Rehearsals started today for the new British musical Mrs Henderson Presents, now starring Tracie Bennett (taking over from Janie Dee who has had to withdraw for personal reasons), which concludes the Theatre Royal Bath summer season, playing 15 August to 5 September, prior to a West End run.
Bennett will be reunited with director Terry Johnson, having last worked together on the award-winning End of the Rainbow.
Mrs Henderson Presents, based on the motion picture (original screenplay by Martin Sherman), has a book by Johnson (who also directs), lyrics by Don Black and music by George Fenton and Simon Chamberlain.
It’s London, 1937, and 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 Damm to look after the newly renovated Windmill Theatre, the improbable duo present a bill of non-stop variety acts. But as war looms something more is required to boost morale and box office. When Mrs Henderson comes up with the idea of The Windmill Girls – glamorous young women posing as nude statues – audiences flock.
And as the Blitz hits London, The Windmill provides a refuge for all, boasting the spirit-raising slogan ‘We Never Close’.
Tracie Bennett is probably best known for her work in the theatre. She received Olivier Awards for her performances in the musicals She Loves Me and Hairspray, and was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance as Judy Garland in the Broadway production of the biopic play End of the Rainbow. She appeared in She Loves Me at the Savoy Theatre in 1994, for which she won the Laurence Olivier Award as Best Supporting Performance in a Musical.
Her television debut was in the drama series Going Out, before appearing in Coronation Street between 1982 and 1984 as Sharon Gaskell, the Fairclough’s foster daughter. She returned to the role in 1999.
The cast also includes Julie Armstrong, Sarah Bakker, Ian Bartholomew, Katie Bernstein, Andrew Bryant, Rhiannon Chesterman, Lizzy Connolly, Alexander Delamere, Mark Hadfield, Victoria Hay, Graham Hoadly, Samuel Holmes, Lauren Hood, Oliver Jackson, Katrina Kleve, Matthew Malthouse, Jane Milligan, Neil Stewart, Emma Williams and Dickie Wood.
Johnson’s many West End productions as director and/or writer include One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Hitchcock Blonde, Entertaining Mr Sloane, The Graduate, Dead Funny, Hysteria, Elton John’s Glasses and The Memory of Water. He won the 2010 Tony Award for Best Director of a Musical for La Cage aux Folles. His most recent credits include The Duck House (UK tour and West End) and Oh What A Lovely War (Theatre Royal, Stratford East).
Black’s stage musicals include Billy, Tell Me On a Sunday, Aspects of Love and Stephen Ward; receiving two Tony Awards for Sunset Boulevard. Film lyrics include ‘Diamonds Are Forever’, ‘Born Free’ and ‘The Italian Job’. Among his many popular hit songs are Michael Jackson’s ‘Ben’ and Lulu’s ‘To Sir With Love’, both of which were US number one hits.
George Fenton has composed numerous film scores including for the original film of Mrs Henderson Presents, Gandhi, Cry Freedom, Dangerous Liaisons, The Wind That Shakes the Barley and Memphis Belle; and music for television series including The Jewel in the Crown, The Blue Planet and Planet Earth.
Simon Chamberlain was the original music director on the film Mrs Henderson Presents.