Maybe I’m a little late to the party, as its stars appear to have been tweeting from the set for some time, but the photos on the Les Misérables movie Facebook page are rather exciting. From the convicts in the Prologue to the gaudy, bourgeois wedding cake presumably for Marius and Cosette (via Hugh Jackman’s excellently-sculpted beard), the visual choices made by Tom Hooper and team look vivid, gritty and just different enough from the traditional design of this well-loved show.

I’ve mentioned before my hesitance about Hooper’s professed intentions to live-record the cast’s vocals – I like a raw sound, but not all of the actor’s chosen are famous chiefly for their dulcet tones – but since reading that a mixture of live and studio vocals were used for several of Meryl Streep’s scenes in Mamma Mia, I’m more open to the idea.

Using a mixture of locations including rural France and the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, London, the film will feature a brand new, original song (in the style of the excellent Phantom of the Opera film adaptation – unfortunately its additional song was godawful. Let’s hope for better from Messrs Boublil and Schönberg).

This piece of musical theatre history is set to hit our screens on 11 January 2013, and I for one am looking forward to spotting past West End cast members playing students, whores and beggars, as well as original Valjean, Colm Wilkinson, giving a no-doubt moving cameo as the Bishop of Digne.

Image: London’s Old Royal Naval College is transformed into Paris, 1832 https://www.facebook.com/LesMisMovie

UPDATE: More images have been published (with Cameron Mackintosh’s comments) here.

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This time last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Julie Atherton, who I’ve long admired since seeing her early on in Avenue Q and later in The Last Five Years. She’s performing at The Pheasantry on the Kings Road tonight and tomorrow night, and although she didn’t give much away in our chat, you can bet it will be a stunning show.

Since then two more pieces of Atherton news have popped up (every interviewer’s nightmare – just missing the big questions by a week): her biggest solo gig to date at the Apollo Theatre on 26th June, and her casting as Sister Mary Robert in the Sister Act UK tour.

Julie had hinted at a tour in our interview, but news of this role came as a surprise.  It was posted on the BroadwayWorld message boards and confirmed by the lady herself on Twitter today. Not many people have both the charm and the lungs for the role originated by Katie Rowley Jones, but Miss Atherton has oodles of both. I’m really looking forward to seeing what she brings to it.

Julie Atherton As Julie has focused her energy on performing and promoting new work, mainly in London and on the fringe, for the past few years, a regional tour should earn her many more fans.

I had a great time at Sister Act when I went in its first week, and thought it closed far too quickly. We still haven’t found out who will be our Deloris – I have my fingers crossed for some fabulous unknown talent from the open auditions – but with this piece of news further casting announcements can’t be far behind.*

Look out for a review of the Apollo gig on here – I’m looking forward to seeing Julie paired with guests such as Daniel Boys for some great songs; she has impeccable taste when it comes to up and coming musical theatre. She’s set to perform tracks from her brilliantly-received album No Space for Air, alongside songs from her most famous shows. Favoured composers Lance Horne and Michael Bruce will even pop up to accompany her, and Richard Fleeshman is taking a break from his Ghost duties to join her for a duet.

Congrats to Julie on the new role, the new concert, and her Pheasantry shows this weekend. If you aren’t yet a fan, get yourself to one of these – I promise you will be afterwards.

*Rumours are rife that Deloris will be played by Cynthia Erivo of Umbrellas of Cherbourg fame. Cynthia reportedly announced the casting in a tweet some weeks ago – unlike the demure Patina Miller, she’s pretty outspoken on Twitter, so WEG has high hopes for some Van Cartier attitude! However, the tweet and a blog post about it have both been removed, so this isn’t 100% official.

Are you Fabulous, Baby?

March 24, 2011

I know as a theatre blogger I should be all Sondheim this and Larson that, but the truth is, I’m an absolute whore for a chick flick. I sat watching the movie Legally Blonde tonight (still brilliant after a decade) and it reminded me just how well-timed and spirited the songs in the musical version are.

It’s one of my favourite shows to hit the West End in the past couple of years, and even though our version didn’t quite hit the glossy highs of the original cast, fully deserved its hat-trick at the Oliviers.

Another screen-to-stage adaption I absolutely loved was the much underrated Sister Act. Although it has catchy tunes, sassy script and humour galore, I think it was a hard one to pitch to audiences who expected the Motown and Sixties classics featured in the film.

Alan Menken’s funky disco score was pastiche at its very best, and Patina Miller absolutely sublime as diva Deloris Van Cartier. Sadly, its West End run lasted just 16 months, and it is now Broadway bound (opening April 20th.)

Now faithful co-producer Whoopi Goldberg has teamed up with Stage Entertainment to look for a brand new Deloris for a UK & Ireland tour. They are holding open auditions – and I mean open; the playing age is 20-40 – at Pineapple Dance Studios on Monday 4th April.

I’m so glad that this is going on tour and, looking at the casting requirements, that the producers appear to want a certain, shimmering je ne sais quois rather than a Patina or Whoopi clone.

These are big, sparkly boots to fill, however. Whoever gets the role will need to rock an afro, a nun’s habit and this much attitude:

Good luck ladies.

The year-long tour of Sister Act will open in October 2011.

It sucks to be you, London

December 2, 2010

For years, those lucky West End Wendies had the constant warmth, fuzziness and xenophobia of Avenue Q right on their doorstep. We all shed a little tear when it closed in October, but for those nowhere near the gold-paved streets of London it was a tiny hooray moment.

