Oliver! Opens to Sensational Reviews

The Telegraph calls it “a cracking night of tuneful entertainment” and the Daily Mail raves about “this humdinger of a night”.

Cameron Mackintosh’s new staging of Lionel Bart’s masterpiece OLIVER!, one of the most beloved of British musicals, vividly brings to life Dickens’ timeless characters with its ever popular story of the boy who asked for more.

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Mamma Mia! Reviews

“It is 25 years ago to the night since Abba won the Eurovision song contest and it is part of the cheekiness of Mamma Mia! that Waterloo is the one song you keep expecting to hear but never do. Practically every other Abba hit is here. And like the songs, the evening is catchy, enjoyable, melodic but overall a bit bland… Part of the fun is in guessing in which order the songs will pop up and in admiring the ingenuity of the book’s author, Catherine Johnson, in bending the scenario to the lyrics, although even she seems flummoxed by what to do with Supertrooper and Dancing Queen. It’s an immensely good-humoured affair with the feelgood factor of a brief Greek island holiday, and its greatest strength is in sending up its own naffness. “Why have they all turned up? It’s like some horrible trick of fate,’ observes Siobhan McCarthy’s Donna on the arrival of her former lovers. ‘It’s very Greek,’ replies her friend Rosie. It’s pretty good too on the hairdrier- and hairbrush-as-microphone joke. But it is far naffer than it thinks it is, and although Phyllida Lloyd’s production and Mark Thompson’s design provide value-added class, they are slightly at odds with the emotional tug of the piece, which is more seventies disco than nineties cool and which often mistakes the emotional pull of melody for the real thing. It is a rare moment when situation, music and lyric come together…” The Guardian

“…This is no throwback concert or weak-kneed compilation. The lovely surprise of a thoroughly enjoyable new musical with two dozen old Abba songs is a proper story which exploits the jangling, nostalgic score to great effect… The songs of Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus are linked to dramatic scenes and encounters neatly devised by the playwright Catherine Johnson. Phyllida Lloyd’s production is far happier than previous attempts to hijack the pop music of, say, the Kinks, or even Madness, to the musical stage. Much as I quite like Abba’s carefully-crafted, anthemic songs – I’ve discoed bravely to Dancing Queen in my time, like the rest of you – they do have a branded, poppy sameness about them. But we can now relish their calculated melody, up-front beat and surging tingle factor… Miss McCarthy sings her heart out and brings amazing expressive range to the lyrics. A comparatively unknown song such as Slipping Through My Fingers becomes a poignant mother and daughter duet. The time is today, with a shadow of the past flitting across designer Mark Thompson’s white Greek walls and deep blue sky, where a fishing boat named Waterloo lurks nearby. Lisa Stokke and Andrew Langtree are fresh and delightful as the kids on the brink. The nostalgia factor rises in Anthony van Laast’s Mediterranean jive choreography. And watch out for Jenny Galloway and Louise Plowright as Donna’s old friends from the rock era. Those girls not only mean business. They deliver it, no messing.” The Daily Mail

“…What makes the musical – a tacky but ridiculously enjoyable wallow in some of the most mind-bending songs ever recorded – is the cheek with which each number is cued up. An actor only has to say: “Here I go again” or: “I don’t want to talk” and the whole cast is off on yet another Number One record, the audience whooping with recognition even before the orchestra kicks in… Mostly this is camp tosh with terrible jokes… The songs never stop and Catherine Johnson’s book linking them up is quite shameless. Still, it works and Abba fans will go berserk for it. So take a chance on me and go for a laugh.” The Express

“Thank you for the musical. Mamma Mia! is heaven for Abba fans and a bit of fun for everyone… The show does not pretend to be anything other than a collection of the Swedish super group’s old hits. A wedding on a Greek island for a girl who was the product of a holiday romance provides the backdrop. But it is just a flimsy excuse to sing together a selection of songs that topped the charts back in the 70s… Every corny cue for a song was greeted by cheers and applause… The blushing bride to be, who sets out to find which of her mother’s three former lovers is her dad, is sweetly played by Lisa Stokke. Siobhan McCarthy is wonderful as her feisty mum and comes close to stopping the show belting out Winner Takes It All. It is funny and feel-good and keeps its tongue firmly in its cheek. The hits come thick and fast and no frills are necessary… Thank you for the music. Thank you for the musical…” The Mirror

