In 2015 Sara Bareilles wrote the music and the lyrics for her hit musical WAITRESS, which opened on Broadway a year later at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. Based on Adrienne Selly’s 2007 film of the same name, it tells the story of Jenna Hunterson, a pregnant, pie-baking waitress in an abusive relationship with her husband, earning Sara a Tony and Grammy Award nomination. Last year it transferred to London’s Adelphi Theatre where Sara made her West End debut at the end of January this year, stepping into the title role for a six-week run, alongside Olivier and Tony winner Gavin Creel as Dr. Jim Pomatter, after both played their respective roles in the Broadway production last year.
Sara has sold over a million albums and five million singles, receiving eight Grammy Award nominations, eventually winning for her song ‘Saint Honesty’ last year.
Her portrayal as Mary Magdalene in NBC’s live TV adaption of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s rock opera JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR in 2018, earned her critical acclaim and a Primetime Emmy nomination.
Sara signed my portrait at the Adelphi Theatre’s stage door after her first Saturday evening performance.
The world’s best-selling soprano Sarah Brightman returned to London’s Royal Albert Hall last November, where she last headlined 20 years ago, for one night only as part of her HYMN: SARAH BRIGHTMAN IN CONCERT World Tour. After appearing in a number of productions following her West End musical theatre debut as Jemima in the inaugural London cast of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s CATS in 1981, she originated the role of Christine Daae in his musical adaptation of Gaston Leroux French Novel THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, the tale of a beautiful songstress who becomes the obsession of a mysterious, disfigured musical genius (played by Michael Crawford), living in a subterranean labyrinth beneath the Paris Opera House.
It opened at Her Majesty’s Theatre in October 1986, where it is still running, becoming the second longest London musical behind LES MISERABLES, winning the Olivier for Best Musical. Both Sarah and Michael reprised their roles on Broadway, opening in January 1988 at the Majestic Theatre, where it is also still running, becoming the longest running musical on Broadway and winning the Tony Award. After Sarah retired from the stage she has become largely responsible for the popularity of the ‘classical crossover’ genre, selling over 35 million albums and two million DVD’s worldwide, becoming the world’s best-selling soprano. Her fifth album, ‘Timeless/ Time to Say Goodbye’ with the London Symphony Orchestra became her best seller in 1997, going gold, platinum or multi-platinum in 21 countries.
Her duet with Andrea Bocelli performing ‘Time to Say Goodbye’ became one of the highest selling singles of all time. She has won over 200 gold and platinum records in 38 countries.
Sarah kindly signed and returned my drawing, which I left at the Royal Albert Hall prior to her 11 November concert.
BAYWATCH and KNIGHT RIDER alum, David Hasselhoff has returned to London’s West End for a limited run in Dolly Parton’s 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL at the Savoy Theatre, playing the sexist, egomaniac CEO Franklin Hart Jr. over the festive-New Year season. “Get hassled by the Hoff”, announced Dolly when revealing David’s inclusion in the show last November.
Based on the 1980 film of the same name, which Dolly starred in, it centres around three female employees who turn the tables on their vile boss and make the company a nicer place to work. Dolly wrote and recorded the theme tune, which became one of her biggest hits of the decade. She also wrote all the songs for the musical, which debuted on Broadway in April 2009 at the Marquis Theatre, earning 15 Drama Desk Award and four Tony nominations.
David made his Broadway debut in 2000 in the musical JEKYLL & HYDE, before his first British and West End appearance as the amoral lawyer Billy Flynn in CHICAGO at the Adelphi Theatre in July 2004. He returned to the US for his role as the flamboyant director Roger De Bris in the Las Vegas production of Mel Brooks’ THE PRODUCERS. In announcing David’s casting, Mel said he would be perfect for the role with his “incredible comedic timing, terrific musical theatre experience and stage presence … oh and great legs for that dress!” (David opened the show wearing a ball gown).
David returned to the London stage as Captain Hook in the New Wimbledon Theatre’s panto PETER PAN over the 2010/2011 Christmas season, reprising the part as ‘Hoff the Hook’ the following year at the Manchester Opera House.
