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The Santa Claus Science Experiment - Bloomsbury Theatre

The Santa Claus Science Experiment

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

THE SANTA Claus Science Experiment, an alternative panto that puts the science back into Christmas, runs at Bloomsbury Theatre from Monday, December 15 to Sunday, December 21, 2014.

Lapland is the home of Christmas, and laps. And lapdogs and laptops. But chaos strikes when elf magic is banned from the workshop by the Elf & Safety Inspector. How can Christmas happen without magic? Can Santa, his elves and some scientists save the day using science?

Written by Howard Read (CBBC’s Little Howard’s Big Question) and Tiernan Douieb (Comedy Club 4 Kids), The Santa Claus Science Experiment is directed by Jon Spooner.

Starring comedy elves Rich Sandling, Jo Neary, Bec Hill and Little Howard, this show is for 6 – 99 year olds who like science, jokes and Christmas.

Tickets: £15 (children), £17.50 (adults), except schools shows (December 15 – 17). To book, call the box office on 020 3108 1000 or visit www.thebloomsbury.com/.

Times: December 15 at 1:30pm; December 16 and 17 at 10.30am; December 18 and 19 at 7.30pm; and December 20 and 21 at 2.30pm.

The Cat in the Hat - Pleasance Islington

The Cat in the Hat

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

FOLLOWING a sell-out run at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the National Theatre’s acclaimed stage adaptation of Dr Seuss’s The Cat In The Hat returns to London for the festive season. A brand new production, it runs at the Pleasance Theatre from Monday, December 8, 2014 to Sunday, January 4, 2015.

From the moment his tall, red-and-white-striped hat appears around the door, Sally and her brother know that the cat in the hat is the funniest, most mischievous cat they have ever met. With the trickiest of tricks and craziest of ideas, he turns a rainy afternoon into an amazing adventure. But what will mum find when she gets home?

Based on the much-loved book by Dr Seuss, The Cat in the Hat is a lively and engaging first theatre experience for young children aged 3+.

Dr Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat, based on the book by Dr. Seuss, was originally produced in 2009 by the National Theatre of Great Britain, and adapted and originally directed by Katie Mitchell.

Presented through special arrangement with Josef Weinberger Plays Ltd on behalf of Music Theatre International (MTI), this new production is directed by Lillie Collier, designed by David Shields and produced by Paul Taylor-Mills Ltd.

Tickets: £7 – £12.50 (Family ticket £40). To book, call the box office on 020 7609 1800 or visit www.pleasance.co.uk/.

Times: 08/12 – 12/12 and 16/12 – 19/12, 10.30am and 1.30pm; 13/12 – 14/12 and 20/12 – 04/01, 11am and 2pm.

Streaming, written and directed by Jon Welch, runs at the Pleasance Theatre from November 11 to November 29, 2014.

Christmas 2014 at the Lyric Hammersmith

Lyric Hammersmith

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

FOLLOWING last year’s success, the Lyric Hammersmith is staging two productions for the festive season. Lyric pantomime returns to the Main House with Dick Whittington and his Cat and, for the under 6s, family favourite Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas flies back to the Lyric Studio.

Dick Whittington and his Cat runs from November 22, 2014 to January 3, 2015, and is suitable for ages 6+.

Written by award-winning playwright Tom Wells (Jumpers for Goalposts, The Kitchen Sink) and directed by Dan Herd, Dick Whittington and his Cat reunites the writer-director team from last year’s box office hit Jack and the Beanstalk.

Young Dick Whittington has set off from Hull in order to find his fortune in London but, with the evil Queen Rat controlling the city, Dick must join forces with his reluctant sidekick Cat and set off on a quest to defeat her – a quest that takes him from Hammersmith to the North Pole and back.

Actor Stewart Wright joins the cast as Baps, the fun-loving Cook. Wright, originally from Hammersmith, most recently appeared in Wild Oats (Bristol Old Vic), Swallows and Amazons (Bristol Old Vic and Vaudeville Theatre) and Does My Society Look Big In This (Bristol Old Vic). On screen, he has appeared in Spooks, Bonkers, Love Soup and Love and Marriage (TV); Incendiary, A Good Year and Bridget Jones Diary (film).

