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Wednesday, 24 May 2023

INTERVIEW: Shaun Escoffery & George Asprey, both celebrating 15 Years in the London production of The Lion King

Since opening in 1997, 24 global productions of The Lion King have been seen by more than 100 million people in over 100 cities in 20 countries, on every continent except Antarctica, and its worldwide gross exceeds that of any entertainment title in box office history and is the West End’s best-selling stage production and the sixth longest-running West End musical of all time.

Shaun Escoffery and George Asprey, who play Mufasa and Scar in Disney’s The Lion King in the West End, both celebrated their 15th anniversary in the landmark production, making them the longest-serving performers in the roles in any production of The Lion King respectively.

We were fortunate enough to catch up with them about the journey they have both been on in this mammoth West End show. 

Firstly, a massive congratulations on your 15th anniversary in The Lion King. How does it feel to have reached this huge milestone? 

George Asprey: Slightly surreal. It’s not a case of celebrating longevity because you only ever take one song at a time. It’s more like an accumulation because you’re only ever as good as your last show but now all of a sudden we've had fifteen years of the show. 

Shaun Escoffery: It’s a wonderful honour. I look back at myself and my partner in crime George with fondness and gratitude. We never dreamed we’d be doing this show for fifteen years. I feel extremely lucky to be able to do something we love with consistency. We are both aware of the huge responsibility that we have. 

Thursday, 7 January 2021

When will the West End re-open?

In these very strange and uncertain times, we have been lucky enough to have performers, creators, theatres and producers up and down the country providing everything they can to entertain the public from their homes. Over Christmas, we saw a huge step forward, with numerous West End venues opening and Pantomimes all over the UK being announced. Unfortunately, all of these have now come to a close. But we must look to the future, here you'll find all the information you'll need about when and where these shows are opening in the West End. Of course, these may change but these dates really give us something to look forward to. I for one cannot wait to be back in a dark auditorium in the theatrical heart of the world! 

& Juliet

Re-opening at the Shaftsbury Theatre from the 24th September 2021. 

Back to the Future

Due to open at the Adelphi Theatre on the 20th August 2021. 

The Book of Mormon

Taking bookings from the 12th July 2021 at the Prince of Wales Theatre. 

Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cinderella

Taking online bookings from the 25th June 2021 at the Gillian Lynne Theatre.

Come From Away

Performances at the Phoenix Theatre are suspended until the 18th June 2021, online booking from 21st June 2021. 

Saturday, 30 September 2017

REVIEW: The Woman in Black at The Fortune Theatre, London


To celebrate National Ghost Hunting Day, Raw PR invited a host of writers and bloggers to attend a special evening of ghostly fun at The Woman In Black at The Fortune Theatre in the heart of London’s West End. Seating only 432 people, it’s one of the smallest theatres in town, especially when you consider how dwarfed they are by their neighbour is the gargantuan Theatre Royal on Drury Lane which seats 2,196 people. The Fortune is a close and intimate theatre - perfect for a spooky evening of storytelling...

Learning of the tales of paranormal history within the theatre set the mood for the evening. We learned of hauntings and presences seen and felt in different areas of the theatre - onstage, back-stage and in the audience (beware if you ever sit in seat F17 of the Royal Circle in early November…!) The anticipation (and nerves) were amped up to eleven and then the show began.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

BILLY ELLIOT to close in the West End after 4,600 performances

Universal Stage Productions, Working Title Films and Old Vic Productions today (10 December 2015) announce that after 4,600 performances, due to the theatre's previously announced refurbishment programme, the multi award-winning West End production of Billy Elliot the Musical will play its final performance at the Victoria Palace Theatre on 9 April 2016 as the production celebrates its eleventh birthday. The show has been seen to date by over 5.25 million people in London and nearly 11 million people worldwide, has grossed over $800 million worldwide and is the winner of over 80 theatre awards internationally.

