Eastenders Stars in West End Musicals and Plays

Eastenders Stars on the West End Stage

A Chorus Line

A Chorus Line at The London Palladium

A Chorus Line at The London Palladium

The latest Eastender to announce starring in a West End show is John Partridge who is going to be in the revival of A Chorus Line when it opens next year at the London Palladium. There has been a long tradition of TV soap stars transferring to live theatre especially during the pantomime season when a big TV name is an essential draw, but in the case of Eastenders this is not just a one way relationship. The reason why so many ex-eastenders manage to make their way into top shows and plays is not just because of their prominence in what was for years the UK’s most popular TV show in terms of viewing figures, but because many of them come from a background in plays and musicals in the first place, having come through one of the many stage schools in London and Essex. John Partridge himself for example, initially trained in ballet, then in musical theatre and performing arts and has even been in the touring version of Cats well before taking the TV role of Christian Clarke for four years in Eastenders.


Meanwhile down at the Savoy Theatre we already have another ‘Easters’ star on stage just opened in Cabaret alongside Will Young where Michelle Ryan is starring as Sally Bowles. Michelle Ryan surprise surprise, had been a member of a local theatre group since the age of 10. Although she is better known for drama on TV than for singing and dancing, this is one of the most prestigious roles for any female performer so she must be very good – did you see her in Doctor Who as Lady Christina de Souza? Wonderful!

Calendar Girls, Hairspray & Tape

The biggest Eastenders fest in theatreland must have been Calendar Girls, in which June Brown (Dot Cotton), Anita Dobson (Angie) , Jill Halfpenny (Kate Mitchell) and Jack Ryder (Jamie Mitchell) in all appeared at the Noel Coward Theatre in the season of 2009/10.

EastEnders star Lucy Benjamin (Lisa Fowler) isn’t going to the West End as such but will be on board one of the increasingly popular UK nationwide tours of a previous West End show, in this case of the hit show Hairspray in the role of scheming TV executive and archetypal ‘showbiz mom’ Velma Von Tussle. Now here’s the thing – Lucy has also been in Doctor Who so what’s going on with that then?

Marc Elliott portrayed a groundbreaking loving gay relationship as Syed Masood, Eastenders’ first gay Muslim and then went on to act in a play called “Tape” by Stephen Belber at the Trafalgar Studios in Whitehall, London.

I’m sure there are a couple more Eastenders stars who have been in musicals and plays in London and we’ll try and keep the above list up to date by including any you might remind us of in the comments section below here.

See Musicals Together by Coach

There is an age-old but ongoing controversy surrounding Arts funding which roughly equates to a battle between those who wish to maintain a high cultural level of quality in the arts, and those who see that as an unequal subsidy skewed towards the wealthy. Maybe I would be able to pose another point of view in favour of a high level but egalitarian attitude to culture. This would entail supporting culture for all, but a culture than uplifts and inspires. It’s not quite enough just to entertain, to pass the time. Going wider than the arts, the biggest shows that ordinary people go out to see in their masses would include football matches, and football is OK.  Anything that gets people out of the homes and into a crowd where a common simultaneous experience can be shared. Putting aside cultural norms  for one moment,  It’s all about being part of the crowd and common experience. Watching a live music performance is another example. Why do people go to gigs, when you could just stay at home and play the albums? Why go to see a musical theatre show, when you could stay at home and watch a DVD or Blu Ray or a hologram. Well to my mind a big part of the answer must be the desire or need to be a part of that shared experience. It makes the emotional story so much more colourful when it’s amplified through hundreds of fellow people enjoying roughly the same ups and downs at almost the same time. So we need that joint pleasure, and we go to the theatre with our friends and loved ones, or with a large crowd of total strangers, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is to have the emotions engaged, we seem to need that. To get the best quality experience you want to see a top quality show, which usually, but by no means always, means coming to London and subsequently staying overnight in or very near the capital. Travelling on a train is to be an individual against the crowd but on a coach you are part of the party, it comes together into one contingent moving down the motorways together. So what I’m trying to say is that the very reasons for going on theatre breaks are also reasons to do it by coach as well, and turn the shared experience from just a couple of hours into a full two or three day one.

Top Tunes for the Theatre Breaks Dinner Dance Disco!

If you love musicals and going on theatre breaks with hotel and travel included you might

Breaks by Coach

Theatre Breaks by Coach

be tempted by one of the two or three day coach breaks with a dinner and dance after the show. They are actually really popular, but if you’re anything like you me you may be just a little bit apprehensive about the type of music and vibe they might be putting out on the disco floor. It is just a standard all ages disco type thing of the sort you might find at a holiday camp or a wedding? Or will it be specially tailored for people who like a good musical show, despite the wide range of styles currently on offer with everything from 1940s Hollywood to light operetta, to seventies glam rock and so on and so on? The answer I’m sure is a bit of both, so we’ve composed the following list of the top ten tunes for dancing at the theatre breaks dinner dance disco.

