The five main artists in forthcoming West End show The Drifters Girl, starring Beverley Knight, could soon be royalties royalty.
It’s usually the composer, playwright, director and design team who get to share the spoils of a smash hit show, not the actors — but this time a special deal has been struck that should see them in the money, too.
To do this they are being credited (and compensated) as co-creators, for their input during the development of the musical, which is about pioneering black music manager Faye Treadwell, who took over control of the legendary, golden-age soul quartet following the death of her husband George Treadwell — the legal owner of the name The Drifters — in 1967.
Producer Michael Harrison, along with partner David Ian, told me on Wednesday that Knight (Faye), Tosh Wanogho-Maud (Ben E. King), Tarinn Callender (Johnny Moore), Adam J. Bernard (George Treadwell) and Matt Henry (Clyde McPhatter) will share the pot ‘from day one’.
In step: Wanogho- Maud, Callender, Bernard and Henry. The decision has, understandably, been a pleasant surprise for the actors. ‘They didn’t have to — they’ve gone against the grain,’ said Wanogho-Maud
‘Even when they leave; when it, hopefully, goes around the world — to North America, Australia,’ he said. ‘Anything to do with this original production, they’ll benefit — as long as it’s a hit and sells tickets.
‘It’s something that we volunteered,’ he added. ‘The actors weren’t asking for it. It should be steady income for them — possibly many thousands of pounds each year.’
The decision has, understandably, been a pleasant surprise for the actors. ‘They didn’t have to — they’ve gone against the grain,’ said Wanogho-Maud, who was in Dreamgirls in London (along with fellow Drifter Bernard).
He added that the royalty contract demonstrated a commitment to bring change to the industry, particularly after last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests (though The Drifters Girl itself has been in development for four years). ‘It says that we are valued,’ he said.
Bernard, who won an Olivier Award for his performance in Dreamgirls, also welcomed the move. ‘When you feel valued, you feel 150 per cent. And that’s infectious.’
The stars will still receive their regular wages while they’re in the show.
There is precedent for the plan. Members of the original American casts of A Chorus Line and Hamilton received royalty points, because they helped create those shows.
The songs associated with The Drifters are pop classics: Stand By Me, Up On the Roof, There Goes My Baby, Spanish Harlem, On Broadway, Saturday Night At The Movies, Under The Boardwalk. I could go on, and on.
That word ‘associated’, by the way, covers the fact that Ben E. King wrote Stand By Me for The Drifters — and they passed on it.
King, performing as a solo artist, made it a hit; and it finally came full circle, and was incorporated into The Drifters’ repertoire. Wanogho-Maud, who grew up in a household of musicians and disc jockeys, heard a lot of the group’s music. ‘You don’t quite know how you know every single word, of every song, when you’ve not sung them before,’ he marvelled.
Callender, though, was not aware that Saturday Night At The Movies was a Drifters number — until he auditioned for the musical.
I was seated with the five cast members at the mammoth Holborn Studios in Islington, after they’d posed for photos in the sharp costumes designed by Fay Fullerton.
And I felt like I was in the presence of theatre royalty. The two Olivier Award winners (Henry for Kinky Boots; Bernard for Dreamgirls). Knight, the soul legend who helped make The Bodyguard a hit in the West End.
Callender — James Madison in the original West End cast of Hamilton. Wanogho-Maud, who in addition to Dreamgirls appeared in Showboat and The Book Of Mormon.
Henry explained that the show kicks off with Clyde McPhatter, who ‘created’ The Drifters, being drafted into the U.S. Army in the 1950s, leaving George Treadwell to handle the management side of things. Faye took over when her husband died. And their daughter Tina took over from her; and manages the enterprise to this day.
Knight said Faye was admired, but she was no pushover. ‘She ruled with a rod of iron,’ she told me. She expected the group to be punctual; to rehearse; and to look smart. ‘She kept them in check,’ she said.
Far from being just the ‘big boss lady’, as Knight put it, she had ‘a blueprint for what she wanted for The Drifters; and would not veer from that path’.
The show premieres at the Newcastle Theatre Royal from October 9. It then transfers to the Garrick, where it has a tidy £1.4 million advance, from November 4.
Maria on Borat, being Bulgarian and what’s next now she’s famous
Millions of viewers saw Maria Bakalova give a comedic masterclass in Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat Subsequent Moviefilm when it played on Amazon last year
Millions of viewers saw Maria Bakalova give a comedic masterclass in Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat Subsequent Moviefilm when it played on Amazon last year.
So it’s not a total surprise when a couple approach her in the lobby of the Majestic Hotel in Cannes, thrust a pair of posh sunglasses into her hand, and films the encounter for a promotion.
The 25-year-old is taken aback, but still graceful, all smiles.