In June this year tickets went on sale for the first UK and Ireland tour of Billy Elliot the Musicalopening at the Theatre Royal Plymouth in February 2016 when the touring and West End productions will be playing concurrently.  Further dates - Sunderland, Bradford, Cardiff, Dublin, Edinburgh, Bristol, Manchester, Southampton and Birmingham - have subsequently been announced, with the tour currently booking to May 2017.  The first Japanese language production will open at the Akasaka ACT Theater in Tokyo in 2017.

Friday, 8 August 2014

WICKED becomes 14th longest-running musical in the West End

The London production of Wicked, now running at the Apollo Victoria, has just set a new record, overtaking the 1985 revival of Me and My Girl to become the 14th longest-running musical in West End history. Me and My Girl previously held the position with a run of 3,303 performances during its run from 1985 to 1993.

Wicked also currently holds the 10th position in the list of the longest-running shows currently playing in the West End.

The full list of the Top 20 longest-running musicals in West End history, with their length of run, follows:

Thursday, 31 July 2014

The Lion King welcomes its 12 Millionth visitor!

This week, Disney’s award-winning musical THE LION KING welcomed its 12 millionth visitor at London’s Lyceum Theatre. The show will celebrate its 15th anniversary in October in London, where the show remains the West End’s best-selling stage production. Tickets are currently on sale until 29 March 2015.

Winning over 70 theatre awards worldwide, this captivating stage production follows the adventures of the young lion cub Simba, as he struggles to accept the responsibilities of adulthood and his destined role of King.

Julie Taymor’s internationally celebrated stage adaptation of Disney’s beloved animated film premiered on Broadway in 1997 and has now been seen by over 70 million people across six continents. In addition to the record-breaking productions in London and New York,The Lion King can currently be seen in Hamburg, Madrid, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Sydney and on tours around the UK, North America and Japan. Recently announced future productions include Mexico City and Shanghai Disney Resort. 

Friday, 11 July 2014

Jenna Russell, Marc Elliot and Jonathan Singer return to West End transfer of URINETOWN

Jenna Russell will lead the cast of the West End transfer of Urinetown when it opens at the Apollo Theatre in September.
The musical theatre star will reprise her role of Penelope Pennywise from the St James Theatre run in Jamie Lloyd's production.
Richard Fleeshman will not return to the show, citing 'other commitments' on Twitter, but he wished it every success.
Many of the other cast members from the St James will return, including RSC actor Jonathan Slinger who plays Officer Lockstock and Eastenders' Marc Elliott who plays Mr McQueen.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The National Theatre's GREAT BRITAIN will transfer to the West End this September

Richard Bean's new phone hacking play Great Britain, which opened at the National Theatre only yesterday, has announced that it is transferring to the Theatre Royal Haymarket from 10 September.
Nicholas Hytner's production was well-received after it opened following just a week's notice after the culmination of the phone hacking trial last week.
Billed as an 'anarchic satire', Bean's play delves into the murky waters of the press, police and political establishment, and the cast at the National includes Billie Piper, Robert Glenister, Oliver Chris and Harriet Thorpe.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

FROM HERE TO ETERNITY to release Original London Cast Recording

Tim Rice's musical From Here to Eternity will be release the original cast recording. The the songs were recorded live during the shows run at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London's West End. The original London cast recording will be available via iTunes from Thursday 3rd July - the same day as the cinema release - and then on double CD from Monday August 4th.  

The show, which closed at the Shaftesbury Theatre in March following a six-month run, was filmed across two nights for cinema release, the programme will also include a tour of the theatre and an interview with Tim Rice.
From Here to Eternity, which is adapted from James Jones' 1951 novel which was turned into an eight-time Academy Award-winning film, features lyrics by Rice, music by newcomer Stuart Brayson and a book by Bill Oakes.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Denise Van Outen's one woman show, Some Girl I Used to Know, transfers to the West End

Denise Van Outen’s new one-woman musical play, Some Girl I Used to Know, which she co-wrote with Terry Ronald, will play London’s Arts Theatre this summer. Directed by Michael Howcroft, the production will run August 22 through September 13.

