Francesca Hayward, Principal dancer of The Royal Ballet, has joined the cast of the film adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats, which will be directed by Academy Award winner Tom Hooper (The King's Speech, Les Misérables, The Danish Girl).
The film has an exceptionally starry cast with Judi Dench as Old Deuteronomy (played by a man in the stage version; Brian Blessed in the original cast) and Ian McKellen as Gus The Theatre Cat. Other leads include Idris Elba as Macavity, Jennifer Hudson as Grizabella, and with Taylor Swift and James Corden among the cast. Billy Elliot‘s Lee Hall is writing the screenplay together with Hooper.
Director of The Royal Ballet Kevin O'Hare said,
I'm delighted that Francesca has been asked to take the leading role in Cats which promises to be a once in a lifetime opportunity, and one which showcases her fantastic talent to a whole new audience. I have no doubt that she will shine in this role as she has done in so many productions with The Royal Ballet and look forward to her returning to the Company next spring.
Based on “Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats” by T.S. Eliot, the film adaptation will be produced by Working Title Films in association with Monumental Pictures and The Really Useful Group and executive produced by three-time Oscar-winner Steven Spielberg, Lloyd Webber and Angela Morrison.
Cats is one of the longest-running shows in West End and Broadway history, receiving its world premiere at the New London Theatre (now The Gillian Lynne Theatre, the musical's choreographer) in 1981 where it played for 21 years giving almost 9,000 performances. Cats won the Olivier and Evening Standard Awards for Best Musical and in 1983 the Broadway production became the recipient of seven Tony awards including Best Musical, and ran for 18 years.
Hayward is replaced in Alastair Marriott's The Unknown Soldier by Principal dancer Yasmine Naghdi. Further cast changes for the Autumn and Winter seasons will be announced in due course.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.