Britain’s original teen idol and rock ‘n’ roll star, Tommy Steele returned to the London Coliseum, sixty years after he made his stage debut in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA. This time he headlines THE GLENN MILLER STORY for a limited seven week engagement, celebrating one of the world’s best-selling recording artists, legendary American big-band leader, Glenn Miller, who had 23 number 1 hits between 1939-1943.
Tommy was last seen on the London stage in 2012 at the London Palladium as Ebenezer Scrooge in SCROOGE: THE MUSICAL adapted from the 1970 film SCROOGE featuring Albert Finney in the title role. The production was part of a UK and Ireland Christmas season tour between 2003-2013, which also included a run at the Palladium in 2005.
Tommy was included among the British Cultural Icons selected by artist Sir Peter Blake in 2012 to appear in a new version of his famous artwork, The Beatles’ SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND album cover to celebrate British cultural figures of the last sixty years. He signed my Glenn Miller/ Scrooge sketch at the Palladium after performing the Saturday matinee a couple weeks ago.
Opera North’s award-winning production of Cole Porter’s Broadway comedy classic KISS ME KATE has just completed it’s very brief one-week run at the London Coliseum. The West End debut was also at the same venue, opening on March 8 1951, after premiering at the New Century Theatre on Broadway two years earlier, winning 5 Tony Awards.
This farcical battle of the sexes is set both on and off-stage during the production of a musical version of Shakespeare’s THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, revolving around the tempestuous love lives of actor-manager Fred Graham and his leading lady and ex-wife Lilli Vanessi. Add to the mix, Fred’s current paramour Lois Lane, her gambler boyfriend Bill and a couple of pursuing gangsters and you have the perfect set-up for ‘showbiz shannagians’.
After an initial run at the Theatre Grand Leeds in May, this production transferred to London and is now at the Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre. This ‘jubilant marriage of Porter and the Bard’ had the critics buzzing. The best comment was in the Guardian’s five-star review – “So hot, it’s practically a fire risk”.
Acclaimed opera singers Stephanie Corley and Quirijn de Lang play the lead roles-Lilli/Kate and Fred/Petruchio respectively. West End star Zoe Rainey is Lois/Bianca. I left this montage sketch at the stage door and it came back yesterday, signed and dedicated.
One of the world’s finest classical dancers performed the world’s favourite ballet this week at the London Coliseum. The St Petersburg Ballet Theatre concluded it’s 2015 International touring programme of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake with prima ballerina Irina Kolesnikova headlining the season as both the Swan Queen ‘Odete’ and the antagonist ‘Odile’ at the iconic venue. The production also included special guest artists from Russia’s legendary Bolshoi and Mariinsky Theatres and the English capitals own Royal Ballet. “It’s Kolensnikova that steals the show,” wrote Londonist’s Tiffany Pritchard, “…with her long, willowy arms, supple back arches and lithe yet perfectly controlled pirouettes on the white swan (Odette), followed in quick succession by the robust, high-spirited sequences of the black swan (Odile).” Originally the two roles were played by separate dancers, but it has become customary for prima ballerinas to perform both parts. The Telegraph’s Vanessa Keys said of Irina’s performance,”Her portrayal of the vulnerable swan queen Odette is almost unbearably vulnerable and her Odile is wickedly seductive.”
I’m a novice when it comes to watching and understanding ballet, but I love drawing dancers and their kinetic effect. This pose of Irina as Odette was striking in its simplicity. I just had to draw it…and naturally meet the dancing Swan Queen herself and have it signed. I waited with a handful of dance devotees at the stage door as a procession of performers flowed out, into the balmy evening air, signing programmes and partaking in convivial conversation. But no one with a ‘long neck and liquid doe-like eyes’ ( as one reviewer described her), resembling Uma Thurman-my reference for Irina-appeared. After an hour and a half, with the time of my last train home fast approaching a Russian gentleman, who was obviously connected to the production and chatting to the more devout of the devotees said, ‘I’ll go and get her.” And he did. I happened to be the first in line. She was very nice and said “Oh” when she saw the sketch and signed it. In the absence of any interpretation I took “Oh” as an expression of approval. Time well spent and I caught the last train.