“Even between consenting adults, there are certain predilections to which one does not lightly confess. In my case, a fondness for Shirley Temple’s movies is one such. Now it is joined – herewith vanishes my social life – by the fact that I actually enjoyed Mamma Mia!, the new musical based on the Abba songs of the 1970s. People have been ostracised for less, and many of my heretofore dearest friends will cast stones at me. Still, the charm of Mamma Mia! is not inconsiderable. Not least the music, which has an effusive innocence and open-hearted exuberance almost extinct in the modern musical. Real pop music of this sort is so much more appealing, so much less pretentious, so much more suitable for infectious theatrical entertainment than the tawdry bombast of most Lloyd Webber and all Boublil-Schonberg. Abba’s music (music and lyrics by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus) has certainly been overrated; but – and I speak as one who turned away from pop music in my early teens in 1970 – Mamma Mia! proves that Abba have been underrated, too. Songs like “Dancing Queen” and “Just One Look” burst upon your senses, sweet and instantly sensational. The show’s makers ironise about these Abba songs right, left and centre. Every other time a character starts to sing one of the famous numbers, the timing is so shameless that the audience chortles. But not for long. Even when the staging goes deliberately retro and evokes Abba’s old costumes and makes a Big Number out of something like (say) “Super Trouper”, something big and simple rises through the thick fabric of the music and transcends the archness and campness of the situation… Part of the fun turns out to be the sheer suspense of finding how on earth 22 Abba songs can fit into all this; but nine out of 10 do. Catherine Johnson has given the story just enough emotional depth and dramatic variety to hold the attention, and just enough transparency to suit the songs. And, yes, irony. Admittedly, the most exuberant occur in Act One; and Act Two ends very low-key. But then, like Saturday Night Fever, when the plot is over, the show enters its own 1970s pop nirvana and explodes into one hit reprise after another… As for the staging, its best features are Mark Thompson’s simple and flexible sets, and the central performance of Siobhán McCarthy as Donna, bringing the same ardent naturalness to both singing and her role… Phyllida Lloyd and her choreographer, Anthony van Laast, elicit generally good performances all round. Jenny Galloway and Louise Plowright make much of their roles as Donna’s old girlfriends. You shouldn’t take Mamma Mia! seriously: which is precisely why it proves to be one of the few good musicals on the London stage today.” The Financial Times

“…By the standards, though, of those K-Tel compilation West End musicals, Catherine Johnson’s book does a nifty integration job with an original plot involving a young girl on the verge of mat marriage and her relationship with her mother when she discovers that any one of three men could have fathered her. The real drama, however, is less between the characters on stage than between the audience of fans and the music. A defiantly camp note is struck from the opening announcement: “We’d like to warn people of a nervous disposition that platform boots and white Lycra will be worn in this production.” The show proceeds as though the fans have generously donated the songs to it for the evening and will sit there ready to exult at each deliriously outrageous way the makers engineer the next opportunity for a ditty… The island setting allows for camp underwater dream sequences of a Jacques Cousteau- meets- Esther Williams variety. But there are also moments of heartfelt feeling as when McCarthy helps the daughter dress for her nuptials and sings, in pulsing voice, “Slipping Through My Fingers”, here a lovely lament for the way one’s children continually elude one until they finally leave. Phyllida Lloyd’s handsome production generates a terrific mood of airborne silliness and the songs, a curious mix of the buoyant and the haunting, are genuine golden oldies. Abba is pop’s pithiest palindrome and, whichever way you read it, Mamma Mia! looks like being a hit.” The Independent

“A BRILLIANT NIGHT OUT!
There is a very clever irony about how they’ve worked hit after hit into a hilarious story. I really didn’t realise how much I loved ABBA’s music until I saw this show.” Chris Tarrant, Capital Radio

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Press night for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Much Ado About Nothing, A Christmas Carol

St Stephen’s Hampstead has an impressive list of celebrity patrons who have supported the building’s restoration, including Helena Bonham Carter, Judi Dench, Jude Law, Sam Mendes, Nicholas Parsons, Angela Rippon and Andrew Sachs. Adrian Mitchell, whose adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe will open the season, was a stalwart supporter of the building’s restoration and previous Hampstead resident. A performance during the run will be dedicated to his memory.

