

A hip-hop version of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods, Into the Hoods follows two children lost in the ‘hood’. A mysterious landlord befriends the children and sets them off on a mission that leads them to the flats of the Ruff Endz Estate, where they discover gold Adidas trainers; Lil Red, the owner of the bright red hoodie; Rap-on-Zel, the owner of the finest quality long weave (hair extensions) in the city, and Jaxx (who lives in the basement), the owner of a white I-pod.

The show is directed and choreographed by Kate Prince and performed by a cast of 19 adults and nine children (three on stage). The company, ZooNation, employs its trademark narrative street dance/theatre style against a backdrop of music from the Gorillaz, Massive Attack, Prince, Basement Jaxx, Stevie Wonder, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Janet Jackson, James Brown, Snoop Dogg, Dr Dre, Black Eyed Peas, Bob Marley, the Chemical Brothers and others. It’s produced by Phil McIntyre and Adam Speers.

At the Aldwych Theatre, Dirty Dancing, which had its UK premiere on 24 October 2006 (previews from 29 September), has extended by another six months through to 17 October 2009. Set at an upmarket American holiday camp called Kellerman’s in the 1960s, the 1987 film of Dirty Dancing starred Jennifer Grey as the teenaged Baby Houseman who falls in love with the camp\'s working class dance instructor Johnny Castle, played by Patrick Swayze, whose climactic line, “Nobody puts Baby in the corner”, has since become a classic.

Dirty Dancing has been adapted for the stage by the film’s screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein, who based the story’s setting on her own childhood experiences of family holidays in America’s Catskill Mountains. The musical had its world premiere in Sydney in 2004 and has since proved a hit on tour in Australia, Germany and Canada as well as the UK, with the US premiere scheduled for Chicago later this year. The London production, directed by James Powell, currently stars Josef Brown (who originated the stage role of Johnny in Australia) and Sarah Manton as Johnny and Baby.

At the Noel Coward Theatre, Avenue Q has added another seven months to its booking period, taking it up to 29 April 2009. From 29 September 2008, the production will also introduce new pricing, with tickets for weekday performances rising to £10 to £39.

Billed as an adult version of Sesame Street, Avenue Q began its life at Off-Broadway’s Vineyard Theatre before transferring in July 2003 to Broadway’s Golden Theatre, where it went on to win three 2004 Tony Awards including Best Musical. The West End production opened at the Noel Coward on 28 June 2006 (previews from 1 June).

A cast of seven – three of them playing humans, the rest manipulating multiple puppets that include a closet gay puppet called Rod, a porn-addicted puppet called Trekkie Monster, and a puppet looking for love called Kate Monster – tell the characters’ tales of love and hardship on the downtown street. The current West End cast is led by Any Dream Will Do’s Daniel Boys (See News, 6 Nov 2007).

Avenue Q has a score by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, and a book by Jeff Whitty, with puppets conceived and designed by Rick Lyon, musical supervision by Stephen Oremus, and choreography by Ken Roberson. Amongst the London show’s accolades to date, it won the Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Award for Best Ensemble Performance.

And finally, at the Queen’s Theatre, the West End’s longest-running musical Les Miserables, now in its 23rd year, has opened a new seven-month booking period, taking it up 25 April 2009. It currently stars Broadway’s Drew Sarich as Jean Valjean (See News, 6 Sep 2007), alongside Hans Peter Janssens (as Javert), Joanna Ampil (Fantine), Chris Vincent (Thenardier), Gary Watson (Marius), Edward Baruwa (Enjolras), Melanie La Barrie (Madame Thenardier), Cassandra Compton (Eponine) and Claire-Marie Hall (Cosette).

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 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 38 countries and 21 languages.

- by Terri Paddock


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