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The Book Of Mormon Betty Buckley A Chorus Line New Writing Broadway Overview W W W. M U S I C A LT H E AT R E R E V I E W. C O M





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Welcome Review I During the run-up to launching this brand new online magazine, one thing became obvious: musical theatre is a thriving art form with so much happening across the UK and beyond that we could have probably filled several issues all at once. This was a sign to myself and the three other key members of the Musical Theatre Review team (production editor/designer Howard Sherwood, subscriptions/marketing manager Simon Howarth and head of advertising Michael Tornay) that what we were creating had massive potential. Musical Theatre Review doesn’t want to work from a distance, just scratching the surface of what is taking place on and offstage in the industry – we want to create a community where like-minded professionals and enthusiasts can catch up on news, reviews and features, and be part of the conversation. Yes, we will cover the big West End and Broadway openings – just turn to the features about A Chorus Line, The Book of Mormon and the latest news from the Great White Way in the pages ahead – but productions on the London fringe, in the regions, and on tour are just as important to us. In fact, it is outside of central London that new writing is often nurtured, and supporting original work is very much part of this magazine’s ethos. Just see our






Telephone 08432 896379 Editor Lisa Martland Production Editor/Designer Howard Sherwood Advertising & Promotion Michael Tornay Marketing & Subscriptions Simon Howarth Photography Roy Tan

double page spread on that very area in this first issue and there is more to come in future months. In addition, we are well aware of how musical theatre is a global phenomenon and so we shall strive to bring our readers as much international coverage as possible, with correspondents so far in New York, Los Angeles, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Japan and Australia. Finally, our desire is to throw the spotlight not simply on the performer, but to

CORRESPONDENTS New York Ron Cohen Los Angeles Steve Parker Australia Neil Litchfield France Patrick Honoré Germany Nicole Freialdenhoven Japan Hiroko & Yoshihisa Honda Norway/Sweden Renate Stridh

catch up with the lyricists, librettists and composers, as well as leading figures in the creative team – producers, directors, choreographers, set designers, stage managers, the list goes on.

All material © MusicalTheatre Review Limited

We want the Musical Theatre Review online magazine and website to be the place to be for all the latest news, reviews and features about the great and good of musical theatre, a genre we feel as passionately about as you do. We hope you will join the likes of Betty Buckley, Leigh Zimmerman, Gavin Lee and the stars of The Book of Mormon and come onboard now and for future issues. Lisa Martland Editor, Musical Theatre Review

and to Lynda Trapnell, publisher of Musical Stages until its closure last year, for

Front cover: A Chorus Line

the inspiration she provided

Photo: Manuel Harlan

A note of thanks to Sue Gregory for her huge contribution to the website launch


Contents 6 MUSICAL THEATRE NEWS Olivier Nominations 16 WEST END REVIEWS

The Book of Mormon A Chorus Line Top Hat Viva Forever! The Bodyguard Thriller Live

28 AGAIN… STEP, KICK, KICK, LEAP, KICK, TOUCH… Anthony Field puts A Chorus Line in context 30 FACE THE MUSIC AND DANCE Q&A Gavin Lee 32 THE BOOK OF MORMON Q&A Jared Gertner and Gavin Creel 35 YOU WAIT, THEN THREE COME AT ONCE Broadway transfers come to the West End 38 INTERVIEW: LEIGH ZIMMERMAN

Dear World Mile High – The Musical Merrily We Roll Along The Route to Happiness


129 LISTINGS West End London Fringe Broadway Off-Broadway UK Regional UK Tours


Hammerstein Publishing




Q&A Jennifer Ellison





A Class Act Quasimodo Darling of the Day The Tailor-Made Man Chess

124 CD REVIEWS Making Records Competition




Ruthie Henshall Competition


BEGINNING Bert Fink of Rodgers &



film plus John Barr on-set


Piaf The Hired Man They’re Playing Our Song

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show High Society Soul Sister 9 to 5 – The Musical Starlight Express

40 DID YOU SEE THE SINGERS ACT? Paul Harvard on the Les Mis

120 REVIEW – CONCERT Liza Minnelli















Birthday cheer Jersey Boys celebrated its fifth London birthday at the Prince Edward Theatre on 26 March with the launch of ‘Senior Sundays’, allowing older theatregoers to buy top price tickets for £27.50. Meanwhile, the booking period at the Prince Edward Theatre is being extended to 2 March 2014. Edd Post and David McGranaghan recently joined the London cast as Bob Gaudio and Nick Massi respectively, while Ryan Molloy continues as Frankie Valli and Jon Boydon as Tommy DeVito. Jon Lee also plays the Valli role for certain performances. The musical has now been seen by more than four million people worldwide and has won 55 major awards, including the Olivier Award for Best New Musical. It opened in London in 2008. In addition to Broadway, it is also running in Las Vegas, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, touring the United States and opens in South Africa this month (April 2013).

into the woods to find the app Into the Woods is the first musical production to be included in the Digital Theatre iPad app launched this year. The 2010 London recording of Timothy Sheader’s Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park version of the Sondheim/James Lapine show includes Jenna Russell, Hannah Waddingham and Michael Xavier among the cast. Musical director is Gareth Valentine. All current Digital Theatre productions are available on the app which has to date received nearly 1.5 million likes on iTunes UK and more than 7 million on App Store. Commenting on the app, Digital Theatre co-founder and CEO Robert Delamere said: “We developed our iPad app as a direct response to feedback from our audience and we’re delighted to bring Digital Theatre productions to a device with the convenience and ubiquity of the iPad.” The device launch follows the earlier debut of the company’s Samsung Smart TV app in September 2012. Added Delamere: “Our apps for iPad and Samsung Smart TV form the start of a multi-platform strategy that will allow audiences to enjoy Digital Theatre productions where and when they want.” In March Digital also relaunched its educational resource Digital Theatre Plus for schools, colleges and universities. More than 500,000 students in 17 countries currently use the system.

