Willy Russell was born in Whiston, near Liverpool in 1947. On leaving school, aged 15, he became a ladies hairdresser eventually running his own salon until at the age of twenty- one he decided to try and reclaim the education he’d missed at school and went back to college, eventually qualifying as a teacher. During these years Russell also worked as a semi-professional singer, writing and performing his own songs on the then flourishing and vibrant folk scene. Whilst at St Katharine’s College, Willy began writing drama and, in 1972, took a programme of three one-act plays to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where they were seen by writer John McGrath. Suitable impressed, McGrath recommended Russell to the Liverpool Everyman who commissioned the adaptation, When The Reds… - Willy Russell’s first professional work for theatre.
In 1974, Russell wrote and made his name with “John, Paul, George, Ringo … and Bert,” a musical about the Beatles. Commissioned by the Liverpool Everyman, it ran for a (then) unprecedented eight weeks before transferring to the West End where it ran for over a year, winning the Evening Standard and London Theatre Critics awards for the best musical of 1974.
Alongside further stage works, One For The Road ( 1976 ), Stags and Hens ( 1978 ) Russell proved himself a gifted and accomplished screenwriter with television films, Death of A Young Young Man, Daughters of Albion, Our Day Out and One Summer all consolidating his reputation as a writer whose work could reach a wide audience without ever compromising the seriousness that lies at the heart of all his work.
Commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, Educating Rita is now a modern classic. Since its 1980 premier and long West End run, the play has been translated and produced in almost every part the globe garnering awards both for its author and for many of the actors who have played the roles of Rita and Frank.
Returning to the Liverpool Everyman in 1986, Willy Russell created the iconic Shirley Valentine which went on to an acclaimed West End run, earning Olivier awards for both its author and star, Pauline Collins, before transferring to New York for a highly successful Broadway run and a Tony Best Actress award for its star, Pauline Collins. Like the earlier Educating Rita, Shirley Valentine became an international hit with successful productions being mounted throughout the world.
Both Shirley Valentine and Educating Rita became highly successful feature films with Michael Cain, Julie Walters, Pauline Collins all winning Oscar Nominations for their respective roles, as did Russell for his Educating Rita screenplay.
Willy Russell's other worldwide theatrical success has been Blood Brothers, 'a Liverpudlian folk opera' about a pair of twins separated at birth and brought up in completely different environments. Blood Brothers won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical in 1983 and its 1987 revival saw over 10,000 consecutive performances during it’s 24 year West End run. Simultaneously, UK touring and international productions ( including a 2 year run on Broadway ) brought further critical and public acclaim.
Originally a celebrated TV film, Willy Russell’s Our Day Out was first adapted for the stage in 1983 and rapidly went on to become one of the most widely produced plays of all time, its popularity still as strong as ever amongst professionals, amateurs, schools and youth theatres across the UK.
In 2010, Willy Russell (with musical collaborator Bob Eaton ) realised a long held ambition to develop Our Day Out further and after extensive rewriting, and recomposing created, Our Day Out – The Musical. This modern musical retelling retains all the characters and plot of the original but with the action brought forward to today with a new score and lyrics to reflect this twenty first century setting. Productions in 2010 and 21011 at Liverpool’s Royal Court Theatre drew huge audiences and rave reviews.
The Wrong Boy, Willy Russell's first novel, was published in 2000. The book received ecstatic reviews and attracted a wide and appreciative readership in the UK and the many countries where it was published in translation. There are plans to film The Wrong Boy as a major TV series.
In 2004 Willy Russell returned to his original singer/songwriter roots, releasing his album, Hoovering The Moon on Pure Records. Willy also co-produced the Tim Firth album, Harmless Flirting before both writers traded in their pens and word processors for keyboards and guitars and with their band went on the road, touring the UK and Ireland before playing a season at the Edinburgh Fringe with a unique mix of music and spoken word that became known as The Singing Playwrights.
In 2013, the Archive and Special Collections department of Liverpool John Moores University established the Willy Russell Archive containing manuscripts, programmes, publicity and media material including newspaper cuttings and press releases, correspondence, legal, financial and administrative documents, records relating to the casting and audition process, audio and film material, and promotional ephemera. The material was produced throughout the course of Willy Russell’s career and is a comprehensive representation of his work to date. It also illustrates Willy Russell’s collaborative works, both written and musical. The material can be viewed by arrangement with the JMU Archivist.
