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.
The ‘fantastic’ (as Guardian critic Jake Nevins called her) Blair Brown returned to the Broadway stage late last year in Beau Willimon’s political play THE PARISIAN WOMAN at the Hudson Theatre alongside Uma Thurman after a 15 year absence. It was hardly a break from the New York stage, coming hot-on-the-heels of her off-Broadway run in ON THE SHORE OF THE WILD WORLD. She also has a long list of TV credits, the most recent being ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK.
My personal favourite was THE DAYS AND NIGHTS OF MOLLY DODD which ran for five seasons from 1987-1991. Blair played the title role, a bohemian woman in her thirties struggling with her career, men (and the occasional woman) and family where ‘her warmth and emotional accessibility were the root cause of most of Molly’s problems in life’. Blair was nominated for an Emmy Award for the five consecutive years the show aired. After ‘Molly Dodd’ she became a prolific Broadway actress, winning a Tony Award for her role as Margrethe, wife of physicist Niels Bohr in Michael Frayn’s COPENHAGEN at the Royal Theatre.
I sent this sketch to Blair while she was appearing at the Hudson Theatre earlier this year and was very pleased to get it back, signed and dedicated.
The hugely popular 2015 Broadway revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1951 classic musical THE KING AND I transferred to to the London Palladium for the summer with both its leads making their West End debuts. Ken Watanabe and Kelli O’Hara reprised their roles as the King of Siam and English schoolteacher Anna Leonowens in this unconventional and tempestuous relationship, set in Bangkok in the 1860’s.
Bartlett Sher’s lavish Lincoln Centre Theatre production was nominated for 9 Tony Awards, winning four, including the Best Actress award for Kelli and a nom for Ken. Due to demand, the London season was extended by an extra three weeks, finishing last Saturday.
In her WhatsOnStage review, Daisy Bowie-Sell wrote, “Overall the two make a superb double act… Kelli O’Hara is made for the part, her acting skills and delicate rich voice come together to imbue Anna with an engaging compassion and humanity… Ken is brilliantly funny, sharp and betrays moments of convincing vulnerability.”
I left this sketch at the stage door and it came back signed by both.
Uma Thurman made her Broadway stage debut late last year in Beau Willimon’s Trump-inspired THE PARISIAN WOMAN at New York’s Hudson Theatre. Known for creating the original Netflix series HOUSE OF CARDS, Beau’s fifth play, a dark humoured drama, is set in Washington DC, where powerful friends are the only kind worth knowing, especially after the 2016 election.
Uma plays Chloe, an ambitious socialite with charm and wit, coming to terms with an unknown future, where truth isn’t obvious and the stakes couldn’t be higher.
I remembered speaking to Uma at the Royal Opera House stage door during the BAFTAs a few years ago when she snuck out for a nicotine break. She was very chatty, signing siggys between ciggys, so I figured she would be nice enough to sign a sketch for me if I sent it to her at the Hudson, and, thankfully I figured right.
One of the big success stories of British Theatre is the creation of the Mischief Theatre Company and their first hit production THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG. Written by LAMDA graduates Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, it follows the exploits of members of the fictitious Conley Polytechnic Drama Society and their disastrous attempt to put on a 1920’s murder mystery. The writers were joined in the original cast by Charlie Russell, David Hearn, Greg Tannahill, Nancy Wallinger and Rob Falconer, who used to work at my local pub and said he was working on an interesting theatre project.
From modest beginnings above one of London’s oldest taverns at the sixty-seater Old Red Lion Theatre in 2012, it moved to the Trafalgar Studios a year later then to the Duchess in September in 2014, where it is currently in residence and booking to later this year. It won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy. Last year it transferred to the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway, where it won the Tony Award for Best Scenic Design. It has now gone global, with productions in over 20 countries, including a UK tour.
Last month the two Henrys, Jonathan, Charlie and David returned to the West End, as part of the ensemble for the improv MISCHIEF MOVIE NIGHTS at London’s Arts Theatre, where I met them to sign this drawing for me.
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.
Dutch songstress Willemijn Verkaik has played the central role of Elphaba in the Musical WICKED over 2,000 times in London, Europe and Broadway, which is more than anyone else and is the only person to have played the role in three different languages – English, Dutch and German. She made her West End debut at the Apollo Victoria in 2013, but for health reasons left the show eight months later, only to return in January this year as part of the show’s 10th Anniversary celebrations. Her final performance was on the 22nd of July. In an online poll of 16,000 voters she was chosen as the ‘Wicked Personality of the Year’. It took me a while, missing Willemijn on a few occasions at various venues, but I finally got my sketch signed prior to her departure at the Apollo.
British actor Peter Firth will be known to TV viewers as Sir Harry Pearce in the BBC spy series SPOOKS – the only cast member to appear in every episode of its ten series. My favourite role however was his stage and subsequent film appearance as the disturbed equine-worshipping teenager Alan Strang, who blinds the eyes of horses in Peter Shaffer’s EQUUS, which ran at the National Theatre in London in 1974 and transferred to Broadway the following year, earning him a Tony nomination.
In 1977 he reprised the role for the film adaption, opposite Richard Burton who played the psychiatrist Dysart attempting to find the root of Alan’s equine worship. He won a Golden Globe Award and was nominated for an Academy Award. EQUUS is one of my favourite plays and I had the honour of meeting its author and the privilege of directing it in New Zealand many moons ago. I left this sketch of Peter as Alan with London agent and was very pleased to get it back signed.
Patti LuPone is musical theatre royalty on both sides of the Atlantic. Since making her professional debut 45 years ago she has played every major role and won every major West End and Broadway accolade, including the Olivier and two Tonys. She’s also collected a couple of Grammys for good measure.
Patti originated the title role of Eva Peron in the 1979 Broadway production of EVITA, picking up her first Tony. She played the part of Fantine in the original London cast of LES MISERABLES in 1985, the same year she appeared as Moll in THE CRADLE WILL ROCK, winning the Olivier for both roles. In 2008 she won her second Tony for portrayal of Rose in the Broadway revival of GYPSY.
Her latest appearance on the Great White Way is as Helena Rubinstein in WAR PAINT at the Nederlander Theatre, which garnered her seventh Tony nom. I sent her this montage sketch in March this year at the theatre and it came back dedicated and signed.
Mark Ruffalo returned to the Broadway boards after an eleven-year absence in Arthur Miller’s rarely-revived THE PRICE at the American Airlines Theatre during the Spring. The three-time Oscar-nominated actor played career cop Victor Franz alongside Danny De Vito who was making his Broadway debut.
Mark was last seen on the Great White Way in Clifford Odet’s AWAKE AND SING! which also garnered him a Tony nomination. Known as ‘the actor’s activist’, Mark said in a recent interview that his acting teacher would tell him that ‘ art is activism… we should pay to go to church and the theatre should be free – that’s where we learn about ourselves.’ His character in THE PRICE is exiled to the Police departments version of Siberia- out by the airport because he doesn’t participate in the department’s politics. Mark has always been a good signer and very fan-friendly so I sent this sketch of him in the role to the theatre and it came signed.