Michael McIntyre has become the highest-earning comedian in the world today since his rapid rise from obscurity to prominence after appearing on his first Royal Variety Performance in 2006. Micheal’s 2012 UK Tour covered 71 arena venues performing to over 700,000 people including a record-breaking 10 nights at London’s 02 which elevated him to the world’s biggest selling standup comedian, grossing an estimated £21 million.
Before all the fame and fortune he remembers the tough years spent on the circuit and returns to his roots, with ‘work in progress’ shows to try out new material. He often appears at smaller venues like the Soho Theatre, a place I myself frequent as frequent readers of my blog will testify. Michael’s back there this month for a few practice gigs. However he slips in and out unnoticed and nobody seems to have any info on his movements.
The staff are always helpful, but the bigger names tend to prefer a bit more obscurity at the intimate venue for obvious reasons. I did hang around a couple of times to see if I could catch Michael in person, but that proved fruitless, so left this sketch with the Soho team. For some reason I thought, given Michael’s status, his entourage may forget to pass it on or it would get lost amongst the mountain of fan mail. I expected a long wait for it’s return, if in fact it was ever returned at all or the usual 5×7 pre-printed photo with the standard letter.
But to my surprise and delight, it came back signed, complete with additional comic calligraphy within two days!
In 2012 Billy Connolly was diagnosed with prostate cancer, deafness and Parkinson’s disease in the same week. Successful surgery cured the cancer and he now wears a small hearing aid, but the slow moving Parkinson’s will always be with him. ‘It’s like having a wee mugger following you around,” he said in a recent interview. But the Scotsman, considered by many polls to be the greatest standup ever, refuses to let his battle with the debilitating disease stop him as he embarked on his latest HIGH HORSE Tour, which saw him just finish an 11-night run at London’s Hammersmith Apollo. Protracted applause greeted him every night and he responded with, “You’re only doing that coz I’m sick…I can tell the f ***in’ sympathy vote.” The Guardian’s review headline read. ‘Older, frailer but the Big Yin is still the Maestro.”
“When I was a boy I was a Catholic. I paid the fine and got out.” He once said, but he thanked theChurch in his acceptance speech at the National Television Awards last month when he received a special award for his 50 years in the business. “I’d like to thank the Catholic Church for the rhythm method of birth control without which I wouldn’t be here.”
Hopefully it’s not the last time we see him live on stage in London. His health condition may have stopped him playing his beloved banjo, but hasn’t diminished his generosity with fans and ability to sign, which he kindly did so on my sketch after I left it for him at the venue.
Seventeen year-old unknown North Carolina high school student Eva Noblezanda was plucked from obscurity to play the lead in the West End revival of the musical MISS SAIGON and winning the WhatsOnStage Award for Best Actress in a Musical.
“She’s performed in shows at her school, but she has never done a big professional musical before,” said producer Cameron MacIntosh when he announced Eva would be playing Kim for the much-anticipated run at London’s Prince Edward Theatre, which opened in May 2014. It smashed the world box-office record, taking £4.4 million on the first day of ticket sales.
Apart from her obvious talent, the role is in the blood with Eva’s aunty, Annette Calud also playing Kim in the Broadway production.
MISS SAIGON premiered at the Drury Lane’s Theatre Royal in 1989, running for ten years before transferring to Broadway. Written by LES MISERABLES’ Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boubill, it is loosely based on Puccini’s MADAME BUTTERFLY. Set in 1975, during the final days of the American occupation of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), it tells the tragic tale of a doomed romance between an American G.I. And a Vietnamese bargirl.
The revival finishes at the end of this month and Eva will be reprising the role in the Broadway transfer in the Spring of 2017.
Penelope Cruz wasn’t initially on any guest lists for the ‘fashionable screening’ of the much-anticipated sequel ZOOLANDER 2 at London’s Empire cinema last week. So, I initially didn’t have a sketch or an intention to attend.
That changed when I received a text from a fellow graphee stalker to say Penelope, who plays Interpol’s ‘Global Fashion’ agent, Valentina, was in town and attending. A rapid response was required. This is it. Then a piece of luck to get a good position on the carpet, courtesy of the aforementioned fellow graphee, although Penelope is always very good and signs as many sigs as possible, which included my drawing and a nice dedication.
British comedian and writer Julian Clary spent the festive period playing the ‘Slave of the Ring’ in ALADDIN at the Birmingham Hippodrome, before he embarks on his latest UK tour THE JOY OF MINCING.
Julian’s career began as ‘Leo Hull’, a fake keyboardist for a band called “Thinkman’, before taking to the alternative comedy scene as Gillian Pieface and ‘The Joan Collins Fan Club’ with his pet ‘Fanny the Wonder Dog.’ Joan Collins issued a cease and desist order to prevent Julian using her name, but they starred together in the 2010/11 panto DICK WHITTINGHTON at the Birmingham Hippodrome and have since become good friends.
