Wednesday, April 8, 2015


Nottingham's Theatre Royal: A
fitting stage for a galaxy of stars

By Nottingham Post  |  Posted: April 08, 2015

                                                  Some of the biggest stars of the theatre world have trodden the boards of the Theatre Royal. As it celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, Andy Smart takes a look back at a selection of memorable faces.

Joan with Richard Todd toasting opening night of 'Murder In Mind' backstage
Knight Rider and Baywatch hunk David Hasselhoff took Nottingham by storm during 2013 when he appeared as Captain Hook in Peter Pan.
The flamboyant star helped the Theatre Royal to a box office triumph and left behind a lasting memory... his name attached to a seat in the stalls stamped with his catchphrase "Don't you just love me".
Also in Nottingham from Hollywood came Airplane! and Police Squad comedy actor Leslie Nielsen who brought his one-hander about the celebrated American lawyer Clarence Darrow in 2001; and actor and pop singer David Soul, of Starsky and Hutch fame, starred in 2002 alongside Stephanie Beacham and the late Kate O'Mara in Ira Levin's classic thriller Deathtrap. Four years later, he was back to play the lead in hit musical Mack And Mabel.
Another Starsky and Hutch regular, Antonio Fargas, aka Huggy Bear, came in 2002 for a cameo appearance in touring musical The Blues Brothers.
In 1980, the theatre hosted an appearance by "the most beautiful woman in the world" … TV heroine Wonder Woman, aka American actress, songwriter, gay rights activist and 1972 Miss World Lynda Carter.
And in 1983, another Hollywood star in town was Raymond Burr, best remembered for two hugely popular TV crime series, Perry Mason and Ironside, who appeared in a thriller called Underground, with Gerald Flood, Alfred Marks and Peter Wyngarde (TV's Jason King).
The most recent acting dame, evergreen Joan Collins, starred in the thriller Murder In Mind with another movie hero, Richard Todd, of The Dambusters fame, and she returned in 2004 to appear in the comedy Full Circle.
Others from the world of cinema to visit include Simon Ward (Young Winston), who starred in a Francis Durbridge thriller called House Guest; Virginia McKenna (Born Free) appeared in A Personal Affair; Gordon Jackson (The Great Escape) brought Agatha Christie's Cards On The Table to town; and in the autumn of 1982, Judi Dench and a young Nigel Havers headed the cast in The Importance Of Being Earnest.
They didn't come much bigger than acting giant Peter O'Toole, who was here in 1982 for George Bernard Shaw's Man And Superman; while French actress Leslie Caron, of American In Paris, Lili and Gigi fame, joined Dinsdale Landen and Kate O'Mara for a pre-West End run in Nottingham of The Rehearsal.
On October 10, 1983, a giant of the English stage, Sir Ralph Richardson, was due to open at the Theatre Royal in a National Theatre production of Inner Voices.
His performance as Don Alberto had won lavish praise from London critics and provincial theatre-goers were queuing up to see the master at work.
But just before the opening in Nottingham, the great man died at the age of 80 following a series of strokes. That evening all the theatres in London dimmed their lights in tribute.
Before she turned to politics, acclaimed actress Glenda Jackson appeared in a nine-act drama Strange Interlude, by Eugene O'Neill, and, by contrast, not longer after came Coronation Street's Elsie Tanner, aka Pat Phoenix, for an Agatha Christie mystery called Spider's Web.
Although the big names inevitably catch the eye, the Theatre Royal has also witnessed the early days of a few stellar careers.
In 1990, Andy Serkis appeared in Nottingham in She Stoops To Conquer, many years before he found fame and fortune with his "performance capture" roles in Lord Of The Rings (Gollum), King Kong, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (Caesar) and The Adventures Of Tintin (Captain Haddock), as well as award-winning portrayals of punk rocker Ian Dury and mass murderer Ian Brady.
Mark Strong, superb in films like Sherlock Holmes and The Imitation Game, was down among the small print in 1990 in King Lear.
And wonderful Jane Horrocks, who was showered with stage and screen awards for The Rise And Fall of Little Voice, passed almost unnoticed in a UK tour of Macbeth. American actor George Chakiris, best known as Sharks gang leader Bernardo in West Side Story, came to Nottingham towards the end of his acting career to play Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre.
And although it was first staged in the theatre in 1952, starring husband and wife team Richard Attenborough and Sylvia Sim, we must call up the story of Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap, which was given its world premiere in Nottingham.
Expected to enjoy "a nice little run" by its writer, it is still pulling them in more than 60 years later. In 2013, the 60th anniversary tour starred Karl Howman (Brush Strokes).
There is one other shining star who should be mentioned ... even though she was actually one of the audience.
In December 1986, Princess Diana was in Nottingham, for a solo visit, to attend a gala performance of Giselle, by the London City Ballet.
The princess was patron of the company.
So, these are just a few of the good and the great to grace the Theatre Royal.
As the grand old lady passes her 150th birthday, there is nothing to suggest that they will be the last.

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