Scottsboro boys heads for Young Vic


Stephen Ward is LLoyd Webber’s new focus It has been reported that Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical about the 1963 Profumo Affair (reuniting him with Sunset Boulevard team, lyricist Don Black and playwright Christopher Hampton) is likely to be far more about the fate of the scandal’s scapegoat Stephen Ward, than Profumo. In the past, the composer has spoken sympathetically about Ward who introduced showgirl Christine Keeler (the reputed mistress of an alleged Russian spy) to John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War in Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s government, leading to what was Britain’s first political sex scandal in 1963. Ward was prosecuted for living off the immoral earnings of prostitution but committed suicide on the last day of the trial (although conspiracy theorists think otherwise). Lloyd Webber has been quoted as saying that this was a “terrible miscarriage of justice” and that Ward was “a scapegoat. They had to find a crime to fit him and, since MI6 said there was no security risk, why is it a closed file until 2046?” 6

Susan Stroman heads the creative team bringing John Kander and Fred Ebb’s controversial The Scottsboro Boys to the Young Vic in the autumn. Never staged previously in Britain, the tale of nine young black men jailed in Alabama on a false charge of rape and their battle for justice, opens at the London theatre on 18 October and runs until 23 November. Stroman, who directs and choreographs, said: “I am thrilled (artistic director) David Lan and the Young Vic are bringing The Scottsboro Boys to London audiences. Like Chicago and Cabaret before it, Kander and Ebb have written a musical about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.” The show’s American debut in 2010 marked multi-award winning Stroman’s fourth collaboration on a Kander and Ebb show. Previous forays include Flora, the Red Menace, Steel Pier as well as And the World Goes ‘Round. Scottsboro, however, had to wait until six years after Ebb’s death before it was staged on Broadway, Off-Broadway and in Minneapolis. With book by David Thompson, the show is inspired by the 1931 trial in the town of Scottsboro which led to two US Supreme Court rulings, one of which ruled that black people could no longer be excluded from juries. Added Stroman: “The injustices endured by these nine young men are still unresolved, and threaten to remain so unless we engage in a dialogue about them. Our hope is The Scottsboro Boys is a way to start the conversation and to carry it forward.” The Scottsboro Boys is a Young Vic and Catherine Schreiber production.

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And the olivier noms are… Top Hat and Sweeney Todd are this year’s musical theatre front-runners at the 2013 Oliviers with the greatest number of nominations. Top Hat, still running at the Aldwych with a new cast in place, is named in seven categories, while the West End transfer of Chichester Festival Theatre’s revival of Sweeney Todd is in close competition with six nominations. Other stand-out productions include Kiss Me, Kate (five, also a Chichester production) and The Bodyguard (four). West End musicals campaigned madly for a place in the Radio 2 Audience Award shortlist, voted for by the public, and the four shows that came up trumps were Billy Elliot The Musical, Matilda The Musical, The Phantom Of The Opera and Wicked. Among the individual nominees are Heather Headley and Debbie Kurup (The Bodyguard), Leigh Zimmerman (A Chorus Line), Imelda Staunton and Michael Ball (Sweeney Todd), Hannah Waddingham and Adam Garcia (Kiss Me, Kate), Tom Chambers (Top Hat) and Will Young (Cabaret) The nominations were announced by Olivier Award winners Ruth Wilson and Elaine Paige on 26 March live on the BBC Radio 2

Ken Bruce show. Mark Rubinstein, President of the Society of London Theatre, said: “Congratulations to all of this year’s Olivier Award nominees whose incredible talents contributed to a recordbreaking year for London theatre. I am delighted that today we can also announce that MasterCard are continuing their support of the Olivier Awards until the end of 2016.” The winners will be presented at the 37th Olivier Awards ceremony, taking place at the Royal Opera House on Sunday, 28 April, hosted by Hugh Bonneville and Sheridan Smith. The ceremony will be live on BBC Radio 2 from 6.30pm with a highlights package broadcast on ITV later in the evening. The TV programme will include the winners’ speeches and extracts of featured performances. Further coverage on the night will be provided at, on Twitter via The public can also gather in Covent Garden Piazza for special live performances from top London shows before watching a live relay of the ceremony on big screens. All the musical theatre nominations are listed below:

Best Actor in a Musical

Best New Musical

Best Theatre Choreographer

Michael Ball (Sweeney Todd)


Bill Deamer (Top Hat)

Alex Bourne (Kiss Me, Kate)

Soul Sister

Stephen Mear (Kiss Me, Kate)

Tom Chambers (Top Hat)

The Bodyguard

Will Young (Cabaret)

Top Hat

Best Actress in a Musical

Best Musical Revival

Heather Headley (The Bodyguard)

