“She’s absolutely hysterical,” said Jimmy Carr about fellow comedian, Wendy Wason. The Sunday Times added “charming, clever and funny.’ The Edinburgh-raised actress and writer’s initial career was in film and TV, appearing in TAGGERT, SHERLOCK, MIDSOMMER MURDERS, THE IT CROWD and in feature films such as THE LIBERTINE with the three Johnnies, Depp, Malcovich and Vegas. She branched out into stand-up comedy in 2004 at Edinburgh’s Guided ballroom, followed by successful shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – THINGS I DIDN’T KNOW I DIDN’T KNOW (2008), OTHER PEOPLES SECRETS (2010), FLASHBACKS (2011), HOTEL CALIFORNIA (2014) and last year, TINY ME, which she performed at the Soho Theatre in London for three nights last week. On one of those nights she signed this sketch for me.
The charismatic Irish actor David Fynn’s performance as the equally charismatic Dewey Finn in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest musical SCHOOL OF ROCK has earned him his first Olivier Award nomination. It’s based on the 2003 film, starring Jack Black in the Dewey role as a faded rocker who takes a job teaching at a posh prep school and enters the precocious pre-teens in the local Battle of the Bands contest. Lord Webber bought the stage rights and wrote the musical score with lyrics by Glen Slater and the book by fellow Lord and DOWNTON ABBY author Julian Fellowes.
It premiered at The Winter Gardens on Broadway in the Autumn of 2015 before transferring to the New London theatre in the West End this year to rave reviews. David’s no stranger to TV viewers appearing in GAME OF THRONES, SHERLOCK, DOCTOR WHO, and SPOOKS among others. He joined the Hollywood set three years ago as the gay barman Brett in NBC’s sitcom UNDATABLE.
But he’s also done his fair share of stage work and has been a lifelong fan of Lord Andrew’s work, recalling his first taste of musical theatre was JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOUR DREAMCOAT at the age of ten. “Musical theatre has always been in me,” he recently said in an interview, “Nothing beats the rush of theatre,”…except maybe winning an Olivier, which he’ll find out this weekend.
Albanian-Italian soprano Ermonela Jaho is the toast of the opera world this week after her opening performance in the title role of Puccini’s tragedy MADAMA BUTTERFLY at the Royal Opera House.
Critics from all the mainstream papers in the UK and beyond have cemented the 43 year-old’s star status. “The best Cio-Cio-San London has seen in years,” wrote Michael Church in the Independent. The Guardian’s Tim Ashley headlined his five-star review of the Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier production with “The whole evening is outstanding.” He went on to write,”Ermonela Jaho, one of the great verismo interpreters, brings uncompromising veracity to the title role.”
I left this drawing at the stage door and it came back signed along with a dedicated photograph.
Milton Jones? “Oh that’s the bloke with the shirts and sticky-up hair,” most people would probably say, according to the man himself, a regular panallist on BBC Two’s MOCK THE WEEK and one of the UK’s stand-out stand-up comedians. Known for his one-liners involving puns delivered in a deadpan and slightly neurotic style, his loud shirts and wild hair… and his sublimely surreal takes on the world. “I was walking along the other day and on the road I saw a small dead baby ghost. Although, thinking about it, it might have been a handkerchief.”
MOCK THE WEEK can be a hard show to do. It’s always seven people trying to fit through a door for two he said in a recent interview. But his advantage is his style. “Yes I win. I do short bits. I get in, chuck a grenade and get out quickly.” It’s a style The Guardian acknowledged, “No one can touch Jones when he’s in his stride.”
He did a couple of nights at the Soho Theatre in London last week trying out new material for his next tour and signed my sketch with a two-liner.
For his last West End role Freddie Fox had less than 48 hours notice. It was just the minor part Romeo opposite Lily James in Kenneth Branagh’s ROMEO & JULIET at the Garrick Theatre last year, after the previous lead Richard Madden and his understudy Tom Hanson took the phrase ‘break a leg’ a bit too literally. He got the call on Friday and “they wanted me on stage Saturday” he said. Technically he knew the role, having played it 10 months earlier at The Crucible in Sheffield. He described the first night as ‘a memory test’ an making sure he stood in the right play and not fall off the stage.
For his next trick, Freddie’s latest stage appearance as the avant-garde dandy Tristan Tzara in Tom Stoppard’s ‘fiendishly-complicated’ TRAVESTIES, he had months to prepare. Directed by Patrick Marber, the Menier Chocolate Factory production sold out before it opened at the off-West End venue before transferring to the Apollo. It weaves together a fictionalised meeting between Vladimir Lenin, James Joyce and the Romanian-French writer Tzara in Zurich in 1917.