Bakalova notes that one of the biggest changes to her life since her role in Borat 2 garnered her a Critics Choice Award in Los Angeles — and a best supporting actress Oscar nomination — is that she’s more careful about how she behaves.
‘Usually, everything that goes on in my head comes straight out of my mouth — which isn’t always a good thing,’ she tells me, as we sit in a quiet-ish booth and order non-alcoholic cocktails and forbidden french fries. ‘But you have to take responsibility for your words.’
The actress, born on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, is in Cannes for the gala screening of Women Do Cry, her country’s entry into the film festival’s Un Certain Regard category.
In the film, shot before she met Cohen in London for Borat, Bakalova plays 19-year-old Sonja, who’s in crisis because she has contracted HIV … and is also pregnant.
Sonja seeks help from her mother, two sisters and two aunts. It’s about female solidarity, she tells me, wondering aloud if women’s solidarity is stronger than men’s.
‘Maybe women are more emotional, more vulnerable — which to men might be seen as a weakness, but actually it’s a strength, because you’re brave enough to stand up and show your feelings.’
Certainly none of the women in this movie, directed by Vesela Kazakova and Mina Mileva on locations in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia and the mountainous region of Strandja, hold back from showing their feelings.
I remarked that they appear to be arguing constantly, but when you look at the sub-titles it turns out they’re actually saying nice things to each other. Bakalova nods, and says her friends in Los Angeles (where she now lives) joke about how fierce the Bulgarian language sounds.
‘I say “the sun is beautiful, it shines so bright” in Bulgarian and it sounds like I’m saying something horrible.’
Despite the serious subject matter, there is laughter and joking in the film, too. And much discussion about gender politics. There’s reference to the fact that the Bulgarian constitution defines a woman as a mother. ‘That’s the mind-set,’ she says, sadly. ‘That a woman should stay at home and not have a career.’ Not her, of course. ‘I’m a strong independent woman!’
As with Borat, there’s a lot of improvisation. Ten years studying acting at the National Academy prepared Bakalova for all eventualities. ‘I was trained well,’ she says with a shrug.
Coming out at the end of the year will be the Judd Apatow comedy The Bubble, about a film crew making a movie in London during the pandemic — which is what they actually did.
‘There’s a lot of love around my character. Rom-com love,’ is all she will reveal.
Get set for Ted Lasso’s ultimate coach trip!
Months ago, Hannah Waddingham let slip that something ‘big’ happens in Season Two of Ted Lasso, the hit comedy about an American football coach (Jason Sudeikis), brought in to manage fictional soccer team AFC Richmond, owned by Waddingham’s Rebecca Welton.
Having binge-watched eight episodes of the 12-part second season, which runs on Apple TV+ from today (with episodes dropping weekly), I can attest she is correct. I will give nothing away here, except to say that it makes for a brilliant telly moment. I’ll also throw in that the seed for what occurs was planted, discreetly, in Season One. Ted Lasso has grown into a major success for Apple.
Last week it received 20 Emmy nominations, including citations for Waddingham, Sudeikis, Juno Temple, Brett Goldstein, Brendan Hunt, Nick Mohammed and Jeremy Swift. I was sad not to see Toheeb Jimoh’s name on the list, but his turn will come.
The show’s full of nutty charm, but with an edge. The Wall Street Journal recently ran a piece headlined ‘Why Real Coaches Want To Be Ted Lasso’, and it featured several U.S. sports chiefs who spoke of invoking Lasso’s folksy, aw-shucks wisdom. There will be a third season. And as they say up North, I’m made up about it.
Watch out for….
Rosalind Eleazar has joined the cast of the television adaptation of Mick Herron’s best-selling spy novel Slow Horses
Rosalind Eleazar, who has joined the cast of the television adaptation of Mick Herron’s best-selling spy novel Slow Horses. It’s the first of his series about the goings-on at Slough House, a fictional outpost for MI5’s outcasts. Eleazar will play Louisa Guy, one of the more competent of the Slough House denizens.
The series, being made by Iain Canning and his team at See-Saw Films for Apple TV+, stars Gary Oldman as Jackson Lamb, a Falstaffian one-time Cold War spy warrior whose appalling personal habits (including an ability to fart at will) conceal a razor-sharp analytical mind.
Lamb oversees his ‘Joes’ — the screw-up spies — with seeming indifference, but he will protect every last one of them when the chips are down. Jack Lowden is in the cast as River Cartwright, a wannabe 007 whose career was railroaded for a higher purpose.
Kristin Scott Thomas plays MI5 queen bee Diana Taverner, known as Lady Di (though she’s more on the Cruella de Vil spectrum). Jonathan Pryce, Chris Chung and Antonio Aakeel also have key roles.
Eleazar played Yelena in the filmed version of Ian Rickson’s production of Uncle Vanya, which just won the theatre prize in the South Bank Sky Arts Awards.