The 39 Steps
There have been many adaptations of John Buchan’s classic thriller ‘The 39 Steps’ – from Orson Welles’s radio version to Alfred Hitchcock’s famous film – but none has presented the story with the same comedic energy as the stage show. With four actors playing 130 characters over the course of 100 madcap minutes, ‘The 39 Steps’ has been a vibrant addition to the West End since its debut performance seven years ago. Time Out caught up with the crazed cast to find out what makes this show tick.
With its heady mix of nostalgia, sass and dance-on-your-seat R&B bangers, the stage version of 1992 film 'The Bodyguard' had 'guilty pleasure' written all over it from the off. Now in its third year, the show recently underwent its first major cast change, with soul star Beverly Knight stepping into the role of gutsy singer Rachel Marron, and former 'Casualty' man Tristan Gemmill playing Frank Farmer, her titular protector.
The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time
Marianne Elliott’s adaptation of Mark Haddon’s smash-hit novel matched the record haul for Olivier Awards in 2013, picking up seven gongs including Best New Play. Unfortunate events at the Apollo theatre may have brought an untimely end to the show’s West End run, but, as Elliott reveals in the video above, the future is bright for ‘The Curious Incident’.
Disney's The Lion King
Director Julie Taymor’s ‘The Lion King’ is now in its fourteenth year at the Lyceum Theatre and is still one of the West End’s most popular shows. This has much to do with the heart-rending story of Simba, made famous by the 1994 Disney animation, and the famous score penned by Elton John and Tim Rice. Head of production Richard Oriel, who has worked on the show since its arrival in London, takes Time Out on a backstage safari, introducing us to some of the team responsible for the costumes and innovative puppetry techniques that bring the savannah to the stage in such breathtaking fashion.
‘Jersey Boys’ landed in London to a fanfare of critical acclaim and an Olivier Award for Best New Musical in 2008. The Broadway smash, charting the rise and fall of Frankie Valli And The Four Seasons, has maintained its popularity, and looks set to be a West End fixture for many years to come. Jon Boydon, who plays Jersey Boy Tommy De Vito, introduces Time Out to the people, the props and the instruments that give ‘Jersey Boys’ its distinctive look and sound. The show plays at the Prince Edward Theatre until March 9 2014, before moving to the Piccadilly Theatre from March 15.
Now the longest-running musical in the West End, Cameron Mackintosh’s tale of revolution and romance in nineteenth-century France didn’t always look like it had legs. Critics gave the show a kicking when it arrived in London in 1985, but Les Mis was a hit with audiences regardless. It’s evolved a bit since then, naturally, with a recent orchestral overhaul bringing the sound of the show screaming into the twenty-first century. It’s tweaks like this that keep the the show’s legion of fans hooked, and likely played a part in its scooping of the Audience Award at the Oliviers in 2012.
A young woman trying to determine the identity of her father through the medium of Abba songs isn’t the most obvious storyline for a West End musical. Yet somehow ‘Mamma Mia!’ has become one of the world’s best-loved shows, having been performed everywhere from Sao Paulo to Shanghai, Manila to Mexico City, in 14 different languages. The production is currently whipping audiences into a Swedish pop-fuelled frenzy at the Novello Theatre. Charlotte Wakefield, who recently played the role of Sophie (now played by Emma Crossley) sneaked Time Out into the backstage area to talk us through some of the flamboyant costumes and significant props.
Matilda – The Musical
To say that the stage adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Matilda has been well received is something of an understatement – after making its debut in 2011, the musical scooped a record-breaking seven gongs at 2012’s Olivier Awards. This has much to do with the Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin’s script and score, as well as some innovative stage design and props. But, as with Dahl’s original novel, ‘Matilda the Musical’ has proved a hit thanks to its wonderful characters – from child genius Matilda herself, to the villainous Miss Trunchbull. Here the boorish Mrs Wormwood – aka the lovely actress Kay Murphy – takes us on a backstage tour through the magical world of 'Matilda'. We see her character's extortionate, lurid blonde wig and she explains a little of what goes on behind the scenes at the West End's most mischievous show.
