By Mark Shenton
06 Feb 2014
The musical, which is based on the Alan Bennett scripted film "A Private Function," originally premiered at the West End's Ivor Novello Theatre in 2011, where it was produced by Cameron Mackintosh. The tour is co-produced by Mercury Theatre Colchester, Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, Salisbury Playhouse and West Yorkshire Playhouse.
Daniel Buckroyd, artistic director of Colchester's Mercury Theatre, directs a cast that is led by Haydn Oakley and Amy Booth-Steel, as humble chiropodist Gilbert Chilvers and his ferocious wife Joyce, respectively.
The show, set in 1947 austerity Britain, revolves around an invitation to the social event of the year. When the Chilvers are not invited, they resolve that they must do whatever it takes to get their fair share of the banquet’s centrepiece – a rations-busting illegal pork roast.
Oakley was last seen on the West End stage in The Book of Mormon. Other credits include Passion (Donmar Warehouse), Wicked and Spamalot. In a press statement, he commented, "I saw the original production of Betty in London and had a fantastic evening. It has real heart and some fantastic musical numbers. I’m looking forward to giving Betty a new life with the company - I know the work we put into it is going to produce something special. I can already tell from the audition that I’m going to enjoy working with the director Daniel Buckroyd."
Booth-Steel has recently completed a run in the National Theatre's production of The Light Princess. She has also appeared at the National in She Stoops to Conquer and the National's U.K. tour of One Man, Two Guvnors. Other West End roles include playing La Rosa in Sister Act at the London Palladium. She also made the final 12 in the BBC’s search for Nancy to star in Oliver! at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane through the series "I’d Do Anything." In a press statement, she commented, "Joyce is such a well rounded character as she has strength and wit, yet also shows moments of real vulnerability and warmth. She has some fantastic comic scenes with Gilbert and Mother Dear which are absolutely hilarious. She's so spunky! Nothing gets past Joyce. It's going to be such a wonderful challenge taking on this role and putting a fresh spin on it."
Also in the cast as Mother Dear, Gilbert's interfering mother-in-law, is Sally Mates, who was in the original RSC and West End cast of Les Miserables. She appeared in the 25th anniversary concert at the O2 Arena, as well as the 2012 film. Mates has also appeared in the West End productions of Godspell and Fiddler On The Roof, as well as on popular TV shows "Midsomer Murders" and "Wire In The Blood."
The cast is completed by Laura Baldwin, Adam C Booth, Ricky Butt, Rebecca Louis, Kate Robson-Stuart, Oliver Izod, Joe Maxwell, Tobias Beer, Jenni Bowden, Rachel Knowles, Lauren Logan, Matt Harrop, Kit Benjamin and Anthony Ray.
The musical director is Richard Reeday, leading a band that also comprises James Newton, Alex Smith and Sandy Suchodolski.
Betty Blue Eyes features a book by Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman, adapted from the screenplay to the film "A Private Function" by Alan Bennett and original story by Bennett and Malcolm Mowbray. Orchestrations are by William David Brohn.
To book tickets, contact the venues: for Mercury Theatre Colchester, www.mercurytheatre.co.uk, Ipswich's New Wolsey, www.wolseytheatre.co.uk, Norwich's Theatre Royal, www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk, West Yorkshire Playhouse, www.wyp.org.uk and Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, www.everymanplayhouse.com.