Drawing: Sarah Brightman

Autographed drawing of musical theatre star Sarah Brightman

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.

Drawing: David Hasselhoff in 9 to 5: The Musical

Autographed drawing of David Hasselhoff in 9 to 5 the Musical at the Savoy Theatre on London's West End

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.

Drawing: Alex Borstein and the Amstergang

Autographed drawing of Alex Borstein in Alex Borstein and the Amstergang at London's Soho Theatre

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.

Drawing: Harvey Fierstein in Torch Song Trilogy

Autographed drawing of Harvey Fierstein in Torch Song Trilogy at New York's Little Theatre

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.

Drawing: Denzel Washington in Fences

Autographed drawing of actor Denzel Washington in Fences at Broadway's Cort Theatre

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.

Drawing: Kristen Stewart

Autographed drawing of actor Kristen Stewart

American actress and director Kristen Stewart was in London last October, attending the 63rd BFI London Film Festival, where her film, SEBERG, which was released last Friday in the UK, screened, after its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival.

Directed by Benedict Andrews, the political thriller follows the FBI’s attempts to target and discredit French new-wave star Jean Seberg due to her support for the American Civil Rights movement and her romantic involvement with Black Panther activist Hakim Jamal. In her annual best performance list, TIME magazine’s Stephanie Zacharek placed Kirsten’s performance at number ten.

Kristen gained global recognition for playing Bella Swan in THE TWILIGHT SAGA film series between 2008-2012 and won the BAFTA Rising Star Award. In 2015 she was the first American to win a Caesar Award for Best Supporting Actress – the French ‘Oscar’ – for her portrayal of Valentine, a loyal PA to International star Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) in CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA. It was a role that also saw her collect other accolades, including the National Society of Critics, the New York Critics Circle and the Boston Society of Film Critics awards.

Kristen signed for me at the Corinthia Hotel in London on her way to the SEBERG screening at the BFI.

Drawing: Michael Bolton

Autographed drawing of singer Michael Bolton

American singer, songwriter Michael Bolton celebrated 50 years in the entertainment business last year with the release of a Greatest Hits collection and recording a ‘Symphony of Hits’ for BBC Radio 2’s long running series FRIDAY NIGHT IF MUSIC NIGHT with the BBC Concert Orchestra at the London Palladium in March.

After starting out in the heavy metal and hard rock genre with solo work and as frontman for ‘Blackjack’ during the mid 1970s-’80s, Michael changed styles and became known for his pop rock ballads in the late 1980s and through the 1990s, selling over 75 million records, with eight top ten albums and two No.1 singles on the Billboard charts. His hits include ‘Said I Loved You But I Lied’, ‘Time, Love and Tenderness’, ‘How Am I Supposed To Live Without You’ and the cover version of ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’, the last two winning Grammy Awards for Best Male Vocal Performance after four nominations. He has also collected six American Music Awards.

Michael is due to return to London to play the Royal Albert Hall this October. He kindly signed my drawing at the Palladium after the concert.

Drawing: The Joy Formidable

Autographed drawing of The Joy Formidable

I was introduced to the Welsh alt-rock trio, The Joy Formidable, a couple of years ago when they were playing an intimate venue in north London, by a friend, who offered me a free ticket and a warning that the ‘formidable’ part referred to their music and magnified sound level. He was right. They formed in 2007, when school-day pals, lead vocalist and guitarist Rhiannon ‘Ritzy’ Bryan and bassist Rhydian Dafydd Davies were joined by drummer Justin Stanley, who was replaced by ‘sticksman supreme’ Matt Thomas two years later. Described as ‘titans’ of the indie, alternative music scene The Joy Formidable have also been labelled ‘shoegazing’ or dream pop, a sub genre, which is a mixture of obscured vocals, guitar distortion and overwhelming volume. They have released four studio albums, with most songs written by Ritzy and Rhydian, starting with ‘The Big Roar’ in 2011 and their latest ‘AAARTH’ in September 2018, before supporting the Foo Fighters on a short tour.

