Theatrical treats at St James Theatre in July

Last week I wrote about the return of American composing team Kerrigan-Lowdermilk to the St. James Theatre for a follow-up concert after the sell-out success of their first London outing in February 2014. Choice of venue is an important part of staging an event such as this, and the St. James Theatre is fast becoming a popular option for musical theatre types.

Standing on the site of the former Westminster Theatre in Victoria, it is the first such new theatre complex to be built in London for thirty years and features a 312-seated auditorium, as well as a studio space which can hold an audience of 100 people. Sandy Toksvig’s Bully Boy was the first-ever production to be performed there when the SW1 venue first opened its doors back in 2012, and since then, it has attracted a wealth of shows, cabarets and concert which have helped to cement its reputation as a top quality theatre over the last two years.
In addition to the upcoming concert Kerrigan-Lowdermilk: One (More) Night in London at the end of this month, there are a number of other notable events being staged at the St. James Theatre throughout the course of July. Its studio space will also play host to a new musical after the Kerrigan-Lowdermilk concert, as The Confession Room returns to London for a special one-off concert performance at the intimate venue.

This is an original British comedy musical about a group of people who come together to spill their most embarrassing secrets and stories. These confessions range from a guy who admits to having a ‘slightly different’ ex-girlfriend, to a girl who is tired of being treated like a ‘ditsy blonde’. Adding to the plot a mysterious newcomer and a counsellor who has numerous issues of her own, The Confession Room is full of delight, tragedy and surprises. It features music and lyrics by Dan Looney and a book by Patrick Wilde, with additional lyrics by Sam Champness and Reece Looney.

This new production is directed by Paul Foster and includes musical direction by Tim Evans, as well as boasting an impressive line-up of West End stars. Already confirmed to be performing in the show are Stuart Matthew Price (Shrek The Musical, Parade), Rebecca Trehearn (Ghost The Musical, We Will Rock You) and Jon Robyns (Spamalot, Avenue Q), along with Matthew Rowland, Stephanie Clift, Joshua Lovell, Rebecca Jayne-Davies, Devon-Elise Johnson, Steven Bush, John Sandberg, Ben Fenner and Natalie Bush. Produced by Robin Rayner, The Confession Room is set to take place at the St. James Studio on Sunday 13th July 2014.

On the main stage of the St. James there are more theatrical treats to be found this summer. On 4th and 5th July (2014), a familiar face returns as the follow-up event to the critically acclaimed concert Ivor Novello – The Great British Musical is set to celebrate the best of British musical theatre with an exclusive three performances over that first weekend. The Great British Musical – The Concert is presented by the award-winning musical director Ross Leadbeater (in association with St. James Theatre Productions), who will be in attendance on the night/s. The Friday and Saturday evening performances will be hosted by BBC Radio 4’s Just a Minute Nicholas Parsons CBE, while stage and screen star Simon Callow will oversee proceedings for the Saturday matinee performance.

The ‘not-to-be missed opportunity’ will pay homage to the works of some of Britain’s best musical theatre composers, with the likes of Gilbert and Sullivan, Lionel Monckton, Vivien Ellis, Noel Coward, Ivor Novello, Lionel Bart, Leslie Bricosse and Andrew Lloyd Webber all set to be celebrated in this unique concert event. There will also be a special WWI centenary tribute to Ivor Novello’s 1914 composition ‘Keep the Home Fires Burning’.

Performing live on stage will be the Novello Singers, a newly-established 8-piece ensemble group comprised of musical theatre performers, which includes Rhidian Marc (Les Miserables), Annatt Bass (The Phantom of the Opera), Leigh Rhiannon Coggins (The Pirates of Penzance), Matthew Crowe (South Pacific), Jonathan Broad (West End Men), Lydia Jenkins (Iolanthe) and Victoria Humphries (The Bakewell Bakeoff). Further West End names taking part in the concert are still to be announced.

And speaking of great British composers, the writing duo Stiles and Drewe are also set to be celebrated at the St. James Theatre in July in an all-new event conceived by the champions of new musical theatre writing, SimG Productions. Founder Simon Greiff presents Anything Can Happen, a two act musical revue which has been specifically created to celebrate the work of the Olivier Award-winning team George Stile and Anthony Drewe. Their partnership has spanned thirty years and has seen the conception of such hit shows as Just So, Honk!, Peter Pan, Betty Blue Eyes and Soho Cinders in that time.

Anything Can Happen will feature medleys of songs carefully chosen from their acclaimed musicals, including all those above and others such as Mary Poppins, for which they contributed additional songs. There will also be a selection of cut songs and stand-alone material in this unique musical revue which chronicles the history of Stiles and Drewe in reverse through narration and song. Directed by Simon Greiff, the 2-hour performance includes musical direction and arrangements by Sarah Travis and a line-up of four top West End performers (yet to be announced).

This is just a sample of some of the great events staged at the St. James Theatre, which is fast becoming one of London’s top-rated venues in the theatre industry. For musical theatre fans, it would be well worth keeping a close eye on the place, as there are sure to be many more nights of high-quality musical entertainment to come.

By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25

Tuesday 17th June 2014

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