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Musicals Extend: Gun, WWRY, Dirty, Thriller & Q

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Though there’s no news yet about the hoped-for West End transfer (See The Goss, 26 Oct 2009), theatregoers will have an extra week to catch Annie Get Your Gun at the Young Vic, where its limited season has been extended by a week.

Richard Jones’ radical reworking of Irving Berlin’s Broadway classic, starring Jane Horrocks and Julian Ovenden, opened on 16 October 2009 (previews from 3 October) and had been booking until 2 January. It will now continue until 9 January.

The story centres on the on-off romance between Annie Oakley (Horrocks) and Frank (Ovenden). Frank is the sharpest sharpshooter in the West and heartthrob of Buffalo Bill\'s travelling Wild West show. He\'ll take on any challenge ... and win! That is, until he meets his match in the rough-and ready-tomboy Annie. Romantic sparks fly – but while he’s competitive and she’s stubborn, the course of true love never will run smooth.

Irving Berlin wrote the lyrics and music – with now-classic songs including “There’s No Business Like Show Business”, “Doing What Comes Naturally” and “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)” – for the musical, which has a book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields. It premiered on Broadway in 1946, famously starring Ethel Merman as Annie. In 1950 it was made into a film starring Betty Hutton and Howard Keel. The stage musical last ran in the West End at the Prince of Wales Theatre in 1992.

Back in the West End, numerous other musicals have also recently announced extensions to their booking periods, including:

At the Gielgud Theatre, Avenue Q has added two months to its schedule and is now taking bookings through to 20 March 2010, after which it makes way for the latest Broadway transfer (See News, 13 Nov 2009), Hair, which opens on 14 April 2010 (previews from 1 April). Having premiered Off-Broadway in 2004 before going on to win three Tony Awards in New York, the cult-hit puppet musical, billed as an adult version of Sesame Street, had its West End premiere at the Noel Coward Theatre in June 2006 before moving this past June to the Gielgud (See News, 9 Mar 2009).

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, direction by Jason Moore, musical supervision by Stephen Oremus and choreography by Ken Roberson. The current London cast features Daniel Boys and Cassidy Janson.

At the Lyric Theatre, Thriller Live has added another five month months to its season. It opened on 21 January 2009 (previews from 2 January), initially for four months only. But increased demand after the death of Michael Jackson this past June has led to numerous extensions in the West End – where it’s now added a further five months, taking it up to 9 May 2010 - as well as the launch of a separate, extensive world tour (See News, 9 Jul 2009).

Billed as a concert show, Thriller Live includes Michael Jackson and Jackson 5 chart-toppers such as “I Want You Back”, “I’ll Be There”, “Earth Song”, “Blame It on the Boogie”, “Billie Jean”, “Beat It” and, of course, the title song, “Thriller” from best-selling albums including Off The Wall, Thriller, Bad, Dangerous and HIStory. It’s directed by Gary Lloyd and written by Adrian Grant, with design by Jonathan Park. The cast is led by three 13-year olds who rotate in the role of Young Michael.

At the Dominion Theatre, Queen musical We Will Rock You has added another seven months to its schedule and is now taking bookings through to 23 October 2010. Set in the future, We Will Rock You tells the story of a world in which globalisation has meant the death of real music in favour of computer-produced cyber stars, a status quo which the rebel Bohemians, harking back to the Golden Age of rock (embodied by Queen), are trying to overthrow so that they can write and perform their own music. An unintentional hero ends up saving the kids of Planet Mall from the tyrannical Killer Queen and discovers the place of living rock.

We Will Rock You has a book by Ben Elton and features 32 of Queen’s greatest hits including \"Bohemian Rhapsody\", \"Crazy Little Thing Called Love\", \"Under Pressure\", \"Radio Gaga\" and, of course, \"We Will Rock You\". It’s directed by Elton, choreographed by Arlene Phillips and designed by Mark Fisher and Willie Williams. The current cast is led by Peter Murphy (as Galileo) and Sabrina Aloueche (Scaramouche).

And finally, at the Aldwych Theatre, Dirty Dancing, which had its UK premiere on 24 October 2006 (previews from 29 September), has also extended by another seven months through to 23 October 2010. 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 Hannah Vasallo (as Baby), Martin Harvey (Johnny) and Nadia Coote (Penny).


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