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Production images released from the new version of Blondel at the Union Theatre

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

PRODUCTION images have been released from the Tim Rice musical comedy Blondel. To view them, click here.

Previously Posted: A brand new version of the Tim Rice musical comedy Blondel, which follows the trials and triumphs of an ambitious minstrel in King Richard the Lionheart’s court, will receive its London premiere at the Union Theatre, where it runs from Wednesday, June 21 to Saturday, July 15, 2017.

Blondel has lyrics by Tim Rice, music by Stephen Oliver, book by Tim Rice and Tom Williams, and additional music by Mathew Pritchard.

Tim Rice said: “I’m delighted Blondel is returning to the stage. It was one of the most enjoyable projects of my career, and I’ve always felt Stephen Oliver’s wonderful music deserved a larger audience than it reached back in 1983 when the show first ran. I hope this new production at the terrific Union Theatre will please old fans and find some new ones.”

When King Richard announces that he’s off on a Middle East Crusade to give Saladin a piece of his mind (and sword), the struggling court musician Blondel is forced to stay behind to write songs in praise of the King’s evil – and ambitious – brother, Prince John. Worse still, Blondel is separated from his sweetheart Fiona, who has been press-ganged into the King’s official crusade dry cleaning dept.

However when Richard is captured by the murky – and rather cunning – Duke of Austria (just before the interval), Blondel decides to embark upon a pan-European adventure to save his King, Fiona, and England. An irritable assassin, a proto-Robin-Hood and a quartet of monks all aid and/or hinder Blondel’s efforts to write himself both a place in history and a love song dedicated to Fiona.

Blondel premiered in the West End in 1983 and starred Paul Nicholas. It was the first musical Tim Rice wrote with a composer other than Andrew Lloyd Webber, following hits with Joseph and his Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita.

Tim Rice first had the idea for a show about the Crusades in the early days of his partnership with Lloyd Webber and they initially worked on it together, with the project titled Come Back Richard Your Country Needs You. That work was performed as an oratorio at the City of London School in 1969, and a single of the title song was recorded with Rice as lead vocalist. However their idea for a musical about the last seven days in the life of Jesus Christ took precedence and the idea for one about the Crusades sank into obscurity.

Rice met Stephen Oliver, the distinguished classical and operatic composer, when they both served on a panel at the Sydney Arts Festival in 1977 and in 1982, they began collaborating to bring the idea of a musical about King Richard into a reality. Now titled Blondel, the show centred around Richard’s minstrel, Blondel, who embarks on a quest to find his missing King.

Produced by Aaron Rogers and Sasha Regan for Union Theatre and Donald Rice for Heartaches Limited, this new production will be directed by Sasha Regan, with choreography by Chris Whittaker, musical direction by Simon Holt, design by Ryan Dawson Laight and lighting by Iain Dennis. Music co-ordinator is Pete Hobbs, assistant MD is Oliver George Rew and casting is by Adam Braham Casting.

Casting will be announced in due course.

Award-winning author and lyricist Tim Rice was knighted for services to music in 1994. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, is an inductee into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, is a Disney Legend recipient, and is a fellow of the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.

Stephen Oliver (March 10, 1950 to April 29, 1992) was an English composer best known for his operas, the first of which, The Duchess of Malfi (1971), was staged while he was still at Oxford. Later works include incidental music for the Royal Shakespeare Company (including The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby) and over 40 operas, including Tom Jones (1975), Beauty and the Beast (1984), Lady Jane (1986) and Timon of Athens (1991).

Oliver also wrote music for TV, including several of the BBC’s Shakespeare productions and some chamber and instrumental music. He also composed the score for the 13-hour radio dramatisation of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1981.

Tickets: £25/£22.50; £20 previews. To book, call the box office on 020 7261 9876 or visit www.uniontheatre.biz/.

Times: Tuesday to Saturday at 7.30pm; Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2.30pm.

An extraordinary new interpretation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet continues at the Union Theatre until May 20, 2017.