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    Arthur Darvill Joins Once, Blithe Spirit Opens And More This Week #WestEndWeek

    Happy St Patrick’s Day!This week is a big week for the West End’s Irish musicals...
    Firstly Doctor Who star Arthur Darvill joins the West End production of Once tonight (Monday 17th March 2014) at the Phoenix Theatre, following a successful stint on Broadway. His previous London theatre credits include Our Boys (Duchess), Soft Cops (RSC), Doctor Faustus (Globe) and Swimming with Sharks (Vaudeville Theatre). Arthur is also known for his roles in Broadchurch and The White Queen.
     Once has book by award-winning Irish playwright and screenwriter Enda Walsh. Directed by John Tiffany, the musical is based on the 2007 low-budget, independent Irish film which went on to win an Oscar for the song ‘Falling Slowly’ which also features in the stage show. Once is described as a ‘celebration of love, friendship and music’.
    To celebrate Arthur’s first performance, St Patrick’s Day and the musical’s first birthday in the West End, Once are joining forces with Oxfam for a special gala performance tonight. The cast will be joined by a special VIP audience to raise money for the charity’s Mother Appeal. I saw the show again last week and the new cast are superb!
    Fellow Irish musical, The Commitments, are also celebrating St Patrick’s Day tonight with an extra performance. Monday is usually the cast’s night off after a busy four show weekend, but an extra performance has been added tonight and apparently the cast have one or two surprises up their sleeve.
    The Commitments features over 20 classic soul songs including ‘Think’ by Aretha Franklin, ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ by The Rolling Stones, ‘Papa Was A Rolling Stone’ by The Temptations, ‘Night Train’ by James Brown, ‘In The Midnight Hour’ by Wilson Pickett, ‘Try A Little Tenderness’ by Otis Redding and ‘Mustang Sally’.
    Led by Killian Donnelly the cast have been busy promoting the show over the past few days. They appeared on Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Take Away, The One Show and Daybreak, as well as The Gaby Roslin Show. Producers have stated that the St Patrick’s Day performance will be the “biggest and loudest” performance yet!
    Also this week The Weir continues performances at the Wyndham’s Theatre. Written by Irish playwright Conor McPherson, The Weir transferred to the West End’s Wyndham’s Theatre following a sold-out run at the Donmar Warehouse. Cast member Peter McDonald recently told London Theatre Direct that it is a “pleasure” to be in the show.
    Discussing what audiences can expect from the production Peter explained, “Time and time again people come up to me after this show and tell me by the end of the play they felt like they were in the bar themselves. I felt like that when I saw it back in the mid 1990s. I almost didn’t want the characters to go home at the end. That’s what I love to feel at the end of a piece of theatre. I hope that people can get that sense of immersion from the play – because we, as a company of actors, feel it on the stage.”
    The final Irish musical to be hitting the headlines this week is Finian's Rainbow. Phil Willmott’s brand new production of the musical, which recently finished a sold-out run at the Union Theatre, is transferring to the Charing Cross Theatre for a six-week season from Thursday 3rd April 2014.
    I saw the show during its run at the Union and it was utterly delightful. The score, featuring the numbers 'Old Devil Moon', 'If This Isn’t Love', 'Look to the Rainbow' and 'How are Things in Glocca Morra?' is simply glorious. The show, which hasn’t been performed professionally in the UK since its first West End run in 1947, is described as an ‘irresistible candy floss confection that will send you away looking for rainbows with a song in your heart and a spring in your step’.
    Elsewhere this week, Blithe Spirit officially opens at the Gielgud Theatre tomorrow (Tuesday 18th March 2014) starring the legendary Angela Lansbury. However, Lansbury isn’t the only star in the cast as Downton Abbey’s Charles Edwards and Olivier Award winning Janie Dee are said to give fine performances. Noël Coward’s sharp comedy of social mores promises to be one of the biggest shows of the year.
    Relative Values begins previews at the Harold Pinter Theatre on Wednesday (19th March 2014). Noel Coward’s hilarious play transfers to the West End following a successful run at the Theatre Royal Bath. Patricia Hodge, Caroline Quentin, Rory Bremner and Ben Mansfield reprise their roles alongside Leigh Zimmerman who is joining the cast.
    Finally this week a new cast join the West End production of War Horse which continues to stand strong at the New London Theatre, having recently celebrated its 2,000th performance and extended booking to 14th February 2015. Elsewhere, From Here To Eternity (Shaftesbury), Stephen Ward (Aldwych), The Act (Trafalgar Studios 2), The Duck House (Vaudeville) and The Full Monty (Noel Coward) enter their final weeks. All five productions close on Saturday 29th March 2014.
    Andrew Tomlins
    Photo credit: Joan Marcus

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