Someone was humming For The First Time In Forever in the cafe at the Jerwood Space, where the musical Frozen (from which the number hails — as if you didn’t know!) was in its final week of rehearsals before transferring to the refurbished Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, for technical run-throughs.
The song seemed appropriate. The last face-to-face (not virtual) interviews I did, back in March last year, were with Samantha Barks and Stephanie McKeon.
They play the show’s stars, sisters Elsa and Anna, whose once close relationship is torn apart when Elsa exiles herself, terrified her deep-freezing powers are getting out of control.
McKeon, who sings the song in the show, told me she is already wondering how she’ll get through the first preview on August 27 without being overcome. ‘It’s going to be emotional!’ she said.
Someone was humming For The First Time In Forever in a cafe where the musical Frozen was in its final week of rehearsals. Pictured: Stephanie McKeon, Craig Gallivan and Samantha Barks
Samantha Barks and Stephanie McKeon (pictured with Obioma Ugoala) play the stars, sisters Elsa and Anna, whose once close relationship is torn apart when Elsa exiles herself
Barks says living alone in her flat early in the pandemic helped her to understand Elsa’s isolation in her ice palace. ‘I’ve had a lot of practice,’ she said, drily.
Eighteen months on, Barks and McKeon seem more sister-like, often finishing each other’s sentences.
‘We’ve been chatting away non-stop since we were cast,’ McKeon said.
Thomas Schumacher, the globe-trotting president of Disney Theatrical Productions (he’s had to quarantine FIVE times since we last met) noted that the Frozen tale has been changed by Covid, too.
Elsa, Anna and the people of Arendelle are all frozen in place in the story. ‘What is happening to the characters, has happened to the audience,’ he observed.
Upstairs in the rehearsal room, director Michael Grandage and choreographer Rob Ashford preside over a run-through of new song, I Can’t Lose You.
Barks (pictured) says living alone in her flat early in the pandemic helped her to understand Elsa’s isolation in her ice palace
The musical – the biggest new show to open this year – will be the flagship production. Pictured: Stephanie McKeon, Obioma Ugoala, Samantha Barks and Oliver Ormson
Written by Kristen Anderson Lopez and Robert Lopez, it’s a duet for Barks and McKeon, sung when Anna finally reaches her estranged sister.
It’s just one of many ways in which the West End’s Frozen will be different from the iterations of the show I saw in Denver four years ago, and on Broadway in early 2018.
‘It’s not a blueprint of what we did in America,’ Grandage agreed. Designer Christopher Oram has built a sprawling staircase and a bridge, for Elsa’s icy monument. ‘There’s a new ice palace, for God’s sake!’ he cried. ‘And new icicles!!’
The musical — the biggest new show to open this year — will be the flagship production; more awesome than its namesakes in Australia, Japan and the U.S.
During the rehearsal, my eye kept being drawn to Craig Gallivan, who plays Olaf (Do You Want To Build A Snowman?), perhaps because he had a large snowman puppet strapped to his person.
Gallivan and his wife have an 18-month-old son, Jasper, and Gallivan said when he nursed him to sleep ‘it was a good way of conditioning the muscles in my back’ for the physical demands of carrying Olaf.
Lurking in the wings was Oliver Ormson, who plays dastardly Hans. ‘He’s a prince and a villain. I tick two boxes,’ Ormson said, with the hint of a regal (yet wicked) smile.
Eighteen months on, Barks and McKeon (both pictured during rehearsals) seem more sister-like, often finishing each other’s sentences
McKeon (pictured) , who sings the song in the show, said she is already wondering how she’ll get through the first preview on August 27 without being overcome
Obioma Ugoala was kitted out in a fur-lined gilet as Kristoff, the iceman who helps Anna search for Elsa. He was with Ashley Birchall and Mikayla, who share the role of Sven the reindeer.
I was transfixed, watching them contort their limbs so they could climb inside the massive puppet creature designed by Michael Curry. (Sven was on the verge of being dropped because they couldn’t figure out how to make him move, until Curry hit on the idea of a sort of Trojan reindeer).
Grandage noticed me looking agog at the array of belts, wires and pulleys attached to the two actors.
