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UK Roundup - Billy Elliot, Anthony Minghella, Woman in White

The stars of the stage version of Billy Elliot have been unveiled in London. As I've reported before, unlike on Broadway where children are allowed starring roles, in Britain they must alternate performances. The three lucky youngsters are James Lomas (14), George McGuire (13) and Liam Mower (12). To accommodate each of their talents the show will change around whoever is playing the lead. As a result previews will only run for three days a week – Thursday, Friday and Saturday – in order to tweak the show away from paying eyes. Stephen Daldry directs and Elton John has written songs for the production, which will open at the VictoriaPalace in Spring. The website has two music samplers, both are worth a listen.

Anthony Minghella , director of such films as The English Patient and ColdMountain, is to switch his camera for a chorus and his two-shot for a tenor. The fifty-year-old, who first started out in writing for the theatre, is to direct Madame Butterfly at the English National Opera (ENO) next November. Though the transition from film to opera is rare, Baz Luhrmann proved it possible with his Broadway production La Boheme. The ENO are based at the London Coliseum, London's largest theatre venue with 2358 seats. They hit the headlines this year for staging an excerpt from Wagner's Ring circle at the Glastonbury rock festival.

The Woman in White , currently playing to capacity crowds with tickets difficult to obtain, is to release its recording on a double CD. Packaged similarly to the Whistle Down the Wind CD - with slimline double case, slipcase and full libretto – the recording features the entire original West End cast including Maria Friedman, Michael Crawford and Martin Crewes. With talk of a Broadway transfer, strong advance sales and now the CD, which comes out on November 15th, it looks like Lloyd Webber has a hit on his hands. Despite apparent poor sales, Bat Boy will also be releasing a recording. Available from October 23rd, the CD features Deven May and Emma Williams.

The cast of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, also said to be performing well at the box office, are to make use of their comic talents in a series of late-night comedy shows. After the play finishes, the cast - comprised almost entirely of stand-up comedians - will take to the stage at 10:30 for an hour long performance featuring stand-up, improvisation and songs. Christian Slater will compere the event and tickets are priced £14 and £10. It echoes their run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August where most of the performers had other shows to perform in as well as their matinee of Cuckoo's Nest.

Some very sad news this week. The Bridewell Theatre, known as London's musical theatre 'laboratory', is being forced to close in January after 10 years in the business. The converted Victorian swimming pool had been living rent-free until the beginning of this year, but was told it must pay rent and a £90,000 annual service charge. With costs of paying performers, directors, designers, etc, ticket sales could not sustain it so the venue had to turn to funding from various arts grants. Those sources have now dried up, and as a result the company will now leave their building and exist under the same name but elsewhere, existing on £32,500 in grants a year. The Bridewell is almost unique in London; importing and developing talents of writers like Jason Robert Brown and reviving rare musicals.

Keep watching for details of a big Les Miserables 20th Anniversary Concert due to take place at Wembley Stadium on October 8th 2005..

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From This Author Jake Brunger

Jake is currently studying at Bristol University and hopes to eventually pursue a career in the theatre industry as a writer/director. His favourite writers include (read more...)