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Musicals Extend: Sound of Music, Lion King, WWRY

While this week has claimed three big scalps with closing notices posted for Gone With the Wind, Spamalot and Cabaret (See News, 5 Jun 2008), three other West End musicals – Rodgers and Hammerstein revival The Sound of Music, Disney’s The Lion King and Queen jukebox musical We Will Rock You - have announced extensions to their booking periods.

At the Dominion Theatre, We Will Rock You has added another full year to its stay at the Dominion Theatre, where bookings are now being taken through to 3 October 2009, more than seven years after it opened to largely damning reviews on 14 May 2002 (previews from 26 April).

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 Ricardo Afonso (as Galileo), Sabrina Aloueche (Scaramouche), Mazz Murray (Killer Queen) and Alex Bourne (Kashoggi).

At the Lyceum Theatre, The Lion King had added three months to its schedule and is taking bookings up to 4 January 2009. The Disney screen-to-stage adaptation opened on 19 October 1999 (previews from 24 September). Several new principals – including Shaun Escoffery (as Mufasa), who was Olivier and Whatsonstage.com Award-nominated for his performance in last year’s Parade at the Donmar Warehouse – joined the company in April (See News, 15 Apr 2008).

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.

Finally, The Sound of Music, which won last year’s Whatsonstage.com Award for Best Musical Revival, has added another four months to its schedule, taking it up to 28 February 2009 at the West End’s London Palladium, where it opened on 15 November 2006 (previews from 3 November).

The Sound of Music premiered on Broadway in 1959, when it won six Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The show first opened in London in 1961 and its last London revival was in 1981, both productions having record-breaking runs. The 1965 Hollywood film, which starred Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, won five Oscars, including Best Picture.

The London revival is directed by Jeremy Sams and designed by Robert Jones, with choreography by Arlene Phillips, sound by Mick Potter, lighting by Mark Henderson and musical supervision by Simon Lee. It’s presented by Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Ian, the Really Useful Group and Live Nation.

The current cast is led by Summer Strallen (pictured) as nun-turned-nanny Maria von Trapp (See 1st Night Photos, 4 Mar 2008). Strallen, who was ‘discovered’ by producer Andrew Lloyd Webber via a storyline tie-in with ITV teen soap Hollyoaks, is contracted until 23 August 2008. The current cast also features Simon Burke (Captain von Trapp), Fiona Sinnott (the Baroness), Paul Grunert (Max), Amy Lennox (Liesl), Luke Fredericks (Rolf) and Margaret Preece (Mother Abbess).

by Terri Paddock


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