A Chorus Line

Imelda Staunton (Sweeney Todd)


Summer Strallen (Top Hat)

Kiss Me, Kate

Hannah Waddingham (Kiss Me, Kate)

Sweeney Todd

Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical

BBC Radio 2 Audience Award

Best Costume Design Anthony Ward (Sweeney Todd) Jon Morrell (Top Hat) Best Set Design Hildegard Bechtler (Top Hat) Tim Hatley (The Bodyguard) Best Sound Design

Adam Garcia (Kiss Me, Kate) Debbie Kurup (The Bodyguard) Siân Phillips (Cabaret)

Billy Elliot the Musical

Gareth Owen (Top Hat) Paul Groothuis (Sweeney Todd)

Matilda the Musical The Phantom of the Opera

Best Lighting Design


Max Henderson (Sweeney Todd)

Leigh Zimmerman (A Chorus Line)




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currently running

Prince of Wales Theatre


hank God for The Book of Mormon. Not only is it performing miracles at the box office – recently breaking records by taking £2.1 million in a single day – this original musical also offers a shining beacon in a market saturated with film remakes. No wonder everyone views it as the Second Coming; I’d say Amen. For while expectation is a dangerous thing the musical shows redemption for the modern musical is at hand, albeit in an often gapingly distasteful form. Songs about raping babies, clitoris mutilation and joyously proclaiming FU to God sail perilously close to the wind. While this irreverence is often entertainingly subversive, at times it dampens the experience and feels juvenile. In other ways, however, the piece is terribly conventional, and it is in this tension that its cleverness is revealed. Slick, funny and full of barnstorming numbers, this satirical assault is also a buddy movie at heart and a secular clarion call for a better tomorrow. As always with writers Trey Parker and Matt Stone no one is safe from ridicule, an egalitarian attitude that softens their acidic tongue. Religion comes in for a hefty beating but so too does the First World’s attitudes to the Third World. Perhaps most cleverly the musical format itself gets some gentle teasing - “Africa isn’t like The Lion King at all!” Elder Price cries to a guffawing audience.  The savvy meta-mockery doesn’t stop there with Parker, Stone (who also co-directs) and Robert Lopez’s witty musical awash with echoes and nods to past classics. Edler Price’s gleefully self-obsessed ‘You and Me (But Mostly Me)’ soars as high as Wicked’s ‘Defying Gravity’ and parodies the ‘The Wizard and I’ from the same show, while his refrain of ‘Orlando! Orlando!’ practically drags little Annie onto the stage in its nod to ‘Tomorrow’. Co-director Casey Nicholaw’s choreography is similarly rich with reference, delighting in the ridiculous while smartly attacking preconceptions. The overtly tribal nature of the African set pieces pokes fun at prejudices, while ‘Turn It Off’ sees him unleash a sequins and all tap and jazz hands number on the buttoned-up theme of repression.

“sparkling new pieces that feel completely original in style”

But Parker, Stone, Lopez and Nicholaw are more than happy to strike out on their own with some sparkling new pieces that feel completely original in style. The dramatic ‘Spooky Mormon Hell Dream’ – a bombastic company number underpinned with a toe-tapping refrain,



Gavin Creel and Chris Jarman


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involving luscious harmonies (arranged by the excellent Stephen Oremus) and scored through with a blisteringly satirical bent that includes nods to Starbucks and Hitler – is a tour de force. USA tour lead Gavin Creel’s Donny Osmond-inspired Elder Price compassionately shows that pride comes before a fall, but it is fellow tour lead Jared Gertner’s geeky Elder Cunningham who wins my heart. Of the new UK cast, Stephen Ashfield is superb as the sexually repressed Elder McKinley, and Alexia Khadime, fresh from playing Eponine in Les Misérables, brings real heart – and a towering vocal – to this bawdy comedy as hopeful believer Nabulungi. Honour Bayes


CAST Elder Price............................................................................GAVIN CREEL Elder Cunningham........................................................ JARED GERTNER Nabulungi.....................................................................ALEXIA KHADIME Moroni/Elder McKinley............................................ STEPHEN ASHFIELD Mafala Hatimbi.................................................................. GILES TERERA Price’s Dad/Joseph Smith/Mission President........................................ .........................................................................................HAYDN OAKLEY General............................................................................ CHRIS JARMAN Ensemble.............................................MARK ANDERSON, DANIEL CLIFT, ................................ ASHLEY DAY, CANDAE FURBERT, PATRICK GEORGE, ...............................NADINE HIGGIN, TYRONE HUNTLEY, MICHAEL KENT, .............................DANIEL MACKINLAY, OLIVIA PHILLIP, YEMIE SONUGA, ..........................KAYI USHE, TOSH WANOGHO-MAUD, SHARON WATTS, .............................................................................................LIAM WRATE Swing/Dance Captain.........................................................MATT KRZAN Swing/Asst Dance Captain...............................................LUCY ST LOUIS Swing.........................BENJAMIN BROOK, EVAN JAMES, OLIVER LIDERT, ................................................................LUKE NEWTON, TEREL NUGENT Standby Elder Cunningham........................................ DANIEL BUCKLEY Standby Elder Cunningham...........................................DAVID O’REILLY

