The Shakespeare Revue, a comic concoction of hilarious sketches and show-stopping numbers is bound for Bath – appearing from Monday 19th to Saturday 24th September – as the curtain rises on the Theatre Royal’s autumn season.
Written by comedy icons Victoria Wood, Alan Bennett, Maureen Lipman, Monty Python, Noël Coward, Cole Porter, Fry & Laurie, and musical theatre favourites, Stephen Sondheim, Stiles & Drewe and many more, The Shakespeare Revue returns to the stage this autumn as part of the nationwide celebrations marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.
With contributions from over forty writers, this joyous words-and-music celebration gathers together some of the finest comic material inspired by William Shakespeare. Originally produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company, The Shakespeare Revue first premiered at the Barbican Theatre in 1994 where it received rapturous critical and public acclaim prompting a West End transfer to the Vaudeville Theatre in 1995. It first played the Theatre Royal Bath in 1996. Since then the show has played off-Broadway and has completed five major tours of the USA.
Multiple Olivier award-winning Producer Kenny Wax says: “In 1994 my Producer friend Edward Snape asked me to book some dates for The Shakespeare Revue – a show that he was touring at the time. I fell in love with the performances, the sketches, the wonderful music and the sheer unadulterated fun that emanated from the stage. I’m delighted to be presenting the show with Cambridge Arts Theatre, this time with a fresh, updated new version.”
The cast includes Anna Stolli, whose many credits include the international tour of Mamma Mia!, the UK tours of Fame (including Bath in 2003), South Pacific and A Slice of Saturday Night, and The Rocky Horror Show on European Tour; and Alex Scott Fairley, whose stage work includes Blood Brothers in the West End and many roles for the Guildford Shakespeare Company. The company is completed by Bristol Old Vic alumni Alex Morgan, whose television credits include Hollyoaks and Psychoville, Jordan Lee Davies and Lizzie Bea.
Devised by Bath favourite Christopher Luscombe – director of the 2016 Best New Comedy Award winner Nell Gwynn in the West End and, most recently, While the Sun Shines at the Theatre Royal this summer – and Malcolm McKee. The Shakespeare Revue is also directed by Malcolm McKee, who is well known to Radio 4 audiences for his 20-year role as Graham Ryder in The Archers. As a composer, Malcolm’s recent work includes: While the Sun Shines in Bath, and the West End productions of The Madness of George III and When We Are Married. He has also composed scores for more than 50 dramas for BBC Radio and written numerous scripts for BBC Radio Drama, including adaptations of The Comedy of Errors, Grand Hotel and Oh! What A Lovely War. His many theatre credits as writer/director include: The Shakespeare Revue at RSC, West End and Off-Broadway; An Actor’s Life For Me! and Crackers & Spice at Bristol Old Vic; Opera à la Carte at Hampton Court Palace; and – for The Prince of Wales – A Marvellous Party starring Patrick Stewart at Highgrove and St James’s Palace. Choreography is by Jenny Arnold and Nicola Keen and musical direction by Oli Jackson.
Christopher Luscombe and Malcolm McKee, who devised the show, explain its creation: “The idea for The Shakespeare Revue came about on Shakespeare’s birthday, 23 April 1993, when the RSC was planning a celebratory service in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon. Light relief was needed among more serious readings, and in searching for something, we were reminded of just how many comic writers have used Shakespeare as raw material for their work. Unearthing such pieces became a hobby, until eventually the outline of a stage show began to emerge.”
“The songs and sketches in the show are drawn from a range of work which represents the development of revue itself – from Music Hall to Victoria Wood, via Herbert Farjeon, Alan Melville, Cambridge Footlights and the Fringe. Of all the theatrical forms, revue is one of the least documented. With no authoritative reference book to guide us, our quest for material took us from the Manuscript Collection of the British Library to a home for retired variety performers in Twickenham, via June Whitfield’s attic.”
As a result, Luscombe and McKee explain, “The Shakespeare Revue had its first performance at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon in 1994 as a one-night charity event. The following year it joined the RSC repertoire at the Barbican Theatre, and subsequently transferred to the West End, opening at the Vaudeville Theatre. In 1999 we directed the American première at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre and since then there have been productions of the show all over the world from Cape Town to Rome.”
The Shakespeare Revue tours to the Theatre Royal Bath from Monday 19th to Saturday 24th September 2016. Tickets are available from the Theatre Royal Bath Box Office on 01225 448844 or online at www.theatreroyal.org.uk