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Musicals Extend: Jersey Boys, Grease, Boulevard

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Several West End musicals – this year’s four-time Whatsonstage.com Award winner Jersey Boys, Grease and Sunset Boulevard - have announced further extensions to their booking periods.

At the Prince Edward Theatre, Jersey Boys, which tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, has added five months to its schedule. The UK premiere production opened on 18 March 2008 (previews from 28 February) and is now taking bookings through to 27 March 2010 (See Review Round-up, 19 Mar 2008).

The musical follows four boys – played by Ryan Molloy (as Frankie Valli), Stephen Ashfield (Bob Gaudio), Glenn Carter and Philip Bulcock - on their journey from the wrong side of the tracks in the state of New Jersey to international success as pop music sensation The Four Seasons. The band wrote their own songs, invented their own sounds and sold 175 million records worldwide, all before they were 30.

Amongst their many hits included in the show are “Sherry”, “Walk Like a Man”, “December, 1963 (Oh What a Night)”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”, “Working My Way Back to You” and “Who Loves You”. The musical has been written by Rick Elice and Marshall Brickman and uses the original music written by band member Bob Gaudio.

Following a four month try-out run in La Jolla, California, Jersey Boys opened in November 2005 at Broadway’s August Wilson Theater, where it’s still running. In 2006 it won four Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The West End production reunites the Broadway creative team, led by director Des McAnuff. Choreography is by Sergio Trujillo and design by Klara Zieglerova.

Jersey Boys won four 2009 Whatsonstage.com Awards: Best New Musical, Best Set Designer, Best Actor in a Musical for Ryan Molloy and Best Supporting Actor in a Musical for Stephen Ashfield. It was also named Best New Musical at this year’s Oliviers.

At the Piccadilly Theatre, Grease, which opened on 8 August 2007 (previews from 25 July), has added another two months to its booking period, taking it up to 3 January 2010. As recently announced (See News, 26 Mar 2009), former X Factor finalist and Dancing on Ice victor Ray Quinn stars as Danny Zuko from 11 May to 3 October 2009. He’s joined in the cast by Emma Stephens (as Sandy), Stuart Ramsay (Kenickie), Natalie Langston (Rizzo) and Faye Brookes (Frenchy) as well as Michael Melmoe, Laura Wilson, Benjamin Ibbott, Bennett Andrews, Robyn Mellor, Jamie Tyler, Lizzi Franklin, Jason Capewell, Marie Daly and Kristina Macmillan.

Grease is directed by David Gilmore, choreographed by Arlene Phillips, and produced by David Ian and Paul Nicholas, by arrangement with Robert Stigwood. The 1972 Broadway musical was immortalised by the 1979 film version, in which John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John played Danny and Sandy. The musical originally ran for six years in the West End, first at the Dominion and then at the Cambridge Theatre, returning to London for a short run back at the Dominion in 2001 and at the Victoria Palace in 2002/3. In between, it has toured the UK extensively, produced since 1993 by Ian.

Grease has book, music and lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. It’s now-famous songs include “Summer Nights”, “Look at Me I’m Sandra Dee”, “We Go Together”, “Hopelessly Devoted to You”, “Beauty School Dropout”, “You’re the One That I Want”, “Greased Lightnin’” and “Grease Is the Word”.

And, at the Comedy Theatre, the Watermill’s actor-musician revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard, which recently extended by two months, has added a further three to its schedule and is now booking through to 19 September 2009. 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).

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 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.

- by Terri Paddock


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