When young English actress Clare Louise Connolly was auditioning for the part of Regan, the 12 year old possessed by the Devil in stage adaption of THE EXORCIST, she was mindful of the iconic scene in the 1973 movie, when the character’s head spins 360. “I was sure I told the director Sean Mathias, that my neck was extremely flexible,” she revealed in a recent interview. It obviously helped, she got the part and after a brief run last year at Birmingham Rep, has reprised the role in the West End at the Phoenix Theatre. Musical movie buffs may also remember her in a reverse and lot less graphic role-a screen adaption of a stage production-in the 2008 film version of MAMA MIA! She signed this montage sketch for me on her way into the theatre for another head-turning performance on Saturday.
Much-loved British actor Peter Bowles has returned to the West End in the terrifying stage adaption of THE EXORCIST at the Phoenix Theatre. The 81 year-old veteran of stage and screen plays Father Lankester Merrin in the production that originated at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and is based on William Peter Blatty’s hugely successful novel and William Friedkin’s 1973 masterpiece film. Probably known more for his comedy roles such as Richard DeVere in the very popular sitcom TO THE MANOR BORN, Peter spent his formative television years playing villains in shows such as THE AVENGERS, DANGER MAN, THE SAINT and THE PRISONER. His stage career began at the Old Vic in 1956 with appearances in a series of Shakespearean productions, including MACBETH, ROMEO AND JULIET and RICHARD II. When I met Peter at the stage door on his way in for Saturdays late matinee he signed my sketch. I quipped, “It looks a scary play to watch,’ he replied “It’s a scary play to be in!”
American actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth was in London last month for her one night only engagement at the Palladium as part of her brief European Tour. I had missed her a couple of times before, so was very keen to get a drawing signed. I did this quick portrait based on her poster and dropped it into the new and impressive stage door office at the theatre, fingers crossed. Kristin won the Tony Award in 1999 for her portrayal of the title character’s sister, Sally Brown in YOU’RE A GOOD MAN CHARLIE BROWN. She also originated the role of Glinda in the musical WICKED on Broadway, earning another Tony nom. The cast recording won the 2005 Grammy. On the small screen, Kristin is best known for the reoccurring role as media consultant Annabeth Schott in THE WEST WING and Olive Snook in the comedy-drama PUSHING DAISIES for which she won the 2009 Emmy Award. As you can see my mission was complete when the signed and dedicated sketch arrived in the mail yesterday.
Australian-born, London-based actor, singer and dancer Adam Garcia is Father Damian Karras in the chilling West End premiere of the stage adaption of William Peter Blatty’s best-selling novel THE EXORCIST at the Phoenix Theatre, after an initial run at Birmingham Repertory last year. Adam, a two-time Olivier Award nominee, was last seen on the London stage in the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company’s THE WINTER’S TALE at the Garrick in 2015. Among his many theatre roles is Flyero in the original London cast production of WICKED.
His breakthrough screen appearance was in COYOTE UGLY in 2000. Adam once again teamed up with Sir Kenneth, this time in the film remake of Agatha Christie’s MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS which opened last week. I caught up with him at the Phoenix stage door as he was returning from a break between Saturday’s performances. After signing my drawing and a brief chat about our Antipodean connections he said, “Better get back, got more demons to exorcise.”
English actor and singer Hadley Fraser takes the lead role as Frederick Frankenstein in Mel Brook’s musical version of his 1974 film YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, which opened at the Garrick Theatre last month. Hadley made his West End debut as Marius in LES MISERABLES at the Palace Theatre in 2002 and performed the role of Grantaire in LES MISERABLES IN CONCERT: THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY at London’s 02 in 2010. The following year he played Raoul in three special concerts of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at the Royal Albert Hall to celebrate the show’s 25th Anniversary, the last of which was screened live around the world. Also in 2011 he returned to LES MISERABLES as Javert at the Queens Theatre for a year. He signed this drawing for me at the stage door after a Saturday matinee a few weeks ago.