This Christmas, Wright will also be appearing as Uncle Henry in Nativity 3: Dude Where’s My Donkey.

The cast of Dick Whittington and his Cat also includes Delroy Atkinson, Aretha Ayer, Tiffany Graves, Dermot Canavan, Rebecca Craven and Andy Rush.

Dick Whittington and his Cat has set design by Oliver Townsend, costume design by Katie Lias, lighting by Tim Deiling, sound by Nick Manning and choreography by Lainie Baird. Composer and arranger is James Fortune and associate director is Tatiana Hennessy.

Tickets: £15 – £35; Under 16s – £15 (excluding premium seats); Family tickets – £70 (for four people, must include two people under 16. Strictly limited availability).

Times: Evenings at 5pm, 6pm and 7pm. Matinees at 10am, 11am, 1pm, 1.30pm, 2pm and 3pm.

Accessible performances: Open Captioned on Sunday, December 14 at 5pm; Audio Described on Thursday, December 18 at 7pm; and BSL Interpreted on Tuesday, December 30 at 2pm.

Pins and Needles adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas runs from November 14 to December 31, 2014.

Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas follows Santa as he awakes from a dream of sun, sea and sand only to find it is the busiest day of the year: Christmas Eve. This timeless festive story bursts into life with live music, playful puppets and a masterfully magical set.

The cast includes Barry McCarthy, who originated the role of Father Christmas in 2012, as part of a team of festive performers. McCarthy’s other stage credits include Little Revolution and King Lear (Almeida Theatre) and Flustered (Southwark Playhouse).

Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas is directed by Emma Earle and designed by Zoe Squire, with lighting by George Ogilvie and music and sound by Lucy Rivers. Puppet designer and maker is Max Humphries and associate director is Eva Sampson.

Tickets: £8 children, £10 adults.

Times: various (9.30am – 6.30pm), see website for full schedule.

For more information or to book either production, call 020 8741 6850 or visit www.lyric.co.uk/.

Also at the Lyric Hammersmith: the UK’s first professional stage production of Bugsy Malone in over a decade (April 11 to August 1, 2015).

Sheltered - Tabard Theatre

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

AGAINST the Grain Theatre Company is presenting the world premiere of Sheltered, Greg A. Smith’s black adult comedy for the festive season, at the Tabard Theatre, where it runs from November 18 to December 6, 2014.

London: Christmas Day. Middle class couple Harry and Tamsin invite young homeless man Rory into their home to share Christmas with them and their daughter, Jenna. Presents are opened; parlour games played; parsnips and sprouts prepared. However, it soon becomes obvious that Rory is no typical rough sleeper.

And when Harry’s arch-nemesis Donald and his wife Marissa arrive accompanied by their own homeless guest, what initially appeared to be an act of faintly patronising charity reveals itself as something much less festive, but much more exciting – and dangerous. No-one present will escape unscathed and unchanged from the ultimate disastrous family Christmas.

This dark satire about the homeless and the heartless is packed with action, thrills and laughs.

Produced by Richard Ings, Sheltered is directed by Stuart Watson, whose credits include The Woodsman (Old Red Lion Theatre), The Collector (Jermyn Street Theatre), Anthology (Etcetera Theatre) and Rock ‘n’ Roll, Glengarry Glen Ross and Knives in Hens (Questors Theatre).

Artistic Director of Putney Arts Theatre from 2010-13, Watson directed Love and Information, Much Ado About Nothing, On the Razzle, Life x 3, Private Fears in Public Places, Festen, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Revenger’s Tragedy, Arms and the Man, Blue/Orange, Dogg’s Hamlet Cahoot’s Macbeth, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Sauce for the Goose and The Country Wife.

