This time last year hardly a week went by without a big new musical opening in the West End – no wonder that, as I reported Bill Kenwright telling me at the time, “you get rave reviews, which we did for Cabaret, and you don’t have time to glory in them, because the next week it’s Spamalot, then it’s Dirty Dancing, then it’s Caroline or Change. Whereas normally people would be speaking about those Cabaret reviews for six or seven weeks, now it’s onto the next one. This week it’s Porgy and Bess, and then next week it’s The Sound of Music. They just keep coming.”
This year is altogether more measured – though Porgy and Bess came and went, and Caroline, or Change was only in on a limited season anyway, the others are still with us, so there’s hardly room for any new shows to come in. Ditto on Broadway, where the only two new musicals that will open this side of Christmas are Young Frankenstein (opening next week, assuming star Roger Bart is able to return to the title role from his current back injury) and Disney’s The Little Mermaid.
No wonder, then, that the arrival of Hairspray at the Shaftesbury last night was an opportunity to let our hair down – or rather, put it up (or what’s left of it, in some of our cases). And jostling with Cilla and the inevitable Biggins to get into the theatre, down the single tiny barricaded passageway that was created alongside the theatre’s notoriously narrow entrance, this was the a typically annoying first night experience. [CLICK BELOW TO CONTINUE READING]