BAZ BAMIGBOYE: The stars are queuing up to play a Big Daddy of a role

Josie Rourke is sharing the gospel of The Rhythm Of Life in the musical Sweet Charity.

Tomorrow night is the first performance of her final production as artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse in Covent Garden.

Anne-Marie Duff plays dance hall hostess Charity Hope Valentine; while Arthur Darvill is the man she hopes will love her.

Rourke noted that book writer Neil Simon, composer Cy Coleman and lyricist Dorothy Fields realised they needed a big number to give the second act a real kick. So they came up with The Rhythm Of Life, which sort of stands on its own within the show.

Beverley Knight

Anne-Marie Duff

Beverley Knight attends Centrepoint’s annual Ultimate Pub Quiz (left) and Anne-Marie Duff in rehearsals for Sweet Charity at the Donmar Warehouse

Rourke, however, came up with the idea of having a series of guest artists play funky love guru Rev Big Daddy Brubeck, who preaches at a nightclub known as the Rhythm of Life Church, and gets to sing the showstopper.

Rourke tested out the idea on Adrian Lester, whom she worked with on her film Mary Queen Of Scots. ‘I said: ‘If I was to ask someone like you, what would you think?’ He said: ‘Oh my God, yes!’

Clive Rowe at 'Mood Music' party in London last year

Le Gateau Chocolat

Clive Rowe at ‘Mood Music’ party in London last year (left) and Le Gateau Chocolat (right)

Adrian Lester at The Roundhouse Fundraising Gala

Shaq Taylor in rehearsals

Adrian Lester at The Roundhouse Fundraising Gala (left) and Shaq Taylor in rehearsals (right) 

‘That gave me the confidence to approach others, and have more people in the rest of the run.’ Shaq Taylor, who was in Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theatre and Hadestown at the National, will play Big Daddy from tomorrow up to April 13. He will be followed by Lester from April 15-17.

Performance artist and singer Le Gateau Chocolat will do seven performances from April 29. Beverley Knight takes on the part from May 6, playing it eight times while Clive Rowe appears from May 13. Others will be contracted soon for the remaining Big Daddy slots.

‘It’s a very fancy karaoke, essentially,’ the director joked. I asked her about Knight playing Big Daddy and she responded that there’s a precedent for a female taking the part (it was done in Manchester several years ago).

Rourke added she saw music as a religious sect, saying: ‘I’m certainly from the church of Beverley Knight.’

She also wanted to give a nod to the Donmar’s past. In casting Lester and Rowe, she’s honouring the venue’s tradition of exploring classic musicals. Both men were in the celebrated production of Company directed by Sam Mendes — the first artistic director of the modern-day Donmar.

 Zombie killer goes to Watford

Samantha Morton laughed when asked if she trains for her kick-ass role in TV drama The Walking Dead. ‘I don’t go to the lengths the male actors do,’ she said.

The award-winning star plays authoritarian Alpha in the long-running U.S. drama.

‘She’s brutal and has to take tough decisions and, in the comic books, she’s super-strong and has enough energy to walk for days. I get down the gym three times a week…which is enough!’ Morton told me, adding that she doesn’t need to be in a race with male colleagues. 

Samantha Morton portrait for the British Independent Film Awards

Pictured in season 9 of AMC's The Walking Dead

Samantha Morton portrait for the British Independent Film Awards (left) and pictured right in season 9 of AMC’s The Walking Dead

The actress, 41, was thrilled to ‘be walking in these Alpha boots, at my age, in this industry’. This month, the Oscar-nominated star (pictured) returns to Georgia to film a new series, as leader of the Whisperer survivors.

Before then, however, she will complete shooting a new series of Harlots, in which she and Lesley Manville play rival madams. ‘Young girls are procured and raped and murdered and my character, Margaret Wells, tries to prevent it happening. It’s very dark,’ she said, speaking from the set in Watford.

‘When I’m not working in America, I’m in Watford,’ Morton said, explaining that along with Harlots, she filmed a one-hour TV film called I Am Nicola, part of a C4 trilogy.

Samantha Morton attends a special screening and Q&A for "Two For Joy" at The Everyman, Screen on the Green, on February 20, 2019 in London

Samantha Morton attends a special screening and Q&A for ‘Two For Joy’ at The Everyman, Screen on the Green, on February 20, 2019 in London

She developed and co-wrote it with Dominic Savage, the TV innovator who made last year’s woefully under-appreciated The Escape, with Gemma Arterton and Dominic Cooper.

Savage made the three films with women, about women. Vicky McClure and Gemma Chan were his other collaborators.

‘The story for I Am Nicola is, weirdly, very apt for today,’ Morton told me. ‘It’s about something I was aware of when I was a girl. It’s poverty, and this is about how you can have a life, a job, a partner, a flat — and, with a series of events out of your control, lose everything very quickly and end up homeless. With nothing,’ she said.

The actress, 41, was thrilled to 'be walking in these Alpha boots, at my age, in this industry'

The actress, 41, was thrilled to ‘be walking in these Alpha boots, at my age, in this industry’

I Am Nicola, which was fully improvised, is about a mother who goes through such a situation; and how she survives.

Morton was in and out of foster care as a child because of the poverty in her family. ‘I see it and I’m very aware of it,’ she said, adding that something good did come out of the whole experience. ‘I used being in care in a positive way, to walk forward.’

It’s a topic she returns to in Starlings, the second in a trilogy of films, about what happens to children kicked out of care. ‘They are on their own and there’s no support.

‘All the charities that supported such children are closed down, because they don’t get support,’ she said of the picture, which she hopes will get enough funding to film later this year, or next.


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