Garrick Theatre Archive

Current show: The musical comedy Young Frankenstein

In September 2003 the stand-up comedian Ross Noble brought his show Ross Noble Unrealtime here to the Garrick Theatre for a successful three week season. This was then followed in October by the first West End revival of a revival of the Frederick Knott's 1966 thriller Wait Until Dark for a two month season starring Peter Bowles and Saskia Wickham in the role of the blind wife which had been played on screen in the movie version by Audrey Hepburn. The first new production here in 2004 was Lindsay Posner's revival of David Mamet's Oleanna starring Aaron Eckhart and Julia Stiles which opened in April and enjoyed a three month season. In September Ian Brown's revival of the George S Kaufman's and Howard Teichmann's Broadway comedy Solid Gold Cadillac opened here starring Patricia Routledge and Roy Hudd. Patricia Routledge had been offered the central role of Mrs Laura Partridge some eight years previously but had turned down the offer, thinking it skilful and witty but lacking in resonance here in the UK: "But now," she said when the revival opened," we're so much more knowledgeable about the way big business is run, and the shenanigans that go on, the allotment of huge sums of money to top directors who may even have been given the sack, the corruption and inefficiency and not caring about the shareholders' money. I thought, hey ho, this is the time to do it."

In January 2005 Denis Lawson's revival of Bill MacIlwraith's 1966 comedy The Anniversary opened here. The production was notable for starring the versatile actress Sheila Hancock - she had played one of the daughters-in-law in the original production, but now played the central role of 'Mum', giving a powerhouse performance much to the delight of both critics and audiences. Having played a critically acclaimed season at the National Theatre's Cottesloe Theatre in 2003, Kwame Kwei-Armah's play Elmina's Kitchen, in a re-staged version, transferred here in April 2005. Best known for playing the role of 'Finlay Newton' in the BBC TV series Casualty up to 2004, Kwame Kwei-Armah, who had not been in the original cast, was asked to join it in the role of 'Deli' for it's run here at the Garrick Theatre: "My first instinct when asked to do it was to say no. And I did say no. But then I thought about how we find ourselves in this country in a situation where sometimes it's still very hard to programme plays like this. Even though it's Olivier nominated and Evening Standard winning and all of that, there's still a perception that a traditional white audience won't come out to see a play that is quintessentially black. Somehow we're so tribal that they'll just go, 'Oh that one's for the black audiences, so we can miss that one'. So I decided to do it, hoping that my Casualty profile might do something to help overcome that and allow this play to go out around the country and to be seen by more people." In the end Elmina's Kitchen enjoyed an extended three month season here before closing in July 2005.

Nigel Planer's debut comedy play On the Ceiling opened in September 2005 starring Ron Cook and Ralf Little starring as the real life characters Lapo (Lapo d'Antonio) and Loti (Lodovico del Buono) who had helped paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel for Michelangelo. "I've worked in the theatre for ten years, but I didn't write a play because it looked too tough," Nigel Planer said. "Then I learnt about the Sistine Chapel being created, in part, by ordinary men with sewer mouths and problems, and I found it fascinating." He explained that the two characters he wrote about for this play "were sacked for larging it around Bologna They swanned around claiming to be Michelangelo's partners. They claimed to have had all the ideas, but he took the view: 'No. I hired you. You can f*** off now.' I like the bits that history forgot. The people who did the work. It fascinates me that a hundred odd years ago it was Vita Sackville-West who was the contemporary literary success. She has since been forgotten and it's Virginia Woolf who lives on. How did that change? Lapo and Loti packed up their egg whites and brushes and just kind of ambled off all those years ago. I wanted to bring them back to take a bow, and all the great unsung like them." Unfortunately audiences didn't see it quite that way, and the show closed early after just three weeks.

Sir Peter Hall's revival of George Bernard Shaw's You Never Can Tell, which had been successfully staged at the Theatre Royal in Bath earlier in the year, was then quickly brought in, opening in early November 2005. The cast starred Edward Fox as the waiter 'William' and the production enjoyed an extended four month season here before closing. In March Terry Johnson's stage revival of Ken Kesey's novel One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, adapted for the stage by Dale Wasserman, opened for a two month season. Having previously played at the Gielgud Theatre in 2004, the recast now returned with Christian Slater once again starring as 'Randle P. McMurphy' but with Alex Kingston taking over the role of 'Nurse Ratched'. This was followed in June 2006 by another returning production - this time Ned Sherrin's 1989 stage production of Keith Waterhouse's Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell, about the Spectator magazine columnist. For this outing here at the Garrick Theatre, Tom Conti reprised his role as Jeffrey Bernard, having previously played it after he took over from the 'original' actor - Peter O'Toole.

