Friday, Friday, Friday

Another week is over and it’s time for my first end of the week round-up. It’s been an exciting week for new British musical theatre, with the premiere of The Kissing Dance and the star-studded launch of Michael Bruce’s new album at the Delfont Room, not to mention the YouTube hit Portrait of a Princess. We have also heard lots of tantalising news about upcoming shows and casts, as well as more arts funding updates. Here is my selection of just a few of this week’s news stories from theatreland.

Dramatis personae Casting news galore this week, with some star-studded acting line-ups being announced. There is good news for History Boys fans, who get to see original cast alumni Samuel Barnett and Jamie Parker reunited in Chichester Festival’s revival of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. A starry threesome for the transfer of Pygmalion is completed by Diana Rigg, who joins the previously announced Rupert Everett and Kara Tointon, while Natalie Casey is confirmed to be taking over as Paulette in Legally Blonde, making her the second Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps star to appear in the show after Sheridan Smith’s award-winning run as Elle. Finally, another star treads the boards of the Theatre Royal Haymarket as Ralph Fiennes returns to the stage as Prospero in Trevor Nunn’s production of The Tempest this summer.

Curtain up The major openings this week included Kneehigh’s adaptation of French cult musical film The Umbrellas of Cherbourg at the Gielgud Theatre, starring Joanna Riding and cabaret act Meow Meow (see what the critics said here), Remembrance Day at the Royal Court Upstairs as part of the theatre’s international season and new British musical The Kissing Dance at the Jermyn Street Theatre. Further afield, a revival of Katori Hall’s Olivier-award winning play The Mountaintop opened at the Derby Guildhall and the critically acclaimed tour of Guys and Dolls took up residence at the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich, among many other openings.

Encore! It is ‘One Day More’ for Les Miserables, which this week extended its booking period to 28 April 2012. There are also plenty more chances to see other long-running shows We Will Rock You and the seemingly immortal Mousetrap, which extended to 22 October 2011 and 12 November 2011 respectively.

Curtain call It is time up for Tim Firth’s Sign of the Times, which has posted closing notices at the Duchess Theatre this week and will now close on 2 April 2011. The play, starring Matthew Kelly and Gerard Kearns, only recently opened on 11 March.

Box office Several theatres announced their new seasons this week and there are plenty of theatrical treats on offer. Hampstead Theatre boasts premieres from playwrights Nicholas Wright, Simon Stephens, Richard Nelson and Steve Thompson for its autumn/winter programme and it was also announced that the theatre’s acclaimed revival of Mike Leigh’s Ecstasy will transfer to the Duchess Theatre next month. Elsewhere, the Soho Theatre’s season includes the English premiere of Anthony Neilson’s Realism and the return of OperaUpClose with Don Giovanni and the Bush Theatre bids its current home farewell with a season including a celebration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible starring Christopher Eccleston and Tamsin Greig. Finally, the RSC announced a winter season featuring debuts of two new plays and productions of The Taming of the Shrew and Measure for Measure.

Arts funding The announcement of the Budget this week simplified giving in a move to encourage philanthropy for the arts, with the hope that an increase in private giving will compensate for some of the recent cuts. A more detailed breakdown of the reform and ACE’s response can be found here. One scheme that has fallen under the axe this year is A Night Less Ordinary, aimed at getting young people into theatre, but a knowledge share event was held this week to discuss what might be the next step for involving young people. ‘What next?’ was also the question on the lips of everyone at an event hosted by the Young Vic earlier today, and you can read a report of what was said here.

Fun, fun, fun From the doom and gloom of arts cuts to a more cheery note on which to end today’s round-up. As alluded to by the title of this post, American teenager Rebecca Black’s YouTube music video celebrating the end of the week has become a massive viral hit on the net and has in turn spawned countless parodies. Theatre producer and M. Magazine editor Chris Clegg has had a go at creating his own version of ‘Friday’, hilariously mashed up with Eminem and the Spice Girls. Enjoy watching the result and have a great weekend.

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