Tag Archives: Warner Brown

The Biograph Girl – 3 Stars


The Biograph Girl

Finborough Theatre

Reviewed – 24th May 2018


“Occasional ripples stir up the action but the whole staging needs a good shake up”


Commissioned as part of the Finborough’s ‘Celebrating British Music Theatre’ series, “The Biograph Girl” is playing on the London stage for the first time since its 1980 premiere. With book and lyrics by Warner Brown and music by David Heneker (the composer of “Half A Sixpence”) it is a celebration of Hollywood’s glorious era of silent film, charting the fifteen years during which the industry transformed itself from its disreputable, ‘fleapit’ beginnings through to the birth of the first talking pictures and its glamorous multi-million dollar prime. In 1912, no self-respecting actor would appear in the “flickers”, as they were referred to, but by 1927, those same artistes, with the help of trail blazing moguls, laid the foundations of the movie business and launched the Hollywood star system.

The show is a nostalgic reminiscence of the silent movies, a tale of the heartbreaks and triumphs of the key players, concentrating on the flawed genius of director David Wark Griffith, along with Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish, both of them great silent film stars. Mary Pickford was known as ‘The Biograph Girl’ – after the studio – though this telling of the story fails to justify her having the titular role. This is very much Griffith’s story, played with a cool assurance by Jonathan Leinmuller. Sophie Linder-Lee’s Pickford, while emulating the original character, replaces her outward innocence with petulance which distances her from the audience’s sympathy. Instead Emily Langham quietly pulls focus with her sensitive portrayal of Lillian Gish – the ‘First Lady of American Cinema’.

The intimate space of the Finborough captures the ad hoc feel of early cinema where everything was done on a shoestring and sets were often cramped and improvised, and in this way the piece certainly lends itself to the confined dimensions of the theatre. The almost total lack of set however, whether a deliberate concept or one dictated by budget, strips the play of any sense of location. Likewise, Holly Hughes’ choreography abandons any perception of the period.

What does capture the moments of nostalgia and hold our attention is Warner Brown’s book and David Heneker’s music. The tunes are sophisticated yet still memorable. One particular highlight is Joshua C. Jackson’s heartfelt rendition of ‘Rivers of Blood’, a politically charged number that was cut from the original production. The cast deliver the ensemble numbers with a collective poise that emphasises Heneker’s skills as a composer, while Musical Director Harry Haden-Brown calmly navigates them through the score. Sometimes too calmly.

And there lies the problem with this production: there is no turbulence. Occasional ripples stir up the action but the whole staging needs a good shake up. Director Jenny Eastop has missed a whole bag of tricks and has merely delivered a monochrome product that should be fizzing with flashes of light and shade. It is a gift of a story, and a much more innovative staging is needed to do justice to this hugely talented cast too. The subject matter (and Heneker’s music) is too important. In his heyday, poetic beauty was something David Wark Griffith most wanted from the screen. He felt that the motion picture industry was losing sight of that, declaring later in his life: “We have taken beauty and exchanged it for stilted voices”. Eastop should take note.

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Lidia Crisafulli


The Biograph Girl

Finborough Theatre until 9th June


Previously reviewed at this venue
Booby’s Bay | ★★★★ | February 2018
Returning to Haifa | ★★★★ | March 2018
White Guy on the Bus | ★★★★ | March 2018


Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com



Son of a Preacher Man today announces that X-factor finalist Diana Vickers will create the role of Kat for the 2017 tour of this heart-warming new musical. Featuring the soulful music of Dusty Springfield, with a book by Warner Brown and directed and choreographed by Craig Revel Horwood, Son of a Preacher Man embarks on a national tour starting at Bromley’s Churchill Theatre from Monday 4 September 2017.

Three broken hearts, one Soho hang-out, and the only man who could ever help them… Welcome to the Preacher Man, the swinging 1960s Soho joint where the kids danced the night away to the latest crazes and dared to dream of love, while the legendary owner, the Preacher Man himself, dispensed advice to cure the loneliest of hearts.

Only, that was a long time ago and all that remains are the memories, the stories and the myths. Until now, that is, when three random strangers, generations apart but all in need of help with their hopeless love lives, are inexplicably drawn to the site of the original venue. The Preacher Man is long gone, but his son, with help from the wonderful Cappuccino Sisters, might just find it in himself to channel the spirit of the Preacher Man and once more give these three lovesick strangers the look of love.

Featuring the greatest hits of Dusty Springfield, including “The Look Of Love”, “I Only Want To Be With You”, “Spooky” and of course, the classic “Son Of A Preacher Man”, this sparklingly funny and sweetly touching new musical by internationally renowned writer Warner Brown will have you laughing, crying and singing your heart out to some of the greatest songs ever written.

