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.”
English actor and singer Hadley Fraser takes the lead role as Frederick Frankenstein in Mel Brook’s musical version of his 1974 film YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, which opened at the Garrick Theatre last month. Hadley made his West End debut as Marius in LES MISERABLES at the Palace Theatre in 2002 and performed the role of Grantaire in LES MISERABLES IN CONCERT: THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY at London’s 02 in 2010. The following year he played Raoul in three special concerts of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at the Royal Albert Hall to celebrate the show’s 25th Anniversary, the last of which was screened live around the world. Also in 2011 he returned to LES MISERABLES as Javert at the Queens Theatre for a year. He signed this drawing for me at the stage door after a Saturday matinee a few weeks ago.
Dianne Pilkington’s impressive stage career began in 1997 when became a cast member in the West End production of LES MISERABLES, including understudying the role of Fantine. After the UK tour of CATS, Dianne was selected to portray Glinda in the musical WICKED at the Apollo Victoria Theatre in 2007. From 2013-2016 she played Donna Sheridan in MAMMA MIA! at the Novello Theatre. This month Dianne began the West End run of Mel Brook’s musical version of his 1974 film YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN at the Garrick Theatre, playing Frederick Frankenstein’s fiancée Elizabeth Benning. Dianne signed my drawing after Saturday’s matinee.
After a ten year hiatus, Christian Slater has returned to the West End in the revival of David Mamet’s landmark 1983 drama GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, which is currently in previews, opening on 9 November at the Playhouse Theatre. Last seen in the business satire SWIMMING WITH SHARKS at the Vaudeville in 2007, Christian made his London stage debut as the rebellious Randle Patrick McMurphy in Dale Wasserman’s adaption of Ken Kesey’s cult novel ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST at the Gielgud in 2004. He reprised the role for a return season two years later at the Garrick. Christian very kindly met a few of us waiting at the Playhouse stage door after the first GLENGARRY matinee and signed my CUCKOO’s NEST sketch.
The ‘gentle giant’, 6′ 3′ American singer and actor Shuler Hensley revived his role as the Monster in Mel Brook’s musical version of his 1974 YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN when it opened at the Garrick Theatre in London’s West End this month. It’s a role he originated on Broadway in 2007, earning a Tony nomination before continuing the part for the US National tour.
Schuler is no stranger to London audiences, winning the Olivier Award for his portrayal of Jud Fry in OKLAHOMA at the National Theatre in 1998, before transferring a year later to the Lyceum in the West End. In 2002 it crossed the Atlantic to Broadway’s George Gershwin Theatre where he continued his winning ways, collecting the Tony in the process. Shuler signed my Monster sketch at the Garrick stage door on Saturday on his way in for the matinee.
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.
English actress Lesley Joseph sobbed… but in a good way, when she found out she had won the role of housekeeper and superannuated lover of the original Doctor F Frau Boucher in Mel Brook’s new West End stage production of his 1974 film YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. “Oh my God I’m going to be working with Mel Brooks!”
Lesley became an international name as Dorian Green in the British TV sitcom BIRDS OF A FEATHER and recently as a contestant on STRICTLY COME DANCING with partner Anton Du Beke. In his four-star review for The Independent, Paul Taylor wrote, “Lesley Joseph brings a superb hatchet-faced obsessiveness to Frau Blucher and her idiotic goose-stepping devotion to the memory of the violent older Frankenstein.”
Lesley signed my Frau B sketch going into the Garrick Theatre for Saturday’s matinee.
I drew BAFTA-nominated English actress Charlotte Spencer in her role as Christine Keeler in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical STEPHEN WARD, which she signed for me at the Aldwych Theatre back in 2013. She returned to the London stage earlier this year in the Menier Chocolate Factory’s revival of Terrance Rattigan’s LOVE IN IDLENESS, which transferred to the Apollo in May, playing Diane Fletcher, the estranged ‘yet not entirely uncooperative wife” of Tory minister Siri John Fletcher. Charlotte also signed this drawing for me at the stage door.
Edward Bluemel’s immediate family all have one thing in common, his mum is an Oxford physicist, his dad an Oxford chemist, his sister a Cambridge philosopher and his brother an Oxford classicist so when he decided not study at Oxbridge, opting instead for an acting career and studying at the Royal Welsh Academy. It was a bold move. But it has proved fruitful.
Since then the 24 year-old has appeared in numerous screen roles, most notably as the young aristocrat Toby Hamilton in the ITV ‘s drama THE HALCYON. This year he made his professional stage debut in Trevor Nunn’s revival of Terrance Rattigan’s LOVE IN IDLENESS at London’s Menier Chocolate Factory, which transferred to the Apollo Theatre in the West End. It’s the third in Rattigan’s ‘war plays’ set in the same period as THE HALCYON, so Edward had a good reference. He played Michael a young evacuee who develops socialist tendencies while spending the war years in Canada. He returns home to his widowed mother who is now the mistress of a right wing government minister.
It’s a part Edward described as ‘a complete millennial snowflake.’ In her review for the Guardian, Kate Kellaway said, “Edward Bluemel is spot on as Michael” and Mark Shenton was equally impressed writing, “As that son, Edward Bluemel catches the arrogant sense of youthful entitlement with an appropriately irritating vigour.” I could up with Edward at the stage door after a matinee performance in May and he signed this sketch for me.