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.
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.”
The UK and Ireland touring production of DIRTY DANCING had a December stopover at the Phoenix Theatre in the West End with Lewis Griffiths as Johnny Castle and Katie Hartland playing the role of Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman. When it premiered in London at the Aldwych Theatre in 2006 the stage adaption of the hit 1987 film was the highest pre-sell in London’s history before a two year tour then returning to the Piccadilly Theatre in 2013 for another twelve months.
Lewis is no stranger to major musical productions with roles in PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT, LEGALLY BLONDE, GHOST and JERSEY BOYS, but this is Katie’s professional musical theatre debut after recently graduating from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.
I left this drawing at the theatre just before Christmas and it arrived back signed and dedicated last week.
‘There’s a new Doll in town’ proclaims all the billboards around London, announcing Australian Hollywood star Rebel Wilson’s West End debut in the 1950’S Broadway musical GUYS AND DOLLS at the Phoenix Theatre. The 36 year old bubbly blonde, ‘Sydney-born sensation’ (as the Telegraph’s critic Dominic Cavendish called her) plays the show’s interminably engaged New York night-club singer Miss Adelaide for an eight-week engagement.
She received a standing ovation on her opening night, tweeting to her 3.3 million followers afterwards, thanking the audience and saying how honoured she was and saying “sooo… one down, 63 performances to go.”
On Saturday night I positioned myself at the stage door barriers among the hoards where she signed my sketch.
Sporty Spice, Mel C, Melanie C or Melanie Jayne Chisholm as her parents called her, has sold more than 12 million records as a solo artist and over 100 million with the Spice Girls. She is second on the list of No.1 singles for a female artist in the UK. She is also the only female to reach No.1 as part of a quartet, a quintet, a duo and a solo.
In 2009 Melanie performed the role of Mrs Johnstone for six months in the musical Blood Brothers by Willy Russell in London’s Phoenix Theatre and was nominated for Best Actress in a musical at the 2010 Olivier Awards. She won a WhatsOnStage Award in 2013 for her portrayal of Mary Magdalen in the UK arena tour of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar.
I met Mel at the Phoenix Theatre stage door in December 2009. She was brilliant – bright and bubbly – with everyone and took the time to chat to the gathered admirers.
British musician and actor Arthur Darvill’s small screen notoriety includes the concerned vicar of Broadchurch, and Rory Williams, the eleventh Doctor’s companion in Dr Who for three seasons, until he disembarked from the Tardis, killed off by the Weeping Angels.
Arthur has composed music for three London productions, The Frontline (Globe), Been So Long (Young Vic) and The Lightning Child (Globe) and has trod on the city’s boards in Our Boys (Duchess), Doctor Faustus (Globe) and Been So Long (Young Vic) and Swimming With Sharks (Vaudeville) with Doctor Who co-star Matt Smith.
And he also collects taxidermy, which seems to be a common hobby for a few people I’ve sketched. After an eight month run as Guy, the Irish busking vacuum cleaner repairman, in the musical Once at the Bernard B Jacobs Theater on Broadway, Arthur continued the role in the London production in march this year for a limited engagement.
I caught up with him at the Phoenix Theatre stage door midweek with my drawing. He said “It looks better than me,” but signed it anyway with a ‘nice’ comment.
Melanie Chisholm, or Sporty Spice to some, took on the prized role of Mrs Johnstone in the musical Blood Brothers at London’s Phoenix Theatre in 2009.
She was nominated for both an Evening Standard Theatre Award and an Olivier and is currently playing Mary Magdalene in the UK Arena Tour of Jesus Christ Superstar. She signed my sketch at the stage door in 2009. She was very friendly and stayed to chat with the gathered crowd, posing for photos and signing and seemed in no rush to leave.
Once is the stage adaption of the 2006 film of the same name. It’s based on the book written by Enda Walsh, about an Irish busker and a Czech flower seller.
After a season at the New York Theatre Workshop, it transferred to Broadway and became a musical sensation, winning 8 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The song Falling Slowly won the Academy Award.
On April 9, 2013 it opened at the Phoenix Theatre in London’s West End. ‘The Guy’ and ‘The Girl’ leads – Declan Bennett and Zrinka Cvitešić signed for me at the stage door after a Saturday matinée performance on 18 May.