Jessie Wallace (EastEnders) as Lil and Gary Kemp (Spandau Ballet, The Krays, The Bodyguard) as PC Collins will lead the cast in Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be, with Sarah Middleton as Rosie, Ruth Alfie Adams as Brenda, Will Barton as Percy and Suzie Chard as Betty, with further casting to be announced shortly.
Coinciding with Joan Littlewood’s Centenary, and together with a new production of Oh What a Lovely War, Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be is coming back to Theatre Royal Stratford East in new version by Olivier-nominated Elliot Davis (Loserville, Soho Cinders). The show will be directed by the multi award-winning Terry Johnson (Duck House, La Cage Aux Folles, End of the Rainbow, Little Voice), with set and costume design by William Dudley and choreography by Nathan M Wright. The production will run from 8th May to 8th June 2014.
Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be is produced by Theatre Royal Stratford East, Elliot Davis, Paul Tyrer & Jamie Clark for The Booking Office, and Ros Povey Productions with casting by David Grindrod Associates.
This popular show was first developed in 1959 by Joan Littlewood and her Theatre Workshop Company at Theatre Royal Stratford East, before transferring to the West End’s Garrick Theatre where it ran for 886 performances and won an Evening Standard Award for Best Musical. The show launched the career of Barbara Windsor and provided the name for popular hit song by Max Bygraves.
Set at the end of the 1950s, preceding the birth of rock and roll and the Beatles, Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’be is a witty and warm-hearted musical set within an East End underworld of gamblers, spivs, prostitutes and Teddy boys. Written by ex-con Frank Norman, the show tells the tale of Fred, a loveable rogue, who comes out of prison to find he is not quite the king of the manor he once was.
Kerry Michael, Artistic Director of Theatre Royal Stratford East said: “In celebration of Joan Littlewood’s 100th birthday year, we’re looking forward to reviving this populist classic. It’s an exciting contrast to Oh What A Lovely War and demonstrates the great breadth of work undertaken by Joan and her Theatre Workshop Company.”
‘Fings’ was initially discovered by Joan Littlewood, who began directing the show as a play, before engaging the legendary writer and composer Lionel Bart to write songs for the show. Popular for his seminal work on Oliver! (which was written 3 years after Fings), Bart grew up in London’s East End and was well-known for his use of cockney wit and charm within his songs.
Now, with support from both the Lionel Bart Foundation and Samuel French Publishers, the award-winning composer and writer Elliot Davis has adapted the original Frank Norman script with new material and songs from the hugely popular and commercial Lionel Bart songbook, including If I Say I Love You Do You Mind?, the hit number Bart penned for Anthony Newley, Living Doll and Sparrers Can’t Sing a song he wrote for the 1963 Joan Littlewood directed film of the same name.
When asked to describe Fings, Joan Littlewood, described it as “Guys and Dolls but with its flies undone.” Elliot Davis said: “Our production hopes to make Fings find its rightful place in the catalogue of Great British Musicals. Ultimately the goal is to take this production on a National UK tour for the benefit of audiences across the whole of the UK!”
Jessie Wallace is best known for her role as Kat Moon in EastEnders. Her other screen credits include The Road To Coronation Street for Granada, Spendingtons and Wild At Heart for Company Pictures, The Dinner Party and A Class Apart both for the BBC and Marie Lloyd for Hat Trick. Jessie’s stage credits include Stepping Out on UK Tour, Haunted at The Arts Theatre and Rent at the Duke Of York’s Theatre. Jessie has won numerous awards for her acting. She was also nominated for a BAFTA award for her portrayal of Pat Phoenix on The Road to Coronation Street.
Gary Kemp is one of music’s most successful songwriters, achieving tremendous success in the 1980s as guitarist and songwriter for the group Spandau Ballet. He was responsible for writing the words and music for all of Spandau Ballet’s twenty three hit singles, including classics such as True and Gold. Gary’s stage credits include The Rubenstein Kiss at Hampstead Theatre, Pig Night at the Menier Chocolate Factory and Art at the Wyndham’s Theatre. His screen credits include Lewis for ITV, Casualty and Murder In Mind.
Terry Johnson is a multi award-winning director. His most recent production The Duck House is currently running at the Vaudeville Theatre, and Hysteria has recently finished its run at Hampstead Theatre.
Elliot Davis is an award-winning and Olivier-nominated writer and composer. Elliot has just written his first major feature film screenplay, originally commissioned and developed by BBC Films, which started pre-production this year and shoots in 2014.
Lionel Bart began his career in music writing hit songs for Tommy Steele including The Tommy Steele Story, The Duke Wore Jeans, Light Up The Sky, and Tommy The Toreador, which featured the top 10 single Little White Bull, the number one single and classic hit Living Doll for Cliff Richard, and Do You Mind for Anthony Newley. Lionel then became a ‘disciple’ of Joan Littlewood at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, which is where he fell in love with musical theatre. This led him onto writing the music and lyrics for two new musicals, Lock Up Your Daughters and Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be. Lionel Bart’s international reputation as a composer, lyricist and playwright spanned more than four decades and included nine Ivor Novello Songwriting Awards and the many Oscars for Oliver! In 1997, Lionel was honoured with a Variety Club Silver Heart for his contribution to the world’s musical theatre.
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Tuesday 10th December 2013