In November 2006 Charles Ross amazed West End audiences when he brought his acclaimed production of One-Man Star Wars Trilogy here to the Garrick Theatre for a strictly limited one week run. This was immediately followed by a three month run of Sir Peter Hall's revival of David Hare's play Amy's View starring Felicity Kendal, Jenna Russell and Gawn Grainger. The first new production of 2007 arrived in February in the form of Laurence Boswell's revival of Christopher Hampton's 'love triangle' play Treats. It starred Billie Piper as 'Ann' who dumps her egotistical (ex) boyfriend 'Dave', played by Kris Marshall, and takes up with 'Patrick', the office bore, played by Laurence Fox, who she invites to move into her and Dave's flat - but then she can't decide who to stay with. The show hit the headlines in the gossip columns, just prior to opening, after it was revealed that Billie Piper - who had just finished a stint as TV's Doctor Who's sidekick - was in the start of a real-life relationship with her co-star Laurence Fox which was further exasperated when Billie Piper was taken ill and missed a couple of performances at the start of the show's West End run - but she returned and the production enjoyed a three month run.

Adapted from the 'cult' ITV show which run for eight series from 1999 to 2006, the stage musical version of Bad Girls opened here at the Garrick Theatre in September 2007. Kate Gotts, the producer of this stage production said: "When people try to wrestle with the concept of Bad Girls as a musical the same questions always dominate. Do you need to know the TV series? Does it have the same cast as on the telly? Is it serious or is it funny? Well, the short answers to those questions are: no, no and both. Striking the right balance of light and shade in the show is crucial, but the variety of emotional tone is exactly what makes Bad Girls special. And that's why we felt it was perfect territory for a musical, where comedy, drama and pathos are all heightened even further." She also explained that "Like the TV series, the musical is set in the fictional HMP Larkhall, with an ensemble of the original core characters from both sides of the bars and the same edgy mix of emotional tone... With its TV incarnation now at an end, Bad Girls: The Musical can establish its own identity and become a standalone show in its own right. And fans of the show will be able to enjoy seeing Helen Fraser fulfil her lifelong ambition to be in a West End musical. On top of that they'll also get Jim Fenner and his fantasy chorus-line of dancing prison officers, a death, a riot, a love story, some serious issues and some very serious fun, with an ending that wipes away all memories of Yvonne's corpse left rotting in the old hanging cell at the end of series five." Unfortunately the show only managed a run of two months, closing in November 2007.

Rather appropriately Alan Ayckbourn's comedy Absurd Person Singular - set over three successive Christmase Eve gatherings - was revived here in a production directed by Alan Strachan just in time for Christmas. Starring Jane Horrocks, Jenny Seagrove and John Gordon Sinclair the show enjoyed a three month run, taking it up to Easter! Just after Easter the Spanish musical Peter Pan El Musical opened for a short season. Starring Miguel Angel Gamero in the double role of 'Captain Hook' and 'Mr Darling' the musical was performed entirely in Spanish with English surtitles. In May 2008 the 'psychological magician' Derren Brown presented his new show An Evening of Wonders for a five week season. Next was the new show Zorro the Musical which opened here in July 2008. Notable for featuring music by the Gipsy Kings, the cast featured Matt Rawle in the 'Diego / Zorro' role along with Emma Williams as 'Luisa'. Opening to good reviews the musical run for an impressive eight months - making this one of this theatre's longest running shows in recent years. Transferring from the Menier Chocolate Factory, Trevor Nunn's revival of the Stephen Sondheim musical A Little Night Music opened here in April 2009 for a run of just under four months.

In September 2009 the Isango Portobello Theatre Company from Cape Town, South Africa, brought their bibical show The Mysteries here for a short three week season having already staged it back in 2002 at the West End's Queen's Theatre. This was then followed here at the Garrick Theatre in October 2009 by the quick change artist Arturo Brachetti who brought his show Arturo Brachetti: Change here for a ten week season. Arturo, who had previously appeared in the West End in the revue Y at the Piccadilly Theatre in 1983 explained how he managed to do the quick-changes: "There are two secrets. The construction of the costumes: they have to look right, but be practical. And secondly, the organisation in the wings. Imagine a Ferrari pulling into the pits and in four seconds they change all the wheels and fill it up with petrol - You see it, but it happens so fast that you can't take it in."

The first new show here at the Garrick Theatre in 2010 was the West End premiere of Douglas Carter Beane's scathing Hollywood satire The Little Dog Laughed. Rupert Friend played Mitch, a Hollywood actor who is determined to come out of the closet, while his controlling agent, played by Tamsin Greig, is equally determined to keep him in. But then Mitch falls in love with a rent boy (Harry Lloyd) who just so happens to have a girlfriend, played by Gemma Arterton in her West End debut. "There's this belief [in Hollywood] that if it's a gay guy playing a gay guy, audiences won't accept it because it's a little bit too dangerous, it's too close to the truth," said Rupert Friend prior to the show opening. "Whereas with a straight guy, everyone knows that at the end of the day, he shrugs it off and goes home to his wife and family. Then the question arises, when you watch somebody and you know anything about their private life, does it influence your perception of the role? I think the less you know about someone, the better. I, as an audience member, slightly resent when things are in my head that I don't want to be there... like knowing people's marital status or how many children they have or their sexuality or whatever. I don't want that. I want to be taken on a tour and submerged into another world which I believe in totally and I then believe the characters are who they say they are, rather than coming in saying, 'There's that guy I know everything about pretending to be that guy.'"