Although Sheltered is Greg A. Smith’s full-length theatre debut, his short plays include Just Right (Compass Theatre/Etcetera Theatre); Doubt (Rich Mix); Into the Wild; and Beggars Banquet (Questors Theatre). He also co-wrote Worst Case Scenario for JCBC Films and spent four years writing and performing with the sketch comedy group The Errors of Comedy, including shows at the Etcetera Theatre for Camden Fringe Festival.

Sheltered has lighting by Ben Sandford. The cast has yet to be announced.

Tickets: £16, £14 concessions. Previews (November 18 – 20): all tickets £10. To book, visit www.tabardweb.co.uk/sheltered.htm.

Time: Tuesday to Saturday at 7:30pm.

Regent's Park Open Air Theatre - 2015 season

Season preview

REGENT’S Park Open Air Theatre has announced its programme for 2015 and JM Barrie’s original stage play of Peter Pan will open the season, running from May 15 to June 14, 2015.

Imagination takes flight in this darkly comic tale, yet in an ever changing world, and without a mother’s love, what place is there for the boy who wouldn’t grow up?

Peter Pan will be co-directed by Timothy Sheader and Liam Steel, who create a Never Land where danger stalks dreams and adventure breeds mischief.

Peter Pan is followed – from June 19 to July 11 – by Matthew Dunster’s new production of Chekhov’s The Seagull in a new version by Torben Betts.

The first of Chekhov’s great works is celebrated as one of the most important plays of the nineteenth century.

As guests assemble at a country house for the staging of an avant-garde open air play, artistic temperaments ignite a more entertaining drama behind the scenes, with romantic jealousies, self-doubt and the ruthless pursuit of happiness confusing lives, loves and literature.

Next comes Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Reuniting the team behind 2013’s award-winning production of The Sound of Music, it runs from July 16 to August 29.

When, in 1850 Oregon, a backwoodsman brings a wife home to his farm, his six brothers decide that they want to get married too. It includes the musical numbers Bless Your Beautiful Hide, Goin’ Courtin, Wonderful, Wonderful Day, and the dance spectacular, Barn Dance.

Based on the 1954 film and The Sobbin’ Women by Stephen Vincent Benet, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers will be directed by Rachel Kavanaugh, with set and costume design by Peter McKintosh and choreography by Alistair David.

The season concludes with the return of Timothy Sheader’s 2011 critically acclaimed production of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Adapted by Nigel Williams, it runs from September 3 to September 12, prior to a major UK tour.

With a group of schoolboys stranded on a desert island, what starts as an adventure becomes a struggle for survival as superstition and immorality sees the community slide into a darkly sinister world.

Public booking for the season opens on December 9, 2014.

For more information visit www.openairtheatre.com/.

Also next year, Timothy Sheader’s acclaimed production of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird returns to London – to the Barbican, where it runs from June 24 to July 25, 2015. Tony award-winning American actor Robert Sean Leonard will reprise the role of Atticus Finch.

West End Recast returns

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

FOLLOWING its success in March, West End Recast is returning for a second night – on Sunday, November 9, 2014 – this time at the Phoenix Theatre.

Some of the West End’s finest stars of musical theatre will be performing songs from roles they have always wanted to sing but will never be cast in.

Perhaps they are too old or too young, the wrong sex or not the right race, too blonde or not quite the right shape. However, West End Recast has no boundaries! They can be whoever they want and sing what they want. The sopranos can sing bass, the boys can be girls and juniors can be seniors…

Taking part will Sabrina Aloueche, Nathan Amzi, Julie Atherton, Matthew Barrow, Gina Beck, Daniel Boys, Rebecca Brewer, Cynthia Erivo, Fra Fee, Nick Holder, Cassidy Janson, Leon Lopez, Michael Matus, Jon Robyns, Katie Rowley Jones, Gareth Snook and Jill Winternitz.

They will be presenting unique renditions of songs from Dreamgirls, Sweeney Todd, Gypsy, Little Shop of Horrors, Grease, Chicago, Oliver, Memphis, Matilda, RENT, Miss Saigon and many, many more.

