Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals are taking over the world of theatre again: after the outstanding 25th Anniversary concert at the Royal Albert Hall, a brand new touring production of The Phantom of the Opera is bringing ‘the music of the night’ to audiences all over the UK this year. The Australian production of Love Never Dies is wowing people all around the globe with the release of the filmed DVD recording. Canada’s acclaimed Jesus Christ Superstar has just opened on Broadway and auditions are underway for ITV’s reality talent search Superstar, which aims to discover a new talent to play Jesus in the JCS arena tour and Cats is set to tour the UK in 2013. Another Andrew Lloyd Webber musical which is making a comeback this year is Starlight Express which, as previously reported, will kick-off its UK tour on 10th May 2012 at the New Wimbledon Theatre.
Starlight Express first arrived on the West End scene in March 1984 at the Apollo Victoria and ran for 18 years. Lloyd Webber’s homage to the age of the steam train, the unconventional musical was performed entirely on roller skates and amazed audiences with its superbly designed sets, most notable the race track which extended around the whole auditorium. Now, in a current climate where musical revivals are a popular practice, Bill Kenwright Ltd is producing the all-new 2012 tour in association with The Really Useful Group. West End choreographer and Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips is on board again to choreograph and direct the production, having worked on the original 1984 show and subsequent revivals which followed. Her other collaborations with Lloyd Webber include Jesus Christ Superstar and The Wizard of Oz.
Yesterday, the full casting for the tour production was announced and interestingly features several former cast members. Original cast member Mykal Rand, who has also performed in six other versions of the show, returns to take up the role of Electra, the ‘Engine of the Future’. Kristofer Harding, who toured the UK with the show in 2007, will play Rusty, the steam train who dreams of winning the race, with Jamie Capewell (West End, UK Tour, Buchum) as reigning champion Greaseball and Lothair Eaton (Las Vegas, Bochum, New Zealand) as the retired former champion Poppa. Amanda Coutts, who previously performed in the show in Bochum, is set to play Rusty’s love interest Pearl The Observation Car, while former UK tour member (2004-2008) Ruthie Stephens plays Pearl’s best friend Dinah The Dining Car. Other cast members include Kelsie Cobban, Camilla Hardy, Robert Nurse, Lex Milczarek, Glenn Robb, Stuart Armfield, Gavin Ashbarry, James Marshall, Nick Bower, Kris Manuel, Andy Barke, Tristan Adams, Matt King, Adam Illsley, Lisa Dahmane, Louise Lenihan, Sarah Riches, Aaron Piper, Darryl Paul Saunders, Tony Andrade, Kerry Stammers and Samantha Foker.
While on the subject of cast members, I would like to make a special mention of The King’s Speech ensemble member Andrew Malkin, who sadly passed away this week aged just 49. He was found dead in his digs on Tuesday 20th March 2012 after failing to turn up for a tech rehearsal. It has since been confirmed that the cause of death was a heart attack due to a pre-existing condition. Malkin was understudying the role of Lionel Logue in the stage play of The King’s Speech, which has been touring the UK since February 2012 and only opened for previews at the Wyndhams Theatre, West End yesterday (22nd March 2012). A 2008 graduate of the East 15 Acting School, Malkin had previously worked in IT before turning to acting. In the four years he has been performing though, Malkin had found great success and been involved in a number of theatrical productions, including The National Theatre (White Bear Theatre), Shakespeare in the Streets (Unity Theatre, Liverpool), Verdict (UK Tour) and Hamlet, Food For Thought and A Pinch of Salt (White Horse Theatre, Germany Tour). A producer on The King’s Speech released a statement, saying, “Andrew Malkin was a highly valued and very popular member of The King’s Speech company. We are deeply shocked and saddened by this terrible news. We as a company will miss Andy very much indeed, but our immediate concern is for his family at their dreadful and sudden loss.”
My thoughts go out to Andrew Malkin’s family and friends at this very sad time. For those of you who go to see The King’s Speech, I hope at the curtain call you will give a little extra applause for him.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Friday 23rd March 2012