Monday, December 8, 2014

Musicals / What's On / Industry News


By Simon Parris

While Broadway writing partners such as Rodgers & Hammerstein and Lerner & Loewe have a much higher profile, British composers Stiles & Drewe have steadily put together a substantial body of work over the past thirty years. In addition to their own quintessentially British original musicals, one of which beat two of the world’s biggest shows for a Best Musical Olivier Award, the pair also contributed songs for one of the most popular and successful musicals of the past decade.

George Stiles and Anthony Drewe met while both were studying and staging amateur musical productions at Exeter University, Devon. After a road trip to Plymouth to see a production of SWEENEY TODD, they decided to defer their teacher training places and write a musical together. So at 21, the pair wrote their first musical, TUTANKHAMUN, a show they hope to revisit at some point.

Revealing their penchant for the fantastical, family-friendly fare, Stiles & Drewe’s first success was a musical that continued to evolve over the twenty years or so following its premiere. JUST SO is based on a collection of twelve stories by Rudyard Kipling. The duo’s long-term professional relationship and friendship with producer Cameron Mackintosh began when he was one of the judges that awarded JUST SO the Vivian Ellis prize in 1985.


Just So


As the show evolved over the years, it received some input from high profile sources. Following four years of re-writes, Mackintosh eventually produced JUST SO in 1989. Stiles & Drewe received feedback on their writing from Stephen Sondheim, who watched the show and gave the duo his notes at dinner afterwards. Following a late 1990 production the pair almost gave up on the show, but the rights to produce an animated film version were purchased by none other than Steven Spielberg.

Despite taking time for other projects, Stiles & Drewe continued to work on JUST SO. In 2001, Drewe directed a significant production at North Shore Music Theatre, Massachusetts, which eventually made its way back England. Enriched by the work of new members of the creative team, JUST SO was a great success at Chichester Festival Theatre in 2004, and the cast recording was finally to be recorded. One last change saw the re-inserting of the title song as the opening number, and, with the help of music theatre star John Barrowman, the cast recording was completed in 2005.

Around the time of the release of his movie Hook, Spielberg influenced the writers again when he commented that he did not think he had gotten the story of Peter Pan out of his system. Mackintosh suggested that Stiles & Drewe compose a new musical of Peter Pan, with an eye to Spielberg directing a movie musical. As with JUST SO, the Spielberg movie did not eventuate, but the stage musical of PETER PAN took flight from this idea.

Stiles has commented that their version solves the problematic ending of J. M. Barrie’s play by having the narrator turn out to be an older Wendy, who can no longer see Peter but can sense his presence. Peter dreams of staying a boy forever in the moving final song “There’s Always Tomorrow.”

Stiles & Drewe’s PETER PAN was first seen in Denmark, where it won two awards in the 1996 International Musical of the Year competition. The musical was presented in London as a staged concert at Royal Festival Hall in 2001, with Laura Michelle Kelly (who went on to create the role of Mary Poppins) as Wendy, and her two real life brothers as Michael and John. Further concerts and fully staged productions followed across Britain and the USA, and the Christmas 2008 cast made the CD recording.


Peter Pan


The pair’s most successful musical was also the one they wrote the most quickly. Looking for another children’s story, Drewe credits his background in zoology as the reason he was drawn to the Hans Christian Anderson tale of The Ugly Duckling. In January 1993, the pair booked a theatre for Christmas of that year, and wrote HONK! in around six months.

Director Julia McKenzie staged HONK! at Scarborough for Christmas 1997, and the show’s big break came when this version was invited to the stage of London’s National Theatre in 1999. After its West End transfer, HONK! hit the jackpot, winning the Olivier Award for Best Musical. The significance of this victory is that HONK! beat megahits THE LION KING and MAMMA MIA!.

In the tradition of the more recent Disney animated movies, HONK! tempers its family friendly vibe with plenty of witty, tongue in cheek humour for grown up audience members to enjoy. The original production used eight actors to play all the roles, but in many of the over 8000 productions of HONK! around the world, the cast has been expanded to a larger sizes.

The tuneful, infectious music of HONK! is actually somewhat challenging to sing, so the creators have released HONK JR! so that younger performers can enjoy the quirky characters and moving message of the show.

National Theatre
UK Tour 2001

Stiles & Drewe’s most successful worldwide hit was actually written as a unique collaboration. In creating the stage musical of P. L. Travers’ children’s classic MARY POPPINS, Cameron Mackintosh selected the pair to compose a score that seamlessly melded new songs with the extremely well known, and well-loved, Sherman Brothers’ songs from the hit Disney movie.