West End Recast will be directed by Adam Lenson (Ordinary Days, Little Fish and Associate Director on Merrily We Roll Along, West End) and have musical supervision and arrangements by Daniel A. Weiss (Anthony Rapp – Without You, Assistant MD/Associate Conductor for the original Broadway company of RENT).

Once The Musical continues at the Phoenix Theatre until March 21, 2015.

Coolatully - Finborough Theatre

Coolatully

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

THE FINBOROUGH Theatre’s new season of twenty premieres opens with the world premiere of the winner of this year’s Papatango New Writing Prize, Fiona Doyle’s Coolatully, which runs from October 28 to November 22, 2014.

Life isn’t easy Kilian Óg. It tests us. Always has, always will. And not everyone gets a pass. Leave Coolatully boy. Before it’s too late.

Coolatully shines a light on modern rural Ireland, asking whether a generation can be saved.

Kilian was once Coolatully’s pride and joy and their champion on the hurling field. Now the village can’t muster a team, the country’s shutting down, and his girlfriend Eilish wants to leave for a new life across the ocean. As Irish history repeats itself, Kilian must confront the demons of the past and decide whether to stay or go forever.

David Mercatali (Anders Lustgarten’s Black Jesus, Finborough Theatre) directs a cast that includes Kerr Logan, Yolanda Kettle, Eric Richard and Charlie de Bromhead.

Winning playwright Fiona Doyle lives in County Kerry, Ireland and Coolatully is her first full production.

Previous winners of the Papatango New Writing Prize include Dominic Mitchell, who in 2014 won a BAFTA for his BBC series In The Flesh.

Since 2011, the Papatango New Writing Prize has been in association with the Finborough Theatre where winners have included Dawn King’s Foxfinder, which was one of The Independent’s Top 5 Plays of the Year and won the OffWestEnd Award for Most Promising Playwright. King went on to win a Pearson Bursary as Playwright in Residence at the Finborough Theatre and, last year, received the National Theatre Foundation Playwright Award for Foxfinder, which has transferred to Sweden, Greece, Germany, Iceland, the USA and Australia.

Luke Owen, winner in 2013 for Unscorched, was an unrepresented copy-writer with no professional experience but who is now represented by United Agents with the prospect of a strong career ahead of him. Louise Monaghan, the writer of the 2012 winning play, Pack, was commissioned by the BBC, while the runner-up in 2012, Tom Morton-Smith, will see his next play Oppenheimer premiere with the Royal Shakespeare Company this summer.

Coolatully is designed by Max Dorey, with lighting by Christopher Nairne and sound by Max Pappenheim.

For more information or to book, call the box office on 0844 847 1652 or visit www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk/.

Yarico - London Theatre Workshop

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

YARICO Productions is presenting the world premiere of a new musical at Chelsea’s new bijou theatre, London Theatre Workshop. Billed as a love story that changed the course of history, Yarico runs from Tuesday, February 17 to Saturday, March 14, 2015.

With music by James McConnell, lyrics by Paul Leigh and book by Carl Miller, Yarico is a powerful, epic musical about forbidden love, betrayal and redemption, and is based on a true story that fired the world’s imagination and contributed to the social movement against the slave trade.

Yarico, an Amerindian beauty, is a young woman with great dreams and a fierce, independent spirit. When Inkle, the third son of a British merchant is shipwrecked on her island, he faces certain death at the hands of the islanders. In a courageous act, Yarico intervenes and saves him from his fate, marking the beginning of an extraordinary love story, which ultimately takes them to the island of Barbados.

The story of Yarico was first recorded by Richard Ligon in his book, True and Exact History of the Island of Barbados, published in 1657. On hearing her story, Ligon wrote: “And so poor Yarico for her love, lost her liberty.”

Bringing the story of Yarico to the stage has been a 10-year labour of love for producers John Kidd and his daughter Jodie, the model and UK TV presenter, who both have strong connections to Barbados, where they have a family home.

In a move to bring this forgotten story to a modern audience, John and Jodie have commissioned Yarico, which is based on the known facts of the original story.