Alexia Khadime and Jared Gertner

Jared Gertner and Gavin Creel



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CREATIVE TEAM Co-Director/Book/Music/Lyrics.........................................TREY PARKER Book/Music/Lyrics............................................................ROBERT LOPEZ Book/Music/Lyrics................................................................MATT STONE Co-Director/Chreographer..........................................CASEY NICHOLAW Scenic Design........................................................................SCOTT PASK Costume Design......................................................................ANN ROTH Lighting Design..........................................................BRIAN MACDEVITT Sound Design................................................................... BRIAN RONAN Music Supervision/Vocal Arranger/Co-Orchestrator............................. .................................................................................... STEPHEN OREMUS Co-Orchestrator...........................................................LARRY HOCHMAN Dance Arrangements............................................................GLEN KELLY Musical Director......................................................... NICHOLAS FINLOW Producers.............................................. ANNE GAREFINO, SCOTT RUDIN, ............................... SONIA FRIEDMAN PRODUCTIONS, ROGER BERLIND, ............................SCOTT M DELMAN, JEAN DOUMANIAN, ROY FURMAN, ............................................STEPHANIE P McCLELLAND, KEVIN MORRIS, .......................... JON B PLATT, ROBERT G BARTNER, NORMAN TULCHIN, ..................................................................................STUART THOMPSON Executive Producer.......................................................... JAMES TRINER

AGAIN… STEP, KICK, KICK, LEAP, KICK, TOUCH… Those are the words that producer Anthony Field vividly remembers hearing for the first time back in London 1976. Here he considers the impact A Chorus Line made on musical theatre


t was 1971 New York when Michael Bennett first conceived A Chorus Line and met up with 24 dancers in two long taping sessions in which they discussed their backgrounds, their problems and their frustrations. Bennett turned the tapes over to Nicholas Dante, one of the dancers involved in the sessions, who then collaborated with James Kirkwood in writing a play based partially on the taped material. Later, Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban were brought in to write the music and lyrics. The musical established precedents in plot, development and staging. The plot is deceptively simple, for the action takes place on a bare stage with large mirrors and backdrops, allowing the audience and dancers to see themselves. Twenty-eight young chorus dancers are auditioning for a director who will hire only eight of them. As the musical progresses, he cuts the number down to 19 and finally to eight. The final script expanded the original taped interviews. The director asks the dancers to tell him about their backgrounds; one talks about

an alcoholic father, another about a domineering mother and others about sexual experiences, religious beliefs or their dance training. Originally produced by Joseph Papp for the New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theatre, the show opened Off-Broadway on 15 April,1975. After 101 performances there, it moved on to Broadway on 25 July, running for 2,029 performances at the Shubert Theatre. It won the Critics’ Circle Award for Best Musical and then nine Tony Awards for Best Musical, Book, Score, Director, Lighting, Choreography and to many of the dancers. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Best Drama.

not limited to Broadway theatregoers

Although the story deals with dancers and their problems, its appeal was not limited to Broadway theatregoers, as it signified the struggle of all young people searching for success, often hampered by obstacles they cannot overcome.

Photo: ROY TAN


The current West End production of A Chorus Line


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In 1976, Michael White, who had been overwhelmed by the show in New York, planned to bring it to London and admitted in his book Empty Seats that he didn’t do a deal he was proud of. He was convinced he had to form a new American company to play Toronto en route to London, but he contracted this company without getting a share of the Canadian proceeds.

an overwhelming theatrical experience

When I attended the London first night of A Chorus Line at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on 22 July, 1976, I found it an overwhelming theatrical experience. From the outset I was shaken by the strong story and the way it summed up the anguish every actor understands. The first number was dazzling and set the tone for the whole evening in exactly the same way as ‘Tradition’ does for Fiddler On the Roof and ‘Comedy Tonight’ for A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum. Every decade or so a musical comes along which changes the face of the medium: Oklahoma!, Oliver!, Hair, The Rocky Horror Show, Cats and A Chorus Line. However, after a successful opening at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, White had to face up to getting a British cast together, due to the fact that Equity, the UK actors’ trade union, would only allow the American cast to play for six months in Britain. Casting this essentially Broadway show with British actors proved difficult because at that time US actors could sing and dance, whereas in England a lot of very good actors did not do either. This great musical was no starry-eyed variation of the ‘you’re going out there a youngster, but you’ve gotta come back a star’ tradition. It was a hard-hitting exposé of Broadway auditions which all came true in London with offstage hassles and Equity problems. Indeed, the press was quick to draw a parallel between the dramatised events and Bennett’s actual treatment of artists. This has since been brought

home to UK audiences with the advent of television reality shows auditioning artists in public.