PRESS NIGHTS

  • Press night for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is Friday 20 March at 7.30pm
  • Press night for Much Ado About Nothing is Thursday 25 June at 7.30pm
  • Press night for A Christmas Carol is Thursday 10 December at 7.30pm

A CHRISTMAS CAROL Tue 8 Dec 2009 – Sun 3 Jan 2010

On a foggy, freezing Christmas Eve, tight-fisted Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley. To help Scrooge avoid the ghastly fate that awaits him beyond the grave, Marley arranges for him to be visited by three spirits. But can the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come persuade Scrooge to open his heart to the magic of Christmas before the sun rises? Antic Disposition’s magical new musical brings Charles Dickens’ much-loved tale to life, accompanied by a memorable medley of seasonal songs and carols.

Produced by Antic Disposition, A Christmas Carol is directed by Ben Horslen and John Risebero and designed by John Risebero with lighting design by Howard Hudson.

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING Tue 23 June – Sat 19 July 2009

The war may be over, but the battle of the sexes has only just begun. As peace breaks out, dashing soldier Claudio is quick to propose to the beautiful Hero, but their celebrations are soon threatened by the scandalous rumours spread by the wicked Don John. Will confirmed singletons Beatrice and Benedick stop sniping at each other long enough to save the day and perhaps find love themselves? Antic Disposition presents a new production of one of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies, a feast of music, romance and verbal jousting that will delight and entertain absolutely anyone who has ever been in love.

Produced by Antic Disposition, Much Ado About Nothing is directed by Ben Horslen and John Risebero and designed by John Risebero with lighting design by Howard Hudson.

THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE Tue 17 March – Sat 19 April 2009

As the Blitz rages in London, four young children are evacuated to a mysterious country house, where they discover an enchanted wardrobe that leads to an adventure in the frozen world of Narnia. Can the children help the great lion Aslan defeat the evil White Witch and break the spell that has held the land locked in winter for a hundred years? Find out in this magical new production of CS Lewis’ enchanting family adventure.

Produced by Antic Disposition, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is directed by Ben Horslen and John Risebero and designed by John Risebero with lighting design by Howard Hudson. It is adapted from the CS Lewis novel by Adrian Mitchell with an original score composed by Shaun Davey and musical direction by Christopher Peake.

antic Disposition at ST STEPHEN’S London 2009 Season Announcement

St Stephen’s, Hampstead, which has lain derelict for over thirty years, returns triumphantly to life on 17 March 2009 when burgeoning young theatre company Antic Disposition commences an artistic residency and breathes new life into the building. Following its £4 million refurbishment, it will reopen with a Second Chances themed season, comprising The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Much Ado About Nothing and A Christmas Carol.

Following its opening production of the CS Lewis classic The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe from Tuesday 17 March to Saturday 19 April 2009, Antic Disposition will present a brand new production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing from Tuesday 23 June to Saturday 19 July 2009 and a new musical version of Charles Dickens’ perennially popular A Christmas Carol from Tuesday 8 December 2009 to Sunday 3 January 2010.

SPOONFUL OF STILES & DREWE GALA LIVES ON IN LIVE CD RECORDING RELEASED

Following its sell-out success as a gala West End concert in July, A Spoonful of Stiles & Drewe will live on in the form of a live highlights recording, released on CD today, Monday 8 December 2008.

It features Olivier Award winners Stiles & Drewe themselves, fellow Olivier recipients Joanna Riding, Clive Rowe and Leanne Jones, pop star Gareth Gates and musical theatre stars Julie Atherton, Helena Blackman, Daniel Boys, Richard Dempsey, James Gillan, Alison Jiear, Shona Lindsay, Claire Moore, Lisa O’Hare, Caroline Sheen, Scarlett Strallen, Rebecca Thornhill and Oliver Tompsett.

Celebrating 25 years of songwriting by composer George Stiles and lyricist Anthony Drewe, A Spoonful of Stiles & Drewe includes a wealth of material from their shows Honk!, Just So, Peter Pan and Mary Poppins, as well as previously unrecorded material and six exclusive tracks from their upcoming show, Soho Cinders, an hilarious twist on the classic fairytale, in which Cinderella is running for his Prince while his Prince is running for Mayor of London.

A Spoonful of Stiles & Drewe was produced by Neil Eckersley and Paul Spicer for Speckulation Entertainment with creative direction by Paul Spicer, musical supervision by George Stiles and artistic supervision by Anthony Drewe. Recorded live at Her Majesty’s Theatre on Sunday 6 July 2008, the recording is released by Speckulation Entertainment and produced by George Stiles.