James McConnell (music) won the 1987 Vivian Ellis Prize for young writers for the musical stage (with Kit Hesketh Harvey) for his first musical, Orlando. Since then, he has written extensively for the theatre, including the musicals Killing Rasputin (Bridewell Theatre), The Canterville Ghost (Britten Theatre), Inkle and Yarico in Concert (Edinburgh Festival, Crampton Theatre, Washington DC), Doctor Livingstone, I Presume… (Riverside Studios) and New Edna, The Millennial Musical (UK tour and West End) starring Dame Edna Everage. He has also composed the scores for over 100 television documentaries and dramas and two feature films.

Paul Leigh (lyrics) studied under Stephen Sondheim in Oxford in 1990. His other work includes with George Stiles, Moll Flanders (numerous UK productions, including Lyric Hammersmith and Theatre Royal York; winner of Best Musical, Regional Theatre Awards, for York production), Tom Jones (Theatre Royal York); The Three Musketeers (major prize at the first Musical of the Year competition in Aarhus; European premiere, St Gallen, 1999; US premiere, San Jose, 2001; subsequent productions in Boston, Chicago, and the Rose Theatre, Kingston); with James McConnell, Inkle and Yarico in Concert (Holders Season, Barbados; 1999 Edinburgh Festival) and Dr Livingstone, I Presume… (Riverside Studios). Leigh is a founder member of Mercury Musical Developments.

Carl Miller (book) adapted Erich Kästner’s Emil and the Detectives for the National Theatre last Christmas. His mini-opera Precipitation with music by Helen Chadwick was part of this summer’s Tête-à-Tête festival, and his adaptation of Keith Gray’s Ostrich Boys opens at the National Theatre Company of Korea in Seoul this November. Miller has worked at theatres across the country, including the Royal Court, Birmingham Rep and the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds. At Bury St Edmunds, he advised on the exploration of the Georgian theatre repertoire – which is where he first came across Colman and Arnold’s 1787 version of Inkle and Yarico.

Cast and creatives for Yarico have still to be announced.

For more information visit www.facebook.com/yaricothemusical.

Tickets: £25, £12 concessions – available from the box office on 01202 045659 or online at londontheatreworkshop.co.uk/.

Times: Tuesday to Saturday at 7.30pm; Saturday matinee at 2.30pm.

London Theatre Workshop, 65 New Kings Road, above the Eel Brook Public House, London, SW6 4SG

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown - further casting

Willemijn Verkaik

Casting news

FURTHER casting has been announced for Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, which opens for a limited 20 week run at The Playhouse Theatre on January 12, 2015, following preview performances from December 16, 2014.

Joining previously announced Tamsin Greig, Haydn Gwynne, Jérôme Pradon and Anna Skellern are Ricardo Afonso (as the Taxi Driver), Haydn Oakley (Carlos) and Willemijn Verkaik (Paulina).

They in turn are joined by Marianne Benedict, Holly James, Michael Matus, Rebecca McKinnis (Christina), Sarah Moyle (Pepa’s Concierge), Alastair Natkiel, Nuno Queimado and Dale Rapley.

Portuguese actor Ricardo Afonso’s previous theatre credits include Top Hat (Aldwych Theatre), Thriller Live (Lyric Theatre), From Hackney to Hollywood: The Don Black Songbook UK Tour, Irving Berlin: From Rags to Ritzes (Royal Festival Hall) and the lead vocalist on the Strictly Come Dancing – The Professionals tour.

Afonso’s voice over credits include Shrek (DreamWorks), and Beauty and the Beast and 102 Dalmatians (Disney). He has also appeared on The Voice (BBC) as part of Team Danny.

Haydn Oakley most recently played Gilbert Chilvers in the UK tour of Betty Blue Eyes. His extensive theatre credits also include The Book of Mormon (Prince of Wales Theatre), Wonderful Town (2012 UK Tour), Lend Me A Tenor (Gielgud Theatre), Passion (Donmar Warehouse), Spamalot (Palace Theatre), Wicked (Apollo Victoria Theatre) and We Will Rock You (Dominion Theatre). He has also appeared in the films A Family Affair and Knock Knock.

