The surviving members of the Monty Python gang will be reuniting in 2014 for the first time in over thirty years, but for the hit musical inspired by the comedy group’s 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the end is nigh as it was announced this week that the West End production of Spamalot will close on 22nd February 2014. Since finishing its original West End run at the Palace Theatre in 2008, the show toured the UK until last year when it transferred back to the West End to play at the Harold Pinter Theatre. Hugely popular with audiences, King Arthur’s knights continued their quest with an extended run at the Playhouse Theatre, which is where they can currently be found. All good things must come to an end though, but Spamalot is going out on a high as comedian Joe Pasquale closes the show reprising his role as King Arthur. He joins current stage stars Carley Stenson and Dick and Dom for the show’s final bow, along with the rest of its comically talented cast who will all be missed in the West End. That includes swing Graham Newell, who is also the featured cast member for this week’s edition of In Profile.
Graham Newell is an actor with a long and fruitful career ahead of him. He stepped onto the professional theatre stage in 2005 after graduating from Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts with a BA (Hons) in Performance (musical theatre option). He joins a stellar list of alumni from the renowned London-based drama school, such as Matt Rawle, Emily Tierney, Oliver Thornton, Julie Atherton and Jon Robyns.
Straight out of Mountview, he got his first professional role in an ensemble capacity and was off on a theatrical adventure to Denmark, where he performed in the international production of classic musical Grease. Having been bit by the travelling bug, he then continued to bring theatre out of the West End with roles in several touring productions. 2005 also saw him cast as a member of the ensemble in the UK Tour of Annie Get Your Gun, with the added responsibility of covering the prominent role of the Wild West show’s knife thrower, Tommy Keeler. The show received many positive reviews and finished its run in Plymouth in December of that year. His next touring show was the 2006 UK Tour of Footloose, the popular musical based on the original 1984 film of the same name. He was once again given an ensemble part in the production, but this time covered the roles of both Lyle and Travis. The tour was such a hit that it transferred into the West End to play at the Novello Theatre with David Essex and Cheryl Baker in starring roles. In what marked his West End debut, Newell continued as an ensemble member in the show and as a cover to Lyle and Travis, with the extra challenge of another understudy role; Cowboy Bob.
After a six-month West End run, Footloose closed at the Novello Theatre and Newell moved on to his next challenge. About a bout in panto in Bill Kenwright’s production of Snow White at the Theatre Royal Windsor (ensemble and u/s Prince Charming), he then moved on the prestigious Chichester Festival Theatre for their production of Babes in Arms. He played Davenir Smith and also covered the supporting role of Lee Calhoun in this revival of the Rogers and Hart musical which featured Lorna Luft, daughter of actress Judy Garland who had starred in the original 1937 film version.
He went back on the road after that, touring Edinburgh and Cardiff over the Christmas period in the musical adaption of the 1954 film White Christmas. He performed in the show’s ensemble as the Train Conductor.
Having already appeared in a previous Bill Kenwright pantomime production, Newell went on to become involved in further Christmas shows for the company. Twice cast as ensemble, he also understudied leading roles in those shows, covering Captain Hook in Peter Pan and Abanazer in Aladdin. In the 2009 Kenwright panto of Cinderella, he played the non-ensemble role of Dandini.
He was also part of the original workshop production of Imagine This and performed in the ‘fairy-tale’opera Cendrillon at the Grimaldi Forum in Monte Carlo.
Newell is currently back in the West End, performing as a swing in the hit production of Monty Python’s Spamalot at the Playhouse Theatre. His stage appearances have included a New Year’s Eve performance as King Arthurs’s loyal servant Patsy, and most recently, as Sir Robin on 2nd January 2014.
A talented performer, Graham Newell may soon be moving on from Spamalot but is sure to be a familiar face in the West End for many more years to come.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
You can follow Graham on Twitter @graham_newell
Saturday 11th January 2014