“we had virtually to re-teach the British dancers to dance”

The first six months at Drury Lane with the American cast led to the recoupment of its production costs of £300,000 plus a surplus of less than £100,000 which was all spent on replacing the cast. Bennett and White auditioned hundreds of British artists, many complaining about the toughness demanded of them. Many said they learned more from trying out for Bennett than they had ever learned in an English dance class. The director and choreographer reported that: “we had virtually to re-teach the British dancers to dance.” The costumes for A Chorus Line are incredibly cheap rehearsal clothes, except for the finale of course. Even in 1975 those gold tailcoats and hats cost £500 each and there were 22 of them needed to create the stunning effect of the finale. Eventually the show went on to run for two and a half years at Drury Lane, but after 903 performances White considered it too sophisticated to be staged anywhere in Britain outside London, and simply closed the show. In 1985 Richard Attenborough filmed A Chorus Line but the grit and drive of the original triumph of edgy nerve and energy was dissipated into the studiously unkempt and empty glitz of a film. Attenborough and screenwriter Arnold Schulman failed to justify Michael Douglas’ nasty Citizen Kane megalomania which resulted in a corny and unbelievable film. Perhaps the last word can go to Sir Peter Hall who wrote, on seeing the show at Drury Lane, that “it’s kitsch at heart, manipulating the audience brilliantly, the most precisely timed music and lighting and the most expertly done production that I have ever seen in my life”


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Lisa Martland caught up with the Tony Award-winning actress during the London run of Jerry Herman’s Dear World


n a interview with TheaterWeek magazine in 1996, just as she was preparing to perform Norma Desmond for the last time in Sunset Boulevard on Broadway, the Tony Award-winning actress Betty Buckley commented: “I hope that when Sunset is no longer in the picture that I won’t slack back, just hang out drinking cappuccino with my friends and going to the bookstore and reading all afternoon, which was my favourite pastime before.” Well, why the Texas-born actress and singer may have fitted in a few coffee breaks during the last 17 years, she has hardly been twiddling her thumbs. Alongside her international theatre work, Buckley’s concert performances at venues across the US (including Carnegie Hall) are always in demand, and that’s in addition to 15 solo albums, TV and film work, and regular teaching.


passion for musical theatre

Throughout, Buckley’s passion for musical theatre and dedication to the art form has been evident, a quality which recently brought her back to London and, in particular, to the Charing Cross Theatre for the UK premiere of Jerry Herman’s Dear World. Part of the attraction of taking on the role of Countess Aurelia, also known as the Madwoman of Chaillot (from Jean Giraudoux’s play), was the opportunity to work again with director/choreographer Gillian Lynne. Since their collaboration on Cats in 1982 – Buckley’s portrayal of Grizabella won her a Tony Award – they have always stayed in touch. “It has been really great fun working with Gillian again. She has always been something of an inspiration for me and has been kind enough to see all the shows I’ve done. We had talked about collaborating on a project, and then a couple of years ago she mentioned Dear World. I had always loved the show, and for many years thought the Countess was a part I should do. It’s well-known that the original had some issues, but I think Gillian’s vision solved those problems. “It is a very delicate piece, but people expected all the showbiz and razzamatazz of Jerry Herman’s other shows. This wonderful and intimate new version treated that fragility with the respect Jerry Herman intended, as did Sarah Travis with her new orchestrations.” Buckley also points out that the theme of the show ­– which sees “the goodness of humanity win out over corporate greed” – was perhaps a little ahead of its time when it opened in 1969, and that the fable has more relevance than it ever did in 2013. Before Buckley experienced the “huge moment in my life and career” that was the original Broadway production of Cats, the actress had been best-known in the US for her TV role as Sandra Sue ‘Abby’ Abbott in the popular series Eight is Enough. But her theatrical career truly reached another level when the part of Grizabella came along, as Buckley explains: “Cats was a very precious time in my life. Andrew Lloyd Webber, Trevor Nunn and Gillian 12

Lynne brought out the potential of my talent and I began to really believe in it myself. People like them have meant so much to me, I am phenomenally respectful of them.” It was, of course, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard that resulted in another visit to London in 1994 when she played Norma Desmond in the revamped version of the show, later going on to repeat her success in the Broadway production. She has fond memories of that time in London, and compares how she felt then to her very first visit to the capital as a 22-year-old to appear in Promises, Promises. “From the moment I visited London, it felt special to me, almost as if I must have lived here in a former life. It seem that every twentysomething years I come to do another show in my life – Promises (’70), Sunset (’94), Dear World (’13). The city has become a touchstone in my life. “On a professional level I was very well school and prepared for being onstage. I had known what I wanted to do from the age of 13 and it seemed like everything was working the way I had envisaged it, it was beyond thrilling [Buckley’s Broadway debut was in the musical 1776, when she was 21]. But from a young age, I was a pretty lonely kid and I did not have a lot of the skills to cope with life as a performer. During Promises, I had this dinky apartment, and I remember being pretty lonely some of the time. Then the other day, I went by the hotel where I lived when I was appearing in Sunset, and I thought about the success I had had and how my confidence had grow. It was like an out of body experience.”

never one to pick predictable material

Now that the London cabaret scene is having something of a renaissance, maybe it won’t be long before Buckley also brings one of her successful solo shows across the Atlantic. Never one to pick predictable material, her latest offerings have been The Other Woman: The Vixens of Broadway (songs that were performed by second leads or featured actresses in a musical) and Ah Men! The Boys of Broadway (a collection of tunes that were introduced by male characters in shows). The latter project was partly inspired by an interest in women who impersonated men in British Music Hall, and Buckley’s own experience of playing the roles of Edwin Drood and Alice Nutting in the 1985 New York Shakespeare Festival production of the musical version of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Elsewhere she has made her mark in movies and television, including working with her film editor/TV director brother Norman Buckley on the ABC hit show Pretty Little Liars, while one of her most recent credits on the big screen was the Mark Wahlberg sci-fi thriller The Happening. And so Buckley’s busy schedule continues, she even missed her induction into the prestigious Theater Hall of Fame in

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Betty Buckley

ISSUE 1 there is no sign she has lost her hunger for performing. “Thank the Lord, I have been very lucky and blessed to keep working. Gillian Lynne is 86 years old and just extraordinary. I want to be just like her when I grow up!”