For the Avenue residents go on tour from February, and us Cardiff dwellers will get a chance to enjoy their hilarious lyrics about porn, loud sex and closet homosexuality from 14-18 June 2011 at the Wales Millenium Centre. If you didn’t catch the show during it’s four year run – shame on you – this is the perfect chance to see it.

In the style of Sesame Street (complete with educational animations), it follows a group of young misfits trying to have functional relationships, pay the rent and, in Trekkie’s case, watch porn – a lot.  It will be interesting to see how AQ translates to regional audiences; having started out as a very New York-specific piece, then becoming a huge hit in culturally-similar London, I do hope the rest of the UK finds it as funny. Be warned – not one to take your granny to. It is, however, one of the most touching and happy-making musicals I’ve seen in years. Also coming to Bath, Bromley, Cornwall, Richmond, Aberdeen, Norwich, Woking, Sheffield, High Wycombe, Southampton, Milton Keynes, Nottingham, Brighton, Cambridge, Birmingham, Bristol, Salford and (breathes) Glasgow. That’s plenty of puppet sex to go around!

Can’t wait to see…

December 1, 2010

Shrek the Musical. The West End could use another dose of humour and fantasy – Wicked’s still a classic, but we’re about due something new. Previews start 6 May 2010. This preview video was posted today:

Here are some other projects I’m hoping to catch in the new year…

Newbies
The Wizard of Oz (opens 7 February)
Ghost (sometime in June)
Rebecca (Spring 2011)
Betty Blue Eyes (19 March)

Oldies
South Pacific (hitting the Barbican in 2011)
We Will Rock You (Cardiff from 18 March)
As You Like it (Shakespeare’s Globe tour)
Jekyll and Hyde (touring from Jan 2011)

Crazy For You (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre from July)

Company (Southwark Playhouse from Feb)

One to watch: Betty Blue Eyes

November 21, 2010

Bleak days of austerity are brightened by the prospect of a royal wedding. Not a recent headline, but the premise of Cameron Mackintosh’s new musical, Betty Blue Eyes. Based on a 1984 Alan Bennett-penned short film, the show has been adapted by Ron Cowan and Daniel Lipman with a score by West End darlings Stiles and Drewe.

Set in ration-heavy postwar Britain, times are tough and the only excitement on the horizon is the impending marriage of Princess Elizabeth and her consort Philip. While British citizens struggle to get by, local officials take what they can to be comfortable. The Betty in the title is neither aristocratic or poor, but a pig, illegally reared to ensure the dignitaries can dine well to celebrate the royal wedding. Yes, it sounds a little nuts, but for CamMack to put his name to it, the madness must just about work.

Betty Blue Eyes is my first original musical in over 10 years,” he points out. “As a long-time admirer of Alan Bennett’s wickedly funny screenplay for the film ‘A Private Function’, I immediately fell in love with this infectious and delicious musical treatment which has expanded on the original. It is an utterly British and suitably crackers musical.”

Eccentric characters and retro numbers will add to BBE’s charm, with Ghost Stories’ Reece Shearsmith and ex-Corrie and Guys and Dolls’ Sarah Lancashire as the odd couple Gilbert and Joyce.

Previews start at the Novello Theatre on 19 March 2011, and I for one am intrigued…

Encore! / Refund!

November 19, 2010

ENCORE!

Julie Atherton’s album No Space for Air – this continues to receive plenty of Twitter love. Personally WEG is loving        I Never Saw Blue Like That.

The Public Reviews who have asked me to do an interview and three reviews for them in the next few weeks just off of the back of this little blog. Look out for them!

Kerry Ellis guesting on Alfie Boe’s new album, apparently with a rendition of Come What May… the odd couple thing sort of works for me.

Budget theatre on the big screen – you won’t get the goosebumps of live theatre, but in a recession it’s the more the merrier.

The We Will Rock You tour. I’ve never been much inspired to go and see this questionable Queenfest, but I may well stroll down to Wales Millenium Centre when it comes to Cardiff next spring.

The West End Whingers. They’re controversial, camp and crochety, but also a damn good read. Along with TPR, they’re changing the face of theatre criticism for the better – and I for one am sick of reading the opinions of old white guys who already hate musicals.

REFUND!

Yet more oversharing from the Dorothys:

@LaurenSamuels88 I was just sick in my mouth on stage…had to swallow it to risk embarrassment. Definitely turned a funny colour…Egypt belly go please!!

Chronic name-droppers… it’s nice that you know talented people, but maybe put some energy into your day job as well.

Panto. It may be a great chance to see your favourite stars at your local theatre, but the cheesiness, audience participation and predictability of panto just leaves me cold. I hope to have my mind changed this winter!

Pricey programmes. I like knowing who’s who, but £3.50 or £5 for a big glossy pile of nothing? If they could be made more like mini-magazines with fascinating facts and quirky interviews with the cast, as well as some behind the scenes insight, they might be worth the cash. Millions of ads and waffle about the theatre’s history are not items to be treasured.

Pushy mums. Sophie ‘Over the Rainbow’ Evans on Welsh TV last night: ‘my mum first noticed I had something special…. my mum first saw the ad for the show…’ Obviously it pays off, but it makes me a little sad. No one knows they want to be a singer at the age of three.