The legendary Agatha Christie, playwright behind ‘The Mousetrap’, thought that her murder mystery would only run for a few months. How wrong she was. After making its West End debut in 1952, the play celebrated its 250,000th performance in early 2013, and is still going strong. We speak to two ladies who have played the piece’s Miss Casewell in different decades: Denise Silvey, who last took the stage in the play’s forty-third and fiftieth years, and the current Miss Casewell, Natasha Rickman (whose mother, Miranda Bell, also played the part in the thirty-third year of the production). Together, they give Time Out an exclusive insight into the timeless appeal of the world's longest-running theatre show.
The Phantom Of The Opera
There are few West End productions as romantic and mesmerising as Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'The Phantom of the Opera'. Having spent almost three decades at Her Majesty’s Theatre, 'Phantom' is the world's second longest-running musical (after 'Les Misérables') and has played over 11,000 performances since it premiered in 1986. Marcus Lovett, who played the Phantom before international leading man Gerónimo Rauch joined the show, smuggles Time Out backstage, taking us on a tour through his dressing room and key pieces of the set, before donning the iconic Phantom costume and heading to the stage.
Banging on bin lids was once a pastime of antisocial dustmen. Now it’s the central theme of one of the West End’s longest-running and most successful shows. Of course, ‘Stomp’ is so much more than crashing about with waste receptacles – the show is an innovative, vibrant combination of choreography, percussion and physical comedy, which has been performed in theatres across the world, as well as events such as President Clinton’s millennium celebrations and the 2012 Olympic Closing Ceremony. The boys from ‘Stomp’ are good enough to demonstrate to Time Out just how to get the most out of a broom cupboard with an impromptu performance.
The legacy of the Jackson 5 and the solo career of the late Michael Jackson are wonderfully captured in this slick musical, currently running at the aptly named Lyric theatre. At a behind-the-scenes exclusive, resident director Brit Quentin introduces Time Out to two of the show’s Michaels – youngster Kyle Johnson and leading man David Jordan – who talk about the challenges of playing the King of Pop. And, of course, no trip to ‘Thriller Live’ would be complete without a quick lesson in the moonwalk.
Since it was first performed at the National Theatre in 2007, ‘War Horse’ has become a national stage treasure. Based on Michael Morpurgo’s novel, the adapted stage play captures the story’s emotive themes, as well as utilising groundbreaking puppetry techniques. Time Out saddles up for a behind-the-scenes tour with Luke Jerdy, who plays plucky Devonshire lad Albert, for a closer look at the costumes and to meet Curtis Jordan, Owain Gwynn and Ivan Thorley who play the ‘head’, ‘heart’ and ‘hind’ of the play’s equine protagonist, Joey.
We Will Rock You
In an age where the crooning of One Direction dominates the airwaves, the dystopian future of ‘We Will Rock You’, where music has been reduced to brain-numbing, manufactured rubbish, isn’t perhaps quite as absurd as it should be. Luckily for audiences of Ben Elton’s musical extravaganza, Galileo and co are on hand to revive the soul of rock ’n’ roll, simply by belting out a selection of Queen’s greatest hits. But there’s more to ‘We Will Rock You’ than a terrific soundtrack, as Time Out discovers when renowned choreographer Arlene Phillips takes us deep into the Dominion Theatre to play with some of the heavy-duty gadgetry that makes the show so unique.
Ever wondered what the Wicked Witch of the West and the Good Witch of the North got up to before Dorothy started trotting around Oz in her ruby slippers? The story of ‘Wicked’, the stage adaptation of Gregory Maguire's acclaimed 1995 novel tells the tale of Elphaba and Glinda in their formative years, before becoming the witches we all know and love in ‘The Wizard of Oz’. Time Out watches Louise Dearman get ‘greened up’ in her dressing room to become Elphaba, then meet key cast members Gina Beck (Glinda) and Ben Freeman (Fiyero), who tell us a little more about one of the West End’s most magical productions.
The Woman in Black
We’ve all been scared silly by the horror classics of the silver screen, but it’s fair to say that stage productions rarely have a reputation for striking fear into the hearts of audiences. This all changed when Stephen Mallatratt’s ‘The Woman in Black’ ghosted on to to the scene in 1987: it has terrifying those brave enough to buy tickets ever since. The two current leads, Adam Best and Ken Drury take Time Out on a spooky tour behind the scenes of the world-renowned production and explain how – with just two cast members, a bare-bones set and no special effects – they conjure up a truly terrifying theatre experience.