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January this year because of her preparations for Dear World. The lady who was once described as the ‘Voice of Broadway’ may occasionally have time off to relax at her Texas ranch – where she helps take care of the 17 animals who also reside there – but

worldwide: BROADWAY

Spring comes to New York From Cinders to Annie, via Dr Jekyll and Matilda, Ron Cohen has all the latest On and Off-Broadway


pring has finally come to New York and the earliest blooms on the musical theatre scene make for a mixed but welcome bouquet. On Broadway, the initial arrival has been the lavish redo of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, a sometimes irritating but still highly watchable spectacle that’s even better to listen to. There’s not much spectacle in Hands On a Hard Body, which debuted on the Main Stem on 21 March, but it‘s a surprisingly entertaining look at life in hard times. Meanwhile, OffBroadway came thrillingly to life with the unveiling of the intimate but magnificent revival of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Passion, at Classic Stage Company.

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote their take on the Cinderella as a tale for television way back in 1957, and the original TV production starred a youthful Julie Andrews. Since then, there have been two more revised versions done on the tube and some mountings on stage as well, but this current production – with a new book by the comedic playwright Douglas Carter Beane and direction by Mark Brokaw – marks the work’s first time on Broadway. The show is at its best when Rodgers’ music takes over the proceedings, with a wonderfully full complement of Broadway musicians in the pit. Just to hear ‘Ten Minutes Ago’, one of Rodgers’ most lilting waltzes, providing a rhapsodic climax to a delicious


Santino Fontana and Laura Osnes in Cinderella


overture orchestrated by Danny Troob, raises expectations to a high pitch. Unfortunately, those expectations are rarely fulfilled. But certainly another glorious moment comes toward the end of the show, as fairy godmother Victoria Clark with her crystalline soprano makes magic with the tune ‘There’s Music in You’, even while flying a la Mary Poppins over the stage. That song, by the way, is one of several pulled from various R&H projects to augment the Cinderella score. It was first heard in a fairly forgotten movie of 1953, entitled From Main Street to Broadway, in which the legendary songwriters appeared as themselves. Also not to be overlooked is Cinderella herself played by a fetching Laura Osnes, who sings as prettily as she looks and makes credible the script’s revision of the title character from a beleaguered waif who sits in the ashes to an independent spirit who wears her compassion for mankind on her sleeve. She doesn’t lose her slipper as she runs down the palace stairs at midnight. She hands it to the Prince. And she indeed teaches the clueless guy, portrayed by a winning Santino Fontana, a thing or two about running a country. In fact, Beane’s redo of the book seems to go out of its way to rewrite the enduring fairy tale, loading with it lots of self-help and transparent social-conscience messages that weigh things down, along with a very spotty assortment of gag lines. For one, he has done away with the king and queen; they’re now dead and until the Prince comes of age, the country’s being run and ruined by his evil greedy regent, who’s busy confiscating the citizens’ rights and property. One of Cinderella’s two stepsisters has become quite a nice gal, who not only conspires with Cinderella to win her Prince but is also in love with the local revolutionary, and the evil stepmother often behaves more like a harried single mom. Harriet Harris, who plays the stepmother, and Peter Bartlett, as the regent, are two Broadway stalwarts celebrated for their way with arch dialogue,

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but they have little to work with here. On the plus side, the production has eyefilling storybook settings by Anna Louizos, colourful costumes by William Ivey Long and some notable special effects. The onstage transformations of Cinderella’s garb as well as that of Clark’s beggar lady-cumfairy godmother from rags to richness are showstoppers. Hardly as spectacular but serviceable is Josh Rhodes’ choreography. However, like the script, the dances are overextended and eventually wearying. Nevertheless, despite its patchiness, the show seemed to be enchanting its target audience, the little girls decked out in their Cinderella gowns and tiaras. Tiaras, of course, are available for purchase in the lobby, adding to all the glitz being purveyed onstage.


The power of Passion

feels for her as her life ends. Melissa Errico makes clear the pull of her love for Giorgio, even as it threatens her marriage and her relationship with her young son. A nine-man ensemble portraying Giorgio’s fellow soldiers – led by Stephen Bogardus as the Colonel and Tom Nelis as their doctor – adds further veracity to the story and richness to the music. Overall, the acute sensitivity of Doyle to this material is palpable. The handsomely simple Italianate set designed by Doyle himself and the rich costumes by Ann Hould-Ward heighten the sense of time and place. The production is the first venture of the long-established Classic Stage into a musical, and it has come up with a triumph. The limited run has been extended until 14 April. It’s the kind of show that redefines the power of musical theatre to transform you and transcend definition.