Stephanie Canworth has it all; a successful career, supportive husband and she’s a media darling. But it takes just one Facebook poke from a former love and the memories come flooding back. Is this really the life she wants? Songs from the 80s and 90s accompany Stephanie’s journey down memory lane, with Van Outen performing cover versions of songs by artists including Soft Cell and Culture Club, as well as the title song which has been specially written for the show by Steve Anderson and Terry Ronald.


Friday, 30 May 2014

FIRST LOOK: Alexandra Burke stars in The Bodyguard

Alexandra Burke will join the cast of the hit West End musical The Bodyguard, to play the leading role of Oscar-nominated superstar Rachel Marron.  Burke will play opposite Tristan Gemmill who continues in the role of Rachel’s bodyguard, Frank Farmer. Alexandra Burke will join the production at the Adelphi Theatre where the show is playing to 30 August 2014.  Beverley Knight will continue in the role of Rachel Marron until 31 May 2014.

Alexandra Burke said:  “I couldn’t be more excited about joining the cast of The Bodyguard and to play the iconic role of Rachel Marron will be adream come true. I am a massive Whitney Houston fan so to be given the opportunity to play a role made famous by her every night will be a real privilege.  I start rehearsals very soon with my fellow cast mates and thebrilliant creative team and, with a little trepidation, I am looking forward to our first performance in June.”

Saturday, 24 May 2014

FIRST LOOK: New cast joins Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Alex Jennings stars as Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he is joined by new cast members Barry James, Josefina Gabrielle, Richard Dempsey and Kirsty Malpass. 

In the new cast Barry James plays the role of Grandpa Joe, Josefina Gabrielle plays Mrs Teavee and Richard Dempsey and Kirsty Malpass play Charlie’s parents Mr and Mrs Bucket. They join Clive Carter (Mr Salt), Jasna Ivir (Mrs Gloop), Paul J Medford (Mr Beauregarde), Billy Boyle (Grandpa George), Roni Page (Grandma Josephine) and Myra Sands (Grandma Georgina) who all are original cast members. 
New ensemble members include: Dan Cooke, Divine Cresswell, Connor Dowling, Gemma Fuller, Robert Jones, Matthew Rowland, Rebecca Seale, Gregory Sims, Paulo Teixeira and Laura Tyrer.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Gavin Creel | Interview

Gavin Creel is currently starring in the West End production of The Book of Mormon as Elder Price after playing the role of the first U.S tour. His credits include the North American Tour of Fame playing Nick Piazza, Honk! as Ugly, Bat Boy (Off-Broadway), Jimmy Smith in Thoroughly Modern Millie (Broadway, nominated for a Tony Award), Jean-Michel in La Cage aux Folles (Broadway), Bert in Mary Poppins (West End) and Claude in Hair (Broadway and West End, nominated for a Tony Award and a Drama League Award). He released his first solo album, Goodtimenation, in 2006 and has released two more since then. I was lucky enough to catch up with Gavin… 

How did you originally start getting involved in performing arts?

I was a musical kid all growing up. I took piano, trumpet, was in a bunch of choirs at church and I guess I also liked to show off being the youngest of three kids. It just grew from there i think. I found I enjoyed performing, who doesn't love attention?! And I may be a bit of an attention seeker (again...who isn't?  Especially in this business!)  but once I decided to major in musical theatre in college my parents completely supported me in that decision, I knew that my path was pretty clear. Well, at least where I was going, not necessarily the result. 

