Jamie Lloyd’s West End production of The Commitments has confirmed its new cast. Following the departure of Killian Donnelly, the role of Deco is now being played by one of his former understudies Brian Gilligan. His casting came about after he was discovered singing ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ backstage at the Palace Theatre by the show’s associate director C Jay Ranger. Ranger recommended Gilligan to Lloyd, who saw him for an audition and cast him a few weeks later.
Discussing his new starring role, Gilligan said, “I still can’t quite believe I’m playing the lead role in The Commitments! It’s every Dubliner’s favourite story and being from the North-side of Dublin myself, it’s a privilege and an honour to be bringing Deco to life on stage. He’s such a brilliant character.”
John Currivan and Sam Fordham have also joined the show as Billy Mooney and Mickah, marking their West End debuts. Anthony Hunt plays Joey ‘The Lips’ Fagan. Natalie Hope and John McLarnon have taken over as Natalie and Outspan, roles they previously understudied. Denis Grindel continues as Jimmy Rabbitte.
As theatreland enters its busiest time of year, the West End seems to be thriving. Over the past week some of London’s biggest shows have announced extensions to their runs, meaning thousands of new tickets are now on sale, taking booking into 2015.
Although it is yet to play its first West End performance, producers of Sunny Afternoon – The Kinks musical – have already extended the show’s booking period at the Harold Pinter Theatre to Saturday 31st January 2015. The show begins previews on Saturday 4th October 2014.
Sunny Afternoon is transferring to the West End following a sell-out run at the Hampstead Theatre. Producers have teased that the theatre’s auditorium will be re-configured for the show’s run. In addition to a catwalk thrusting out into the auditorium, audiences will have the opportunity to watch Sunny Afternoon from more than sixty seats at cabaret-style tables in the stalls area.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s new booking period at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane has been extended to Saturday 31st October 2015. Tickets are available from Friday 19th September 2014. Other shows to have extended include Thriller Live (Lyric Theatre) to Sunday 6th September 2015, King Charles III (Wyndham’s) to Saturday 31st January 2015 and Curious Incident (Gielgud Theatre) to Saturday 23rd May 2015.
Earlier this week the Hampstead Theatre revealed their production of Di and Viv and Rose will receive a West End run from January, marking their third West End transfer of the year (following Good People and Sunny Afternoon). The show begins performances at the Vaudeville Theatre on Thursday 22nd January 2015.
Anna Mackmin returns to direct Amelia Bullmore’s “funny and insightful” comedy about female friendship. Tamzin Outhwaite is set to reprise her performance as Di until Saturday 28th March (her replacement is yet to be announced). Joining the production are Samantha Spiro as Viv and Jenna Russell as Rose.
Alan Titchmarsh is set to make his West End debut as the narrator in The Wind in the Willows at the Vaudeville Theatre. The Royal Opera House’s stunning production returns to the West End from Wednesday 26th November 2014 for an exciting Christmas run. The Wind in the Willows was one of the most beautiful shows I saw last year and I am thrilled more people will have an opportunity to see it this Christmas.
In Will Tuckett’s spellbinding production the famous story is brought to life through song, music, dance and puppetry. Full casting will be announced soon. Alan Titchmarsh has enjoyed a long and varied career in television, presenting Gardener’s World and Ground Force as well as his own show on ITV, The Alan Titchmarsh Show. He has written over fifty books as well as nine novels! He is no stranger to the stage, having previously presented many events including the Last Night of the Proms and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant.
In other news I am hearing wonderful reports about Bonnie Langford and Gary Wilmot who have joined the West End production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at the Savoy Theatre. The show is tremendous fun and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a delightful evening of high quality theatre. Jerry Mitchell’s production is now playing matinees on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Finally, Evita has begun previews at the Dominion Theatre ahead of its press night next week, Ghost Stories reopened at the Arts Theatre on Sunday (21st September 2014) whilst Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense and The Importance of Being Earnest have ended end their West End runs at the Duke Of York’s and Harold Pinter Theatres on Saturday (20th September 2014).