Tom Conti is to return to the stage in Smash!, Jack Rosenthal’s 1981 play about the journey of a musical from page to stage, which plays at the Menier Chocolate Factory from 24 March (press night 31 March).
Inspired by Rosenthal’s own experience of turning his TV play Bar Mitzvah Boy into a musical, Smash! takes a witty, scathing look at the creation of a musical, featuring a cantankerous composer, a fantasist lyricist, a neophyte novelist-turned-playwright, a cocksure director and a bombastic producer.
Rosenthal, who died in 2004, was primarily a TV dramatist who wrote BAFTA-winning dramas The Evacuees, Spend, Spend, Spend and Bar Mitzvah Boy, created the long-running ITV drama London’s Burning and wrote 129 episodes of soap Coronation Street. His also wrote the 1983 Barbra Streisand film Yentl and the stage plays Our Gracie, Dear Anyone and the musical adaptation of his Bar Mitzvah Boy, which inspired Smash!
In joining Smash!, Conti returns to the London stage for the first time since 2006’s Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell. He won a Laurence Olivier Award in 1978 for Whose Life Is It Anyway?, before collecting a Tony Award for its Broadway transfer, while his other stage credits includes Present Laughter and They’re Playing Our Song. He is also well known for playing Shirley’s Greek love interest in the film Shirley Valentine and, more recently, has appeared in TV shows Miranda, Friends and Lark Rise To Candleford.
Smash! also stars Canadian actor Kerry Shale, who starred in Rosenthal’s Bar Mitzvah Boy in London. His other stage credits include His Girl Friday at the National Theatre and Frost/Nixon at the Donmar Warehouse and West End, while he was also a guest participant in the Lyric Hammersmith’s improvised show Lifegame last summer.
Conti and Shale are joined by Natalie Walter, whose work includes Habeas Corpus at the Donmar Warehouse, Noises Off at the National Theatre and The 39 Steps at the Criterion theatre.
Smash! plays at the Menier Chocolate Factory following Ruby Wax – Losing It which opens at the London Bridge venue today and runs until 19 March.