The smash-hit Broadway musical HAMILTON has rolled into London Town and it’s the hottest ticket in the West End. Lin Manual Miranda’s hip hop retelling of the rags to riches story of America’s founding father Alexander Hamilton has moved into the Victoria Palace Theatre for the long haul.
One of the audience favourites is Michael Jibson in his scene-stealing turn as an exasperated King George III – a pantomime baddie with his show-stopping ‘You’ll be Back.’ Michael’s one of the UK’s most versatile stage and screen actors from his Olivier nominated role in OUR HOUSE at the the Cambridge Theatre in 2002 to the factory foreman in the film version of LES MISERABLES. I meet Michael after last Saturday’s matinee where he signed my drawing.
The multi-award-winning Broadway sensation, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s visionary hip-hop, rap and R&B musical HAMILTON has taken London by storm and every critic agrees, it’s better than the hype. Luckily we managed to get tickets for a matinee in early February.
It’s all about Alexander Hamilton, the ‘bastard, orphan son of a whore and a Scotsman’, who leaves the Caribbean to become the first secretary of the US Treasury and George Washington’s right hand man. It’s a thrilling salute to America’s immigrants and given the current administration in charge… enough said.
In the lead role, taking over from Lin-Manuel himself is 25 year-old RADA graduate Jamael Westman. In the programme he lists only two shows since his graduation two years ago… oh, and like most actors in the UK he had a minor role in CASUALTY.
Andrzej Lukowski in his five-star Time Out review wrote, “Relative newcomer Jamael Westman is a revelation in the title role: he can spit lines like a machine gun, sing like a dream and being both young and prodigiously tall he perfectly channels Hamilton’s gaucheness as the socially inept but relentlessly driven immigrant, sets about trying to liberate and reform America.”
I popped over to the restored Victoria Palace Theatre last Saturday after the matinee, where HAMILTON has taken up a long term residency, and luckily caught up with Jamael, who was very cool and more than happy to sign my drawing.
One of the stars of the Mariinsky Ballet from Saint Petersburg, Ekaterina Kondaurova returned to Covent Garden as part of the famous Russian company’s London season at the Royal Opera house last Summer.
After graduating from the Vaganova Academy she immediately joined the Mariinsky in 2001, where she has remained, rising through the ranks to Principal in 2012. Among her many awards was winning the prestigious Prix Benoit de la Danse competition in 2006.
I left this drawing at the Royal Opera House, which Ekaterina signed and returned for me.
Fifteen years after its Edinburgh Fringe beginning as LA CLIQUE, the Olivier Award-winning Australian-born variety show LA SOIRÉE has reached the West End. The traditional Aldwych Theatre has been transformed into an intimate cabaret club, described as a ‘head-spinning cocktail of sauce, silliness and spectacle – the thrill of the risqué upping that of the risky.’
One of the acts is Polish-born acrobat and circus artist Klodi Dabkiewicz. A former champion rhythmic gymnast who has performed around the globe, including Franco Dragone’s famous ‘House of Dancing Water’ in Macau, China. She is part of Syndicate Circus and a regular on the UK Cabaret circuit. Along with Leon Fagbemi they perform a steamy and seductive hand-to-hand, with ‘mind-bending flexibility.’ Klodi signed this sketch for me last week at the theatre.
Trinidadian-born British actor Donald Williams graduated from The Drama Centre in London’s Kentish Town, taking the stage name Don Warrington. His professional stage debut was at the Hampstead Theatre in 1973, playing Philip Smith in Eric Chappell’s THE BANANA BOX, opposite Leonard Rossiter and France de la Tour, which transferred to the West End and then became the classic TV sitcom RISING DAMP, making Don a household name. Since then he has carved an impressive stage and screen career, including his role as Commissioner Selwyn Patterson in the hit BBC series DEATH IN PARADISE since 2011.