‘Aren’t we all trying not to give up the child in us?’ Grandage commented. Which is why, he added, Frozen is ‘not for children only’.
AFTER GODZILLA, REBECCA PROVES SHE’S… THE HALL OF HORRORS!
As if a brush with Godzilla wasn’t terrifying enough, actress Rebecca Hall threw herself into battling the paranormal — which was even more scary.
And by then she had a baby daughter and has told how she shook off ‘the demons’ from the horror movie, so she wouldn’t take the ‘terror’ home with her.
The acclaimed actress, who starred in Parade’s End on TV with Benedict Cumberbatch, as well as recent blockbuster Godzilla vs. Kong, faces vivid psychological trauma in The Night House, directed by David Bruckner.
As if a brush with Godzilla wasn’t terrifying enough, actress Rebecca Hall (pictured) threw herself into battling the paranormal — which was even more scary
In The Night House, Beth’s grief following her husband’s death plunges her into a series of terrifying nightmares, where she imagines what might have led him to kill himself
She plays Beth, a woman ‘who loses her mind’ after her husband commits suicide.
Hall, 39, told me she liked the idea of ‘one woman in a house, alone, wrestling with her demons’; particularly given Beth is ‘in an alcoholic stupor at the time’.
‘Instead of running away, screaming, she runs straight into it, which makes her utterly reckless — and really terrifying to watch.’
She described Beth, as ‘heroic, witty, dark, strange and real’. But admirable as she found her, she did not want her toddler, now three, to be exposed to any aspect of this person.
‘She was the fence against bringing any of the difficulties of shooting that movie home,’ she recalled of the time she and her daughter spent on location in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York, an area overflowing with vineyards.
‘You can’t take what Beth was going through into your own house,’ she said during a Zoom call from NY where she lives with husband Morgan Spector, who played FBI agent Dante Allen in Homeland.
The couple met when they played lovers in the Broadway production of Sophie Treadwell’s play Machinal in 2014.
The acclaimed actress, who starred in Parade’s End on TV with Benedict Cumberbatch, faces vivid psychological trauma in The Night House (pictured), directed by David Bruckner
In The Night House, Beth’s grief following her husband’s death plunges her into a series of terrifying nightmares, where she imagines what might have led him to kill himself.
‘If he’s capable of killing himself, what was he not capable of doing?’ Hall commented, after we agreed not to give anything away.
It’s not all scary stuff. The film is laced with dark humour, especially in scenes set at the school where Beth teaches. She and co-star Sarah Goldberg have some good moments, too.
Hall doesn’t watch many horror pictures, but she’s made a few, including The Awakening and The Gift.
‘It’s a genre that appeals to me as an actor, because I think there’s a streak in me that’s always trying to push further into extreme danger.’
She said she had no personal experience of the paranormal, though she recognised the ‘enduring allure’ it holds for many.
The acclaimed actress has starred in Parade’s End on TV with Benedict Cumberbatch, as well as recent blockbuster Godzilla vs. Kong (pictured)
The Night House will premiere at next month’s Edinburgh International Film Festival before opening in cinemas on August 20. Pictured: Rebecca Hall in March 2020
‘There’s something about going into a room full of strangers, and all screaming together in the dark. That can end up being cathartic, because we all have anxieties to purge.’
Hall has been busy behind the camera, too. She directed a film called Passing, based on Nella Larsen’s 1929 novella about a young black woman passing for white, starring Ruth Negga, Tessa Thompson and Andre Holland.
The movie, bought by Netflix at Sundance, will feature at many of the autumn film festivals, and could be an awards contender.
The Night House will premiere at next month’s Edinburgh International Film Festival before opening in cinemas on August 20.
CINDERS STILL A SLOW BURN
Believe it or not, there are other big shows on in the West End right now — and not just Cinderella, which has had the sort of bad luck evil stepsisters dream of.
Take the breathtaking Anything Goes at the Barbican, with Sutton Foster making the kind of de-lovely debut in this rollicking delight that will be talked about for years.
