The cast has been revealed for a brand new version of the Tim Rice musical comedy Blondel which will get its London premiere at the Union Theatre from 21 June to 15 July. Press night is 23 June.
Blondel has lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Stephen Oliver. The book is by Tom Williams and Tim Rice, with additional music by Mathew Pritchard.
Connor Arnold has been cast in the title role as Blondel. Arnold is a 2016 graduate from the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. He recently played The Pardoner on a European tour of Canterbury Tales. His previous credits include Silent Witness (BBC1) and Catch Me at the Arts Theatre.
The rest of the cast features: Courtney Bowman (winner Stephen Sondheim Performer of the Year 2016; Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at Sheffield Crucible), Michael Burgen (Spamalot, West End; The All-Male Pirates of Penzance, UK tour); Lauren Byrne (UK tour of Sunny Afternoon), David Fearn (A Christmas Carol, Lyceum Theatre), Ryan Hall (making his professional debut after graduating from Mountview), Oliver Marshall (Forty Years On, Chichester Festival Theatre; Side Show, Southwark Playhouse), Jessie May (Rock of Ages, UK tour; Mamma Mia!, West End), Katie Meller (Closer to Heaven, Union Theatre; The Phantom of the Opera, West End), Calum Melville (Danny Elfman’s Music From the Films of Tim Burton at the Royal Albert Hall), Neil Moors (Jesus Christ Superstar, UK tour; The All-Male Pirates of Penzance, UK tour), Craig Nash (currently in 110 in the Shade, Ye Olde Rose and Crown), Michaela Stern (Soho Cinders, Union Theatre; You Won’t Succeed On Broadway, If You Don’t Have Any Jews, international tour), James Thackeray (Compliance, Theatre503; A Haunting, King’s Head Theatre), and Jay Worthy (Call Me Madam, Little Shop of Horrors, Parade).
Rice said today: “I’m delighted Blondel is returning to the stage. It was one of the most enjoyable projects of my career, and I’ve always felt Stephen Oliver’s wonderful music deserved a larger audience than it reached back in 1983 when the show first ran. I hope this new production at the terrific Union Theatre will please old fans and find some new ones.”
When King Richard announces that he’s off on a Middle East Crusade to give Saladin a piece of his mind (and sword), the struggling court musician Blondel is forced to stay behind to write songs in praise of the King’s evil – and ambitious – brother, Prince John.
Worse still, Blondel is separated from his sweetheart Fiona, who has been press-ganged into the King’s official crusade dry cleaning department. However, when Richard is captured by the murky – and rather cunning – Duke of Austria (just before the interval), Blondel decides to embark upon a pan-European adventure to save his King, Fiona, and England.
An irritable assassin, a proto-Robin-Hood and a quartet of monks all aid and/or hinder Blondel’s efforts to write himself both a place in history and love song to dedicate to Fiona.
Blondel premiered in the West End starring Paul Nicholas in 1983. It was the first musical Rice wrote with a composer other than Andrew Lloyd Webber, following hits with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita.
Rice first had the idea for a show about the Crusades in the early days of his partnership with Lloyd Webber. They initially worked on it together, with the project titled Come Back Richard Your Country Needs You.
That work was performed as an oratorio at the City of London School in 1969, and a single of the title song was recorded with Rice as lead vocalist. However, their idea for a musical about the last seven days in the life of Jesus Christ took precedence.
Then the idea for a musical about the Crusades sank into obscurity. Rice met Stephen Oliver, the distinguished classical and operatic composer, when they both served on a panel at the Sydney Arts Festival in 1977. In 1982 they began collaborating to bring the idea of a musical about King Richard into a reality. Now titled Blondel, the show centred around Richard’s minstrel, Blondel, who embarks on a quest to find his missing King.
Director Sasha Regan is joined in the creative team by choreographer Chris Whittaker, musical director Simon Holt, designer Ryan Dawson Laight, lighting designer Iain Dennis, music co-ordinator Pete Hobbs, assistant MD Oliver George Rew, and casting is byAdam Braham Casting.
Presenting Blondel at the Union Theatre are Aaron Rogers and Sasha Regan for Union Theatre, and Donald Rice for Heartaches Limited.