Monday, 27 January 2014

Kerry Ellis | Interview

Kerry Ellis is about to return to the role of Mimi in the 20th Anniversary Concert tour of RENT, her other credits include Elphaba in Wicked (Apollo Victoria, London and on Broadway), Nancy in Oliver! (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane), Fantine in Les Miserables (Queens Theatre), Ellen in Miss Saigon (UK Tour), My Fair Lady (National Theatre and Theatre Royal Drury Lane), Merry We Roll Along (Yvonne Aenaud Theatre), Magic of the Musicals (UK Tour), Svetlana Sergievsky in Chess In Concert (Royal Albert Hall), Godspell (Palace Theatre, Mancester), Children of Eden (Prince of Wales Theatre), West End Men (Vaudeville Theatre) and Beth in The War of the Worlds - The New Generation (UK Tour). Some of her solo concerts include Kerry Ellis Sings the Great British Songbook (Shaw Theatre), Anthems (Royal Albert Hall and UK Tour), An Audience with Kerry Ellis (Shaw Theatre), The Born Free Tour (UK Tour) and Kerry Ellis in Concert (London Palladium). She has released three solo recordings; Wicked in Rock (2008), Anthems (2010) and Acoustic by Candlelight (2013). I caught up with her to talk about her appearance in RENT and her career… 

When did you realise you wanted to be a performer for a living? 
There was never a question, I was always going to perform.


Monday, 30 September 2013

The Bodyguard the Musical: Theatre Review

The Bodyguard has to be one of the most iconic films of all time, Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner’s performances have gone down in history. Recreating such a huge film on stage is a risky thing; it will always be compared to original film. Fortunately, the stage version really stands on its own two feet. With a few adjustments to the story it has been translated onto stage perfectly. The Bodyguard tells the story of worldwide superstar Rachel Marron (NOT Whitney Houston) and how she is being stalked by an obsessed fan. Frank Farmer is brought in as her new bodyguard to try and control the situation whilst working with people to catch the stalker. 
If you’re a fan of the film then you might be put off by the fact that there have been a few changes in the story but I actually think its for the best and the changes make the characters a lot more interesting. I’m not going to mention any of these however, you’ll need to find out for yourself! I have previously seen the show in previews and didn’t like it, there was just something missing from the production. Something I couldn’t put my finger on. Upon returning everything I thought about it before had disappeared, its a very clean and smooth show and the thing I thought was missing (whatever that was!) is definitely there! It moves like a movie, with fast paced scenes and the variety of locations created by Tim Hatley’s set. 

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Momentous Musicals: Theatre Review

Having perviously played a One off night in Wimbledon last year, Momentous Musicals is back. Keeping some of the songs from last years show with lots of new additions. From classics like Andrew Lloyd Webber to new Broadway hits like Newsies, this show celebrates generations of shows that have audiences coming back. The production also showcases what British musical talent has to offer, from the extremely experienced and well respected John Owen-Jones to new graduates from Drama Schools such as Mountview and GSA. The set list for the show has been chosen very well, I loved the selections of songs because even though there was the expected like Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, Wicked and West Side Story there was also some surprises like a Disney Melody, SMASH, Ghost and The Wiz. 
For what the show was it was very good, when you see something like this you could expect a bit of a budget performance with poor quality orchestrations and average performers, this was the total opposite. First of all the stage looked very classic, a simple black background with a starry effect was elegant and made room for Tom Boucher (lighting designer) to really fill the stage with some fantastic colours. The lighting had a lot of great moments, it was a delightful design and he adjusted the lighting to every song which really added to the over quality of the performance. 

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the Musical: Theatre Review

Written in 1964, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is one of Roald Dahl’s most loved books. Also made into two films (one in 1971 and one in 2005) its a franchise that people of all ages have loved and grown up with, and now its a West End Musical! 
The production is very good, its magical with elements that truly are astounding and take you back to your childhood. Quite often I found myself with my jaw almost to the ground at some of the aspects of the show. Sam Mendes’s direction flows so well with huge help from the swift and flawless scene changes. He has brought the sharpness that movies have to the stage, you do not get bored at any point in the show. The pace of it moves quite fast, too fast at some points. You almost feel like some things could have been cut out to enable some of the really good moments to be drawn out a little. The set, by Mark Thompson, was fantastic. 