Having already composed the song “Practically Perfect” ten years earlier when they first heard rumours of the project, the pair set to work on new songs, new lyrics and new arrangements. The two-year writing process eventually reaped great rewards, indicated by moments such as the tears of joy from the Sherman Brothers when they first were played the new score, and when audience members at early previews were overheard arguing about which songs were actually from the movie.


Mary Poppins


The talented pair went straight on to their next big musical after Stephen Schwartz recommended them to the American writers who were adapting Alan Bennett’s hilarious period film A Private Function. The completed work attracted longtime producer Mackintosh once again, who changed the title to BETTY BLUE EYES. Betty was the dear little pig being raised by villagers so that they could sidestep the woes of rationing and cater a celebration for the 1947 Royal Wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip.


Betty Blue Eyes
Photo by Jane Hobson


Fortuitously timed to coincide with a new wave of austerity in Britain, and another Royal Wedding, BETTY BLUE EYES opened in 2011 to a slew of five star reviews. The wit, energy and charm of Stiles and Drewe’s period-perfect score won raves, and audiences enjoyed the novelty of the animatronic pig batting its blue eyes as the adorable Betty. Performance rights for Australia and New Zealand for BETTY BLUE EYES will shortly be available through Hal Leonard.

Building on their great success with musicals that appeal to children, Stiles and Drewe’s latest two shows have continued their long-running inventiveness with disguising relevant messages for children through the rich appeal of lovable animal characters.

THE THREE LITTLE PIGS, which premiered in 2012, updates the classic tale with a catchy score featuring a hip-hop edge. The Big Bad Wolf is re-imagined as a cool Rum Tum Tugger-like character to keep young audiences excited and scared. The script imparts the power of teamwork, with plenty of witty one-liners along the way.


The Three Little Pigs
Photo by Tom McGrath


Commissioned by Singapore Repertory Company, 2013 musical GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS makes a clever connection to environmental awareness by having Goldilocks’ father as a lumberjack who is cutting down trees to make way for a road through the Three Bears’ forest. Bored, Goldilocks makes a giant mess in the Bears’ house, and soon has to face the consequences when the Bears arrive home.



The Three Little Pigs: (also includes interview footage with Stiles & Drewe)


Betty Blue Eyes: (West End trailer)


Mary Poppins: (Step in Time, with introductory comments from Stiles)


Hal Leonard is proud to announce that new children’s musicals:
are available for licensing!


Music by George Stiles
Book and Lyrics by Anthony Drewe

1 Act, Book Musical, Rated G
Original Version (2013)

Embark on a charming and witty adventure with three little pigs as they battle the big bad wolf.

From Stiles and Drewe, the award-winning musical team behind HONK! and Broadway's MARY POPPINS, comes THE THREE LITTLE PIGS, a "very curly musical tail" that is perfect for the whole family! This new version of the classic story is full of catchy songs, clever rhymes and silly charm, but also has some very smart things to say about home and family.

When the pigpen starts to look like a real sty, Mama says it’s time to leave and build something new. Help Cha, Siu, and Bao watch for wolves while they use hay, sticks, and bricks to make it in a big, bad world.

Featuring a small cast, a short running time and minimal design requirements THE THREE LITTLE PIGS is the perfect option for children's touring companies or theatres with strong educational components. THE THREE LITTLE PIGS teaches little ones how success can be achieved through hard work and perseverance. Filled with humour, this endearing tale will leave you squealing with glee and howling with laughter!


Music by George Stiles 
Book and Lyrics by Anthony Drewe

1 Act, Book Musical, Rated G
Original Version (2013)

The classic tale that reminds children not to fiddle with the belongings of others, lest there be consequences to bear.

When the worlds of bears and people collide, everyone learns that girls and bears aren't as ferocious as they may seem in the Theatre for Young Audience version of GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS. Award-winning writers George Stiles and Anthony Drewe (HONK!, MARY POPPINS) inject a bear-sized helping of music and mayhem into this classic fairytale making it "just right" for the entire family.

Goldilocks, on a trip into the forest, ventures into a seemingly uninhabited house. In the process of making herself feel at home, she turns the place into a gigantic mess! Little does she know that the house belongs to a family of three bears, who will not be too pleased to witness her handiwork.

Featuring an unforgettable score and a story every child knows and loves, this adaptation is perfect for family audiences. The minimal cast size and limited design needs make GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS a great show for touring or for any theatre with a strong Theatre for Young Audiences component.

Complete and return the Perusal Request Form now!

* Conditions Apply

  • Standard Terms and Conditions Apply – please visit our website for details.

  • Free Perusal Offer – only valid until 31st December 2014.

  • Free Perusal Offer – only valid for Stiles & Drewe shows excluding MARY POPPINS.

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