MGM via Everett Collection
Veteran stage and screen icon Elaine Stritch has died at the age of 89. The actress passed away at her home in Birmingham, Michigan on Thursday (17Jul14).
The star, known for her brash attitude and sharp tongue, began her career with her first stage role in 1944 and made her Broadway debut in Loco just two years later (46).
She went on to become a regular in New York's famous theatre district, featuring in a hit 1952 revival of the musical Pal Joey and landing her first leading Broadway role in Goldilocks in 1958. Her other theatre credits include parts in Noel Coward's Sail Away, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Stephen Sondheim's 1970 musical Company, a role she reprised in 1972 when it opened in London's West End.
She later won high praise for her one-woman show Elaine Stritch at Liberty, for which she won a Tony Award in 2001. During the production, in which she recounted her life story, Stritch revealed she had tried and failed to win the role of Dorothy Zbornak in hit TV series The Golden Girls, a job which went instead to Bea Arthur.
Her early TV appearances came on shows like The Growing Paynes, Studio One and the classic British comedy series Two's Company. In more recent years, she appeared in U.S. soap One Life to Live, 3rd Rock from the Sun and Law & Order, while she earned an Emmy Award playing Alec Baldwin's mother on 30 Rock.
Stritch's filmography included parts in the 1957 remake of A Farewell to Arms, The Perfect Furlough, Providence and Woody Allen films September (1987) and Small Time Crooks (2000). She also portrayed Winona Ryder's grandmother in Autumn in New York and Jane Fonda's acerbic mum in 2005's Monster in Law.
The actress, who was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1995, bid farewell to fans with her Movin' Over and Out concert series in the Big Apple in April, 2013, before moving to Michigan to spend more time with her family.
British actress Carey Mulligan has won glowing reviews for her West End debut, with critics hailing her performance in Skylight as "moving" and "beautiful". The David Hare play, which opened at London's Wyndham's Theatre on Wednesday (19Jun14), stars Mulligan and veteran actor Bill Nighy as two former lovers who meet up after several years and reminisce about their affair.
The production, directed by Stephen Daldry, has won over reviewers, who heaped praise on the two leading performers.
Charles Spencer of Britain's Daily Telegraph gives the drama five stars out of five and calls it a "knockout production", writing, "Nighy and Mulligan beautifully capture both the hurt and anger of lost love, and sudden piercing moments of enduring sadness."
The Independent's Paul Taylor hails Mulligan for her "moving, intensely focused performance", while Dominic Maxwell of Britain's The Times was most impressed by Nighy, who appeared in a previous production of the play back in 1996, calling him "a case study in charisma" and "an enormously seductive presence" who "boasts a performance of pure class".
Quentin Letts of Britain's Daily Mail gives similar praise to the lead actor, writing, "Bill Nighy at full belt on stage is astonishing, unbalancing, unforgettable" but adds that Mulligan "holds her own... to not be upstaged by a rampaging Nighy is an achievement".
Skylight will run until 23 August (14).
Stars including Stephen Fry, Colin Baker and Robert Lindsay have paid tribute to British comedy actor Sam Kelly, who has died aged 70. The veteran star passed away on Saturday (14Jun14) after a lengthy illness.
Confirming his death, his agent Lynda Ronan said, "Sam Kelly died peacefully... after a long illness bravely fought.
"He does not leave any family but a host of friends who were his chosen family. His death is a great loss to them and the profession."
After news of his death broke, stars from screen and stage took to Twitter.com to pay their respects to the beloved actor.
Fry wrote, "Very saddened to hear about Sam Kelly's death. He played a splendid Hitler in a comedy drama called Stalagluft I made with Nick Lyndhurst..."
Former Doctor Who star Baker, who went to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art alongside Kelly, added, "Cannot believe that lovely Sam Kelly has died. We were at drama school together - lovely, funny, talented chap. So sad."
