Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Closing!!! 'Betty Blue Eyes' Musical in London

Betty, Reece Shearsmith and Jack Edwards
(all production photos: Jane Hobson/London News Pictures/
It's probably unfair to include 'Betty Blue Eyes' in my series of posts featuring the failure of stage musicals adapted from feature films. For one thing the creators did not use the same title of the film. The musical is based on the 1984 film "A Private Function". For another it's not like producers are banking on the popularity of the film to attract theatergoers. It only grossed $2.5 million in the U.S. back then.

'Betty Blue Eyes' at the Novello Theatre
(photo credit:
However this musical is opening in London and it is based on a British film that starred the likes of Michael Palin, Maggie Smith, Denholm Elliott, Richard Griffiths, Liz Smith and Pete Postlethwaite. At the 1985 BAFTA (British Oscars), the film won three awards for best actress (Maggie Smith), Supporting Actor (Denholm Elliott) and Supporting Actress (Liz Smith). It was also nominated for best film and original screenplay.

But what should have signaled the likely success of the musical was the man behind it: British producer Cameron Mackintosh who has presented 'Les Miserables', 'The Phantom of the Opera' and 'Mary Poppins' in London and Broadway. Mackintosh is known for his careful hand in choosing and producing projects.

Betty the Pig
'Betty Blue Eyes' opened on April 13, 2011 (previews from March 19, 2011) and last week it was announced the musical would close on September 24, 2011 after a run of six months at the Novello Theatre in London's West End.

The story concerns a small Northern English town in 1947 where the inhabitants are experiencing food rationing in the United Kingdom. Some town businessmen decide to raise a pig, illegally, to serve at an elite banquet to celebrate the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth to Prince Philip. But the pig is stolen by a local chiropodist and encouraged by his wife. Meanwhile a food inspector is determined to stop the illegal activities.

Reece Shearsmith (on bicycle) and the company
Sarah Lancashire (center)
From Michael Billington's review in The Guardian: This witty and delightful adaptation strikes me as better than the original (film). It would be unfair to say that a silk purse has been made out of a sow's ear but the show's creators preserve the satire on small-town snobbery, greed and racism from the Alan Bennett-Malcolm Mowbray movie script while sharpening the storyline and using music genuinely to enhance character.

In news reports Mackintosh said "It is very curious - after such amazing reviews and positive word of mouth, no-one knows the real reason why Betty couldn't find a bigger audience. We have been consistently been playing to just over 50 percent but it just isn't enough to cover the costs. Of course I'm disappointed but I'm not despondent, I am enormously proud of Betty. I know that she will have her day and another life."

George Stiles (music) and Anthony Drewe (lyrics) composed the score. They are credited with augmenting the original score of 'Mary Poppins' with additional songs for the stage version that premiered in London and still running on Broadway. The musical's book is by Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman. A musical cast recording is planned for release on iTunes and on CD. Though the show lacked a major star, one interesting piece of trivia is that Australian pop singer Kylie Minogue provided the voice of Betty the Pig (on stage an animatronic creation). More info at

Sarah Lancashire
Sarah Lancashire and Reece Shearsmith
Sarah Lancashire
Sarah Lancashire, Ann Emery and Reece Shearsmith
The company
Sarah Lancashire and Reece Shearsmith
Betty, Reece Shearsmith and Jack Edwards


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...