American musical theatre dancer, singer, actress and choreographer Donna McKechnie
Has been very much part of the fabric of Broadway for more than half a century since making her debut in the 1961 production of HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING. Fifteen years later she won the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical for originating the role of Cassie, the former chorus girl making a comeback in A CHORUS LINE. In 1980 she was diagnosed with crippling arthritis and told she would never dance again, but defied those odds to return to THE CHORUS LINE six years later and appeared in the West End revival of CAN CAN. She has returned to the London stage to feature in the musical THE WILD PARTY at The Other Palace (formerly the St James) where she signed my sketch.
The longest running London Phantom is Welsh musical theatre actor and singer John Owen-Jones since Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical sensation THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA first opened at Her Majesty’s Theatre in September 1986. He played 1400 performances in his three-and-a-half years in the role, from 2001-2005 and agreed to continue for a limited period from September 2015 until the end of January 2016.
John is currently appearing in the UK Premiere of the musical THE WILD PARTY. At Lord Webber’s The Other Palace where he signed this Phantom drawing for me.
When Daniel Radcliffe played Billy Craven, the lead in Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy THE CRIPPLE OF INNISHMAAN at the Noel Coward Theatre in 2013, I drew a number of sketches of him and the rest of the cast, which they all kindly signed for me. Daniel’s character, the orphan and outcast ‘Cripple Billy’, eager to escape the gossip, poverty and boredom if Innishmann, tries for a part in a Hollywood film in the neighbouring Inishmore and to everyone’s surprise, gets his chance.
Daniel signed the original of this drawing, but I wanted to add one of his best lies of dialogue, so on a copy of the sketch I added the text. He has returned to the London stage to star in the 50th anniversary of Tom Stoppard’s ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD at the Old Vic and was signing in the foyer after Saturday’s evening performance, which was a perfect opportunity to get it graphed and dedicated.
Moliere’s classic comedy THE MISER has received a liberal adaption by director Sean Foley and co-adaptee Phil Porter in a major revival which started at the Garrick Theatre last week after short runs at the Bath Theatre Royal and Richmond. Griff Rhys Jones plays the Harpagon, the paranoid lead, fanatical about protecting his abundant wealth. He is ably supported by a splendid comedic cast that includes Lee Mack, Mathew Horne, Ryan Gage and Kathy Wix, who all signed this sketch for me on arrival for the matinee on Saturday.
Back in the summer of 2012, Stephen Mangan and Lisa Dillon starred in Joe Penhall’s BIRTHDAY at the Royal Court in London. Lisa played Lisa and Stephen was Ed, a thirty-something couple with fertility problems who reverse roles and take advantage of a new procedure that allows him to give birth to their second child.
I drew this sketch, but didn’t get a chance to get it signed at the time.I managed to catch-up with Stephen when he appeared in JEEVES & WOOSTER at the Duke of York’s a year later and posted it here. This week I completed the mission when Lisa also ‘graphed it for me at the Theatre Royal Haymarket where she is featuring in the Shakespeare double-Bill (sorry), MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING and LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST. So here it is again.
English character comedienne extraordinaire Maddy Anholt has had two sell-out shows in the past two years at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Following the critically acclaimed, five-star DIARY OF A DATING ADDICT in 2015, Mandy returned with RENT GIRL last year, co-written and directed by Hardee’s Singh Kohli. With thirty fast approaching and facing the Grim Wrinkler, Maddy goes online in DATING ADDICT to find the man of her dreams.
In RENT GIRL she introduces us to a myriad of characters such as Shazza, bastard child of Persia and South London, Belle of Brixton, Princess of Peckham, Queen of Quitters, Dame of Dickheads. Maddy also brought both shows to London. I left this sketch for her at the Museum of Comedy last year and she returned it signed with a nice thank you note.
The West End sensation at the moment is the effervescent 23 year-old Londoner Charlie Stemp and his performance as Arthur Kipps in Julian Fellowes’ revised version of HALF A SIXPENCE, which transferred from the sell-out season at the Chichester Festival Theatre to the Noel Coward Theatre last November. It’s a role originally created as a star vehicle for Tommy Steele and the 1963 West End Premiere. Despite Charlie’s dizzying rise to the top of the theatre world, he is kept grounded by his family. His Dad sent him a review with his name misspelt, “this Charlie Stump is doing well.”
But he new how to sign his name on my sketch for me last Saturday when I caught up with him arriving for the matinee.
Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini’s debut 2003 novel THE KITE RUNNER became an International best-seller and was adapted into a 2007 film. Matthew Spangler’s stage version is currently running in the West End at Wyndham’s Theatre until March.
It’s a haunting tale of the unlikely friendship between Amir, a wealthy boy from Kabul and his closest friend and kite-running partner Hassan, the son of his father’s servant. Andrei Costin is Hassan and former CASUALTY star Ben Turner plays Amir as an adult who speaks directly to the audience, retrospectively looking back at the events that led to him becoming a refugee in California and the terrible incident that would shatter their lives forever. Both signed this drawing for me after last Saturday’s matinee.
Hart and Kaufman’s great old-fashioned Broadway comedy hit ONCE IN A LIFETIME was revived at London’s Young Vic theatre over the festive season. Satirising the entertainment world at the arrival of ‘talking pictures’, the story follows three enterprising New Yorkers as they head west to cash in after the first sound film became a smash hit, setting up an elocution studio in Tinseltown.
Amy Griffiths plays Florabel Leigh, a somewhat famous silent film star who finds that the switch to sound puts her at a disadvantage because of her accent, so she needs to enrol in elocution lessons to work in the talkies. Misadventures abound. Amy signed my Florabel sketch after the final matinee in January.
British actress Gemma Arterton has been the subject for a number of my theatrical renderings and here’s another one. It must have something to do with the fact she has ‘art’ in her name. I drew two sketches of her as NELL GWYNN, one a single portrait and this montage of her as the the celebrated 17th century actress and mistress to Charles II, when she appeared in the Globe’s transfer of Jessica Swale’s play at the Apollo theatre last year.
She signed the portrait there and I was passing the Donmar Warehouse on Saturday and she happened to be outside the front doors signing after the final matinee performance of George Bernard Shaw’s SAINT JOAN after a two-month run. Following her triumph at the Apollo, Gemma’s portrayal of the feminist icon and spiritual warrior was equally acclaimed in the Josie Rourke-directed contemporary production. I also happened to still have this sketch in my folder, which she was happy to also sign.