Musical adaptation of David Walliams’s book in RSC winter season

Published: 29 January 2019
Reporter: Steve Orme

The world première of a new musical adaptation of David Walliams’s The Boy in the Dress is one of the highlights of the winter 2019 season at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

The new musical, with songs by Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers, will be adapted by Mark Ravenhill and will play for 18 weeks in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre from November. RSC artistic director Gregory Doran will direct.

Walliams said, “I’m delighted to be working with the Royal Shakespeare Company to bring this, my first children’s novel, to the stage. It’s now 10 years since The Boy in the Dress was published and we’ve come a long way in that time.

“Ultimately I wanted to write a story that encouraged people to recognise that difference can be celebrated, that it’s okay to be yourself. I’ve always loved musicals and, somehow, I’d always imagined this book would be made into a musical. So to be working with the RSC, Mark Ravenhill and song-writing partners Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers on this new production feels like a dream collaboration.”

Ravenhill commented, “I first came across The Boy in the Dress when I was playwright in residence at the RSC in 2012. I remember thinking that it was such a gripping, entertaining and life-affirming story with all the ingredients of a great stage show.

“Creating and commissioning new work is very much at the heart of the RSC’s mission and a musical collaboration of this kind is the perfect celebration of all that energy, talent and generosity coming together to create what will hopefully be a really fantastic theatre experience for audiences of all ages.”

Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers added, “we’re beyond excited to be working with the RSC on our first musical theatre collaboration. We’re both big fans of David’s books so when he approached us about writing the soundtrack to a new musical version of The Boy in the Dress we were genuinely delighted.

“There’s a real freshness, cheekiness and heart to David’s writing which we’ve worked really hard to capture in the music. It’s been an exciting and rewarding journey and we can’t wait to share the show with audiences when it premières in Stratford this winter.”

The Boy in the Dress will run from 8 November 2019 until 8 March 2020.

RSC deputy artistic director Erica Whyman will curate a new season of work in the Swan Theatre including Shakespeare’s King John, a co-commission with Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre, A Museum in Baghdad by Hannah Khalil and The Whip by Juliet Gilkes Romero.

Doran said, “continuing our commitment to producing theatre that’s relevant to everyone, this season brings together perhaps Shakespeare’s most contemporary of history plays and three new works, each of which—in their own way—channel Shakespeare’s spirit through beautifully crafted storytelling, richness of character and looking in the eye the biggest questions of our time.

“We’re now two-thirds of the way through our project to stage every Shakespeare play in the First Folio. For our 25th Shakespeare production in the canon, we welcome emerging talent Eleanor Rhode in her RSC debut directing King John.

“As with all great history plays, Hannah Khalil’s A Museum in Baghdad and Juliet Gilkes Romero’s The Whip demonstrate a deep respect for telling untold stories, exploring issues of power, responsibility and identity through the lens of a group of remarkable human beings, navigating their own place within a changing world.”

King John will run from 19 September until 21 March, A Museum in Baghdad from 11 October until 25 January and The Whip from 1 February until 21 March.

The RSC First Encounters with Shakespeare series will continue with a new production of The Merchant of Venice directed and edited by Robin Belfield. The production will open in schools followed by performances in the Swan Theatre from 30 September until 5 October. The production will then go on a seven-week tour of schools and regional theatres across England.