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UK Roundup - Billy Elliot, Ray Charles + West End rumours..!

The reviews for Billy Elliot the Musical are raves. Most publications commented that the stage production is far more affecting than the film was, but the Daily Mail criticised the extended use of politics in the show. Charles Spencer in the Telegraph writes 'Billy Elliot strikes me as the greatest British musical I have ever seen', whilst Mich/>ael Billington's review for The Guardian asked that the West End/> should be a 'no-fly zone', after pointing out that flying in musicals has become the 'biggest cliché'. He's got a point in fairness. Of the big four musicals to open recently – The Woman in White, The Producers, Mary Poppins, and Billy Elliot – all but Lloyd Webber's Woman in White contained some kind of flying device. Billy is booking until October and BroadwayWorld's review can be found here.

Following the success of the Oscar winning film Ray, based on the life of the blind jazz artist Ray Charles, a musical tribute to the star will open at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket in June for a limited run of 8 weeks. The Genius of Ray Charles, the title of his 1959 album, opened at the Eldorado Casino in April and comes to London/>/> with a cast of 6 singers, 10 dancers and a 15-piece orchestra. According to The Stage newspaper the show, directed by Gary Lloyd, has had Broadway offers, but he insists 'it isn't a jukebox of Ray Charles' hits – it's an interpretation of his music'. Its place in the West End/> joins long-running tribute show The Rat Pack and new Motown show Dancing in the Streets (see below). It opens on June 21st, after which the Haymarket will be home to Rob Lowe starring in A Few Good Men.

It's hard to rack up much enthusiasm for Dancing in the Streets, a compilation Motown musical set to transfer to the West End/> at the end of its 35-venue tour. Featuring classics from the likes of Marvin Gaye, the Jackson/>/> Five, Diana Ross and the Supremes, etc, the show is subtitled 'a spectacular celebration of songs from the most profilic hit-factory ever!'. A concert-style recreation of the story of Motown, Dancing in the Streets plays at the Cambridge Theatre from July 7th until November 26th. The Cambridge/>/> has been dark since Jerry Springer the Opera, but is due to host a month-long run of Derren Brown's solo show next month. Whilst it may not be that exciting, I do – however - applaud the fact that it is one of the few tours that lives up to its poster promise of 'pre-West End'. Far too many shows are selling themselves on this false information.

Following the success of Musicality – the TV show where amateurs got the chance to appear in Chicago/> in the West End/> for one night only – Channel 4 are to search for the new big playwright. In The Play's The Thing, producer Sonia Friedman (Woman in White, As You Like It) will lead a panel who whittle down entries to three finalists before the winning play is selected and staged in the West End/>. It's rare that a new play by a new writer gets a West End/> outing, hence the reason for the programme. Friedman says "The reason why is obvious: the financial risks are too high and the pressure to succeed is too intense. Therefore I am excited by the prospect of.. producing it to the highest standards and seeing if it is possible for the play to go on to enjoy critical and financial success". The first three episodes will be in spring 2006 ahead of a mid 2006 opening.


Rumours are funny things, sometimes they happen, sometimes they don't, so take everything with a pinch of salt until it's official. Some of the best ones flying around at the moment are that Jerry Zaks would like to bring over his production of Little Shop of Horrors to the West End/>, Avenue Q is supposedly going into the Albery Theatre, which will be renamed the Noel Coward Theatre with Cameron Mackintosh co-producing and Scarlet Johansson is apparently close to signing for Trevor Nunn's revival of Lloyd Webber-produced The Sound of Music (which has been rumoured for years but apparently is happening!). If any of these things are to happen, it'll be great, but seeming as though Hairspray has shelved its plans for an October opening after 'official' announcements and Ur/>inetown sent out casting notices but then pulled out of a London/>/> opening, sometimes things just aren't meant to be..

And finally, is looking for contributors to cover the Edinburg/>h/>/> Fringe in August. If you think you might be interested, please email me at the address above.


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From This Author Jake Brunger