Sherlock actor Mark Gattis also tweeted, "Desperately sad news that the wonderful Sam Kelly has left us. Such a funny, talented man and one of the good guys," while Lindsay, who was preparing to perform in West End show Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, wrote, "Feel so depressed about the amazing Sam Kelly's passing how do we manage a second comic musical tonight? we dedicate it to him RIP."
Kelly was best known for his roles in classic U.K. sitcoms 'Allo 'Allo! and Porridge. He also appeared in longrunning comedies Barbara, On the Up, Black Books, and his film work included 2010 family film Nanny McPhee and The Big Bang and Mike Leigh's 2002 movie All or Nothing.
Actress Carey Mulligan's culinary skills have improved dramatically since she joined the cast of West End play Skylight as she is required to cook on stage. The Great Gatsby actress stars alongside Bill Nighy and Matthew Beard in the revival of David Hare's 1995 play at London's Wyndham Theatre.
Mulligan plays a school teacher in the production and her role requires her to cook a meal live on stage as she discusses her relationship with a former lover.
Director Stephen Daldry wasted no time in throwing Mulligan into preparation for her character and the British star's family are thrilled she is now able to make an edible meal.
She tells Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper, "It's so hard! What's really good is that Stephen's so no-nonsense, so I've been cooking since the second day of rehearsals. We started acting the play out in the afternoon of the first day. With most rehearsal periods, you spend the first week sitting around talking about your feelings. We just got into it, just started chopping onions. I can actually cook one meal now, as opposed to before, when I could cook nothing. My family are very excited."
Veteran actress Kathleen Turner's new play Bakersfield Mist has been savaged by critics who branded it "implausible", "phoney", and "too pleased with itself". The new drama, which opened in the West End on Tuesday (27May14), stars Turner as Maude, a trailer park resident who believes she has unearthed a valuable Jackson Pollock painting. She enlists a New York art expert named Lionel, played by Scottish actor Ian McDiarmid, to verify it.
However, the culture-clash show, written by Stephen Sachs, has failed to impress many critics, who found the plot unconvincing and suggested the actors' performances are the only highlight.
Henry Hitching, of the London Evening Standard, writes, "Her (Turner) passionate performance and an enjoyably outrageous one from Ian McDiarmid can't redeem a play that turns a true story into something clunkingly implausible... There are flashes of humour, but despite the strong performances Bakersfield Mist feels very slight."
Charles Spencer, from the Daily Telegraph, echoes the criticism, adding, "Bakersfield Mist, neatly directed by Polly Teale and cleverly designed by Tom Piper, is too slight, and a touch too pleased with itself, to be fully satisfying. But, unlike the dubious picture at the play's heart, the performances are definitely the genuine article."
Mark Shenton, from The Stage, writes, "A play about trying to verify the authenticity of art falls at the first hurdle if it itself feels phoney... The situation here simply beggars belief... I suspect it will quickly fade into the mists of memory."
Bakersfield Mist will run until 30 August (14) at the Duchess Theatre in London.
Theatre mogul Lord Lloyd Webber is moving forward with plans to turn Jack Black's music movie School Of Rock into a stage show. The British composer confirmed last year (13) that he has purchased the stage rights to the 2003 movie, in which Black portrays a struggling musician who pretends to be a supply teacher and helps his young students form a rock band.
He has now revealed the project is moving forward and he hopes to open the show on Broadway, telling Britain's Daily Mail newspaper, "I am going to write the new songs for School Of Rock but there's a possibility that it's such an American subject that I might do it in New York first. I'm going to take the script away and see if I can turn the clock back to Jesus Christ Superstar and the days when Led Zeppelin were in the studio next door. Maybe I can't do heavy metal anymore. You can't just do heavy metal for hours and hours in the theatre or everyone would go home screaming. They have to be theatrical songs too."
Webber, who has previously enjoyed massive hits with productions such as The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, and Evita, hopes the new project will help him bounce back from the failure of his last stage show Stephen Ward, a West End musical which opened in December (13) but closed after less than four months due to slow ticket sales.