10) At number ten, asking “can you come out tonight with your red dress on?” Go on, you know you want to..  it’s Sherry Baby  – from The Jersey Boys.  The hard thing here is to find three other people good enough to do the formation dance routine with you as the Four Seasons.

9) Dancing Queen by Abba – Just think of the outtakes shown at the end of the film version of Mamma Mia and how much fun they were obviously having. In fact you;re likely to encounter a whole lot more in the way of vintage Abba songs at your theatre breaks disco.

8)  Stamp your feet and bang the tables to We Will Rock You, well known rock anthem and  title song from the Queen musical

7) Jumping Jack Flash – The Rolling Stones. Another rocker

6) Grease is the Word

5) Stayin’ Alive from Saturday Night Fever

4) Getting near the end you need to be told how much you’ve enjoyed yourself so sing along with “I’ve Had The Time Of My Life” from Dirty Dancing

3)  For Michael Jackson fans to moonwalk to it’s Billie Jean from Thriller.

2) You Should Be Dancing – The BeeGees

1) YMCA Village People


London Theatre Dine & Dance 2 days – by Coach

London Theatre Dine & Dance 3 days – by Coach

Matinees for West End Musicals

Musicals with Matinees

Midnight Matinee

If Matinee comes from morning then what the heck is a Midnight Matinee?

If you are not familiar with the West End style of theatre and their peculiar ways and customs you may have heard of Matinee or Matinée performances and assumed it was something to do with the French word “Le Matin” meaning morning. Well that would be correct, and it is indeed based on an old french theatre tradition but the sense of “Morning” is more like that of “before” or leading up to. Matinees in London Theatreland are generally performed at around the middle of the afternoon leaving a couple of hours or so for rest and recuperation before the cast perform the whole show all over again at about 7.30pm in the evening. There are some advantages and disadvantages to choosing a matinee performance over an evening show but they are not very significant and if it’s a choice between seeing a matinee or not going to a show at all it’s always better to choose the first option.

Advantages to choosing matinees are

  • Availability is sometimes greater which could translate into a greater choice of shows, slightly cheaper tickets or better seats.
  • The cast is fresh, not having performed the show just a few hours earlier.
  • Combined with slow dining out, a dinner dance or other evening entertainment a matinee adds to a complete day out in a way that an evening performance can only really end one.
  • The audience will be more attentive, quieter and better behaved because they haven’t started drinking the red wine yet.

Advantages to choosing Evening Performances are:

  • You might arrive in time for the show after having spent the day at work or whatever else you might do on a week day or weekend. An evening performance doesn’t impinge into your day, so you might be able to fit a lot more shows into your annual calendar by nipping in to a theatre after a regular day.
  • The cast are going to give it their all and not hold anything back. This is the main performance of the day and they know they are going to party afterwards. Or sleep, or whatever thespians do to unwind.
  • The audience will be more grown up, in an evening sort of mood and likely to give a warmer welcome to the actors and songs, which feeds back into a better performance. Less chance of sitting next to noisy children and teenagers, perhaps.
  • Live Theatre with music and dancing – it’s a big night out on the town, not a way to pass an afternoon for goodness sake.

So now we come to the list of current West End musicals that have matinees, so you can see which shows’ matinees are on on which days of the week and the times of performances.

Days and Times for the Musicals with Matinees

Dreamboats And Petticoats at Wyndham’s Theatre until January 19th, 2013 – Matinees Thursdays 15.00pm and Saturdays 16.00

The Bodyguard at The Adelphi Theatre has matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 15.00pm

Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre has matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 14.30

We Will Rock You has matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 14.30

Viva Forever matinees start at 5.00pm on Fridays, and 3.00pm on Saturdays

Billy Elliot matinees are on Thursdays and Saturdays at 14.30

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory matinees Wednesdays and Saturdays at 14.30pm

Phantom of The Opera matinees Thursday and Saturday at 14.30pm

Top Hat matinees Thursday and Saturday at 14.30pm

Thriller Live matinees Saturday at 16.00pm and Sundays at 15.30pm

Stomp – Thursdays and Saturdays at 15.00pm, Sundays at 15.00 and 18.00 pm

Rock of Ages – Saturdays 16.00 and Sundays 15.30

Spamalot – Wednesdays and Saturdays at 14.30pm

Singin’ In The Rain – Wednesday 15.00pm ad Saturday at 14.30pm

Shrek matinees on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday all at 15.00pm

Matilda A Musical Wednesdays at 14.30 and Sundays at 15.00pm

Mamma Mia! Fridays at 17.00pm and Saturdays at 15.00pm

Loserville Wednesdays and Saturdays at 3.00pm

Lion King Wednesdays and Saturdays 14.00pm and Sundays at 15.00pm

Let It Be matinees on Thursdays and Saturdays at 15.00pm, Sundays at 17.00pm

Les Miserables matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 14.30pm

Kiss Me Kate on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 15.00pm

Jersey Boys matinees on Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 15.00pm

A Chorus Line from February 2013 matinees at 15.00pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays

Cabaret Wednesdays and Saturdays at 14.30pm

Book Of Mormon from February 2013 on Wednesdays and Saturdays 14.30pm

Burn The Floor from March 2013 matinees Thursdays 15.00pm and Saturdays and Sundays 16.00pm

Looking through the list above we can draw some general conclusions.

