UK Roundup - closures, openings, Snoopy and Slamdunk
Unlike on Broadway, box office grosses in the West End are not published for all to see. Perhaps that's wise at the minute with so many shows going through a seemingly bad patch. Apart from The Lion King and Mamma Mia, almost every show in London can be found at the TKTs booth in Leicester Square or discounted elsewhere. The main blame for this is lack of American tourists, not surprising with the current exchange rate. Plays are worst hit with at least one a month closing ahead of schedule - last week's casualty was newly opened Rattle of a Simple Man at the Comedy Theatre. Fuddy Meers has also opened to damning reviews, with many publications giving just one star ratings.
However, whatever slump we're facing at the moment looks set to be spun around in a very exciting autumn season - with arrivals like The Producers, The Woman In White, out of town tryouts of Billy Elliot the Musical and Mary Poppins, which will move into the West End in December. The National Theatre will also bring back sell out hit His Dark Materials at the Olivier and Kevin Spacey's inaugural season as artistic director of The Old Vic Theatre gets underway from September.
When Snoopy the Musical last came to the West End, at the tiny Jerymn Street Theatre, it sold out its two week run. So it's not surprising to hear that another production is on the cards, this time with former pop star Noel Sullivan. Sullivan shot to fame two years ago with pop group Hear'Say, formed on reality TV show Popstars. After they split up the band mainly went into musicals; Suzanne Shaw took on Summer Holiday, Noel did Fame in Edinburgh and other band mate Kym Marsh just announced her debut in Saturday Night Fever.
This week two political comedians will make appearances in the West End with South African comedian Pieter-Dirk Uys doing a stint at the Duchess Theatre (just vacated after Coyote on a Fence) and star of The Office Ricky Gervais at the Palace, which is going through a period of limited one man events after the departure of Les Miserables. Derren Brown, a popular TV magician/mentalist, will play a two week run at the London venue from June 9th following his UK tour.
I caught a performance of Slamdunk this week, a new hip-hop musical developed by theatre company Nitro, the first major black theatre company to be established in Britain. A near sell-out crowd filled with youngsters in hoods, caps and, of course, their bling, were really taking in the show, with lots of laughter and call-backs to the songs. Website Whatonstage.com rumours that it may be looking for a West End home. If so, I'm not sure how it will be receieved; the show itself is average to bad but it undoubtedly gets in new audiences.