Diana Vickers first came to public attention as a semi-finalist on the X Factor and has made her professional acting debut in the title role of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice in 2009 (West End, Vaudeville Theatre). Since then her theatre credits have included The Duck House (West End, Vaudeville Theatre), Hatched ‘n’ Dispatched (Park Theatre), The Rocky Horror Show (UK Tour). Her film and television credits include The Perfect Wave, Awaiting, To Dream, Give Out Girls and Top Coppers.

Warner Brown works internationally and is well known for his work in musical theatre and straight plays, encompassing both traditional and avant-garde forms. He wrote ‘the most popular family show of all time’, the arena production Walking With Dinosaurs, creating an entirely new genre of theatrical presentation and winning many international awards.

Craig Revel Horwood is a well-known face on television in the UK and now internationally for his role as a judge on all fifteen series of BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing and for directing and appearing as a judge in the Live Tour. Craig’s recent credits as director and choreographer include the current UK tour of Sister Act, the previous UK tours Brother Love Travelling Salvation Show and Chess; for television, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? and Just the Two of Us; and for film, the feature film Paddington 2. In addition, he recently directed the all-star concert version of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies at the Royal Albert Hall.


Son of a Preacher Man

Book – Warner Brown
Director & Choreographer – Craig Revel Horwood
Set & Costume Designer – Morgan Large
Musical Supervisor & Arrangements – Paul Herbert
Lighting Designer – Richard G Jones
Sound Designer – Richard Brooker
Associate Director & Choreographer – David James Hulston
Casting Director – Anne Vosser

Son of a Preacher Man is produced by Brian Berg, John Sachs, Andrew Berg & Kimberley Sachs for Eclipse Live, Michael Park for The Infinite Group, Paul Tyrer & Jamie Clark for TBO Productions, Churchill Theatre Bromley and executive producers Andrew Green and Ben White, all on behalf of
Dusty Touring Ltd.





Churchill Theatre, Bromley
4 September – 9 September 2017
Website: www.atgtickets.com
Box Office: 020 3285 6000

New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham
12 September – 16 September 2017
Website: www.atgtickets.com
Box Office: 0844 871 3011

Sunderland Empire Theatre, Sunderland
19 – 23 September 2017
Website: www.atgtickets.com

Palace Theatre, Manchester
26 September – 30 September 2017
Website: www.atgtickets.com
Box Office: 0844 871 3019

Grand Opera House, York
3 October – 7 October 2017
Website: www.atgtickets.com
Box Office: 0844 871 3024

Regent Theatre, Stoke
10 October – 14 October 2017
Website: www.atgtickets.com
Box Office: 0844 871 7649

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
17 – 21 October 2017
Website: http://www.edtheatres.com/festival
Box Office: 0131 529 6000

New Theatre, Oxford
24 October – 28 October 2017
Website: www.atgtickets.com
Box Office: 0844 871 3020

Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells
31 October – 4 November 2017
Website: https://www.assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk/
Box Office: 0189 253 0613

Hull New Theatre, Hull
7 November – 11 November 2017
Website: http://www.hcandl.co.uk/hullnewtheatre
Box Office: 148 230 0300

New Wimbledon Theatre, Wimbledon
14 November – 18 November 2017
Website: www.atgtickets.com
Box Office: 0844 871 7646

Belfast Grand Opera House, Belfast
21 November – 25 November 2017
Website: https://www.goh.co.uk/
Box Office: 028 9024 1919

Wycombe Swan, High Wycombe
28 November – 2 December 2017
Website: https://wycombeswan.co.uk/Online/
Box Office: 149 451 2000

Cliffs Pavilion, Southend
16-20 January 2018
Website: southendtheatres.org.uk
Box Office: 01702 351135

Theatre Royal, Nottingham
29 January – 3 February 2018
Website: trch.co.uk
Box Office: 0115 989 5555

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry
13-17 February 2018
Website: belgrade.co.uk
Box Office: 024 7655 3055

Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury
6-10 March 2018
Website: atgtickets.com/aylesbury
Box Office: 0844 871 7607

Grand Theatre, Blackpool
20-24 March 2018
Website: blackpoolgrand.co.uk
Box Office: 01253 290190

Princess Theatre, Torquay
10-14 April 2018
Website: atgtickets.com/torquay
Box Office: 0844 871 3023

Theatre Royal, Brighton
17-21 April 2018
Website: atgtickets.com/brighton
Box Office 0844 871 7650

New Victoria Theatre, Woking
24-28 April 2018
Website: atgtickets.com/woking
Box office 0844 871 7645

King’s Theatre, Glasgow
8-12 May 2018
Website: atgtickets.com/glasgow
Box Office 0844 871 7648

His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen
19-22 June 2018
01224 641122

Liverpool Empire
3-7 July 2018
Website: atgtickets.com/Liverpool
Box Office: 0844 871 3017


Further 2018 dates and casting to be announced