Got to hand it to them…

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That power, of course, will be tested again and again as the Broadway schedule of musical openings continues. After a month of previews, Hands On a Hard Body opened on 21 March, also demonstrating some theatrical potency. Don’t salivate over the title. Based on a 1997 documentary film of the same title, the show depicts a group of hard-up people who participate in a promotion staged by an auto dealership in Texas. The ten contestants have to put their hand on a new truck – or lorry – and in what becomes an endurance contest, the last one

to remain with his hand on wins the vehicle. It’s like an updated version of the infamous dance marathons of the 1930s, and as the contestants reveal their hopes, dreams and life stories in musical numbers and dialogue, it becomes vaguely like a sadistic twist on A Chorus Line. But these folks are not vying for a chance to dance; they‘re after a piece of a somewhat corrupted American dream. The book by Doug Wright, whose works span from The Little Mermaid to Grey Gardens, populates the contest with some predictable types. Among them, the loudmouthed bully with a racist tinge and a secret sorrow, played with great relish by Hunter Foster; the innocent young lad and lass (Allison Case and Jay Armstrong Johnson) who find romance during the gruelling experience; the blonde hottie (Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone) who is having a thing with the dealership’s slimy sales manager (Jim Newman); the fanatically religious woman (Keala Settle) who leads the group in the big gospel-like number; a happy-go-lucky black fellow (Jacob MingTrent), and a querulous but likeable middleaged mom (Dale Soules) out to raise money for her houseful of kids and out-of-work hubby (William Youmans) who stands by offering moral support. There is also the ageing oilfield worker (Keith Carradine), who suffered a broken leg on the job, has been sacked and now is enduring great pain during the contest, while his concerned wife (Mary Gordon Murray)➽


In contrast, genuinely breathtaking emotion marks the John Doyle-directed Passion. It’s the first New York revival of the piece, which debuted on Broadway in 1994 and won a fistful of Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Still, it was not an overwhelming success, even with an heroic performance by Donna Murphy as Fosca, the show’s central figure, an ailing, ungainly woman obsessively in love with a handsome Italian military officer garrisoned in a remote 19th Century Italian village. Some found it too dark, too analytical, and it ran for only eight months. The show is derived from a 19th Century novel, eventually made into an Italian film Passione d’Amore, which Sondheim saw in 1983, and he has written, “suddenly, half an hour into it, struck me as a story worth singing”. And sing it does, almost non-stop, as one haunting melody melds into another, with dialogue occasionally interwoven. Director Doyle, who in recent years has become a prime interpreter of Sondheim, gives the piece an elegant intimacy, within the close confines of Classic Stage Company’s small theatre, the audience on three sides of the thrust stage. The nine-piece orchestra is situated overhead to one side, and the music – voices and instruments – gorgeously envelops the space. The deft staging more than before brings out the humanity of all three people – Fosca, Giorgio the officer, and Clara, his married mistress in Milan – caught up in the story’s triangle of passion. And all three come to life in tremendous, exquisitely sung performances. Judy Kuhn takes you inside the soul of Fosca, revealing an intelligent woman offering unconditional love clearly and without threat. Similarly, Ryan Silverman brings surprising depth to Giorgio, moving through doubt and anger to a full realisation of what Fosca is offering him and the pain that comes with the love he eventually

CD REVIEWS A GIRL OF FEW WORDS JULIE ATHERTON Making Records: VIB001 She may be a girl of few words but she certainly has a good set of lungs and vocal chords! This CD is a set of songs by Charles Miller who has written such musicals as Brenda Bly: Teen Detective, No One in the World, When Midnight Strikes and RSVP ASAP. Apart from the first of these shows, I hadn’t actually known of any of the other pieces, but with Atherton giving them an airing on this album, I am sure we will be hearing more of both of them. Tracks include: ‘A Girl of Few Words’, ‘He Wasn’t You’, ‘Someone Find Me’, ‘Home’ and ‘You Know How to Love Me’. They are beautifully arranged and orchestrated with Atherton giving them the full treatment, holding nothing back. If you are a fan of either Miller or Atherton, then you will certainly be buying this CD, but if you aren’t or have never heard of either of them, then rectify that this instance and get online to order. A gripe (not with the recording!), the person responsible for the inner notes obviously has superb X-ray vision – I myself found it nearly impossible to read the notes against the lurid lilac wrinkled cloth effect. Sometimes simple is best. Nick Wakeham

IT’S JUST THE BEGINNING – THE SONGS OF CHARLES MILLER & KEVIN HAMMONDS VARIOUS ARTISTS Making Records: VIB006 I must admit to knowing little of Charles Miller and Kevin Hammonds before I received this album. Having heard the CD, I am hooked and want to hear more. The album includes tracks from their musicals: Cabin Fever, Fabula, Hope, Brenda Bly: Teen, No One in the World and When Midnight Strikes. The artists include Pia Douwes, Louise Plowright, Julie Atherton, Caroline O’Connor, Michael McCarthy and Richard Reynard. It is refreshing to listen to new tracks that actually sound tuneful, are well produced and sung by artists who understand the material. I would think that this songwriting duo is one that will be going from strength to strength and thank goodness this CD has been released so that musical fans can get the chance to experience this new material. One for the ‘must buy’ list. Nick Wakeham



Shona White has a lovely voice and this is a nice selection of tracks, not all the usual suspects from the musicals. There are songs from musicals of course, including ‘As Long As You’re Mine’ from Wicked and ‘Nobody’s Side’ from Chess, but also lesser-known tracks such as ‘Easier’ from In Touch, ‘Please Don’t Make Me Love You’ from Dracula and ‘How ’Bout a Dance’ from Bonnie and Clyde. And into the impressive mix also goes ‘Ae Fond Kiss’, ‘I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten’ and ‘To Sir With Love’. White obviously put some thought into this album, along with her producer and it shows. The songs don’t all just melt into one another like some others – they are an eclectic mix and one that makes listening to the album a pure joy. This is a really good, interesting album and hopefully there will be more from White in years to come. Nick Wakeham

