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


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.


Victorian Society reveals top ten list of buildings most at risk in UK today

Brighton Hippodrome interior. Photo courtesy Theatres Trust.

The Victorian Society has released its list of the ten outstanding UK buildings most at risk for 2020. The list’s only theatre this year is the rare survival, the Brighton Hippodrome.

Brighton Hippodrome, designed by renowned theatre architect Frank Matcham, is the country’s finest surviving example of a circus theatre. The building was originally built in 1897 as an ice rink, but it was transformed by a major rebuilding into a circus in 1901. It was once a thriving hub of entertainment, but today it sits empty and rotting. The most spectacular feature is the circular auditorium with its richly decorated ceiling in the form of a panelled tent. Schemes for a multiplex cinema, a new hotel, spa and serviced apartments were all announced but never materialised as the building went through a variety of owners. In September 2020, the building was sold to Brighton-based Matsim Properties. The Victorian Society says “The building remains vacant and urgent works are required. These should be urgently undertaken to prevent further deterioration until a viable and sympathetic new use can be found for this impressive building”.

Griff Rhys Jones, President of the Victorian Society, saidBrighton is a thriving city with a vibrant culture. If anywhere can support such a unique venue it is Brighton. In Blackpool, the restored winter gardens are being used to revive the towns fortunes. With staycations likely to increase in popularity and Brighton’s easy access to London, surely Matsim Properties can develop a plan which makes sensitive use of this building? What is clear is that losing many more years with nothing happening risks any of the building surviving.

For the full list of 2020’s Most Endangered Buildings, click here


Stream.theatre’s A MARVELLOUS PARTY

A MARVELLOUS PARTY is a celebration of Noël Coward’s words and music, presented by The Noël Coward Foundation and featuring a transatlantic star-studded cast; it is now available on demand.

Approaching the 121st anniversary of his birth (in December) and the 100th anniversary of his first West End production, this production celebrates the wit and artistry of one of the twentieth century’s most enduring characters.

The cast includes Judi Dench, Stephen Fry, Kate Burton, Montego Glover, Derek Jacobi, Josh James, Cush Jumbo, Robert Lindsay, Kristine Nielsen, Bebe Neuwirth, Julian Ovenden, Patricia Routledge, Kate Royal, Emma Thompson, Giles Terera, Indira Varma and Lia Williams performing speeches and songs by the playwright/composer.

A MARVELLOUS PARTY lasts approximately 50 minutes Please Note: you will need to register to access this streaming.

VIEWING PERIOD ENDED

The performance is free to view, with donations encouraged, and all funds going to support the charitable work of Acting for Others. You can donate here.