Society & Culture & Entertainment Performing Arts

Musicals Thriving in London"s West End

There have been several high profile musical productions debuting in the West End recently to varying degrees of critical acclaim.
But, regardless of whether the autumn openings continue their runs into 2008, musicals look set to dominate the West End box office over the next few years.
Prominent amongst the successful new shows unveiled recently include 'Hairspray'.
The musical opened in late October in London's West End to rave reviews and has recently extended its run by seven months as a result.
First opened on Broadway in August 2002 at the Simons Theatre where it is still playing to packed audiences this American import is now booking until 25th October 2008 at the Shaftesbury Theatre.
West End veteran warbler Michael Ball stars as cross-dresser Edna Turnblad with comedian-turned-actor Mel Smith supporting as "her husband" Wilbur and newcomer Leanne Jones plays Tracy, their daughter.
Following its success on Broadway, Hairspray has been made into a Hollywood feature film starring John Travolta.
Indeed, productions based on films, or vice-versa, appear to be all the rage in the West End.
Dirty Dancing, another recent addition to the West End theatres, has also extended its booking period until April 2009, after a successful opening in late October.
Writer of the film's screenplay Eleanor Bergstein used her own childhood experiences of holidaying with her family in the Catskills in the USA as the basis of the story and has successfully adapted it for this stage production.
Josef Brown, who played the lead in the Australian production of 2004, stars as Johnny joined by Sarah Manton as Baby.
Another former film now gracing the West End stage 'Desperately seeking Susan', which originally starred Madonna and Rosanna Arquette in the celluloid version, is not doing quite so well in the stage adaptation that features the music of Blondie.
The production recently premiered at the Novello Theatre and is currently booking until mid-April 2008, although judging by the unfavourable reviews it may ultimately record a shorter run that that.
Conversely, Grease is taking the West End by storm.
Originally a 70's film musical starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, this production has made a successful transition to the West End stage and looks set to enjoy a long run until the end of the decade.
As well as modern musicals, classics such as Andrew Lloyd-Webber's Joseph have undergone a successful revival thanks to the BBC talent show 'Any dream will do' which has given 26-year-old winner Lee Mead the starring role in his West End debut.
That must be one of the best theatre breaks for a young actor since the last BBC talent winner Connie Fisher captured the lead role of Maria in the Sound of Music!

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