Although the show does not open until 30 April, a quartet of stars from the latest ENO musical came to town to enthuse about a show that has not been seen on a West End stage since the inaugural production in 1968.
Journalist Matt Wolf was called in to chair a carefully structured presentation at the London Coliseum. As a New Yorker, he is far more familiar with the piece than his London peers and was able to provide some helpful background about a musical featuring a play within a play based on Cervantes’s classic novel, Don Quixote. Ironically, he was also able to reference the RSC’s recent production which is only just closed just around the corner at the Garrick.
Next came a brief video featuring Kelsey Grammer and Cassidy Janson singing the musical’s iconic song, “Dream the Impossible Dream”.
First up to explain a ridiculously long gestation period was co-producer Michael Linnit, who has made this spring slot his own with recent hits including Sunset Boulevard. Having seen the show first time around, Linnit had long wanted to bring in a London revival but was prevented from doing so by a particularly stubborn family group of literary executors.
However, after something like two decades of trying, he finally wore them down and was proud to be presenting this labour of love with a particularly starry cast, even before an unnamed but apparently very high-profile actor had accepted the role of Sancho Panza.
There is more to this production than meets the eye, since before the cast has even got into serious rehearsals with director Lonnie Price, the producers are looking for the kind of big hit that could transfer to Broadway.
Matt Wolf then introduced a variegated quartet of stars. Kelsey Grammer, Danielle de Niese, Nicholas Lyndhurst and Cassidy Janson have been brought together at a relatively late stage but were already beginning to gel as a team.
Each seems equally excited at the prospect of performing in the show at the Coliseum. While Frasier star Kelsey Grammer’s background is largely in television, he is clearly excited at the prospect of getting another musical under his belt, if also showing a little trepidation at singing, although he has been receiving some expert coaching.
Danielle de Niese has made her name on the operatic stage and relishes the opportunity to play a musical role, although she is currently heavily reliant on the sound crew, having the kind of powerful voice that could otherwise overwhelm the orchestra and her colleagues once it is amplified.
Nicholas Lyndhurst, who will never escape from his role as Rodney in Only Fools and Horses, had such a good time in Carousel at the same venue that he cannot wait to repeat the experience, even relishing a larger musical element than ever before.
Finally, Cassidy Janson, who stole the show when she starred at the Coliseum in Chess, is delighted to return, filling in for her female colleague when Miss de Niese is rehearsing and playing in Fiona Shaw’s version of Massenet’s Cendrillon at Glyndebourne.
The ladies should be an interesting pairing, given their very different backgrounds, the Australian-born soprano having grown up in the opera community, while her British alter ego has a background in musical theatre.
What seems certain is that this enthusiastic quartet, alongside their Sancho Panza when he finally goes public, will have great fun at this special venue and so will the audience.