There is a well-known saying which all people should try to live by: ‘Share and share alike’. This simply means that what you have, you should share an equal measure of with others who do not. The opportunity to spread a little joy should always be acted upon, whether its effect is merely for one individual or scores of our Earth’s inhabitants.
There is a vast and varied family of theatrical productions in the West End, with new members regularly being accepted into its folds. Most plays tend to run for a strictly limited period before flying the coop and leaving an empty room for the West End’s next foster child, with the exception of some productions, such as Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, which is in its 60th year. When it comes to musicals however, their residency is generally counted in years rather than months. There are a number of impressive long runners, such as Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera, for example. Then of course, you have the juke-box musicals which include Rock of Ages, Mamma Mia and We Will Rock You. There are also plenty of film-to-stage productions, with The Bodyguard, Shrek The Musical and The Lion King all having done well for themselves. Melodramas, comedies, jukebox, film adaptions, book adaptions, love stories… you can find all of these and more in the West End. There really is something for everyone, which is why so many people come. The London theatre scene is one of the UK’s most popular draws, attracting theatre fans from all over the world – nice if you are one of the lucky ones who are able to make the trip. Unfortunately, not everyone can, for a variety of reasons. There are many people here in our own country who miss out on the joys of the West End, simply because of where they live; this is where they can benefit from the ‘share and share alike’ adage though.
Theatre is meant to be enjoyed by everyone indiscriminately, but it’s inevitable that those who live in the London vicinity will find it easier to do so. That doesn’t mean that those who live farther away are to be forgotten or ignored though. What we have, we share with those who do not, in the form of touring productions.
There are a number of popular West End shows currently touring the UK, taking that opportunity to spread the joy. The 25th-anniversary tour of The Phantom of the Opera , led by Earl Carpenter, Katie Hall and Simon Bailey, is at the Liverpool Empire for the next few days before moving on to the Birmingham Hippodrome. Then there’s the touring production of The Lion King playing at the Palace Theatre in Manchester right now, with a further tour taking place later in the year. One of the West End’s former residents, Cats, is also refreshing the ‘memory’ of dozens of theatre fans across the country on its UK tour, entertaining audiences at His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen for now.
While people are enthusing over the shows coming to the West End this year, such as Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and Once – not forgetting The Book of Mormon, which started its preview period on 25th February – it wouldn’t do to forget that there are a number of shows embarking on tours this year as well. A major new national and international tour of Evita will open at the New Wimbledon Theatre on 13th May 2013, followed by visits to: Milton Keynes Theatre (20 May-1 June), King’s Theatre, Glasgow (3-15 June), Empire Theatre, Liverpool (24-29 June), Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield (1-13 July), Theatre Royal, Norwich (15-27 July), The Lowry, Salford (29 July-10 August), Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton (19-31 August), Grand Opera House, Belfast (2-14 September), Hall For Cornwall, Truro (16-28 September), Grand Theatre, Swansea (30 September-5 October), Bristol Hippodrome (7-12 October) and Mayflower Southampton (14-19 October). It was recently announced that stage actor and former Wet Wet Wet singer Marti Pellow will play the role of the narrator, Che. Pellow, who has previously starred in productions of Blood Brothers, Chicago and Chess, said of this new role: “I’m delighted to announce that I will be playing the wonderful part of Che in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s classic musical, Evita. Having worked with Tim Rice before it’s a great honour to be performing his songs again and I can’t wait to start rehearsing and getting on the road.”
Award-winning musical Wicked, which currently stars Gina Beck and Louise Dearman in its West End stage production, is also set to launch its first tour of the UK and Ireland. It kicks off at Manchester’s Palace Theatre on 12th September 2013 and then moves on to the Bord Gais Energy Theatre in Dublin (27th November). Further tour dates were revealed this week too, with the production set to travel to the Milton Keynes Theatre (4 February to 8 March 2014), Wales Millennium Centre (12 March to 26 April 2014), Glasgow King’s Theatre (6 May to 31 May 2014), Leeds Grand Theatre (10 June to 5 July 2014) and Birmingham Hippodrome (9 July to 6 September 2014) – no cast announcements have been made as of yet though.
Another forthcoming tour show which has been giving away the names of its cast to fans this week is Ghost The Musical, which is setting off on its first UK tour too after closing at the Piccadilly Theatre on 6th October 2012. The tour begins at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff on 8th Aril 2013 and is to star Stewart Clarke and Rebecca Trehearn in the roles of tragic lovers Sam and Molly. Wendy Mae Brown will play Oda Mae Brown, with the show’s ‘baddy’ Carl played by David Roberts. Ivan De Freitas returns as the latter’s partner-in-crime, joined by Stevie Hutchinson as the Subway Ghost and Karlene Wray and Keisha Atwell as Oda Mae’s sisters Clara and Louise. Appearing in the ensemble are: Michael Cortez, Bradley Jaden, Luke Wilson, Gregor Stewart, Nick Hayes, Maeve Byrne, Amy West, Kimmy Edwards, Gabriela Garcia and Amy Webb, with Livvy Evans, Michael Stewart, Robert Knight and Jaye Juliette Elster as the show’s swing team. Venues announced so far on the tour itinerary include the New Wimbledon Theatre (30th April to 11th May), Edinburgh Playhouse (14th May to 1st June), Manchester Opera House (2nd to 20th July), Bristol Hippodrome (27th August to 14th September) and the New Victoria Theatre, Woking (11th to 23rd November).
The West End provides plenty of joy for fans of the theatre and there is more than enough to spread around, so whether you enjoy the theatre experience there or through one of its touring shows, the important thing is that you get to be there.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)