Revealed at last – 2020 Tony Awards nominations

In a highly-disrupted year on Broadway as elsewhere, it is good to finally discover the nominations for the 2020 Tony Awards.

Musicals-wise, the Alanis Morissette musical JAGGED LITTLE PILL earned 15 nominations, with at least one nomination in every eligible category (including six for the show’s principal performers). MOULIN ROUGE! followed, earning 14 nominations. TINA;THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL rounds out the nominees in this year’s Best Musical category.

Play-wise, Matthew Lopez’s THE INHERITANCE and Jeremy O. Harris’ SLAVE PLAY earned 11 and 12 nominations, respectively. Also nominated are Bess Wohl’s GRAND HORIZONS, Adam Rapp’s THE SOUND INSIDE, and SEA WALL / A LIFE by Simon Stephens and Nick Payne.

Currently the date for the virtual awards presentation has not been decided, but when it is I shall let you know.

You can find a complete list of the 2020 Tony Award nominations here

Development work finally begins on Walthamstow Granada

Walthamstow Granada cinema pictured in 1961. Photo courtesy London Borough of Waltham Forest

Restoration work has finally begun at Walthamstow’s historic Granada Cinema, which is being converted into a large comedy venue.

Waltham Forest Council gained planning permission in June for its £25million redevelopment project to transform the deteriorating Grade 2-listed building into a 1,000-seat comedy and entertainment venue – set to be run by Soho Theatre. The main auditorium has been derelict for well over a decade, although the foyer was more recently used as the MIRTH pub.

Full possession of the building – which the local authority earlier bought for £17m – was secured in August, and representatives from the council and Soho Theatre visited the Hoe Street site last month to tour the works in progress.

Developer Willmott Dixon Interiors is leading the restoration, aiming to create “a modern, nationally-recognised entertainment venue that honours its unique heritage”. The new venue will include the main theatre, bar and a restaurant, plus community space. It is projected that the local economic benefit could be as much as £50m over ten years once it opens in spring 2022- or perhaps later considering the knock-on effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Simon Miller, the council’s cabinet member for economic growth and housing development, said: “This is a key milestone in the regeneration of this beautiful building. We are delighted to be working in partnership with Soho Theatre to give this venue the future it deserves, and to bring an outstanding contribution to our borough’s vast cultural offer.”

“The development will also provide local jobs, opportunities and a welcoming community space. These, combined with growing visitor numbers, will provide huge economic benefits to our borough for years to come.”

Read more about the Walthamstow Granada here

Watch Now: The Finborough Theatre’s fascinating ADDING MACHINE: A MUSICAL

Available now until November 12th, this fascinating four-star “anti-musical” is well worth a watch, in a clever Finborough season from 2016, presented by Alex Turner Productions in association with SDWC Productions. I was lucky enough to see the show in this run and can heartily recommend it to you.

Ever feel like killing your boss?

After 25 long years spent adding figures in the same soul-crushing job, Mr Zero suddenly finds himself replaced by a machine. For the first time in his life, Zero takes his destiny into his own hands. The consequences set him on a path through this world and beyond, offering him one last chance for love, life and redemption.

Take an extraordinary journey with Mr Zero in this stirring and hilariously dark anti-musical as it asks us to consider the true price of a human soul, told through Joshua Schmidt’s haunting score, inspired by gospel, opera, jazz and rock and roll.

Boasting a totally engrossing central performance by Joseph Alessi as Mr Zero, this UK premiere of Jason Loewith and Joshua Schmidt’s multi-award winning musical adaptation of Elmer Rice’s groundbreaking 1923 play is directed by Josh Seymour, named Best Director at the 2016 Off West End Theatre Awards for One Arm at Southwark Playhouse.

ADDING MACHINE: A MUSICAL won the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical, and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical and Outstanding New Score.

The Finborough is one of the most important fringe theatres in the UK, with an enviable track record of pioneeering new work and unearthing skilful rediscoveries, which means the theatre has punched well above its weight worldwide for 40 years. You can contribute to support the future of this very important theatre by donating to the Finborough’s #SaveOurTheatres Crowdfunder appeal, recently launched as part of the Theatres Trust national fundraising appeal. The Finborough Theatre’s campaign is running until 8th November 2020 and every penny goes to support the future of the theatre. Donate now by clicking here.