Matinees are usually held on one weekday, usually a Wednesday or Thursday, and also Saturday. Sunday matinees are becoming quite popular too.

Two thirty in the afternoon and three O’clock are both common times for weekday matinees with Saturday matinees often scheduled slightly later, in line with the later evening performances.

The following musicals all have matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays at two thirty:

Wicked, We Will Rock You, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, The Book Of Mormon, Cabaret, Les Miserables, Spamalot.

Confused? I hope not, but whether you decide to plump for a matinee or an evening performance the main thing is to have a wonderful time in the presence of the magic of live theatre and enjoy your musicals!



5 Types of Musicals

I thought it would be interesting to look at the different types of musical you can go and see at the theatre in an effort to help you think about the type of musical may be suitable for you to see if you haven’t been to see a piece of musical theatre before.

I have identified 5 different types of musicals (although you could probably extend this list) and given my idea of what each type of musical is like.

1) Jukebox Musicals / Karaoke Musicals
I believe this is one of the more modern types of musical and does what it says on the tin – they are musicals where the audience is encouraged to join in with the songs.  I think one of the first musicals of this kind in the West End was (and is) Mamma Mia! Quite often they are centred around a well known band or music recorded by a well known band, for example We Will Rock You is a jukebox musical which features many of the well known Queen songs.

2) Musical Drama
I expect most of the traditional / classical musicals feature in this category – they use music as another way of expressing emotion.  Characters will typically burst into song when the emotion of a scene is too much to be expressed using words alone.  They also tell a normally quite emotional story like the story of Billy Elliot where a young boy wants to pursue a career in dance but he lives in a time where men box – not dance.

Another example would be Blood Brothers which tells the story of two twins separated at birth to give them a better life.  They go on to live nice lives until their paths cross again in both friendship and anger.

3) Musical Comedy
This type of musical is for those who love to laugh (bet that surprised you), they generally have stories which lend themselves to comedy a bit like Avenue Q which for a start stars puppets and seeing them talk about the things they do in Avenue Q – sex, racism, homosexuality etc makes for a great comedy musical.  La Cage Aux Folles would be another good example.

4) Sing Through’s
Musical theatre is separate  from Opera but bears a very close relationship to it and no more so then in Sing Through musicals like Les Miserables and Jesus Christ Superstar.  In a nutshell a sing through musical is one where their is always a music of some kind running through the entire musical and all the words are sung.

5) Film to Stage Musicals
These musicals are based on (sometimes well known) films like the recent production of The Bodyguard which started life as a film musical. In some cases the music from the films make it into the stage musical – not in the case of Sister Act which had a brand new score written.  Another example of this type of musical was Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical.


Wicked is the magical story of how two unlikely friends become so and how they end up as the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good, characters which feature in Frank L. Baum’s classic and much loved story – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Galinda / Glinda and Elphaba meet at Schiz University located in the mythical Land of Oz (nothing to do with Australia).  Elphaba is born the colour of emerald green with a very fiesty personality.  Galinda on the other hand was born very beautiful, ambitious and very popular.  When they first meet they are very suspicious of each other but thanks to Maddam Morrible they get pushed together and become better friends than either of them could of possibly imagined.  Together they go to see the Wonderful Wizard of Oz who turns out to be not so wonderful.  Wicked is their story…

Based on the story Wicked: The Life and Times of The Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire with music and lyrics by the fabulous Stephen Schwartz.  The show features catchy tunes which will stick with you for a long time including Defying Gravity and Popular.

London’s top hit musical say Classic FM and dubbed The West End’s most successful musical by The Independent on Sunday, Wicked is quite simply a spectacular show and one not to be missed!

Wicked is currently being performed at the Apollo Victoria Theatre in London

Best Musical Awards List

The London Evening Standard ‘longlist’ has been published for the 2012 Theatre Awards and the category we are interested in here at MusicalVerse of course is the “Ned Sherrin Award for Best Musical

Here are the contenders:

Award for Best Musical

Floyd Collins (Southwark Playhouse) Directed by Derek Bond

Mack & Mabel (Southwark Playhouse)

Singin’ In the Rain (Chichester Festival and Palace Theatre)

Swallows and Amazons (A Bristol Old Vic production, presented by the National Theatre and The Children’s Touring Partnership at the Vaudeville Theatre)

Sweeney Todd (Chichester Festival and Adelphi)

Top Hat (Aldwych)