Willy Russell continues to be one of the most celebrated and widely produced writers of his generation with works regularly being produced throughout the world as well as in the UK.
2015 marked the 35th anniversary of “Educating Rita” with major productions in Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Israel, Mexico and South Korea. In the UK, Rita returned to The Liverpool Playhouse and new productions at Chichester Festival Theatre and The Mercury Theatre, Colchester. New productions of Shirley Valentine took place in Brazil, France, Italy, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Turkey, Czech Republic and Israel.
As well as continuing to tour the UK, Blood Brothers had a successful reprise in Japan in Tokyo and Osaka. 2015 also saw new productions of the musical in Australia.
Glen is well known for innovative projects both in UK and internationally. Founder/Director London Bubble Theatre, Chung- Ying Theatre Hong Kong, Artistic Director of Secombe Centre, Surrey, Liverpool Everyman Theatre and Ludlow Festival Theatre.
Her international directing work in classics, modern drama and musicals includes USA , Russia, Ukraine, Austria, Germany, Greece, Zimbabwe, Hong Kong, South Korea, Israel, Barbados and Japan.
Major outdoor productions include ‘Prometheus’ at the famous Greek amphitheatre in Epidaurus and five major Shakespeares in the open-air space in front of Ludlow Castle.
Many major West End and UK theatres include: London – Royal Court, Bush, Greenwich, Hampstead, Hornchurch, Arts Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company (acting) at Aldwych, Menier Chocolate Factory and Trafalgar Studios.
Writing/adaptations include - new libretto for the opera ‘Tosca’ which she directed at the Liverpool Everyman. Co-writer ‘Animal Farm’ for opening of Queen Elizabeth Stadium in Hong Kong and subsequent tour of Malaysia.
Adaptation and director ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ from the novel by Oscar Wilde. Premiered English Speaking Theatre in Vienna and in 2015 she directed it at the New National Theatre in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Subsequent tour of Osaka, Fukuyama and Nagoya, returning for a further sell-out run in Tokyo. Adapted, modernised musicalised and directed ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’ for Globe Theatre, Tokyo, Japan then for Seensee Company, Seoul, South Korea.
She is Shakespeare consultant for the film ‘Caribbean Dream’ based on ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and set in Barbados.
The book ‘Actor Musicianship’ by Jeremy Harrison published 2016, Glen is credited with the early development of this genre and names ‘Glen Walford and Joan Liittlewood were the godmothers of actor- musicianship’.
Glen met Willy Russell in 1983 when she became Director of Liverpool Everyman Theatre - the best known theatre in England for introducing new talent and nurturing actors to stardom. Commissioned and directed the original ‘Shirley Valentine’ and has directed many of Willy’s plays in the language of their own country, including the musical ‘Blood Brothers’ which she has directed in Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Japan ( eight times), for Seensee and Shownote Companies, South Korea.
More information @ www.glenwalford.com
Jodie landed the role of Nancy in Cameron Mackintosh's revival production of Oliver! at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane after winning BBC 1's I'd Do Anything. She won the 2010 Whatsonstage Theatregoer’s Choice Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical. She then went on to play The Lady of The Lake in the Spamalot UK tour and in the West End at the Playhouse Theatre, and Dolly in the National Theatre's production of One Man Two Guvnors at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. 2015 saw Jodie star in the title role of Calamity Jane on the UK No. 1 Tour. Christmas 2015 saw Jodie playing Miss Hannigan in Annie at the New Theatre, Oxford and then early 2016 saw her starring in the new UK tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s one woman show Tell Me On A Sunday. Jodie has recently just finished Les Misérables as Madame Thénardier in Dubai and returned to panto as Fairy Bow Bells in Dick Whittington at Birmingham Hippodrome.
As an actress, television work includes Jamie Johnson for CBBC, Citizen Khan, Casualty, Wizards vs Aliens, Candy Cabs and Waterloo Road, all for BBC1.
As a presenter on TV, Jodie’s work includes Top Dog for BBC Sports Relief, the BBC 1's Long Live Britain! exploring the effects of Diabetes and the importance of testing, and Let’s Dance for Comic Relief 2013 in which she came second! She has had her own regular slot on ITV1's This Morning. Prior to this she was a guest on ITV2's I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here NOW! Jodie led the search to find a Toto for a gala performance of The Wizard of Oz through BBC1’s Over The Rainbow and she was a regular presenter of The Midweek National Lottery.
