London Palladium Archive
Current Show: The new musical comedy - based around TV's The X Factor - I Can't Sing! from 1 March 2014. Written by Harry Hill and Steve Brown with Simon Cowell as co-producer.
Opening at the London Palladium in May 1998 was the stage musical adaptation of the classic 1977 film Saturday Night Fever. Featuring the famous songs by the Bee Gees - only this time sung by the cast - it was staged by Arlene Phillips who said that "Saturday Night Fever is my seventh West End show and it doesn't get any easier. My role is changing, I'm choreographing, directing and helping to adapt the book, so I've never been so involved with a show before. I must admit I like being in control but I miss sharing the responsibility, I can only bounce ideas off myself. I've never worked so hard in my life. I just hope that nothing is being sacrificed, because I can't be in two places at once." Fortunately the show opened to good reviews and it enjoyed a run of just two years before closing in February 2000. (The production would return to the West End four years later this time to the Apollo Victoria Theatre). Having enjoyed an award-winning run on Broadway, Christopher Renshaw's revival of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I opened here in May 2000 in a re-cast prodcution starring Jason Scott Lee in his West End stage debut and Elaine Paige. Best known for his film work, and having never sung publicly on stage before, the half-Chinese, half-Hawaiian actor Jason Scott Lee said that "Actually, I'm excited to do it in front of a live audience. We had a sort of teaser thing the other day and the feedback was really wonderful. But I'm looking forward to doing it in front of a big audience to see what their response is. It will be fun. I'm not that nervous of singing because my song is not really a sung song, it is more of a spoken philosophical soliloquy. And I only have one to do, thank Buddha." His reason for wanting to do a stage musical was because "it is a diversification for me. But sometimes what you know becomes totally boring. So you have to go into new territory, something that is scary and challenging and will put you in the place of being a student once again. I like that feeling. I like big challenges, and I think that I was getting a little bored with the formulaic movies that I was getting offered. At first it was really tricky having to talk, and then move into a tune, but now it's much better. There is that cheeky moment when you break into song that some people find difficult to handle, but the trick is to use your same speaking voice. Also I'm not used to doing things that are so camp, so that's also an interesting idea. The one thing I have learnt about doing stage stuff is that you really have to pace yourself. In film you can give everything because you know that they are usually going to use the first three or four takes. But here if you do that, you blow yourself out for the rest of the week and the subsequent weeks... I never experienced what it would be like to work on a role and focus and focus on it and find new things and create new dimensions. I thought, it's never too late to have a go."
April 2002 then saw the arrival here at the London Palladium of the flying car Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in the stage adaptation by Jeremy Sams of Ian Fleming's film musical featuring song by the Sherman brothers. Unfortunately, in order to accommodate the machinery under the stage to allow Chitty the car to fly out over the audience sitting in the stalls, much of the historic stage revolve machinery needed to be removed. During a number of the early performances the car broke down, but thankfully it was sorted out and Chitty was able to fly nightly, completing a run here of just under two-and-a-half years. Coming in for a ten week season as a 'Christmas filler' in November 2005 was a revival of Leslie Bricusse's Scrooge The Musical starring Tommy Steele. This was followed by Sinatra which opened in March 2006. Adapted by David Leveaux from the Sinatra: His Voice. His World. His Way which had previously been staged for a short season at Radio City Music Hall in New York in 2003, this show was promoted as a 'multi-media' experience celebrating the music of Frank Sinatra and featured a 24-piece live orchestra on stage along with a company of dancers. The 'multi-media' aspect was the huge moving screens onto which film of Sinatra singing was projected - allowing Sinatra to actually duet with the live musicians and sing directly to the audience. It proved popular with Frank Sinatra's devoted fans and the extended season run for just over six months up to September 2006.
The next production was a major revival of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical The Sound of Music, produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Having reportedly failed to secure the actress Scarlett Johansson to play the role of 'Maria', Andrew Lloyd Webber decided to join up with the BBC and use a television reality show to let the viewing public choose an actress for the role. The TV programme How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? was broadcast during August and September 2006 with the winner - Connie Fisher - announced too much fanfare during the final on Saturday 16 September 2006. Rather than being an 'unknown', the 23-year-old Connie had actually recently graduated with first-class honours from the Mountview Academy of Arts in London. The following week the actress who had already been selected to share the role of 'Maria', Emma Williams (and who had herself already starred here at the London Palladium as 'Truly Scrumptious' in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) decided to leave the production - she was said to have been angered when her role was downgraded. After the first two public previews, and just nine days before the 'Opening Night', the actor playing the role of 'Captain Georg von Trapp', Simon Williams, decided to leave the production. A statement issued on his behalf by the producers said that he agreed with the producers and the director, Jeremy Sams, "that his performance as Captain von Trapp was not working within the production and therefore he has withdrawn from the show." He was replaced by Alexander Hanson. The show finally opened in November 2006 to excellent notices from the critics and sell-out performances and going on to run for some two-and-a-half years.
