In what was the West End's starriest first night of the year, Madonna faced the press at Wyndham's Theatre on May 23, when she opened in Laurence Boswell's production of David Williamson's hit Australian play Up for Grabs. The scene outside the theatre was more like a Hollywood premiere than a West End opening, and the star-studded audience gave Madonna a standing ovation after her debut on the West End stage.
Among the celebrities at the official opening performance were actor Jonny Lee Miller, Janet Street-Porter, Christopher Biggins, director Sir Peter Hall, actress Cherie Lunghi and Stella McCartney. Others included Madonna's husband Guy Ritchie, designer Donatella Versace, presenter Donna Air and Sting and his wife Trudi Styler.
In a courageous move, Madonna took the lead role in this comedy, having rarely performed in the theatre. However, opinions were mixed as to the success of the venture with suggestions of bravery triumphing over good sense.
In Up For Grabs Madonna plays a Manhattan art dealer desperate to make a killing on the sale of a Jackson Pollock painting, by playing three buyers against each other, a plot that allows Madonna to use her natural charisma and huge sex-appeal to great effect. However, without the amplifying effect of microphones normally used at her concerts, some felt her voice came across as pretty, but small, which was not helped by a tendency to swallow words and phrases. Despite this, many felt her performance to be flamboyantly athletic and full of energy.
Whatever the critics' comments on the play and her performance, Madonna has proved she can generate as much excitement, glamour and star quality in a West End theatre as in one of her concerts.
—By Paul Webb Theatrenow