Other television appearances include Strictly Come Dancing, Pointless, Justin's House, Food Factory, The Chase, Daybreak, Lorraine, Bargain Hunt Children In Need Special, Let's Do Lunch With Gino and Mel, Born to Shine, Sing If You Can, The One Show, Saturday Kitchen, It Takes Two, The Hairy Bikers, The Alan Titchmarsh Show, The Michael Ball Show, The David Dickinson Show, QVC, BBC’s School Choir of the Year 2010, GMTV, Daily Cook’s Challenge, Loose Women, Children In Need, Guesstimation, As Seen On TV, All Star Family Fortunes, Tonight's the Night and New Year's Eve Live 2008.
Jodie has guest presented for Elaine Paige and Paul O’Grady on many occassions with BBC Radio 2. Other BBC Radio 2 appearances include Wogan, co-hosting Going Out With Alan Carr, Chris Evans’ Breakfast Show, The Olivier Awards 2010 and Children in Need 2009 with Graham Norton.
She toured with John Barrowman on his 2010 and 2011 UK Tours and can be heard singing So Close with him on his self titled album Her concert appearances for BBC Radio 2 include Thank You for the Music, The Friday Night Is Music Night James Bond Special, The Friday is Music Night King's Lynn Festival Special and The Andrew Lloyd Webber 60th Birthday Party. Other concerts include The RAF Benevolent Fund Gala, and Bryn Terfel’s annual Faenol Festival in North Wales. She recorded 'In The Mood' for The Very Best of Glenn Miller album.
Readers of TV Times voted Jodie their Favourite Reality TV Star of 2008. Jodie's weightloss DVD, Jodie's Fitness Blasts was launched exclusively by QVC on New Year's Day 2014.
What's in Shirley's Passport?
Over the past 20 years, Adam Spiegel has produced extensively in London’s West End as well as various tours throughout the UK and internationally.
West End credits include: Motown The Musical (Shaftesbury Theatre); Hairspray (Shaftesbury Theatre); Fame (Aldwych Theatre and Shaftesbury Theatre); Sister Act (London Palladium); Midnight Tango (Aldwych Theatre, Phoenix Theatre); Dance ‘Til Dawn (Aldwych Theatre); Saturday Night Fever (Apollo Victoria); High School Musical - Live on Stage! (Hammersmith Apollo); Love Story (Duchess Theatre); Crazy for You (Novello Theatre); The Mysteries (Queen’s Theatre) and Birdy (Comedy Theatre).
UK touring credits include: The Last Tango (2015-16); The Mousetrap 60th anniversary tour (2012–2016); To Kill a Mockingbird (2014 and 2015); The Producers (2015); Love Me Tender (2015); Fame; Saturday Night Fever; Dance ‘Til Dawn (2014 and 2015); Midnight Tango (2011, 2012 and 2013); Strictly Come Dancing Live; High School Musical - Live on Stage!; High School Musical 2; the Creole Choir of Cuba; The Mysteries; Lady Salsa and Five Guys Named Moe.
International touring credits include: Saturday Night Fever (Australasian and Scandinavian tours); Fame (Scandinavian and US tours) and the Creole Choir of Cuba (worldwide).
Other theatre credits include: To Kill a Mockingbird (Barbican Theatre); Amadeus (Wilton’s Music Hall, London); Lady Salsa (Pleasance Theatre) and Promises, Promises (Sheffield Theatres).
Adam produced the annual Laurence Olivier Awards for the Society of London Theatre for five years running from 2004 to 2008. Adam has also previously acted as an arts consultant for both The Sunday Times and Tate Britain. Adam now sits on the board of SOLT and The League of Independent Producers.
Amy trained at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and Leeds University.
Design credits include: 'The Sliver Gym' - Queen's Hornchurch, 'The Rivals' - Colchester Mercury, 'Dr Faustus' – Creation Theatre Company at Blackwell's Bookshop, Oxford, 'Around the World in 80 Days' - Arcola and Talimhane Tiyatrosu, Istanbul. 'Bette and Joan: The Final Curtain' - Foursight Theatre Company at St James Theatre and touring), Vanhu Vese -Tangle International at The Africa Centre and touring, Pinocchio and Jack – The Point, Eastleigh, 'Little Red Riding Hood' - The Point, Arts Depot and Chelsea Theatre, United We Stand - Townsend Productions, Three Little Pigs - Plymouth Theatre Royal, The Girl and the Giraffe -Half Moon and Floods of Ink, Nobody's Home -Theatre Temoin, 'Stockholm' and 'Wretch'- Colchester Mercury European Tours, 'The Comedy of Errors' - Orange Tree, 'Grimms' Lost Children' - Hull Truck, 'I am a Camera' - Rosemary Branch, 'Kiss me Kate' – Mountview, and also many shows with East 15, London College of Music and Trinity Laban.
