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West End names join the Landor's From Page to Stage Festival

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

ARIA Entertainment has announced first casting for the second annual From Page To Stage Festival, a season of new musical theatre which runs at the Landor Theatre from Monday, February 10 to Sunday, March 9, 2014.

Full casting is now confirmed for the Season’s three showcase readings of Merman’s Apprentice, Claus The Musical and The Return of the Soldier, as well as the repertory cast for three Showcase Nights of musicals in development.

Final casting for the two Headline Musicals – Before The Night Is Through and The Mistress Cycle will be announced next week.

Merman’s Apprentice, a new musical with book and lyrics by Stephen Cole and music by David Evans – Tuesday, February 11 and Wednesday, February 12.

West End and Broadway actress Kim Criswell will play Ethel Merman. Criswell spent many years on Broadway (Baby, Nine, The Threepenny Opera) and in L.A (Cats), before crossing the Atlantic in 1992 when she was invited to play the title role in Annie Get Your Gun, establishing herself at the heart of London’s musical theatre scene.

The cast also features Olivia Hallett, John Guerrasio, Nigel Richards, David Burt, Elizabeth Seal (Tony Award Winner, Irma La Douce), Ted Merwood, Ben Stock, Daniel Cane, Thomas Sutcliffe, Lindsey Nicholls and Kimberley Moses.

1970. The Golden Age of Musical Theatre is drawing to an end. But twelve-year-old Muriel Plakenstein doesn’t know that. So she runs away from home to become a Broadway star and meets the Queen of Broadway, Ethel Merman, who takes her to a Hello, Dolly! rehearsal where they sing together.

When legendary producer David Merrick hears Muriel, he decides to star her in the first all-child cast of Dolly! Naturally, Merman takes Muriel under her wing to teach her the ropes of being a star, thereby making her Merman’s Apprentice.

Merman’s Apprentice is directed by Stewart Nicholls, with musical direction by Richard Healey.

Based on The Life And Adventures Of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum, Claus The Musical is a new musical with book by Simon Warne and music and lyrics by Andy Collyer – Friday, February 14 and Saturday, February 15.

How the Boy became a Man. How the Man became a Legend. Claus tells the incredible story of a human child brought up by immortals in a magical forest. But when Claus discovers there’s a whole world outside of the forest, inhabited by humans like him, his life takes a different path.

The cast features Gary Albert Hughes, Joseph Houston, Jonathan Bourne, Adam Anderson, Paul Lincoln, Kara Lane, Sophie Caton, Kirsty Marie Ayers, Kate Hume and Sasha Latoya.

Kate Golledge directs, with musical direction by Matt Ramplin.

The Return of the Soldier, a new musical with book and lyrics by Tim Sanders and music by Charles Miller – Friday, February 28 and Saturday, March 1.

Coinciding with the centenary of the First World War, The Return of the Soldier is a new musical adaptation of Rebecca West’s remarkable 1918 novella of the home front. An intensely bitter-sweet tale, it dissects the very different love of three women for one man. When Christopher returns from the war, shell-shocked, there are profound consequences for each of them.

With a cast of five – Gary Tushaw, Sinead Wall, Sophia Ragavelas (Never Forget, Les Miserables), Jennifer Harraghy and Jonathan Leinmuller – this powerful new drama with its rich and arresting score becomes an eloquent treatise on the nature of love, truth, memory and loss. In the end, only an extraordinary sacrifice will restore the fragile status quo.

Susan Raasay directs, with musical direction by Neil MacDonald.

Showcase Nights: Three Musicals in Development – Tuesday, February 25 to Thursday, February 27.

These scratch nights will present 30-minute excerpts of three new musicals in development, performed by a repertory company of West End actors including Niamh Perry (Love Never Dies, Taboo), Jon Robyns (Avenue Q, Les Miserables, Spamalot), Helen Hobson (Mamma Mia!, Blood Brothers), Matthew Rixon, Jodie Jacobs (Rock of Ages, Evita), Ashleigh Gray (Wicked), Jonathan Eio and Tom Solomon (Chicago, The Phantom of the Opera).

The showcases are directed by Simon Greiff, with musical direction by Inga Davis-Rutter.

Tickets: £10 – £15. To book, visit www.frompage2stage.com/.