Last Sunday David was a guest on BBC Radio 2’s Michael Ball show where he stopped to sign autographs for a sizeable crowd, including moi and my Franklin sketch.
I was very happy to catch up with the delightful Alex – short for Alexandrea – Borstein when she popped into London in mid-December last year to do three nights at the Soho Theatre with her musical comedy show ALEX BORSTEIN AND THE AMSTERGANG. Described as a “little music, little comedy and a lot of dirty words” the show included original songs and hilarious versions of some of the classics.
I first encountered Alex with her recurring characters in GILMORE GIRLS, as Doris, harpist Drella and resident stylist and keeper of many a Hollywood secret Miss Celine. She has been the voice of Lois Griffin and many others in the animated comedy FAMILY GUY since 1999, (including writing and producing) winning an Emmy Award from numerous nominations. She also collected a further two Emmys as the irascible and scrappy rookie, ‘one tough cookie’ manager Susie Myerson in THE MARVELOUS MRS MAISEL and Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guid noms, winning the Critics Choice Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy series this month. The ensemble cast has also collected successive Screen Actors Guild awards for the past two years.
Alex signed my sketch when she arrived at the Soho Theatre on Saturday 14 December.
One of Broadway’s most celebrated performers and writers, Harvey Fierstein has won four Tony Awards. In 1982 he wrote TORCH SONG TRILOGY, a collection of three plays rendered in three acts over four hours and played the lead role, New Yorker Arnold Beckoff, a Jewish homosexual, drag queen and torch singer and his quest for true love and a family.
A ‘torch’ song is a sentimental love tune where the singer laments an unrequited or lost love. It opened on Broadway at the Little Theatre on 10 June 1982, winning both the Best Play and Best Actor in a Play Tony Awards for Harvey, who also reprised the role for the 1988 film adaption opposite Matthew Broderick and Anne Bancroft. While the distinctively gravel-voiced actor has appeared in a number of notable films and television shows, he is probably best remembered as Robin Williams’ character makeup artist, Uncle Frank Hillard in MRS DOUBTFIRE.
In 1984 he won the Tony for Best Book of a Musical for LA CAGE AUX FOLLES. Twenty-six years later he replaced Douglas Hodge in the lead role of ageing star Albin who plays drag queen Zaza in the 2010 Broadway revival. Harvey collected his fourth Tony for his performance as the mother Edna Turnblad in the musical HAIRSPRAY in 2004. He has also been nominated on three other occasions, for the NEWSIES (2012) and KINKY BOOTS (2013) books and Best Play for writing CASA VALENTINA (2014).
Harvey kindly signed this ‘Arnold’ sketch for me after I mailed it to his New York agency.
This year’s Academy Award nominations were announced on Monday and while Denzel Washington’s name wasn’t included this time he has had his fair share of Oscar success. His nine nominations include two wins for Best Supporting Actor as Private Silas Trip in the American Civil War drama GLORY (1989) and Best Actor for his role as corrupt detective Alonzo Harris in TRAINING DAY (2001).
In fact he has received a career total of 96 Award nominations, winning 39, which also includes three Golden Globes. His sole Tony success was for his performance as Troy Maxson, a former baseball player working as a waste collector and struggling to support his family in the revival of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play FENCES, which opened at the Cort Theatre on Broadway in April 2010 for a limited 13 week engagement. It received ten Tony nominations, winning three, including Best Revival. In 2016 he starred, directed and produced the film adaption, which earned him Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Actor, winning the Screen Actors Guild award.
Seven years ago Denzel attended the premiere of FLIGHT at London’s Empire Cinema in Leicester Square in which he played an airline pilot with a drinking problem, and yes, as per usual was Oscar nominated. I managed to get him to sign my FENCES sketch as he walked the red carpet, not an easy feat given his popularity.
