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Danesh excited about “breakthrough” production

First Published 17 April 2008, Last Updated 17 April 2008

It is somewhat fitting that the musical adaptation of one of the world’s most famous romantic novels, Gone With The Wind, should start rehearsals in the same week as St Valentine’s Day. And there was a lot of love in the room at the Jerwood Space yesterday, when leads Darius Danesh and Jill Paice discussed the project with select members of the press, releasing titbits of information to keep the anticipating public guessing.

“If you can imagine all the most creative people in show business and theatre in one room; the best creative team of stage, the most incredible musicians and music directors and one of the greatest living stage directors of all time, all in one room, meeting for the first time with a cast of over 30 – it was an incredibly exciting and very moving first day of a journey that began 10 years ago when Margaret [Martin]originally sat down to writing the stage adaptation.” So said Danesh, in his softened Glaswegian tones that will be transformed into the twang of the Deep South of America when he takes to the New London stage as Rhett Butler in April.

Danesh, who will be creating a musical character for the first time, having previously stepped into the roles of Billy Flynn in Chicago and Sky Masterson in Guys And Dolls, is clearly excited about the project and has put his third pop album on hold while he prepares for the new production: “It’s a great challenge as an actor to take on a role that’s so well known. However I do it with the good grace of the direction and the belief of an incredible man like [director] Trevor Nunn.”

On stage he is joined by Paice, who returns to London where she previously originated the role of Laura Fairlie in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Woman In White, which was also directed by Nunn. Paice also took the Lloyd Webber show to Broadway where, more recently, she has been starring opposite David Hyde Pierce in Curtains. Her stage experience will, no doubt, be drawn upon by Danesh, who is already taken by his co-star. “It’s a great joy to be able to work with an accomplished and inspiring and wonderfully humble and very gorgeous actress,” he commented, “who has had the fortune of success not just in the West End but on Broadway.”

The production is based on Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, rather than the multi-Oscar winning film. Margaret Martin has provided the book and lyrics, with adaptation by Nunn, as well as the music. The famous tale is set in 1860s Georgia at the start of the American Civil War. On an idyllic farm the perfect lives of the O’Hara family, and eldest daughter Scarlett, are smashed by the fighting. Over a decade of American history the relationship of Scarlett with Rhett Butler mirrors the peace and conflict of a nation, as an entire way of life is changed forever.

Though the cast have only just met to begin rehearsals, the creative process to bring the musical to the stage is nearing completion. The pair were keeping tight-lipped about what audiences can expect, but Danesh promised a unique “breakthrough” in terms of staging that is currently being constructed at the New London, and Paice hinted at a reserved set design: “I think what’s great about our production is it is sort of scaled down. It is an epic story but a lot of it’s going to be left to the imagination, but a wonderful imagination, and we’re going to help you along the way. I can guarantee you that it is going to be a fabulous evening of theatre.”

Gone With The Wind opens at the New London on 22 April following previews from 4 April. em>MA

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