At the height of his success in the early 1990’s, British impresario extraordinaire Sir Cameron Mackintosh was described by the New York Times as “the most successful, influential and powerful theatrical producer in the world.”
For the past fifty years he has produced more musicals than anyone else in history and the three longest running musical productions – LES MISERABLES, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, and CATS , as well as OLIVIER! and MISS SAIGON. Not bad for someone who started out as a stagehand at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Although I had met Sir Cameron on a few occasions I had never drawn him, so I did just that and dropped it into his London office and he immediately returned it with this very complimentary note.
In one of my rare departures from the 4B, I did this 2010 sketch of Cherry Jones and Sally Hawkins in the Broadway revival of George Bernard Shaw’s ‘problem play’ MRS. WARREN’S PROFESSION in a black fine line Pilot pen. Actually it was part of my black-liner-with-the-rogue-biro-thrown-in phase.
Sally actually signed it after she returned to the UK, so obviously Cherry wasn’t able to graph it. I got that chance last month to complete the sig-set when she made her West End debut at the Duke of York’s theatre in the Broadway transfer of Tennessee William’s THE GLASS MENAGERIE which is currently running until the end of the month.
American actor Brian J Smith’s portrayal of Jim O’Connor, the ‘gentleman caller’ in John Tiffany’s celebrated Procyon of Tennessee William’s THE GLASS MENAGERIE has garnered him award nominations on both sides of the Atlantic. He was shortlisted for both the Drama Desk and Tony Awards for the Broadway run at the Booth Theatre in 2013 and this year’s Oliviers after its transfer to London’s Duke of York’s Theatre, which finishes next week. Brian kindly signed this sketch for me a couple of weeks ago and he said he’s staying in London for another William’s play.
I drew this sketch of Roger Allam as Prospero and Jessie Buckley as Miranda from Jeremy Herrin’s production of THE TEMPEST which was part of the 2013 season at Shakespeare’s Globe in London. But I never got the chance to get it signed at the time. It’s what I call ‘siguations vacant’.I have numerous unsigned sketches in my bag, just in case I cross paths with those rendered. Jessie actually signed a short while after the season finished at her London agency, but I’ve been waiting for Roger to walk the boards again. This seems to happen at three to four year intervals, between his screen commitments. Having won the Olivier for his magnificent performance as Falstaff in HENRY IV PARTS 1 & 2 at the Globe in 2010, he returned for THE TEMPEST three years later. He did so again, albeit it a little longer, last month in LIMEHOUSE at the Donmar Warehouse, where I managed to meet up with him on a quiet Saturday morning to complete the sketch signing.
Simon Callow directs a brand new production of Christopher Hampton’s most celebrated play THE PHILANTHROPIST at London’s Trafalgar Studios, which opens this week after a fortnight of previews. It’s a ‘fiendishly clever inversion’ of Moliere’s THE MISANTHROPE, which the writer describes it as a ‘biting bourgeois comedy’, centring on an academic whose morbid compulsion to please everyone has the opposite effect.
After a ‘try-out’ at the Royal Court in London, the play premiered on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in March 1971. It was nominated for three Tony Awards, including Best Play. “Christopher Hampton was 23 and it was his first big hit – a stonking success,” said Simon Callow, who has gathered together a young cast, light on theatre experience, but well known to TV audiences.
THE INBETWEENERS star Simon Bird makes his stage debut, joined by Tom Rosenthal, his co-star in Channel 4’s FRIDAY NIGHT DINNER, FRESH MEAT and CALL THE MIDWIFE’s Charlotte Ritchie, BAFTA winner Matt Berry from the IT CROWD and actress-model Lily Cole, who all signed my montage sketch heading in for Saturday’s matinee.
The Ukrainian urban rebel, iconoclast and ballet prodigy Sergei Polunin is regularly acknowledged as the greatest dancer of his generation. His astonishing power and poise saw him become the Royal Ballet’s youngest principal at 19. At the peak of his success he rocked the arts establishment with his shock departure from the Company in 2012.