The next show here in April 2010 was the musical All the Fun of the Fair opened here. Starring David Essex the title of the show was taken from his 1975 album of the same name, the the show featured a number of David Essex songs taken from a variety of albums. Featuring a fictional story about a travelling fun fair, this stage production enjoyed a couple of regional tours prior to coming into the West End where it played for a four month run. For a month during the summer the Tall Stories Theatre Company presented special daytime performances of a stage adaptation of Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler story book Room on the Broom. In September 2010 two productions had very limited seasons here - firstly Jeff Merrifield's two-hander Hit Me! - The Life and Rhymes of Ian Dury which combined the story of Ian Dury's life with some of his biggest hits which was followed by Caroline O'Connor with her concert show The Showgirl Within. The following month Christopher Luscombe's revival of JB Priestly's comedy When We Are Married opened here in an 'all-star' production featuring Maureen Lipman, Michele Dotrice, David Horovitch, Susie Blake, Sam Kelly, Lynda Baron and Roy Hudd. The production enjoyed a four month run during which the Tall Stories Theatre Company also presented their acclaimed children's stage show The Gruffalo here for specil morning and afternon performances for two months over Christmas and the New Year holidays.

Miss Polly Rae's The Hurly Burly Show opened here in March 2011 for an eight week season. This all singing, all dancing burlesque inspired revue style show started out in 2006 at the Soho Revue Bar and arrived in the West End via Leicester Square Theatre. This staging was developed for the West End under the creative oversight of William Baker and featured the jazz singer Spencer Day. In May 2011 Philip Prowse's revival of George Bernard Shaw Pygmalion opened here for a five month run with Rupert Everett playing 'Professor Higgins' and Kara Tointon as 'Eliza Dolittle'. Interestingly Diana Rigg, who herself had played the role of 'Eliza Dolittle' in the 1974 revival of this play at the Noel Coward Theatre, now played the role of 'Mrs Higgins' in this staging. Simon Ward had been due to play 'Alfred Doolittle', but he had to pull out with a little more than a week before it opened due to not being able to shake off a virus and so the role was taken over at extremely short notice by Michael Feast.

In recent year's the Garrick Theatre has been home to a number of shows aimed at children which are generally staged during the mornings and afternoons while the main production continues to play in the evenings. For example the children's musical entertainment The Go! Go! Go! Show was presented for two short school holiday season, in July 2011 and again in October 2011. Dan and Jeff children's show Potted Potter was staged here a week in July 2011, and agin for a four week season 2013. The glove puppet Sooty made an appearance in Izzy Wizzy Let's Get Busy over Christmas 2011. The most successful though is probably Birmingham Stage Company's stage adaptation of the Horrible Histories' Barmy Britain - Part 1 was presented here for three seasons in February 2012, October 2012 and August 2013; Part 2 in September 2013, August 2014 and December 2014; Part 3 in July 2015; and finally a special 'Best of Barmy Britain' was staged here during August 2016.

The jukebox musical Respect La Diva played here during September 2011 which was following in October 2011 by the standup comedian Micky Flanagan. Chicago The Musical transferred here from the Cambridge Theatre in November 2011 and played for another ten months before finally closing. October 2012 saw the arrival of a new British musical by Elliot Davis and James Bourne Loserville The Musical - loosely based on James Bourne's Son of Dork's 2005 album 'Welcome to Loserville', the show continued up to early January 2013. The first show of 2013 was the transfer from the Shaftesbury Theatre of the musical Rock of Ages which played for nine months before making way in November 2013 for Christopher Haydon's revival of Reginald Rose's classic jury room drama Twelve Angry Men which played for an extended six month season with Tom Conti taking over the role of 'Juror 8' from Martin Shaw for the second part of the run. The Beatles' jukebox musical Let It Be played here for two seasons - from July to September 2014, returning from February through to September 2015. The gap between the two seasons was filled by a transfer from the Young Vic Theatre of the Kander and Ebb musical The Scottsboro Boys.

October 2015 saw the arrival here at the Garrick Theatre of the start of a 12 month residency of the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company who presented six productions: Judi Dench and Kenneth Branagh starred in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale; Kenneth Branagh and ZoŽ Wanamaker in a double-bill of Terence Rattigan's Harlequinade and All On Her Own; Adrian Lester in Lolita Chakrabarti's play Red Velvet; Kenneth Branagh and Rob Brydon in Sean Foley's English adaptation of Francis Veber's comedy The Painkiller; Kenneth Branagh directed Shakepeare's Romeo and Juliet; and finally Rob Ashford's revival of John Osborne's The Entertainer starring Kenneth Branagh, Gawn Grainger and Greta Scacchi. In November 2016 James Graham's acclaimed political drama This House transferred here for a three month season following two sold-out season at the National Theatre. The first new production in 2017 was a revival of Moliere's comedy The Miser starring Griff Rhys Jones. This was followed by a short season from Tape Face and then a summer season of David Walliams' Gangsta Granny with Horrible Histories - MORE Best of Barmy Britain playing on seleted mornings and afternoon. In October the Mel Brooks' comedy musical Young Frankenstein opened.