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Year of the Producer: Women leading the way

Inspired by our adoption of Stage One as the charity for the 2012 Whatsonstage.com Awards, we’re declaring this the “Year of the Producer” on Whatsonstage.com, and are running a 12-month editorial series of interviews, blogs and other features to give theatregoers a greater understanding of the crucial role of the producer and an insight into the people who put on the shows they love.

Here, in honour of International Women's Day, we present  (in alphabetical order) our list of top female producers who have made their mark on the theatrical landscape in recent years.

Nica Burns
Nica Burns has served as joint-owner and chief executive of Nimax Theatres Limited since September 2005. She works as director and producer of the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Awards and has been artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse and production director of Really Useful Theatres. Her myriad credits include award-winning productions of Kiss Me Kate at the Victoria Palace and Medea at the Queen's Theatre, Man and Boy at the Duchess, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest at the Garrick, A Moon for the Misbegotten at the Old Vic and Rain Man at the Apollo. She is currently behind the upcoming production of {Long Day's Journey Into Night::L279564219} at the Apollo, starring David Suchet.

Judy Craymer
Judy Craymer is best known for producing the hit ABBA musical {Mamma Mia!::L031245450}, of which she has overseen 34 productions around the world, in addition to the big screen adaptation, which became the highest grossing musical film of all time. Prior to this, she worked as stage manager at the Haymarket Theatre Royal, the Old Vic, and on the original production of Cats for the Really Useful Theatre Company. She is currently producing Viva Forever, a musical based on the songs of the Spice Girls. 

Sonia Friedman
Known as a champion of new work, Sonia Friedman formed Sonia Friedman Productions in 2002 as a subsidiary of the Ambassador Theatre Group, where she spent three years as a producer. She also previously served as producer and co-founder of Out of Joint, and as a producer at the National Theatre. Her many credits include Jerusalem on Broadway and the West End, The Children's Hour at the Harold Pinter, Legally Blonde at the Savoy and Top Girls at Trafalgar Studios. She's behind several current West End productions, including {Absent Friends::T01133341628}, {Hay Fever::T01754915542}, {Master Class::T1585124244} and upcoming play, {The Sunshine Boys::T703705777}.

Sally Greene
Billy Elliot producer Sally Greene created Criterion Productions, later named Old Vic Productions, with Lord Richard Attenborough. Currently run by Greene and Joseph Smith, Old Vic Productions have co-produced over 100 productions in the West End which have won numerous Awards. Greene is also chief executive of the Criterion and Greene Light Films, the proprietor of Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club and three restaurants: The Cheyne Walk Brasserie, The Waterloo Brasserie, and the Phene in Chelsea. Her theatre credits include Cyrano de Bergerac, Jerusalem, The Real Thing and The Prisoner of Second Avenue.

Thelma Holt
After a successful career as an actress, Thelma Holt, in partnership with Charles Marowitz, founded the Open Space Theatre on Tottenham Court Road in 1968, which became the forerunner of the London fringe. Subsequently, she served as artistic and executive director for the Round House in Chalk Farm, executive producer for the Theatre of Comedy and the head of touring and commercial exploitation at the National Theatre. She formed Thelma Holt Ltd in 1990, with recent credits including Ghosts (Duchess), Bedroom Farce (Duke of York's) and Ninagawa's Twelfth Night and Musashi at the Barbican. She is behind this summer's upcoming production of Cymbeline, also at the Barbican.

Donna Munday
Current director of theatre production for Billy Elliot and Working Title, Donna Munday served as interim chief executive at both Sheffield Theatres and Nimax Theatres, chief executive at Royal & Derngate Theatres, general manager for Really Useful Theatres, and finance director for the Royal Court Theatre. In addition to her current work for Billy Elliot and Working Title, Munday is a member of the Industrial Relations Committee for the Theatrical Management Association and a board member of the National Student Drama Festival.

Caro Newling
Caro Newling is most known for her work with Sam Mendes in the re-establishment of the Donmar Warehouse in 1992, forming Neal Street Productions with Mendes and Pippa Harris in 2003. Newling is currently represented in the West End by Shrek the Musical at Theatre Royal Drury Lane which will shortly be joined by Chichester transfer South Downs and The Browning Version. She is also currently developing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for the musical stage. Her other credits include Three Days of Rain, The Painkiller, The Vertical Hour, The House of Special Purpose, All About My Mother, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Days of Wine and Roses, Anna in the Tropics and Fuddy Meers.

Kate Pakenham
Old Vic producer Kate Pakenham, who recently joined the Donmar Warehouse as executive producer, has worked on The Norman Conquests, the transatlantic Bridge Project and Cause Celebre among other productions and founded Old Vic New Voices. She also created the Old Vic's 24 Hour Plays, a celebrity fundraising event and worked as a director on television docu-soap Paddington Green.

Kim Poster
Kim Poster is chief executive of Stanhope Productions, a theatrical producing company she founded in 2001. She has produced in the West End, on Broadway, and throughout the United States, where she spent three years in Los Angeles working at Paramount Pictures and Regent Pictures. After training as an attorney specialising in entertainment law, she became a member of the New York and California bars. Her credits include Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night, Tennessee Williams' Summer and Smoke and Arthur Miller's All My Sons at the Apollo. 

Rosemary Squire
With her husband Howard Panter, Rosemary Squire founded and runs the Ambassador Theatre Group, which owns and operates 30 theatre venues in the UK. In 2009, they oversaw the biggest theatre purchase of modern times when they bought out Live Nation’s UK venues for £90 million. Their recent West End production successes include musical Legally Blonde, The Misanthrope (with Keira Knightley), while they also oversaw UK tours of Spamalot and The Rocky Horror Show. Understandably, The Stage recently named Panter and Squire the most influential people working in theatre for the third year running.

Jenny Topper
Currently producing a national tour of The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl, independent theatre producer Jenny Topper formerly stood as director of the Bush Theatre and artistic director of Hampstead Theatre. In 2001, she founded Square Deal Productions and her credits include Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and The Goat or Who is Sylvia? by Edward Albee, Martha, Josie, and the Chinese Elvis by Charlotte Jones, and the stage adaptation of Terms of Endearment.

Carole Winter
Before establishing MJE Productions, Carole Winter helped set up the Education Department at the English Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre, where she worked for ten years and produced several small-scale tours. A trustee of Mousetrap Theatre Projects and council member of Stage One, Winter also headed a development team to create the new Soho Theatre and Writers' Centre, raising £1.2m in the process. Her recent credits with MJE include Ghost the Musical, Pygmalion, Ruby Wax: Losing It and Carousel. MJE's upcoming productions include a major West End revival of Joe Orton's What the Butler Saw starring Omid Djalili.


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