Dianne Pilkington’s impressive stage career began in 1997 when became a cast member in the West End production of LES MISERABLES, including understudying the role of Fantine. After the UK tour of CATS, Dianne was selected to portray Glinda in the musical WICKED at the Apollo Victoria Theatre in 2007. From 2013-2016 she played Donna Sheridan in MAMMA MIA! at the Novello Theatre. This month Dianne began the West End run of Mel Brook’s musical version of his 1974 film YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN at the Garrick Theatre, playing Frederick Frankenstein’s fiancée Elizabeth Benning. Dianne signed my drawing after Saturday’s matinee.
After a ten year hiatus, Christian Slater has returned to the West End in the revival of David Mamet’s landmark 1983 drama GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, which is currently in previews, opening on 9 November at the Playhouse Theatre. Last seen in the business satire SWIMMING WITH SHARKS at the Vaudeville in 2007, Christian made his London stage debut as the rebellious Randle Patrick McMurphy in Dale Wasserman’s adaption of Ken Kesey’s cult novel ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST at the Gielgud in 2004. He reprised the role for a return season two years later at the Garrick. Christian very kindly met a few of us waiting at the Playhouse stage door after the first GLENGARRY matinee and signed my CUCKOO’s NEST sketch.
The STRICTLY COME DANCING judge Craig Revel Horwood is dividing his time these days between the popular BBC show at Elstree Studios and his role as the tyrannical orphanage manager Miss Hannigan in the musical ANNIE at the Piccadilly Theatre in London’s West End. He took over from role from Miranda Hart in mid-September for a limited 10 week run (minus Saturdays).
The Australian-born British dancer, choreographer and theatre director’s West End credits include CATS, MISS SAIGON, CHESS, CRAZY FOR YOU and SUNSET BOULEVARD. But it is his STRICTLY appearance as one of the original and most formidable judges since the show’s inception in 2004 that TV viewers know him best.
In 2012, commenting on KImberley Walsh’s dance routine he said it was “indecent, improper, absolute filth… and I loved it!” Craig is also known for his catch phrases. A common utterance is ‘Fab-u-Lous’ with the syllables of each word articulated in three separate words. He included it in the dedication on this signed sketch I drew of him as Miss H, left at the theatre last week.
The ‘gentle giant’, 6′ 3′ American singer and actor Shuler Hensley revived his role as the Monster in Mel Brook’s musical version of his 1974 YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN when it opened at the Garrick Theatre in London’s West End this month. It’s a role he originated on Broadway in 2007, earning a Tony nomination before continuing the part for the US National tour.
Schuler is no stranger to London audiences, winning the Olivier Award for his portrayal of Jud Fry in OKLAHOMA at the National Theatre in 1998, before transferring a year later to the Lyceum in the West End. In 2002 it crossed the Atlantic to Broadway’s George Gershwin Theatre where he continued his winning ways, collecting the Tony in the process. Shuler signed my Monster sketch at the Garrick stage door on Saturday on his way in for the matinee.
Best known to TV audiences for his two-decade portrayal of psychiatrist Dr Frasier Crane in the sitcoms CHEERS and FRASIER, Kelsey Grammer is making his London stage debut next week in BIG FISH THE MUSICAL, based on the Tim Burton film, at The Other Palace. No stranger to the boards, Kelsey’s first Broadway role was Lennox in MACBETH, taking over the lead in 1981. It wasn’t until April 2010, however that he did his first Broadway musical, playing Georges in a revival of LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, collecting a Tony Award nomination for his performance.
In fact, for major awards, Kelsey has received 45 nominations, winning 18, including five Emmys and three Golden Globes. He was the first American actor to win nominations for the same character on three different television shows- CHEERS, FRASIER and a one-off crossover appearance in WINGS. He collected his only Tony win to date for producing THE COLOUR PURPLE last year.
It was great to catch up with Kelsey last week in London, while he was rehearsing for BIG FISH. He is one of the nicest people I have met in the business and was more than happy to sign my drawing of him.