He returned to the stage in 2012 with the UK tour of DRIVING MISS DAISY with Gwen Taylor and the lead in KING LEAR at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre in 2016, which theatre critic Claire Allfree wrote was a ‘heartbreaking tour-de-force,’ in the Telegraph. Don is currently appearing at the Playhouse Theatre in the absorbing London revival of David Mamet’s GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, playing the apprehensive George Aaronow, who has been left behind by the changes in the corporate world. Lacking confidence and self esteem he has plunged to the bottom of the heap in a ruthless hierarchical and cutthroat Chicago real estate office.
I met Don last Saturday when he arrived at the theatre for the matinee performance where he signed this drawing for me.
After a decade, Sir Ian McKellen returned to play KING LEAR at the Chichester Festival Theatre in a sold-out five-week season late last year. Having played the role in Trevor Nunn’s 2007 production for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Sir Ian felt that performing it in vast theatre’s meant he declaimed lines that should have been more softly spoken or even whispered.
The contemporary retelling of Shakespeare’s most unforgiving tragedy in the intimate 280 seat, wrap around Minerva stage gave him that chance and at 78 he is closer to Lear’s age, which helped him achieve his aim: not to act Lear, but to be Lear in what is “probably his last big Shakespeare part,” according to a recent BBC interview.
The critics agreed, after six decades of acting, Sir Ian ‘reigned supreme’. “McKellen is never less than astonishing,” wrote Neil Norman in the Express, “McKellen is in full command of a lifetime’s acting technique,” said Mark Stenton in The Stage and ‘McKellen meticulously explores Lear’s delusions of grandeur,” exclaimed the Metro’s John Nathan.
I left this drawing at the theatre, which Sir Ian signed and dedicated with a bronze sharpie complete with a metallic glow on his insignia.
Dominic Dromgoole’s ‘compassionate and emotionally engaging’ production of A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE launched a year-long season of Oscar Wilde at London’s Vaudeville Theatre late last year.
The outstanding cast was lead by Eve Best, Anne Reid and Eleanor Bron, who played Mrs Arbuthnot and Ladies Hunstanton and Pontefract respectively. The Irish playwright’s 1983 society play examines the hypocrisy of Victorian society in which woman are shamed and stigmatised for their sexual conduct and men do as they please.
I met Eve, Anne and Eleanor at the stage door, where they signed this montage, arriving for the Saturday matinee a week before the production completed its run on 30 December.
Multi-award winning English actress, Emma Fielding was part of an impressive ensemble in Oscar Wilde’s A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE, which completed its run on Saturday after kicking-off the Oscar Wilde Season at London’s Vaudeville Theatre over the festive period. She played Mrs Allonby, who delivers a brilliant monologue about what makes an ideal man in a venue that is tailor-made for the production. “It’s the type of theatre the play’s written for with the traditional proscenium arch,” she said in a recent interview. I caught up with Emma and the cast arriving for a Saturday matinee a couple of weeks ago where she signed my sketch.
In the immortal words of Scrooge, “A merry Christmas to every-body! A happy new year to all the world! Whoop!”
What better time to post this sketch of the wonderful Welsh actor Rhys Ifans as one of Charles Dickens’ most memorable characters in the Old Vic production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL in London. It’s the ultimate redemption story, the cold-hearted miser who despises the festive season, until the Christmas Spirits fill him with love and joy.
We saw the excellent production a couple of weeks ago and Rhys signed this drawing for me yesterday at the stage door.
After its 2015 Broadway premiere Simon Stephens’ new two-hander HEISENBERG:THE UNCERTAINTY PRINCIPLE has arrived in the West End at the Wyndham’s Theatre. Directed by Marianne Elliot, it is the debut show for her new company Elliot and Harper and stars Anne-Marie Duff and Kenneth Cranham. It’s an 80 minute study of a mismatched couple, riffing on life, love and everything in between. Anne-Marie is Georgie, an American school receptionist in her forties, who jokes she’s an assassin and Kenneth plays Alex, a seventy year old butcher who’s used to being self contained. Both signed my drawing after last Saturday’s evening performance.