The ‘bad boy of ballet’ made the art form go viral, walked away, driven by stardom and self-destruction, his talent more a burden than a gift. How can you be free to be yourself when you are ballet’s ‘hottest property’?
He is now the subject of Oscar nominee Steven Cantor’s latest film DANCER, which premiered last month. It includes David LaChapelle’s 2015, video sensation TAKE ME TO THE CHURCH. Coinciding with the release of the documentary, Sergei performed PROJECT POLUNIN for five nights at London’s Sadler’s Wells where he signed and dedicated my sketch.
Tony Award winner, Alfie Boe first played Jean Valjean in the concert performance celebrating the 25th Anniversary of LES MISERABLES at London’s O2 arena in October 2010, before taking on the role in the full stage production at the Queen’s Theatre from June to November the following year. In 2015 he reprised the role at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway, succeeding Ramon Karimloo. He shared the 2003 Tony Award with the other principal leads of Baz Luhrmann’s LA BOHEME. He was born Alfred Giovanni Roncalli Boe to Irish-Norwegian parents in Blackpool. It’s the Italian name of Pope John XXIII. Thankfully he shortened it to ‘Alfie’, which takes less time to sign, and he did just that last Saturday at the London Coliseum, before the matinée of CAROUSEL in which he stars with Katherine Jenkins.
If you search any list of the greatest conductors of all time, Marin Alsop appears on most, if not all of them. The American ‘batonist’, violinist and Bernstein protege was the first female to become a principal conductor of a major orchestra – the Baltimore Symphony, where she is still musical director. She also holds the same position with the Sao Paulo State symphony orchestra. In the UK she has been involved with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the City of London Sinfonia.
She was also with the Bournemouth Symphony from 2002-2008. Marin became the first woman to conduct the Last Night at the Proms in 2003. She is the recipient of many awards, including the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship – the only conductor to do so and the only classical musician to be included in The Guardian’s Top 100 Women list. On a less elevated level she is the first conductor I have drawn.
I drew this very quick two-minute sketch to capture the energy of her performance, which she signed for me at the Royal Festival Hall in London last Friday evening, after she conducted the European Union Youth Orchestra.
Argentina tenor Marcelo Puente is so good at being bad, he gets booed at the curtain call. Making his Covent Garden debut as Pinkerton, one of Opera’s great villains in the latest revival of Puccini’s MADAMA BUTTERFLY at the Royal Opera House, the 38 year old has fulfilled a fourteen-year dream to perform at the iconic venue. Taking a break from his opera scholarship in Düsseldorf in the summer of 2003 he came to London and took a job as a waiter in an Italian restaurant near the ROH. They found out he was a singer so he performed between waiting tables and everyday passed the Opera House dreaming one day he would be on the famous stage. He actually gave up medical school and changed his career direction after hearing a recording of Pavarotti.
The reviews have been excellent. Tim Ashley, in the Guardian also mentioned opera audiences habit of booing reprehensible on stage characters and commented, when Marcelo takes his curtain call they greet him with “the kind of noise usually accorded a pantomime villain, despite giving one of the most complete and convincing portrayals of the role to be heard for some time.” He went on to say that, “Some might argue that the response validates his characterisation, though whether it’s a fitting acknowledgement for such a superb achievement seems to me debatable.”
I’ve drawn plenty of violinists but this is my first ‘big violinist’ sketch, or as they like to call it, a cellist and it just so happens to be Steven Isserlis, one of the world’s best. Britain’s greatest cellist, who could pass for a Brian May sibling, is known for his diverse repertoire and distinctive sound using gut strings. It was reported that he has never taken more than three consecutive days away from his cello since he was ten years old. He believes cellos have souls rather than characteristics. “It’s like breathing to me,” he said.
Steven has a calming ritual before a concert. Rehearse in the morning on his Marquis de Coberon Stradivarius on loan from the Royal Academy of Music, have a huge lunch, drink coffee and listen to The Beatles. “It’s partly superstitious – but my father was Russian so I was bought up with superstition,” he said. Steven performed at the Royal Festival Hall in London where he signed my ‘big violin’ sketch.