Thursday Theatre News: Happy Birthday Billy, and Spring Cast News

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Yesterday was Billy Elliot’s birthday! The Stephen Daldry / Elton John musical celebrated five successful years in the West End last night with a big birthday bash. Friends, fans, families and celebrities including David Walliams were treated to a 19-strong Billy “megamix, a mash-up of all the Billys.”

Stephen Daldry played tribute to the fine actors that have made the show a success. According to the Official London Theatre Guide, “When we first started with our three first Billys, it was so magical we never thought we would be able to recreate that magic ever again. The fact that we have consistently found these fantastic Billys is a wonder to behold.” I couldn’t agree more. It’s a fantastic show.

From long-runners to new spring arrivals: the cast for Nick Grosso’s new comedy about addiction, Ingredient X, at the Royal Court from 20 May has been announced. The lovely Lesley Sharp, who’s been busy in the West End lately (in The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice at the Vaudeville, Harper Regan at the National, and Ghosts at the Duchess Theatre) plays X Factor addict Rosanna. And James Lance (who you’ll know from Teachers, Boy Meets Girl and Moving Wallpaper) and Indira Varma (from Hustle, Torchwood or Rome) are also going to star.

And I’ve learnt about the casting for this summer’s Open Air Theatre season. Into The Woods will be led by the wonderful Hannah Waddingham and Jenna Russell. Both actresses have been in Sondheim shows before: Hannah in the recent London production of A Little Night Music, and Jenna won an Olivier Award for Sunday In The Park With George in 2007.

Also at the Open Air Theatre this summer is Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, starring Patrick O’Kane (who’s currently in War Horse), Emma Cunniffe (in Dumb Show at the mo), Emily Taaffe (who you might know from Nation at the National) and RSC regular Oliver Ford Davies (who I last saw in that amazing Shakespeare marathon, The Histories).

Finally, the National Theatre’s 2010 Travelex Season now includes Welcome To Thebes, starring David Harewood, due to open in June. As Theseus, Harewood returns to theatre where he made history as the first black actor to play Othello. More recently he has played Martin Luther King in The Mountaintop and Nelson Mandela in TV drama Mrs Mandela. Another of the fantastic ensemble from The Histories, Chuk Iwuji joins David in the cast.

Book now for all the above to avoid disappointment!