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Topol Joins Gigi, Alan Dale Crowned in Spamalot

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Topol, the original West End and screen Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, will return to the London stage this summer to star in Gigi at the Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park. The production, the first major London revival of the Lerner and Loewe musical, runs from 6 August to 13 September 2008, the final production in this summer’s season (See News, 11 Jan 2008).

Topol, also known as Chaim Topol, is best known for his many performances as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. He starred in the 1967 West End production and then went on to star in the 1971 film version, for which he won a Golden Globe Award and was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar. He was on active service with the Israeli army at the time of the awards ceremonies but was granted special permission to attend. In 1983, he reprised the role of Tevye in London and later played the role on US tour before performing on Broadway. He’s since appeared as Tevye again in the West End, on UK tour, and in Europe, Australia and Japan.

Based on the 1945 French novel by Colette, Gigi is set in Paris at the turn of the 20th century and tells the story of a teenage girl being groomed by her grandmother and aunt to become a courtesan. Bachelor and bon vivant Gaston Lachaille becomes captivated by Gigi as she matures from wild adolescent to poised young lady.

The novel was made into a French film in 1948, then adapted as a stage play in 1951, with a Broadway production starring Audrey Hepburn. After Alan Jay Lerner (book and lyrics) and Frederick Loewe’s (music) success with My Fair Lady, they were hired to adapt the piece as a movie musical. The 1958 film, which starred Leslie Caron and Maurice Chevalier, won the Oscar for Best Picture. Fifteen years later, the musical crossed back over to the stage, opening on Broadway in 1978. The original West End production opened at the Lyric Theatre in 1985.

As previously reported, the Open Air cast will also feature Lisa O'Hare (Mary Poppins, My Fair Lady) in the title role and Millicent Martin (Side by Side by Sondheim) as Mamita. The musical is directed by Timothy Sheader, in his debut season as the theatre’s artistic director. It will be choreographed by Olivier Award winner Stephen Mear as choreographer, with lighting Simon Mills.

In other musical casting news, Alan Dale, now best known for his US television role as Bradford Meade in Ugly Betty, will make his West End debut as King Arthur in Monty Python musical Spamalot. He takes over from Peter Davison on 3 March.

Prior to Ugly Betty, Dale’s American TV roles have included Caleb Nichol in The OC and Charles Widmore in Lost. He’s also played Jim Robinson in Australian soap Neighbours, will soon be seen in a new ITV drama with James Nesbitt called Midnight Man, and has just completed filming as a guest lead in the BBC’s Torchwood.

Spamalot has a book and lyrics by original Python Eric Idle, who has also co-written the music with John Du Prez. The London production reunites the Broadway creative team including director Mike Nichols and set and costume designer Tim Hatley. The three-time Tony Award-winning Spamalot opened in March 2005 at Broadway’s Shubert Theater, where it’s still running.

The current London cast also features Bill Ward (as Lancelot), Marin Mazzie (Lady of the Lake), Robert Hands (Sir Robin), Steven Kynman (Herbert), Graham MacDuff (Sir Dennis Galahad), Andrew Spillett (Patsy) and Tony Timberlake (Sir Bedevere).

Elsewhere, Lyn Paul returns to the London production of Blood Brothers as Mrs Johnstone from 28 January. Paul recently played the same role at the Liverpool Empire for the start of the European Capital of Culture. She joins Craig Price (Narrator), Jay Roberts (Mickey), Craig Whitely (Eddie) and Debbie Eden. The production is directed by Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright.

- by Tom Atkins


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