Assistant Design credits include: 'The Winters Tale' - Headlong, 'War Correspondent' – Birmingham Rep, 'My Name is' – Tamasha, 'Bang Bang Bang' - Out of Joint and 'Ugly' - Red Ladder.
Awards: Off West End Nominations for I am a Camera and Little Red Riding Hood.
Amy recently spent a year working as a Theatre Design Teacher at Regents International School in Thailand and periodically leads development projects with displaced communities in East Africa.
James’ credits include: The Last Tango, Dance ‘Til Dawn and Midnight Tango on tour and in the West End; Running Wild and Love Me Tender on UK tours; Unfaithful at Found111, London; The Royale, Disgraced and Fear for the Bush Theatre, London; Miss Julie, Black Comedy, A Marvellous Year For Plums, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Wallenstein, Funny Girl, Peter Pan, A Christmas Carol, The Hundred And One Dalmatians, The Witches and The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe for Chichester Festival Theatre; The Borrowers for the Sherman Cymru; Deathtrap and A Voyage Round My Father for Salisbury Playhouse; The Night Before Christmas, Little Sure Shot and Salonika for West Yorkshire Playhouse; Richard III and Water Babies at the Curve, Leicester; Monsieur Popular for Bath Theatre Royal; Jumpy for Theatr Clwyd; The Good Person Of Sichuan for the Mercury, Colchester; The Jungle Book for the Citizen’s, Glasgow; Prodigy for National Youth Music Theatre; The Dumb Waiter for The Print Room; Far From The Madding Crowd at the Watermill, Newbury; The Odd Couple, Moonlight And Magnolias and Twelfth Night for Perth Theatre; A Christmas Carol, Arcadia, Grimm Tales and Gates Of Gold for the Library, Manchester; Footloose at the Aldwych, London and Never Forget at the Savoy, London. For Tall Stories Theatre Company credits include: The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child, Room On The Broom and The Snail And The Whale.
Training: NYMT, Birmingham University and The Royal Academy Of Music where she received The Ian Fleming Musical Theatre Award.
Theatre: Footloose (UK Tour), Les Miserables (Queens Theatre, West End), Lennon (Royal Court, Liverpool), Songs For Victory (UK Tour), One Night In Istanbul (Echo Arena, Dublin Gaiety and Belfast Grand Opera House), Jack And The Beanstalk, Mother Goose, Aladdin, Dick Whittington, Sleeping Beauty and Red Riding Hood (Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse), Cats (Arena Tour), The Buddy Holly Story (Upstairs At The Gatehouse), Alice In The Walled Garden (Rockwell Park), Twelfth Night, Plaza Suite, The Odd Couple and A Slice of Saturday Night (QE Theatre Company on Cunard’s line’s Queen Elizabeth), Richard Taylors' Whistle Down The Wind, (Edinburgh Festival, Sadler’s Wells and West Yorkshire Playhouse), Charlie, (Buxton Opera House), Creation and Warchild, (All NYMT), Her Benny (Liverpool Empire), David Copperfield (UK Tour), Sixteen Gobs (Kings Head), Habeas Corpus and City Of Angels (RAM).
She has appeared as a soloist alongside Dame Judi Dench in An Enchanted Evening (Drury Lane) and charity galas at The Palace Theatre, The Royal Albert Hall and for HRH Prince Edward at St James’ Palace.
Nicky made her Off-Broadway debut in A Broadway Diva Christmas at The Julia Miles Theatre, New York.
TV and Radio: includes Hillsborough (ITV), Voices Raised, Blue Peter, Sport Relief and The Olivier Awards (BBC). Loose Ends (BBC Radio 2), New Musicals with Stephen Sondheim (BBC Radio 2).
Nicky is originally from Liverpool and is delighted to be covering the role of the most iconic Scouse female character, Shirley Valentine. @nickyswifto