GUIDANCE: Adding Machine: A Musical is based on the 1923 play Adding Machine by Elmer Rice. As an indictment and examination of white privilege, it contains racist language that may cause offence. Age recommendation 12+


Happy Birthday to the original and best Phantom!

This day in 1986, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA opened at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London to brilliant reviews and an unprecedented audience demand.

Everything that can be said about the show has been said, so I shall not waste your time by covering old ground.

I was fortunate to join the management team in October 1986 (in my first management position) and witnessed first-hand the diligence, determination and dedication of so many people who worked so hard to make the show a unique treat for audiences.

Those of us there were experiencing something unprecedented and unsurpassed. I met many amazing people who have shared that experience and I am happy to say am still friends with today. It was a wonderful time and I count myself very lucky to have been given the chances I got, and to have met and worked with some fantsatic, fun-loving and highly=-professional people at the top of their game.

This October 9th will be the first birthday that the show has missed in London, after its enforced closure on March 16th. But the show will return, after refurbishment to the theatre and the physical assets of the production itself.

Phantom, we can never forget you. And when you return, I know you will wow audiences all over again. And for the experience on working on your show- what a privilege!

Phantom of the Opera, London, 2017, Credit: Johan Persson

You can see the 25th-anniversary concert production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s show which was filmed at the Royal Albert Hall in 2011 featuring Ramin Karimloo as the Phantom and Sierra Boggess as Christine. It is available for only 24 hours only in the UK (48 hours elsewhere) from 7pm on Friday 9th October. Watch it here

Remembering the great Tommy Rall

Tommy Rall with Ann Miller in MGM’s KISS ME, KATE (1953)

“The best all-round dancer we had at MGM was Tommy Rall. He could do anything and do it better than any other dancer.”

Gene Kelly

“above Astaire and Kelly”

Donald O’Connor

It is terribly sad to hear that one of the greatest twentieth century dancers, the sublime Tommy Rall, passed away aged 90 on October 6th.

Ballet, tap, jazz, acrobatics, Rall could do it all. He was also a highly accomplished singer (an operatic tenor), actor, and his good looks were hardly a drawback.

Born in 1929 and growing up in Seattle, he took dance classes from an early age and was soon performing in Seattle theatres. When his family moved to Los Angeles in the early forties, Rall was hired to be a member of the jitterbugging Jivin’ Jacks and Jills, a group created for Universal Studios musicals unit to lighten several of the unit’s movies. Aged just thirteen, you can see him bringing his acrobatics and grace to bear in this excerpt from one of those early musicals.(below). The clip heats up at about 0’40” in.

Rall was very in-demand through the forties , fifties and sixties. His stage work through into the fifties lead to more film work, and he spent many years shuttling between Broadway and Hollywood. Film-wise Rall was most often at MGM, where he was featured in KISS ME,KATE and SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS as well as Gene Kelly’s INVITATION TO THE DANCE. Other film work included Columbia’s MY SISTER EILEEN where he worked alongside co-star/choreographer Bob Fosse.

In his retirement he became a celebrated painter and continued to receive letters from fans right up until his passing.

Why didn’t he become a more recognised star? Perhaps because there was more work we saw on film of him in combination with others rather than solo, therefore perhaps people underrated his abilities and appeal? Personally I have always considered him one of the all-time greats. Elegance combined with confidence and sheer ability fuse to make him a magnetic force on-screen.

On 6th October there came this message from the Tommy Rall Facebook page – From the post by Cynthia Wands: “I’m very sorry to share the news that our dear Tommy Rall, died tonight of congestive heart failure around 5:00pm Pacific Time, in Santa Monica, California. But I want to share with folks here a rather magical story of Tommy’s passing. A hospice nurse was by Tommy’s bedside and found a box that held the cards and letters that had been sent to him in the last few weeks. She spent the afternoon reading each one to him, and when she finished reading the last one – he peacefully stopped breathing and passed away. She was very moved by the experience and wanted to share that story with the family. A private service will be held in the future. In the meantime, we have Tommy’s dancing and singing and beautiful spirit to remember. Thank you for helping to honor that spirit in these memories.”

Thanks to film, we can enjoy and lovingly remember Tommy in his prime. Watch him here “duel-dance” with Bob Fosse – and win! (Notice also the long continuous takes for each sequence of the routine.)

And here’s another Rall triumph from Paramount’s 1955 THE SECOND GREATEST SEX

Tommy Rall – there’ll never be another.