Julian said he feels very comfortable in the world of pantomime, “I like dressing up and wearing lots of make-up”. He also said he likes forgetting his lines, “It’s good when things go wrong, then I can improvise my way out of the situation.”
I sent this sketch to Julian during the run, which he signed and returned.
There was only a five minute window of opportunity to get the graphs of Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Stanley Tucci when they appeared briefly at the UK Premiere of SPOTLIGHT at the Curzon Cinema in Mayfair recently. The trio raced in with only a few minutes to spare before the film commenced and then had leave with similar haste for other media commitments.
However in that time I managed to get a couple of sketches signed, including Emmy winner and Oscar and Grammy nominated Stanley,who plays attorney Mitchell Garabediau in the film about the Boston Globe’s exposure of child molestation in the local Catholic Archdiocese.
Romanian superstar soprano Angela Gheorghiu has a huge reputation, for many things. Considered by many as one of the greats of this generation. Her performances on and off the stage have given her legendary status. A penchant for referring to herself in the third person, pre-performance sex ‘to relax the voice’ and well documented flare-ups with her ex-husband, the famed French/ Sicilian tenor Roberto Alagna have all provided substantial media fodder. The New York Sun simply calls her “the world’s most glamorous opera star.”
She returned to Covent Garden last month in the title role of the Royal Opera’s revival of Puccini’s TOSCA. It’s a part she knows well, creating the role of Floria Tosca in Jonathan Kent’s 2006 staging and later reprising in 2009 and 2011.
“It’s an exceptionally intelligent evening, and much of what Gheorghiu does takes you by surprise. With a grand diva playing a grand diva, I half expected self-dramatisation or melodrama, but in fact she’s remarkably subtle and restrained…her high C’s still have a heft that pins you to your seat,” wrote Tim Ashley in the Guardian.
It was with some trepidation that I left this sketch at the Royal Opera House stage door. To my delight it came back dedicated and signed with a spectacular signature, as one would expect.
“It’s every opera singers dream of singing at Covent Garden,” said the hotly-tipped Australian Nicole Car when she arrived in London and made her Royal Opera House debut late last year in two high-profile roles, playing Micaela in Bizet’s Spanish tragedy CARMEN and the lead, Tatyana in EUGENE ONEGIN.
Her response to performing on to the iconic stage for the first time? “Kind of cool.” An understatement that belied the rave reviews. Nicole never reads reviews during the run, but she could tell by the sustained applause on opening night that she was more than cool. George Hall in his Guardian review of her portrayal of ‘opera’s good girl’ Micaela wrote, “Australian debutant Nicole Car was the evening’s most complete performance… her luminous soprano proves ideal for Bizet’s soaring lines and she acts with intelligence and immediacy.”
The Sydney Morning Herald headlined aa article about Nicole with, ‘The Opera Diva you’ve never heard of, but soon will,” and she signed her name on this drawing I did of her as Micaela.
‘Mr Haircut’, ‘The Ace in the Pack’ and ‘Juddernaut’ are a few of snooker champion Judd Trump’s nicknames. The former Word Number 1 is also known for his flamboyant style played at a ferocious pace. He has compiled 375 century breaks during his professional career so far. In 2011, after finishing runner-up at the World Championsips, Judd went on to win the UK Championship. The following year he lost to Ronnie ‘The Rocket’ O’Sullivan in both the final of the Champion of Champions and the U.K. Championships, but beat him in the inaugural International Championship to become World Number 1, a position he has held twice.
Judd is a lefty, so to my horror I thought I had drawn him using his cue incorrectly. I looked a zillion photos and based this sketch on one that had him using the cue on the rest with his right hand. According to commentators, his natural game is left-handed but for some shots, particularly when using the rest he is right-handed. Apparently a number of snooker plays alternate depending on the difficulty of the shot. A new nickname comes to mind, ‘The Ambidextrous Ace’.
I’m not sure which hand he used to graph my sketch, but he did it at last year’s World Championships at The Crucible in Sheffield and returned it to me.
The “consistently brilliant” Susannah Fielding was joined by Nigel Lindsay, Max Bennett and Marc Wootton in Clare Lizzimore’s “stunningly nasty production” (TimeOut) of Mike Barlett’s BULL when it was restaged at London’s Young Vic’s intimate Maria space over the Christmas season. She played the icy, sleek alpha female Isobel, who uses her manipulative skills to survive corporate downsizing when three warring work colleagues fight for the two remaining positions in what critic Sophia Chetin-Leuner called “The performative splendour of being cruel.”
Winner of the 2014 Charleson Award for her memorable portrayal as Portia in Rupert Goold’s THE MERCHANT OF VENICE at the Almeida Theatre, Susannah’s star continued to shine. “The spoils go to Susannah Fielding, who gets to deliver the powerhouse speech that brings the play to its climax,” wrote Thomas Dearnley-Davison in Spindle Magazine.
Susannah signed this sketch of her in the role after surviving another session in the ‘bullring’ on the final Saturday.