Sonia herself has received the Producer of the Year Award on four occasions, the first to win three consecutively from 2015-2017 and again this year. In 2014 SFP made Oliver Award history, with the most wins, including New Play (CHIMERICA), Best New Musical (THE BOOK OF MORMAN), Best Play Revival Revival (GHOSTS), and Best Musical Revival (MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG). Three years later SFP and co-productions received an unprecedented 31 Olivier Award nominations, with 11 for the record-breaking HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD, winning 9, the most ever for any production.
Last year Sonia was named Broadway Briefings Show Person of the Year and was featured in TIME magazine’s top 100 most influential people. She has also branched into television with the same success, winning two 2016 BAFTA Awards for the six-part mini-series adaption of Hilary Mantel’s WOLF HALL, which aired on BBC Two.
Sonia kindly signed my sketch for me at her London office.
As per tradition and our annual November wedding anniversary ritual, my wife and attended a Shakespearean stage offering. This year the Royal Shakespeare Company have taken up residency at London’s Barbican Theatre over the festive season, with three plays: AS YOU LIKE IT, MEASURE FOR MEASURE and THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, being performed in repertory. We chose the latter (because it was on the actual day of our anniversary).
Justin Audibert’s gender-flipped “landmark production” (Evening Standard) is a radical take on the Bards fierce and energetic comedy of gender, where 1590 Padua is reimagined as a matriarchal society with women in charge. Wealthy Bautista Minola is seeking to marry off her two sons, the sweet-tempered Bianco and the rebellious Katherine. Enter Claire Price as Petruchio. She’s after money and taming the headstrong Katherine (Joseph Arkley) is her spousal target. Yes, a women called Petruchio mistreating a man called Katherine. “Price is hugely watchable with a pleasingly dotty Queenie-from-Blackadder sort of vibe,” wrote Andrzej Lukowski in his TimeOut review.
Claire kindly signed this Petruchio sketch, which I left at the Barbican stage door.
Prominent American playwright David Mamet was in London earlier this year to direct his contentious dark comedy BITTER WHEAT at the Garrick Theatre. Based on the Harvey Weinstein scandal, which sparked the MeToo movement, it run from June to September, featuring John Malkovich’s return to the West End after thirty years, as Hollywood studio boss Barney Fein and his fall from power. David attracts frequent debate and controversy, and was once quoted, “Being a writer in Hollywood is like going to Hitler’s Eagle Nest with a great idea for a bar mitzvah.” Often described as the prime chronicler of the macho males and power struggles, his distinctive writing style, involving cynical, street-wise dialogue has become known as ‘Mamet speak.’ David’s 1983 play about four disparate real estate agents, GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, which premiered at the National Theatre in London, won the Pulitzer Prize and the subsequent Broadway production was nominated for four Tony Awards, including Best Play. Four years later SPEED-THE-PLOW also won a nomination for Best Play.
David has written a number of major screenplays, including my favourite, THE VERDICT and WAG THE DOG, both Oscar and Golden Globe nominated. He also wrote the script for the 1992 film version of GLENGARRY GLENN ROSS.
David signed my portrait sketch as he arrived for the BITTER WHEAT press night at the GarrickTheatre.
One of the best films I have seen recently is Saul Dibb’s war drama JOURNEY’S END, based on R.C.Sherriff’s 1928 play. Released in 2017, it is the stage plays fifth film adaption. It follows a group of British soldiers awaiting their fate in an Aisne dugout under the leadership of a young officer Captain Stanhope during the Spring Offensive, a series of German attacks along the Western Front near the end of WWI.
Sam Claflin plays the boozy, brooding, self-loathing, belligerent Stanhope. Peter Bradshaw, in his four-star Guardian review said it is “expertly cast and really well acted:forthwright,powerful and heartfelt.” Sam was nominated for the 2018 Evening Standard Best Actor Award Film for his performance. He came to International prominence as Philip Swift in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES in 2011, followed by his role as Finnick Odair in THE HUNGER GAME film series (2013-2015). This year he joined the cast of the TV series PEAKY BLINDERS as Oswald Mosley.
Sam signed my sketch at the screening of his latest film, THE NIGHTINGALE before his Q&A at the Curzon Mayfair in London last week.