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BAZ BAMIGBOYE: It’s Pavarotti – the musical! Legendary opera star gets stage show

The legendary tenor Luciano Pavarotti, (right) who died aged 71 in 2007, will sing again.

A rehearsed run-through for a new musical, inspired by the Italian opera star’s life and with remastered recordings of his voice, is being planned for later this summer.

The show is being directed and created by Michael Gracey, the filmmaker behind the blockbuster musical The Greatest Showman, which starred Hugh Jackman.

Gracey, who is collaborating on the musical with producer John Berry and musician Jacob Collier, pondered the question: ‘How do you tell a story about Luciano Pavarotti?

‘We’re workshopping it in London this year, sooner rather than later,’ he said. The show will have a story, he added, ‘and, of course, there’s all the singing, and it will be Pavarotti’s voice. All the high Cs will be there.’

A rehearsed run-through for a new musical, inspired by the Italian opera star’s (pictured) life and with remastered recordings of his voice, is being planned for later this summer

The director joked that he could sing Nessun Dorma back-wards now, he has heard it so many times.

‘It’s Pavarotti like you’ve never heard him before,’ Gracey said, adding that the singer’s most famous recordings will be remastered to enhance their sound.

There won’t be an actor portraying the singer, however. Gracey wouldn’t reveal much more, but hinted that 3D and other computer-generated screen technology will be used.

‘It’s a different way into the story,’ he said, somewhat mysteriously.

The director joked that he could sing Nessun Dorma back-wards now, he has heard it so many times. Pictured, Luciano Pavarotti

The director joked that he could sing Nessun Dorma back-wards now, he has heard it so many times. Pictured, Luciano Pavarotti

The musical could be ready for London later next year.

Creatively, it’s a busy time for Gracey. His superb documentary P!nk: All I Know So Far, about the American rock star, is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

He has also persuaded Robbie Williams to play himself in a film about his life, called Better Man. Williams is due to join the shoot in Australia early next year, said Gracey.

Now let’s here it for the boyos 

Ben Joyce, a voice from the Valleys, is to become the voice of Frankie Valli in the musical Jersey Boys in the West End.

The 21-year-old from Swansea (which, OK, he conceded isn’t strictly speaking in the Welsh Valleys) was singing Elvis songs at karaoke when he was three years old.

Then he heard Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons when his mother and his grandfather played their songs. ‘I’ve been singing Frankie Valli since I was 14,’ he said.

For a birthday treat his parents took him to see Jersey Boys.

‘I was completely transfixed. I didn’t move. It sparked what I wanted to do,’ he marvelled over the phone after completing a day of vocal rehearsals with fellow Four Seasons Adam Bailey, Benjamin Yates and Karl James Wilson. Yesterday he had a Zoom meeting with Bob Gaudio, the real Four Seasons member who approved the show’s main roles.

Ben Joyce, a voice from the Valleys, is to become the voice of Frankie Valli in the musical Jersey Boys in the West End. Pictured, Adam Bailey (Bob Gaudio), Ben Joyce (Frankie Valli), Benjamin Yates (Tommy De Vito), Karl James Wilson (Nick Massi)

Ben Joyce, a voice from the Valleys, is to become the voice of Frankie Valli in the musical Jersey Boys in the West End. Pictured, Adam Bailey (Bob Gaudio), Ben Joyce (Frankie Valli), Benjamin Yates (Tommy De Vito), Karl James Wilson (Nick Massi)

Once Joyce was hooked by the Valli sound, he joined tribute group Valli Boys (which had been formed by Ben Evans, an actor who had been in Jersey Boys) and did some gigs.

‘It’s always been something in my heart,’ said Joyce, a terrific tenor who studied at Mountview drama school in Peckham, South London.

The young actor spent most of his second year at Mountview at home, practising singing and dance lessons in the living room. Adventurous choreography was performed in the garden.

Joyce is one of thousands of students who had their studies interrupted because of the lockdowns. However, Mountview returned to in-person teaching and it was in one of the college’s streamed shows that he was spotted by a leading agent.

After several rounds of auditions he has signed a contract for Jersey Boys — which will be previewing at the stylishly new Trafalgar Theatre from July 28 — before he has even graduated.

To get an idea of Ben’s vocal power, watch him perform with MVox, an a cappella group of drama graduates founded by Richard Aaron, on YouTube.

With everyone reeling from the ‘freedom day’ date change, I hope restrictions are lifted in time to allow Jersey Boys and other shows to play without social distancing.

Ben Joyce, as the Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons song says, is just too good to be true. So don’t miss his professional debut.

Mazz comes full circle with Mamma Mia 

Mazz Murray likes to joke that she prepped for her career as a West End star by being ‘thrown in at the beautiful end’.

As a daughter of songwriter Mitch Murray and film and stage actress Grazina Frame, she saw backstage life unadorned. But there was glamour, too. At ten she was receiving singing masterclasses from the legendary Georgia Brown, who’d appeared with her mother in 42nd Street.

Murray also visited her mum when she did Cabaret with Wayne Sleep at the old Strand Theatre. ‘That’s my dressing room now all these years later,’ she exclaimed, referring to what is now the Novello Theatre where she’ll be playing Donna, the single mum whose daughter Sophie is about to get married, in Mamma Mia!.

As a daughter of songwriter Mitch Murray and film and stage actress Grazina Frame, Mazz Murray (pictured) saw backstage life unadorned

As a daughter of songwriter Mitch Murray and film and stage actress Grazina Frame, Mazz Murray (pictured) saw backstage life unadorned

Producer Judy Craymer has committed more than £2 million to return Mamma Mia! to the Novello from August 25, with Emma Mullen as Sophie, and Josie Benson and Gemma Goggin as Donna’s friends Tanya and Rosie. Richard Trinder, Neil Moors and Stephen Beckett play the men in Donna’s life.

Two decades ago, Murray tried but failed to get the part of Sophie. ‘Then there I was, 20 years later, auditioning to play the mother,’ she said with a wry smile. ‘Once they’re past that ingénue stage, Donna’s the role that every woman wants to play,’ she observes of the Abba musical.

Auditioning was ‘pretty gruesome’ Murray said because she knew everybody else going up for it. ‘When you’re younger, you’re proving yourself career-wise; when you’re older, the stakes are different because you’re reflecting on where your children are going to go to school.’

Her father doesn’t like musicals, which is a dilemma because that’s the career both Murray and her sister Gina chose. ‘He got landed with two daughters in them and he’s got to go and see them,’ she said.

Auditioning was ‘pretty gruesome’ Murray said because she knew everybody else going up for it. Pictured, Murray in Mamma Mia!

Auditioning was ‘pretty gruesome’ Murray said because she knew everybody else going up for it. Pictured, Murray in Mamma Mia!

However, there’ll be no holding him back with Mamma Mia! because he knows Abba’s Bjorn and Benny from his song-writing days. Murray spent nine years playing the Killer Queen in We Will Rock You which she loved doing even though her agents kept telling her she needed to do a show that might gain her a nomination.

‘I work to be excited,’ she said scornfully. ‘I don’t want an award, I want a swimming pool. We have a hot tub, so halfway.’

Murray has worked during the lockdowns doing concerts that were streamed; released an album; and last weekend she played Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard at Alexandra Palace. So no stranger to hard work, then, while making it all seem effortless.

As a kid she remembered watching Broadway producer David Merrick spend a day with technicians to get the curtain at the right level to show off the chorus girls’ ankles in 42nd Street. ‘When you see the intricacy that goes into making perfection look like a fluke, you realise that nothing’s a fluke. I was thrown in at the beautiful end and saw how difficult it was to achieve it.’ 


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