wed 26/06/2019

Theatre Interviews

theartsdesk Q&A: Actress Sheridan Smith

Jasper Rees

There’s a song in the musical version of Legally Blonde, in which peroxide ditz Elle celebrates her impending good fortune. “Oh my god, oh my god, you guys,” she sings exultantly as she prepares to accept her beau’s proposal of marriage. Since leaving the role at the start of 2011, Sheridan Smith has continued hollering the words more or less non-stop.

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Bald on blondes: what makes Terry Johnson tick?

Jasper Rees

Who is Terry Johnson? For a period of two decades between, say, 1982 and 2003, he was predominantly a playwright. He was sufficiently successful at it that for a period in 1995, three of his plays were on in the West End at once. But the plays have slowly dried up – the last was in 2006 – and nowadays he is very largely a director. His latest gig as a director is a 20th-anniversary revival of his play Hysteria!

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theartsdesk Q&A: Songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman

Jasper Rees

There is no formula for creating a hit musical. If there were, the history of the West End and Broadway would not be haunted by the many ghosts of bygone disasters. Let us not list them here. The lack of a roadmap notwithstanding, the long-awaited version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is ticking all the right boxes.

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10 Questions for Actor James McAvoy

Jasper Rees

There has always been a keen air of propulsion to the career of James McAvoy. He made his name on television in State of Play and Shameless, while early film roles in Starter for 10 and Inside I’m Dancing swiftly promoted him up the leading man’s ladder to appear in The Last King of Scotland, Atonement, The Last Station, X-Men: First Class and, as of this month, Welcome to the Punch.

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theartsdesk Q&A: Writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson

Jasper Rees

Is Steptoe and Son the platonic ideal of the British sitcom? Two men trapped in eternal stasis, imprisoned by class and bound together by family ties as if by hoops of steel, never to escape: it’s what half-hour comedy should be. Posterity would seem to agree, because since the sitcom ended in 1974 the two rag and bone men have never been out of work, appearing in the cinema, on stage and radio.

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10 Questions for Choreographer Bob Avian

Jasper Rees

A Chorus Line is one of the great American musicals. It opened off Broadway in 1975, rapidly barged a path to a larger Broadway house and proceeded to run for over 6,000 performances, breaking records along the way. Chicago, which opened in the same season, failed to seize the city's imagination in the same way, and had to wait till the 1990s to find an audience prepared to devour it.

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theartsdesk Q&A: Comedian Rowan Atkinson

Jasper Rees

The generation of alternative comedians who emerged around 30 years ago have long since elbowed their predecessors into the long grass and themselves become the establishment. Of no performer can that be said with more certainty than Rowan Atkinson. His rubbery physiognomy is instantly recognisable to billions, which is why he – or rather Mr Bean - was granted pride of place at the Opening Ceremony as guest artist with Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra.

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theartsdesk Q&A: Writer Sir Ronald Harwood

Jasper Rees

Success can be a terrible burden. Wonderful while it lasts, once the applause has petered out, the looks have faded and the fame has dwindled, what do the stars of yesteryear have to live for? It’s the question asked by Ronald Harwood in Quartet. Harwood's hymn to seniority started out as a play in 1999, but has now been made into a film. True to its message that age should not be allowed to wither us, it features the directorial debut of Dustin Hoffman.

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theartsdesk Q&A: Composer John Kander

Jasper Rees

In 1972 John Kander and Fred Ebb were invited by Bob Fosse to a private screening of his film version of their hit stage musical, Cabaret. The movie starred their protégée, Liza Minnelli, who at only 19 had won her first Tony in Kander and Ebb’s first show, Flora the Red Menace, and for whom they would go on to write “New York, New York”. “Liza was our girl, and we cared very deeply about her.

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theartsdesk Q&A: Writer Michael Frayn

Jasper Rees

Michael Frayn (b 1933) has been having an annus mirabilis. The play the hapless actors of Noises Off are touring is called Nothing On. In the playwright’s case, almost everything has been on. Frayn’s best-known farce spent the first half of the year tickling ribs at the Old Vic and then in the West End.

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