Thanks to generosity of all involved in A Spoonful of Stiles & Drewe, all profits from the recording will go to Mercury Musical Developments, a British charity nurturing new musical theatre writing.

For further details and to purchase the CD, visit www.spoonfulcd.com or www.dresscircle.co.uk

Track Listing

1. Flowers for a King (Helena Blackman & Ensemble)

2. There’s No Harm in Asking (Richard Dempsey & Clive Rowe)

3. Wait a Bit (Julie Atherton)

4. Joy of Motherhood (Joanna Riding, Claire Moore & Rebecca Thornhill)

5. Never Land (James Gillan, Helena Blackman & Ensemble)

6. There’s Always Tomorrow (James Gillan & Ensemble)

7. Practically Perfect (Lisa O’Hare, Scarlett Strallen & Caroline Sheen)

8. Magic Fingers (Joanna Riding, Claire Moore, Shona Lindsay & Richard Dempsey)

9. Carrying a Torch (Joanna Riding)

10. A Little Bit of Nothing (George Stiles & Anthony Drewe)

11. Diva (Alison Jiear)

12. Wishing for the Normal (Leanne Jones & Gareth Gates)

13. I’m So Over Men (Joanna Riding & Claire Moore)

14. Gypsies of the Ether (Gareth Gates & Oliver Tompsett)

15. It’s Hard to Tell (Gareth Gates, Leanne Jones & Ensemble)

16. They Don’t Make Glass Slippers (Gareth Gates)

17. You Shall Go to the Ball (Company)

18. Does the Moment Ever Come? (George Stiles & Anthony Drewe

SUNSET BOULEVARD returns to the West End

Norma Desmond was the greatest silent movie star of them all, until the advent of the talkies made her a has-been. Joe Gillis was a struggling screenwriter until, by chance, he pulled his car into the driveway of 10086 Sunset Boulevard, home to the reclusive Miss Desmond. This chance encounter would change their lives, forever.

Craig Revel Horwood’s poignant, compelling and inventive new production sold out prior to the opening of its run at the Watermill Theatre, Newbury this summer and has now transferred to the West End’s intimate Comedy Theatre.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stunning musical adaptation of Billy Wilder’s classic 1950 film captures the haunting world of the Golden Age of Hollywood. With book and lyrics by the Oscar-winning partnership of Don Black (Born Free, Diamonds are Forever) and Christopher Hampton (Les Liaisons Dangereuses and Atonement).

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Lee Mead hands his dreamcoat to Gareth Gates

From 9 February 2009, Gareth Gates will make his West End stage debut starring as Joseph in the smash hit production of the Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Adelphi Theatre in London. Lee Mead leaves the show on Saturday 10 January.

Gareth Gates became Head Chorister at Bradford Cathedral when he was eleven years old, and he sang for the Queen at the age of 13.  Gareth was runner-up in the first ever Pop Idol in 2002.  He has since had four number one singles and sold 3.5 million records to date.  Earlier this year, Gareth appeared in ITV1’s Dancing on Ice and went on to participate in the Dancing on Ice UK Tour.  More recently, he performed in A Spoonful of Stiles & Drewe, a charity gala celebrating the 25-year writing partnership of George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.  Gareth is about to open in Cinderella at the Wimbledon Theatre, starring as Prince Charming opposite Joanna Page and Alistair McGowan.

Gareth says of his West End debut: “I have a lot to thank Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for as it is the reason I first started singing, after being chosen to play the lead in a school production when I was eight years old. Ever since then it’s been a dream of mine to appear in a West End musical. I am really honoured to be appearing at the Adelphi, stepping into that famous coat and really can’t wait to get stuck in!”

With lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, this new staging of the record-breaking 1990’s London Palladium production, which was directed by Steven Pimlott, is designed by Mark Thompson and choreographed by Anthony Van Laast.  This colourful retelling of the biblical story of dreamboat Joseph and his uncanny abilities and that designer coat sings out to young and old alike, with a score which is wall-to-wall hits, including “Close Every Door” and “Any Dream Will Do”.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat opened at the Adelphi Theatre on 17 July 2007 to rave reviews and sell-out business. (Sourced by www.josephthemusical.com)

Book Tickets for Joseph