In his four-star review for the Evening Standard, Henry Hutchings wrote, “It’s Freddie Fox who dazzles, revelling in the anarchic energy of a character who’s part nuisance, part genius.” It’s a performance that has earned him a nomination for the best Supporting Actor Olivier Award at next month’s ceremony. Freddie signed this sketch for me at the stage door between shows last Saturday.
Clare Foster will be known to the fans of ITV’s THE BILL as regular PC Millie Brown. She is also a regular on the UK stage, her latest appearance earning her a Best Supporting Actress Olivier nomination this year for her role as Cecly Carruthers in the major London revival of Tom Stoppard’s TRAVESTIES, which transferred from the Menier Chocolate Factory to the West End’s Apollo Theatre. It’s her first individual nomination but second nod for Britian’s premier theatre award after being part of the 2006/07 AVENUE Q cast at the Noel Coward Theatre that received the Best Ensemble nom. I met her at the Apollo stage door between shows on Saturday where she signed my sketch.
Consistently appearing in all the lists of the world’s greatest violinists is 37 year old American Hilary Hahn. The three-time Grammy Award winner is renowned for her virtuosity , expansive interpretations and creative playing who champions contemporary music with several modern composers writing works especially for her, including Edgar Meyer and Jennifer Higdon.
Hilary started playing the violin one month before her 4th birthday and seven years a later made her major orchestral debut with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, beginning an extensive international career. In 2004 she recorded her first film score for M. Night Shyamalan’s THE VILLAGE, which received an Academy Award nomination. She plays a 1864 copy of Paganini’s Cannone violin by Vuillaume, which according to a recent interview, never leaves her sight. I drew this sketch of Hilary when she performed late last year at the Royal Festival Hall in London, but missed getting it signed. When she returned to the city last week for a one night performance at Wigmore Hall it gave me the opportunity to complete my mission.
The Broadway box-office hit AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, filled with memorable Gershwin musical numbers and spectacular dance routines, opened this week at London’s Dominion Theatre to a cluster of five-star reviews. Directed and choreographed by Tony winner Christopher Wheeldon and inspired by the Academy Award-winning 1951 film of the same name, premiered at the Palace Theatre on Broadway in April 2015 after a brief engagement at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris.
Both leads, ballet stars Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope headline the West End production. Former First Artist with the Royal Ballet, Leanne originated the role of Lise Dassin, originally played by Leslie Caron in the movie. She received a Tony Award nomination for her performance. I attempted to met Leanne in person at the stage door, but London’s fickle Spring weather sprung a leak in my plan last Saturday, so I left it at the theatre and it came back immediately.
Tom Hollander’s welcome return to the stage after a six-year absence has resulted in a Best Actor Olivier Award nomination for his ‘career-best’ performance in Tom Stoppard’s golden oldie TRAVESTIES. The Menier Chocolate Factory’s revival, directed by Patrick Marber, sold out before opening night late last year and transferred to the West End’s Apollo Theatre. Tom plays the central Henry Carr, who was a British consular official in Zurich during the first World War and encountered Russian communist revolutionary Lenin, the founder of Dada, Tristan Tzara and Irish author James Joyce, all of whom were in the city at the time. As a member of a group of actors called The English Players, managed by Joyce, he was cast in the leading role of Algernon in Oscar Wide’s THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST.
In his five-star review, The Telegraph’s Dominic Cavendish said “Tom Hollander is hilarious in this mind-bogglingly entertaining Stoppard revival”. He went on to write, “Tom Stoppard’s award-winning 1974 comedy finds the man, who memorably described himself as a ‘bounced Czech’ performing such hire-wire feats of linguistic daring that even undertakes an entire scene in the limerick form. And that’s not the half of it: there are exchanges in Russian, outbreaks of nonsense, a super-abundance of allusion, word-play, parodies and to crown it all, a running pastiche of THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST.” Tom signed my sketch of him as Henry at the Apollo’s stage door last weekend.
The Noel Coward Theatre is Ian Bartholomew’s second home. Three shows in three years at the West End venue and two Olivier nominations. The front of house staff even gave him a plaque to mark the occasion. In 2014/15 he appeared in the stage version of SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE as Sir Edmund Tylney, the man responsible for drama censorship in Elizabethan England.
Then he played the feisty impresario Vivian Van Damm in MRS HENDERSON PRESENTS last year and he is currently playing the eccentric playwright Critterlow in HALF A SIXPENCE, both roles he ‘got the nod’ for an Olivier nom. He signed my Critterlow sketch between shows on Saturday.