Friday, 31 May 2013

West End Men: Theatre Review

West End Men is a concert filled with Musical Theatre classics as well as some surprises, Currently playing at the Vaudeville Theatre until the 22nd June having previously toured last year. The show features West End talent such as David Thaxton, Glenn Carter (until 8th June), Lee Mead, Matt Willis and Stephen Rahman-Hughes (from 10th June) with special guests Kerry Ellis (until 15th June) and Carley Stenson (from 17th June). I’m glad that they’ve featured some of the more modern musical theatre talent rather than the ‘Michael Ball’ type people, they’re really updating what people think about West End leading men. Admittedly, these aren't the names I’d come up with if I was putting together this concert but they are all incredibly talented and really show why they are leading men within this show. 
The set list is interesting, for example I really liked the opening number. They mashed together Pure Imagination, Being Alive, Love Changes Everything and Music of the Night; a very odd choice of songs to put together but it was a really nice, relaxed introduction to the show. Another highlight was the West Side Story medley which opened the second act, I really liked that they paid homage to this but they went for the obvious choices of musical theatre songs like things from South Pacific, Chess and Les Miserables. Don’t get me wrong, these are great but you’d think with this more modern feel to the show they’d go for contemporary musicals as well. I would have loved to have seen some surprise musical theatre numbers in there like something from Newsies or Next to Normal or something along those lines! They were far to safe with the set list. 

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

To Kill A Mocking Bird, Regents Park: Theatre Review

To Kill A Mocking Bird was first published in 1960 and since then has never been out of print. A book about civil rights, Racial Injustice and courage; this story could have ruined author Harper Lee’s career, instead, it did the opposite. To Kill A Mocking Bird is the first of four productions that are to be staged at the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park this season, after seeing A Midsummer Nights Dream at the theatre the previous year I had high expectations for this. 
The play is very touching, the audience are drawn into the characters and during the trial, really get taken into the events and become the jury. Timothy Sheader directs this production and I must say that he has done a good job of it, combined with the other design aspects of the production it was visually beautiful. He really has put a lot of emphasis on the actual telling of the story, the audience have to bring their imagination and build upon that. He’s got the ensemble to read Scouts Narration from the book which really pulls everything together and reminds you that this story is from a young persons point of view.
Jon Bausor designs the show, starting with a bare stage, expect a tree, the actors literally draw the map of the road where the play takes play on the stage with chalk. Very reminiscent of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time design I thought. One thing I wasn’t loving was the backdrop, just a black background that changed colour. It was very out of place and I kind of wished they could have used their natural surroundin

Monday, 27 May 2013

Victoria Hamilton-Barritt | Interview

Victoria trained at Central School of Ballet and Urdang Academy of Performing Arts, when she graduated she was cast in the UK Tour of Oh What a Night! In the role of Cat and then moving with the production to Germany. Her other credits include Stephanie Mungano in Saturday Night Fever (UK tour), Connie in the Saturday Night Fever (Scandinavian tour), Carmen Diaz in Fame (Aldwych), Anita in West Side Story (international tour) Maria and understudy Susan in Desperately Seeking Susan (Novello), Alex in Flashdance (UK Tour and West End), Rizzo in Grease (West End), Gypsy Rose Lee in Gypsy (Leicester Curve) and has appeared in Bohemian Rhapsody (international tour). She is currently playing Diana in the London Revival of A Chorus Line at the London Palladium. She was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions…

Your family has a musical background, how influential was that for you growing up?
Very much so in the sense I was always being entertained by my uncles who always made a racket with pots and pans and anything else they could find around the house! They are both musicians who played in bands The Clash for a brief time before the band got super famous and other bands that would play the north west London scene of Kensal rise and Camden. They are a talented drummer and bass player and pots and pans terrorists! My dad sang the soho night life were he did his Billy Fury and Elvis numbers! 

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