Just as Prince William has announced his engagement to Kate Middleton and a royal wedding is planned for next year, the show also revolves around the earlier royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip. The topicality is enhanced by the setting. According to press materials, belts are being tightened and the country's long-suffering citizens are being told by the government that there will be fair shares for all in return for surviving Austerity Britain. Meanwhile local officials feather their own nests by taking far more than their own fair share. It is of course 1947 and having won the war Britain seems to have lost the peace and the country is staggering under the burden of acute rationing, unemployment, and the coldest winter for decades. The only bright spark on the horizon is the impending Royal Wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip.
"A Private Function," scripted by Alan Bennett, centered around Betty, an adorable pig, who is being illegally reared to ensure the local dignitaries can celebrate the Royal Wedding with a lavish banquet while the local population make do with spam. Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman have now adapted and expanded this story for the stage, and George Stiles and Anthony Drewe (currently represented on Broadway by their additional songs for Mary Poppins) have written the score.
In a press statement, Mackintosh commented, "Even though my recent productions of Oliver!, My Fair Lady, Mary Poppins and the new Les Mis have all had great success, Betty Blue Eyes is my first original musical in over 10 years. As a long time admirer of Alan Bennett's wickedly funny screenplay for the film 'A Private Function,' I immediately fell in love with this infectious and delicious musical treatment which has expanded on the original . It is an utterly British and suitably crackers musical and yet surprisingly was the idea of two American writers Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman – but you’d never know it! As we all face Austerity Britain and a Royal Wedding, Betty Blue Eyes proves that British pluck will make sure good times are just around the corner."
Lancashire, who will play Joyce, is best known for her TV roles as Raquel in "Coronation Street" as well as her appearances in "Clocking Off," "Cherished," "Five Daughters," "Murder Most Horrid" and "The Small Things," all for the BBC, and "Where the Heart Is," "Rose and Maloney," "Seeing Red" and "The Cry" for ITV. She was most recently seen in the West End as Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls.
Shearsmith, who will play Gilbert, co-wrote and starred as part of The League of Gentlemen comedy troupe on TV, film and stage. He is also co-writer and star of the BBC’s "Psychoville." He is currently appearing in the West End in Ghost Stories at the Duke of York's, and has also previously appeared as Leo Bloom in The Producers and Art. The company also includes David Bamber as Swaby, Jack Edwards as Allardyce, Ann Emery as Mother Dear, Mark Meadows as Lockwood and Adrian Scarborough as Wormold.
The musical is being directed by Richard Eyre with musical staging by Stephen Mear, designs by Tim Hatley, lighting by Neil Austin and sound design by Mick Potter. The musical director is Richard Beadle, musical supervisor is Stephen Brooker and orchestrations are by William David Brohn.
Tickets go on sale Nov. 29. To book tickets, contact the box office on 0844 482 5170, or visit www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk.