From Fun Home to Waitress, from Next to Normal to Finding Neverland - it's always fun collating the various rumours flying around theatreland. After a very busy...
Gary Barlow: A Future Force to be Reckoned with in the West End?
This past Sunday, Gary Barlow and longtime friend Tim Firth held a rehearsed reading of their upcoming musical adaptation The Girls (based on Firth's iconic film and stage play Calendar Girls) in the Village Hall in Burnsall, North Yorkshire, where the story all began. Mr. Barlow's name has been cropping up quite a few times recently on theatre press releases and on various theatrical websites. It has got me to thinking - is Gary Barlow a future force to be reckoned with in the West End and on Broadway?
On the other side of the pond, Gary is represented on the Great White Way with Finding Neverland, a musical based on the 2004 Miramax film, currently in previews and playing to sold-out houses at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. The semi-biographical musical based on Peter Pan creator J.M. Barrie and his relationship to the Llewelyn Davies family will officially open on Broadway on 15th April 2015. If all the fuss on social media is to be believed, Gary Barlow may be in line for a smash hit on his Broadway debut outing.
Originally the musical premiered at Leicester's Curve Theatre in 2012 starring West End actors Julian Ovenden as J.M. Barrie and Rosalie Craig as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies. However, this version featured music by Scott Frankel and lyrics by Michael Korie. It was only when producer (and Hollywood Heavyweight) Harvey Weinstein completely overhauled the creative team that Barlow and Eliot Kennedy were hired to provide 22 new songs for the Broadway musical. Well, nobody could argue that our Gary isn't well-connected.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Barlow stated that he is intending to bring Finding Neverland to the West End at some point in 2016. We can but wait and wish upon a star... the second star to the right, that is... but have our fingers crossed for success in New York City first.
After the success of Firth's Calendar Girls stage play, which premiered at the Chichester Festival in 2008 and subsequently opened at the West End's Noël Coward Theatre in 2009 (and also enjoyed two National Tours), it was only a matter of time before a musical adaptation would not just show the Girls off in all their glory, but in all their singing glory!
If that all wasn't enough, Barlow also recently revealed in the same Daily Mail interview that he is developing a musical adaptation of Jules Verne's classic novel 80 Days Around The World, with his 'Neverland' partner Elliot Kennedy and 'Neverland' producer Harvey Weinstein both attached. It was unclear whether this project is Broadway-bound or aiming for a London opening, but he already has former Pussycat Doll, Grizabella and X-Factor colleague Nicole Scherzinger in tow. She performed five numbers from the musical with Barlow and Tony winner James Cordon at Weinstein's pre-Oscar dinner on 20 February in Beverley Hills. I imagine the London Palladium as the perfect venue for Phileas Fogg and his valet Passepartout's journey around the globe.
Barlow also stated he would love to strike up a partnership with Disney Theatrical president Thomas Schumacher to work on a big budget Disney musical too. I wonder which Disney property Gary has his eye on. I hope he would pick a classic based on a British novel like 101 Dalmatians or Alice In Wonderland and premiere it in London.
So, how does the future look for Gary as he delves deeper and deeper into the glittering world of musical theatre? Personally, I hope that The Girls will prove to be a big, British hit and encourage a lasting partnership between Barlow and Firth. At the same time, the partnership with Elliot Kennedy could be just as or even more fruitful, especially with the huge financial backing of one Harvey Weinstein. Either of these two partnerships could become a well-needed, modern day pairing for a modern day, theatre-going audience. It sometimes feels like we are never going to re-ignite the musical magic made by partnerships of the past such as John Kander & Fred Ebb, Claude-Michel Schönberg & Alain Boublil, Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II, and Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice, but we need producers to give artists the opportunities to create a series of hits. Barlow has the advantage of his huge following (and contacts list) and if his work proves to be successful, he could find himself in a very advantageous position to become a real force to be reckoned with on both sides of the Atlantic. If he picks his projects wisely and we have a little patience, he (like his band Take That's hit says) could 'rule the (musical theatre) world!'
Editor at Londontheatre.co.uk & NewYorkTheatreGuide.com