They returned to north London for one night only at the Islington Assembly Hall last November, before crossing the Atlantic to do a few pre-Christmas Stateside gigs. I past by the venue a few hours before liftoff, hoping to catch them in person, but they were in the middle of an intensive sound check, which I heard (and felt) behind the heavily bricked and mortared walls of the refurbished 1930 Art Deco Grade II building. Their sound technician came out to get something from the van, parked at the stage door, and kindly promised to get my drawing signed for me, which he obviously did, because it was returned a few days later.

Drawing: Ben Elton

Autographed drawing of writer Ben Elton

British writer, actor, director and comedian extraordinaire Ben Elton is currently back on a live stand-up tour of the UK, his first since 2004. Ben’s style has been described as left-wing political satire. He was part of the ‘alternative comedy’ movement in the 1980’s, which made a conscious break with the mainstream comedic style that often incorporated racist and sexist material and avoided the reliance on a standardised structure of a sequence of jokes with punch lines.

Early in his career he became the writer for two successful TV series; THE YOUNG ONES and BLACKADDER, often appearing in them, while continuing stand-up on stage and screen. He has written 16 novels, most of which have appeared in the UK’s Top 10 best seller lists, including six No.1’s. He writes in the dystopian, comedy and crime genres, winning awards for POPCORN (1996) and HIGH SOCIETY (2002). POPCORN was adapted for the stage, winning an Olivier Award for Best New Comedy.

In 1985 he began a writing partnership with Richard Curtis, creating BLACKADDER II, BLACKADDER THE THIRD, and BLACKADDER GOES FOURTH with Rowan Atikinson in the title role. All became international hits, winning four BAFTA’s and an Emmy. He appeared in his own TV shows in the 1990’s, including BEN ELTON: THE MAN FROM AUNTIE (a take on the popular 1960’s MAN FROM UNCLE series and ‘Auntie’ is a nickname for the BBC) and THE BEN ELTON SHOW.

In 2016 he returned to television, writing the Shakespearean parody UPSTART CROW with David Mitchell as the Bard. He followed that with two more series and a stage version, which opens early next year at London’s Gielgud Theatre. Ben has also written two West End musicals; the Olivier Award-winning WE WILL ROCK YOU in 2002, featuring the music of Queen and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, LOVE NEVER DIES in 2010.

As part of his current UK tour he stopped off in London for a night, a couple of weeks ago at the Lyceum Theatre, where he also kindly signed and inscribed this quick portrait sketch for me.

Drawing: Willem Dafoe

Autographed drawing of actor Willem Dafoe

“It’s a pain in the ass, this name,” said Willem Dafoe in a 2007 interview for Esquire magazine, referring to his christian name. “People don’t know how to pronounce it, it’s embarrassing. I’ve thought of changing it back (William was the name given to him by his parents and on his passport) so many times. I hate the idea of an actor having a professional name, but then so many people already know me as Willem.” It was a college nickname – the Dutch version of William – that stuck. Dafoe on the other hand is French in origin.

Starting out in the acting profession he thought William was a bit bland so reinvented himself, starting with his moniker. Most people around him call him Willie or Will, which he likes better. But either way it’s a name that has attracted a lot of attention and accolades. After his first screen uncredited appearance in Michael Cimino’s epic western HEAVEN’S GATE IN 1979, as a cockfighter, that was reduced to a fleeting moment in the edit, Willem has assembled an impressive collection of memorable film appearances in such momentous movies as THE ENGLISH PATIENT and MISSISSIPPI BURNING.

He has received four Academy Award nominations, three in the Best Supporting Actor category starting with his role as Sergeant Elias Gordon in Oliver Stone’s PLATOON in 1986, followed by Max Schreck in SHADW OF THE VAMPIRE four years later and last year as motel manager Bobby Hicks in THE FLORIDA PROJECT, for which he also received a Golden Globe, SAG and a BAFTA nom.

This year he was nominated for Best Actor for his portrayal as Vincent Van Gogh in AT ETERNITY’S GATE, which screened at the Curzon Mayfair last Saturday. Willem did a Q&A afterwards, signing my portrait on the way out.