In the same week that Stephen Schwartz’s mega-hit, Wicked opened at Manchester’s Palace Theatre, Aria Entertainment and the City’s Hope Mill Theatre announced that his musical Rags written with Joseph Stein and Charles Strouse will open at the acclaimed fringe venue in March 2019. As well as producing Rags, Hope Mill Theatre and Aria will also next year be presenting Jerry Herman’s much loved Mame, with West End leading lady Tracie Bennett in the title role.
Rags will be receiving its UK premiere at Hope Mill Theatre. It is a heart-warming story about a Russian immigrant who with her son travels to America in search of a better life. Presented with new experiences and choices she must decide what is most important to her, staying true to her roots or creating a new cultural identity to fit in. With a book by Fiddler on The Roof’s Stein, music by Annie’s, Charles Strouse and lyrics by Schwartz, this production of Rags will be a revised version of the musical first performed on Broadway in 1986. It will be directed by Bronagh Lagan who has previously directed Little Women and most recently Stephen Sondheim’s, Putting It All Together at Hope Mill Theatre.
Talking about the prospect of working on Rags, Schwartz said, “I’m delighted that Katy Lipson and Hope Mill Theatre will be presenting our newly revised version of Rags in its first production. The show feels more timely than it ever has been, and my co-authors and I are enthusiastic about all the improvements we have made and excited to be sharing the show with the Manchester audience.”
Director Nick Winston responsible for choreographing The Royal Variety Performance with Miranda Hart and Sondheim at 80 with Dame Judi Dench at The Royal Albert Hall will be taking the helm for the revival of Herman’s classic 1960’s musical, Mame. Spanning the Great Depression and World War II, the musical is centred on the eccentric bohemian Mame Dennis. When she loses her fortune in the Wall Street Crash of 1929, Mame is forced to try her hand at a number of jobs with both disastrous and comic results. Herman’s score for Mame features a number of memorable songs including, It’s Today, Bosom Buddies and If He Walked Into My Life. Mame is scheduled to open at Hope Mill Theatre on 27 September.
Tracie Bennett who is a two-time Olivier Award Winner and a Tony Award nominee will be making her debut at Hope Mill Theatre playing Mame Dennis. Best known for her roles in ITV’s Coronation Street and Scott & Bailey, Bennett has appeared in a number of hit West End musicals including End Of The Rainbow, Follies, Mrs Henderson Presents and La Cage Aux Folles.
Completing a trio of musical productions at Hope Mill Theatre in 2019 will be the premiere of a new musical, The Astonishing Times of Timothy Cratchit. Inspired by Charles Dickens’, A Christmas Carol, the musical by Allan Knee imagines what happens to the youngest Cratchit when he is taken under the wing of his benefactor Ebenezer Scrooge. This production opening on 22 November will run for the festive season.
Talking about these new musical productions, Aria Entertainment’s Katy Lipson, commented, “We are extremely excited to enter our third year as a producing venue with three incredible musicals, which we hope will cement us as a leading regional theatre in the UK landscape. It’s a huge honour to present the newly developed Rags, working hand in hand with Stephen Schwartz, as well as welcoming back Allan Knee to Hope Mill and to have Tracie Bennett performing in our venue is a huge privilege.”
Booking is now open for Rags, Mame and The Astonishing Times of Timothy Cratchit www.hopemilltheatre.co.uk , Box Office: 0333 012 4963.
Richard Hall | Image: Contributed