He adds, "I think the truth of this is that the public is going for feel-good shows."
The Book Of Mormon has officially been deemed a West End hit after winning four prizes, including Best New Musical, at the 2014 Olivier Awards in London. The Tony Award-winning stage show, from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, opened in London last year (13) and it dominated the musical categories at the annual theatre prizegiving, taking home Best Actor in a Musical for Gavin Creel, Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical for Stephen Ashfield and Best Theatre Choreographer for Casey Nicholaw.
The Best Actress in a Musical title went to Zrinka Cvitesic for Once.
Meanwhile, Lucy Kirkwood's thriller Chimerica was another big winner, being named Best New Play and earning Best Director for Lyndsey Turner, as Rory Kinnear walked away with Best Actor for Othello and Lesley Manville claimed the female equivalent for Ghosts.
Ghosts was also named Best Revival and landed Jack Lowden Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Sharon D Clarke was awarded the Best Actress in a Supporting Role prize for The Amen Corner.
Guests at the Royal Opera House event on Sunday (13Apr14) were treated to performances from Broadway regular Bernadette Peters and tenor Joseph Calleia, but the highlight of the night came when ABBA stars Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus joined the cast of Mamma Mia! to sing a medley of hits in celebration of the musical's 15th anniversary in the West End.
British pop act Pet Shop Boys have released a new track based on a gay rights speech by an Irish activist. Drag queen Panti Bliss, real named Rory O'Neill, gave the speech damning homophobia in Ireland at an event held at Dublin's Abbey Theatre in February (13) and he was praised by stars including Stephen Fry and Madonna after a clip was shared on YouTube.com.
The West End Girls hitmakers have now made their support clear by turning the speech into a new song called The Best Gay Possible, featuring 10 minutes of the speech set to trance music.
After the track was unveiled on the group's website O'Neil took to his Twitter.com account to voice his approval, writing, "Pet Shop Boys made an amazing track out of my Noble Call speech. Seriously, they did."
Hit British crime drama Broadchurch looks set to dominate the U.K.'s Royal Television Society Programme Awards after receiving four top nominations. The murder-mystery series, about a child's death in a small coastal town, is nominated in the Drama Serial category alongside zombie show In The Flesh and Elisabeth Moss' Top Of The Lake.
Broadchurch's female leads Olivia Colman and Jodie Whittaker will go up against each other for the Actor - Female award along with My Mad Fat Diary star Sharon Rooney, and the show's creator Chris Chibnall is up for a writing prize.
In the Actor - Male category, Idris Elba is nominated for his turn as a troubled cop in Luther alongside Stephen Dillane (The Tunnel) and Lennie James (Run).
Burton and Taylor, starring Helena Bonham Carter and Dominic West as Dame Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, has received a nod in the Single Drama line-up, competing with Our Girl and The Challenger.
The winners will be announced at a ceremony in London on 18 March (14).
Acclaimed lyricist Sir Tim Rice fears he will never write another stage musical as the public seems to prefer shows featuring well-known pop songs to original material. The songwriter helped create hugely successful musicals including Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Evita with his longtime collaborator Andrew Lloyd Webber.
However, his latest offering, From Here to Eternity, is set to close in March (14) after just 22 weeks in London's West End, and Rice now fears theatre-goers are more interested in seeing shows such as Mamma Mia!, which features the music of ABBA, and Queen musical We Will Rock You.
He tells Britain's The Times newspaper, "The public don't seem interested in musicals with new material. They just want old songs repackaged. I feel sorry for Stuart Brayson (the composer he worked with on From Here to Eternity). I think he's excellent."
When asked whether he will write another stage musical, Rice adds, "I very much doubt it."
The news comes shortly after it was announced that Lloyd Webber's latest musical, Stephen Ward, is to also close in March (14) after just four months on stage in London.