Preview: The Black And White Ball, King's Head Theatre, London
Cole Porter tunes with a ghostly touch
Tuesday 01 April 2008
The refurbished King's Head Theatre in Islington, north London, is marking its re-opening with the world premiere of a murder-mystery musical. The Black and White Ball is accompanied by Cole Porter classics such as "I Concentrate On You", "All Through the Night", "What Is This Thing Called Love?", "Love For Sale", "You've Got That Thing" and "Ridin' High".
Set in New York in the Sixties, the play sees Leah trying to solve the mystery of her stepfather's murder, which took place 20 years ago, by visiting the dilapidated ballroom where it happened at a masked ball.
The Porter estate commissioned Warner Brown to write a book based on the piles of music left in their care. The musical is directed by Matthew White, who was responsible for the Olivier Award-nominated revival of The Little Shop of Horrors. He was also nominated for his performance in Ragtime in 2003.
White has spent most of his career performing in big West End musicals such as Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera, Chicago and the Old Vic's most recent Christmas show Cinderella, when he is not directing them. "I find it easy to take the director's hat off, but after a while I want more control and responsibility," says White.
"When I act, it is a bit like going back into the playground. I don't have all the same anxieties surrounding performances."
What's the show like? "It's more like a ghost story than an Agatha Christie set to music – but it has a whodunnit element."
The King's Head's spring season includes three other world premieres: Betwixt, a comedy musical with book, music and lyrics by Ian McFarlane; Street Magic, based on a true story about the daughter of a Brixton brothel owner; and the first full-length production of Vivian Ellis' musical Godiva, which was written in the early Fifties. Three plays in the season include Grand Slam by Lloyd Evans, The Shadow Master, adapted from JM Barrie's Dear Brutus, and the UK premiere of David Gow's Cherry Docs.
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