West Country audiences are the first in the world to see a new musical based on the hit film, Mrs Henderson Presents which opens in Bath as part of this year’s Summer Season and features a cast of the most distinguished musical theatre performers in the country led by Tracie Bennett as Mrs Laura Henderson, Ian Bartholomew as Vivian Van Damn and Emma Williams as Maureen. Adapted and directed by multi award-winning Terry Johnson with lyrics by Oscar-winning Don Black, this world premiere production appears at the Theatre Royal until Saturday 5th September prior to the West End.
In 1930s London, recently-widowed eccentric Laura Henderson is looking for a way of spending her time and money, when her attention falls on a run-down former cinema in Great Windmill Street. Hiring feisty impresario Vivian Van Damn to look after the newly renovated Windmill Theatre, the improbable duo successfully present a bill of non-stop variety acts, but their formula is soon copied by other theatres. As war looms something more is required to boost morale and box office. Inspired by the Moulin Rouge in Paris, Mrs Henderson makes an unprecedented decision – for the show to go on the clothes must come off! Cleverly avoiding censorship by the Lord Chamberlain, she dreams up the idea of The Windmill Girls – glamorous young women posing as nude statues – and audiences flock.
This true story tells of the extraordinary determination of Laura Henderson, Vivian Van Damm and their plucky company of performers who take on the Hun by ensuring that the spirits of London theatregoers never flag when the Blitz hits the capital.
Originally a hit film starring Judi Dench, Bob Hoskins, Kelly Reilly and Will Young, Mrs Henderson Presents, written by Martin Sherman and directed by Stephen Frears, was nominated for a raft of awards worldwide on its release in 2005.
This glittering new musical about the people who ensured that the famous Windmill Theatre went down in history, promises to be both exhilarating and unforgettable. Directed and adapted for the stage by Olivier and Tony Award-winning Terry Johnson, Mrs Henderson Presents is filled with songs from Oscar-nominated George Fenton, who has written the music for over one hundred feature films and Simon Chamberlain, with whom he collaborated on the original film score; with lyrics by Don Black, whose numerous accolades include winning an Oscar, two Tony Awards, a Golden Globe, and five Ivor Novello Awards.
Tracie Bennett, who plays the role of Mrs Henderson, is a double Olivier Award-winner for her performances in the musicals She Loves Me and Hairspray. She received huge acclaim all over the world for her portrayal of Judy Garland in End Of The Rainbow, and was Tony Award nominated for her lead role in the production, also directed by Terry Johnson – which toured to Bath in 2011. Her West End credits include the musicals La Cage Aux Folles, receiving a WhatsOnStage Award for her performance, and Les Miserables. Amongst her many stage credits, she also performed in the National Theatre production of Honk!, which toured to Bath in 2001. Her many television roles include playing Sharon Gaskell in Coronation Street, Liz in Next Of Kin, Tracy Glazebrook in Joking Apart, Sharon in Scott and Bailey, Norma in Making Out, Bev in Burn It, and appearances in Casualty, Doctors, Dalziel and Pascoe, The Royal and New Tricks.
Ian Bartholomew, who plays the role of Vivian Van Damn, was Olivier Award-nominated for the West End musicals Into the Woods and Radio Times. In a career spanning forty years, amongst his many theatre credits he has performed at the National Theatre extensively, most recently in The Power of Yes, and his numerous West End credits also include Shakespeare in Love, Tommy and Terry Johnson’s Dead Funny, which toured to the Theatre Royal Bath in 1995. On television, he played the roles of Inky in two series of Perfect Scoundrels and Snappy in twenty episodes of Harry. His many screen credits also include DCI Banks, South Riding, The Accused, Foyle’s War, Heartbeat, Holby Blue, New Tricks, Spooks, The Bill, William and Mary, Casualty, Wycliffe, Minder, The Darling Buds Of May and Rumpole Of The Bailey.
Emma Williams, who appears as Maureen, played Truly Scrumptious in the original cast of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. She was Olivier-nominated for her roles in the West End musicals Zorro and Love Story. Her television work includes playing Rosa in Bleak House and roles in Casualty, Doctors, Heartbeat, Agatha Christie’s Marple and Where The Heart Is.
Mark Hadfield, who plays the role of Arthur, has performed at the Theatre Royal Bath in eight previous productions, most recently in The Tempest in 2012. His television and film credits include Wallander, Doc Martin, Foyle’s War and A Cock And Bull Story. He is an associate artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company and has numerous West End credits including, most recently, Made In Dagenham, Jeeves & Wooster in Perfect Nonsense and Singin’ In The Rain.
Terry Johnson’s work has been performed worldwide. He is the recipient of a dozen major theatre awards including: the Tony Award for Best Director of a Musical 2010, the Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival and Critics’ Circle Best Musical 2009 for La Cage Aux Folles. He won the Olivier Awards for Best Comedy of 1994 and of 1999, Playwright of the Year 1995, Critics’ Circle Best New Play 1995, two Evening Standard Theatre Awards, and Writers’ Guild Best Play in 1995 and 1996. In recent years, his West End productions have included End of the Rainbow, Whipping It Up, Dead Funny, Hysteria, The Graduate and Entertaining Mr Sloane, all of which played Bath; as well as Rain Man, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, La Cage Aux Folles, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Memory Of Water, Elton John’s Glasses and Hitchcock Blonde. In Chicago, he directed John Malkovich in The Libertine, which was nominated for five Jeff Awards. For the National Theatre, he wrote and directed Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick and The London Cuckolds, both of which played Bath in 1998 and 1999 respectively. He has written and directed television drama that has been broadcast worldwide.
Lyricist Don Black‘s stage musicals include Billy, Tell Me On A Sunday, Aspects Of Love, and Sunset Boulevard, for which he won two Tony Awards. His film lyrics include Diamonds Are Forever, The Italian Job and Born Free, for which he won a multitude of Awards including an Oscar, two Tony Awards, six Ivor Novello Awards and a Golden Globe. His popular hit songs include Michael Jackson’s Ben and Lulu’s To Sir With Love. He has written a quintet of James Bond theme songs: Thunderball, Diamonds Are Forever, The Man With The Golden Gun, Surrender from Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2008. He is the recipient of an OBE, and was recently honoured in London with a BMI Icon Award.
Music for Mrs Henderson Presents is composed by George Fenton and Simon Chamberlain. George Fenton’s many film scores include the original film of Mrs Henderson Presents, Gandhi, Cry Freedom, Dangerous Liaisons and The Wind That Shakes The Barley, and his music for television includes the series The Jewel In The Crown, The Blue Planet and Planet Earth. Simon Chamberlain was the original Music Director on the film Mrs Henderson Presents.
Andrew Wright won Best Choreographer at the WhatsOnStage Awards 2013 for the West End production of Singin’ In The Rain. He was also nominated for Best Choreographer at the 2012 Olivier Awards and the 2011 Broadway World Awards. In 2014, he choreographed the UK tour of Barnum starring Brian Conley, and the UK tours of Betty Blue Eyes and Saturday Night Fever. He co-choreographed Guys and Dolls at Chichester alongside Carlos Acosta; and his award-winning choreography on Singin’ In The Rain has been seen nationwide on tour.
Mrs Henderson Presents appears at the Theatre Royal Bath until Saturday 5th September. Tickets are available from the Theatre Royal Bath Box Office on 01225 448844 or online at www.theatreroyal.org.uk
Photo credit: Nobby Clark