She’s supported by Robert Lindsay and Felicity Kendal, giving masterclasses in effortless comic ingenuity. Joseph, at the London Palladium, is a delicious parable of fun — an extravaganza for all the family.
Believe it or not, there are other big shows on in the West End right now – and not just Cinderella (pictured), which has had the sort of bad luck evil stepsisters dream of
Cinderella (scenes left and right) is on an enforced hiatus, thanks (partly) to the pingdemic, and its cast will receive little in the way of wages during the shutdown
Cinderella (scene pictured) is a Marmite show: some love it, some hate it. Let’s hope there are plenty of the former, so it can recoup its multimillion-pound costs
And Hairspray, at the ENO, is another unmissable treat. At the time of writing, those shows were playing to packed houses.
Cinderella, meanwhile, is on an enforced hiatus, thanks (partly) to the pingdemic, and its cast will receive little in the way of wages during the shutdown.
They will resume work in under a fortnight for two weeks of rehearsals, before opening cold at the Gillian Lynne Theatre — in front of theatre critics — on August 18.
Judging by what I’ve seen and heard, it’s a Marmite show: some love it, some hate it. Let’s hope there are plenty of the former, so it can recoup its multimillion-pound costs.
Kristin Scott Thomas has begun casting her directorial debut film The Sea Change, based on Elizabeth Jane Howard’s 1959 novel about an eminent playwright with a wandering eye, and his wife.
The couple are haunted by the death, 14 years before, of their two-year-old daughter. But things change when, on holiday on a Greek island, a young woman enters their lives.
The award-winning star has been wanting to direct the film for years. No word yet as to whether she’ll appear in it, too. Shooting is set to start in 2022.
WATCH OUT FOR
Rachel Brosnahan, as a U.S. spook who helps turn a British businessman (Benedict Cumberbatch) into a Cold War secret agent in director Dominic Cooke’s film The Courier, in cinemas from August 13.
Brosnahan, who stars as The Marvelous Mrs Maisel on Amazon Prime, told me she’d been eager to work with Cumberbatch (‘Is there anything that man can’t do?) and to film in the UK.
Rachel Brosnahan (pictured) stars as a U.S. spook who helps turn a British businessman (Benedict Cumberbatch) into a Cold War secret agent in Dominic Cooke’s film The Courier
Brosnahan, who stars as The Marvelous Mrs Maisel on Amazon Prime, said she’d been eager to work with Cumberbatch (both pictured) and to film in the UK
Her mother is from Leeds but now resides in the States with Brosnahan’s American father.
As a child, she liked staying with her English cousins and watching our telly. ‘A lot of Anne Robinson in The Weakest Link,’ she said.
Camille Griffin, whose film Silent Night, starring Keira Knightley, Roman Griffin Davis, Matthew Goode, Lily-Rose Depp, Annabelle Wallis, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Sope Dirisu, Holly Aird, Rufus Jones, Dora Davis and Davida McKenzie, will have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.
Camille Griffin’s film Silent Night, starring Keira Knightley, Roman Griffin Davis and Lily-Rose Depp (all pictured), will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September
In the story, friends and family gather to exchange presents on a festive occasion. But there’s a dark ‘surprise’ in store. Pictured: Keira Knightley, Hardy Griffin Davis and Roman Griffin Davis
Just one problem. In the story, friends and family gather in a country pile to exchange presents on a seemingly festive occasion.
But there’s a dark ‘surprise’ in store… which is the film’s whole point. And alas, the good citizens of Toronto can’t keep a secret.
Deborah Lukumuena and Souheila Yacoub, who star in director Anais Volpe’s tale of thespian heartbreak, The Braves, shown at the Cannes Film Festival.
They play (with gusto) Parisian actors and friends who are trying out for a new play.
I liked Lukumuena swatting away some man with, ‘Get lost, I’m done with you!’ Reminded me of a lady who chucked my belongings from a third-floor window when she was done with me (back in my youth).
Deborah Lukumuena and Souheila Yacoub (both pictured) star in director Anais Volpe’s tale of thespian heartbreak, The Braves, shown at the Cannes Film Festival
Deborah and Yacoub (both pictured) play, with gusto, Parisian actors and friends who are trying out for a new play