YESTERDAY TODAY TOMORROW GEMMA ATKINS Making Records Split in to three sections, this CD covers songs from the past, present and future. Gemma Atkins has appeared in shows such as Wicked, Grease and Carousel and I have to say that I found the choice of songs on the album a little strange. For a debut recording, perhaps a few more ‘well-known’ tracks would have been a good idea – all the compositions start to blend into one another, despite the fact that Atkins has a good voice. There are a number of good tracks on the album including ‘The Sun and I’, ‘Take Me Back to Manhattan’ and ‘Your Daddy’s Son’ from Ragtime and I suppose there is an argument that the songs on the CD are not the usual old hackneyed ones that appear on show recordings. I do give credit to Atkins for that, but I do feel she would have been better served with some more recognisable material. I am sure that anyone who is a musical enthusiast will love the choices on the CD but for me it just lacked variety. Nick Wakeham 16

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JESUS CHRIS SUPERSTAR CHRIS THATCHER Making Records: VIB010 It states on the front cover of this CD that it contains Parental Advisory Explicit Content – well there is no denying that, every song contains material that I certainly wouldn’t let my children or even my parents hear! Why Chris Thatcher thought it was a good idea to release an album that was filled with lyrics like this, I have no idea. Maybe he thought it would be amusing – as far as I’m concerned he’s missed the mark. One or two tracks would have been okay and even have made me laugh, but to have a complete album of 20 tracks full of sexual content is over gilding the lily. And the bonus track is an impersonation of Kermit singing ‘Rainbow Connection’ – why? The tracks include: ‘Sensitive Song’, ‘If You Were Gay’, ‘Sex’, ‘The Morning After You Do It’, ‘Swearing’, ‘Somebody Kill Me’. Thatcher possesses a good voice and obviously has got a sense of humour, but both those things could have been put to much better use than this album. However, if childish humour and swearing is your thing then you’ll love it. If not, then beware… Nick Wakeham

FALLEN ANGEL JON LEE Making Records: VIB011 This recording wasn’t what I was expecting. I don’t even know what that was, but it got played twice – something that doesn’t always happen when I get a review copy of a CD. I loved the selection of tracks including ‘Piano in the Dark’, ‘Talking in Your Sleep’, ‘Only You’, ‘My Eyes Adored You’ and ‘Solitaire’. The production of the recording is excellent and Jon Lee comes over very well on all the tracks. The arrangements by Nick Rye and Colin Billing are superb for the orchestrations and all-in-all I would recommend this album for anyone who: a) likes Jon Lee or b) wants to give their mother a pleasant present. That’s not meant in any derogatory way, I think this album is one that would go down just as well with the older generation as it will with the younger Lee fans. Nick Wakeham

CompeTition To Make you happy Musical Theatre Review has come up with a fantastic competition in association with the record label MaKiNG Records. Just answer one question and you can win all six of the label’s CDs reviewed above. The company has recorded with an array of top West End and Broadway performers, including Julie Atherton, Brenda Edwards, Shona White, Gemma Atkins, Caroline O’Connor and Pia Douwes. In addition, the label has pioneered and supported new musical theatre writing, in particular work by librettist/lyricist Kevin Hammonds and composer Charles Miller. Established in 2006 by Guy James, Martin Fisher and Kevin Oliver Jones, MaKiNG Records focuses on recording new musical theatre and musical theatre performers by working with some of the UK’s top producers and engineers. So how about getting hold of new recordings by Jon Lee, Gemma Atkins, Julie Atherton, Chris Thatcher and Shona White, as well as tuning in to new material from Hammonds and Miller?


Just answer the following question and click Jon Lee plays which character (at certain performances) in the West End production of The Jersey Boys? A: Frankie Howerd


B: Frankie Laine C: Frankie Valli Competition Terms & Conditions 1. Closing date for entries is Friday 26th April 2013. 2. All winners will be notified by email by Wednesday 1st May 2013. 3. Winners will be drawn at random from all correct entries received by the closing date. 4. The editor’s decision is final. 5. No purchase necessary. 6. Competition open to UK residents only.

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Issue 2 – out now! “A right royal feast for musical theatre lovers”

Performer Cynthia Erivo tells us all about her latest role in the musical adaptation of The Color Purple at London’s Menier Chocolate Factory, while Alex Bourne (fresh from his Olivier nomination for Kiss Me, Kate) is making a deal with the devil as he prepares to star in a new production of The Witches of Eastwick at the Watermill Theatre in West Berkshire.

Cynthia Erivo

Talking of Olivier Awards, choreographer Bill Deamer reveals just what it was like to be a 2013 winner, and renowned musical theatre producer David Ian comes onboard to give readers an insight into touring shows across the globe.

Oompa Loompa costumes for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory



Bill Deamer

And if that isn’t enough to whet your appetite, there’s a peek backstage at the West End production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, along with reviews of that very show and all the latest openings on the Fringe, across the UK and globally. Plus Musical Theatre Review continues its support, as always, of developments in new writing.



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