The 'musical nun' theme was then continued with the next show here when the stage adaptation of the movie Sister Act opened in June 2009 for a 17 month run. Whoopi Goldberg, who played the central of 'Deloris Van Cartier' in the 1992 film, was one of the stage show's producers. Unfortunately Motown withheld the rights to the movie's signature tunes so new songs where provided for the stage show by eight-time Oscar-winner Alan Menken along with lyrics by Glenn Slater. The story was adapted by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner who relocated the action to 1970s Philadelphia. 24-year-old Patina Miller starred on stage as 'Deloris Van Cartier' opposite Sheila Hancock as 'Mother Superior'. After a number of one night only concerts over the November 2010 to February 2011 period, the next major production here was Jeremy Sams' revival of L Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz with songs by Harold Arlen and EY Harburg and featuring additional new music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice which opened in March 2011 and run for 18 months. The actress chosen to play the role of 'Dorothy', Danielle Hope, was once again selected through a television reality show - Over The Rainbow - which was broadcast on BBC1 between March and May 2010. Michael Crawford played the 'Wizard', with Russell Grant, who had recently been featured in TV's Strictly Come Dancing, and Des OíConnor taking over as the 'Wizard' later during the musical's run.
Opening here at the London Palladium in November 2012 as a ten week Christmas 'filler' was the return of Bob Tomson's revival of Leslie Bricusse's musical Scrooge once again starring Tommy Steele in the title role. Now 76-years-old, Steele said: "Itís got everything a song and dance man wants, plus Iím the right age to do it. Itís the musical theatreís King Lear; youíve got to be old enough to play the grouchy old sod but it has also got a great score to sing and a story that goes the full gamut." Having made his Sunday Night at the Palladium debut in 1957, Steele has returned here time and again, in both pantomime and musicals - headlining more performances on stage here than any other star! Just as well that he said: "It has always been my favourite theatre, both to go to as part of the audience and as a performer." By the time that Scrooge closed it had been calculated that Steele had headlined an amazing 1,912 shows here (and easily beating the around 1,300 times that Des OíConnor has headlined here).
Next, in February 2013, was Bob Avian's revival of Michael Bennett's musical A Chorus Line featuring music and lyrics by Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban. The cast included Leigh Zimmerman who played the role of 'Sheila'. She said about her own experience of moving from classical ballet to musical theatre that "I left the structured world of the Boston Ballet Company when I was 20. When you are in ballet you are forced into a mould. When I joined the line I had to make my own mould. Musical theatre star Tommy Tune kept saying to me: 'You can be whatever you want to be.' It was so liberating. There are few ways beyond the casting couch to secure the ballet roles you want. Those who know better decide. In the commercial world, the gloves are off right from the start. I learned how to do it from the best backstabbers in New York. I worked with two dancers I'll never forget: Wendy Waring and Pamela Everett are still friends of mine but boy, were those women tough! When I walked into a room in my brightest leotard and push-up bra, their reaction was: 'Oh, really?' I replied: 'Yes, really!' We were up for the same roles and if you were the sort of person who backs down, forget it. I never backed down. Sometimes you get the job, sometimes you don't. That's what A Chorus Line is all about. Self-discipline is vital in the line. Everything's up to you. I had to learn the business myself. You adapt and work it out." Unfortunately, although much promoted as the return to London's West End of the legendary musical, the production cut short it's hoped for run, closing after just seven months in August 2013. At the end of October 2013 Imperial Ice Stars staged their version of Nutcracker on Ice for a very short one-and-a-half week season before Barry Humphries brought his 'farewell' show Eat Pray Laugh! with Dame Edna to the Palldium for a limited Christmas season. Following this in March 2014 will be the new musical comedy I Can't Sing! written by Harry Hill and Steve Brown and based on television's The X Factor - the stage show is even being co-produced by the man himself - Mr Simon Cowell!