Willemijn Verkaik is from the Netherlands and is best known for her role as Elphaba in the musical Wicked, which she has performed in London, on Broadway, and in Germany and Holland. Her other roles include Scaramouche and Killer Queen in We Will Rock You, Amneris in Aida (Da Capo Award for ‘Best Musical Performer’) and the title role in Michael Kunze and Sylvester Levay’s musical Elisabeth.

Verkaik has made numerous concert and television appearances across Europe and can be heard on two Scott Alan albums, Live and What I Wanna Be When I Grow Up. Most recently, she can be heard as the voice of Queen Elsa in the German and Dutch versions of Disney’s Frozen.

Rebecca McKinnis’ theatre credits include A Small Family Business (National Theatre), Viva Forever (Piccadilly Theatre), Les Miserables (25th Anniversary Tour), We Will Rock You (Dominion Theatre), Fat Pig (Trafalgar Studios), Susannah Townley in Three Hours After Marriage (Union Theatre), Mamma Mia! (Prince of Wales) and The Taming of the Shrew (Changeling Theatre Company).

Although Sarah Moyle is probably best known for her roles of Valeria Pitman in Doctors and Kimberley in Extras, she has also appeared on television in Mount Pleasant, WPC 56, Threesome, White Van Man and Born and Bred. Her numerous stage credits include She Stoops to Conquer (National Theatre), Jerusalem (Royal Court and Apollo Theatre), An Inspector Calls (Aldwych Theatre) and Lust (Haymarket).

Moyle’s film work includes The Baseline and The Gunman alongside Sean Penn and Javier Bardem which will be released in 2015.

David Yazbek and Jeffrey Lane’s new musical adaptation of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown captures the humour, colour and chaos of Pedro Almodóvar’s Oscar-nominated film of the same name.

On the streets of Madrid, a city pulsing with art, industry and passion, Pepa’s world is unravelling. Her lover leaves her. And then she meets his wife. And his son. And his new girlfriend. Meanwhile, Pepa’s best friend is tangled up in her own romantic crisis with a suspected criminal, leaving Pepa with only the taxi driver to help navigate the Gran Vía ahead.

Read more about Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.

Wicked - Jennifer DiNoia prepares for her W/E debut

Jennifer DiNoia (Elphaba) – photographer Matt Crockett.

Casting news

FROM Monday, October 27, 2014, the role of Elphaba will be played by Jennifer DiNoia, who will be making her West End debut in Wicked.

DiNoia* has enjoyed a remarkable eight year association with Wicked in North America and internationally. She joins the West End production for a strictly limited 14 week engagement – until Saturday, January 31, 2015.

Then, from February 2, 2015, the role of Elphaba will be played by Emma Hatton.

From Monday, October 27, 2014, Wicked will also star Savannah Stevenson (as Glinda), Jeremy Taylor (Fiyero), Liza Sadovy (Madame Morrible), Martyn Ellis (The Wizard), Philip Childs (Doctor Dillamond), Sam Lupton (Boq), Katie Rowley Jones (Nessarose), Emma Hatton (Standby Elphaba) and Sophie Linder-Lee (Standby Glinda).

Based on the novel by Gregory Maguire that ingeniously re-imagined the stories and characters created by L. Frank Baum in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Wicked tells the incredible untold story of an unlikely but profound friendship between two sorcery students. Their extraordinary adventures in Oz will ultimately see them fulfil their destinies as Glinda The Good and the Wicked Witch of the West.

*DiNoia is appearing with the support of UK Equity, incorporating the Variety Artistes’ Federation, pursuant to an exchange program between American Equity and UK Equity.

Extra shows added: December 22, 23, 29 and 30, 2014; February 19; April 9; August 20 and 27; and October 29, 2015, all at 2.30pm.

Wicked is currently booking at the Apollo Victoria Theatre until November 7, 2015.