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Musicals Extend: Thriller, Dancing & Hairspray

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Three West End musicals – recent Michael Jackson tribute show Thriller Live and longer-runners Hairspray and Dirty Dancing - have all announced extensions to their booking periods.

At the Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, Thriller Live has added four months to its season. It opened on 21 January (previews from 2 January) and had initially been booking until 12 April only (See Review Round-up, 28 Jan 2009). It will now continue until 27 September 2009. From 14 April, Tuesday to Saturday evening performances will start half-an-hour earlier, at 7.30pm.

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.

Thriller Live is 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 Aldwych Theatre, Dirty Dancing, which had its UK premiere on 24 October 2006 (previews from 29 September), has extended by another five months through to 27 March 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 Leanne Rowe, Martin Harvey and Nadia Coote.

And at the Shaftesbury Theatre, Hairspray has also added five months to its booking period, taking it through to 27 March 2010. The Broadway import had its West End premiere on 30 October 2007 (previews from 11 October) and won the sweep of Best Musical prizes at last year’s Evening Standard, Critics’ Circle, Whatsonstage.com and Olivier Awards, amongst other accolades.

Hairspray premiered in August 2002 on Broadway, going on to win eight 2003 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Based on John Waters' cult retro 1988 film and set in 1960s Baltimore, it tells the story of geeky overweight teen Tracy Turnblad, who finds celebrity on a TV dance programme. Can she get the guy and still have time to change the world? The musical has a book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan, with music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Whitman and Shaiman. As on Broadway, it’s directed by Jack O'Brien and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell.

In the West End, original stars Leanne Jones (as Tracy) and Michael Ball (cross-dressing as Tracy’s mum Edna) continue to star until 25 July 2009. The current cast also features Ben James-Ellis, Liz Robertson, Zoe Rainey, Adrian Hansel, Johnnie Fiori, Paul Manuel and, joining the cast earlier this month, Nigel Planer and Verity Rushworth (See News, 19 Jan 2009).

- by Terri Paddock


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