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The Life starring Sharon D Clarke and Cornell S John

The Life Arriving in the UK for the first time, hit musical The Life makes its long-awaited London debut, directed by the show’s original Broadway director Michael Blakemore. Starring the brilliantly talented musical theatre stars Sharon D. Clarke (Sonja) and Cornell S. John (Memphis), The Life will run at Southwark Playhouse for a strictly limited season from 25th March – 29th April 2017, with press night on 29th March.

Described by the New York Times as “Broadway’s best kept secret”, The Life features a rarely heard score by celebrated composer Cy Coleman (City of Angels, Sweet Charity, Barnum) and is based on an original idea by lyricist Ira Gasman, and features a book by Coleman, Gasman and David Newman with book revisions for this production by Michael Blakemore.

A thrilling exposé of the darker side of 1980’s New York, The Life is a defiant and heartfelt musical about Times Square before it was cleaned up. A world of pimps and prostitutes, innocents and opportunists, it’s a gutsy and gritty joyride filled with both pathos and fun.

Sharon D Clarke
Sharon D Clarke

Michael Blakemore, said, “Getting The Life on in London has been an ambition of mine ever since we did it on Broadway. The score is Cy Coleman’s masterpiece and we’ll be presenting it with the original 11-piece orchestrations. We’ve assembled a magnificent cast and the show seems to have gathered in power and relevance with the passing of time. Funny, sharp and extraordinarily poignant, I think it will be something more than just a good night out.

Queen, a young girl from Savannah, and Fleetwood, a Vietnam vet with a drug habit, are trying to make it in a merciless New York. Queen is forced into part-time prostitution and ‘The Life’ describes how these two lovers move through this dark world until Queen is helped by her one true friend, an older more experienced hooker, Sonja, to make her escape.

On this journey, we meet Memphis, the all-powerful king pimp, the girls he controls, Jojo, the hustler, who makes it all happen, and the fresh-faced Mary, straight off the bus from small town Minnesota, only too eager to embrace ‘The Life’.

Cornell S John
Cornell S John

The original critically acclaimed Broadway production of The Life, opened on 26 April 1997 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. It received 12 Tony Award nominations, winning Best Featured Actress and Actor in a Musical for cast members Lillias White and Chuck Cooper in the roles Sharon and Cornell will be taking on in the UK production. The Life was also nominated for 9 Drama Desk Awards, winning three, including Best Musical.

20 years after Michael Blakemore originally directed this musical gem, this new production of The Life is produced by Amy Anzel and Matt Chisling, with set and costume designs by Justin Nardella, choreography by Tom Jackson Greaves, projection designs by Nina Dunn, lighting by David Howe, musical direction by Tamara Saringer, and casting by Anne Vosser. Further casting will be announced in due course.

Saturday 25 March – Saturday 29 April 2017
Performances: Mondays – Saturdays: 7.30pm
Tuesdays & Saturdays: 3.00pm
Press Night: 28 & 29 March 2017
Ticket Prices: £25 for all tickets (concessions available)
£14 for all previews
Southwark Playhouse, 77-85 Newington Causeway, London, SE1 6BD
Box Office: 020 7407 0234


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