The Woman in White (musical)

The Woman in White (musical)

Infobox Musical
name= The Woman in White

caption= Original London Cast Recording
music= Andrew Lloyd Webber
lyrics= David Zippel
book= Charlotte Jones
basis= Novel "The Woman in White", by Wilkie Collins
productions= 2004 London
2005 Broadway

"The Woman in White" is a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Zippel with a book by Charlotte Jones, based on the novel "The Woman in White" written by Wilkie Collins.

Production History

;West End

The musical adaptation of the book opened in London's West End, with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by David Zippel, and book by Charlotte Jones, freely adapted from the novel. Directed by Trevor Nunn, it opened Wednesday, 15 September 2004 at the Palace Theatre. It gained attention for its set design, which employed projections rather than traditional scenery. The scenery tended to divide audiences and critics; some found it innovative, but Ben Brantley of The New York Times likened it to being "trapped inside a floating upscale travel magazine."

Through its first year, the London production earned some criticism. With the two acts running 2 hours and 20 minutes and a 15-minute interval, the entire show took over 3 hours. Another major problem was with the sets. The projections were dizzying, out of focus, and the revolve (turntable) was not synchronized with the projections. (The revolve is used to move actors from one point of the stage to another while pictures behind them move, giving the effect of a camera swooping about.)

Also, at the end of 2004 (in the show's fourth month), the star Michael Crawford was taken ill, as a result of oversweating in the fat suit he wore to play the grotesque character Count Fosco. From late December until early February 2005, Steve Varnom, the understudy, played the role. Renowned British singer/stage star Michael Ball then took over until late April. He received much praise for his portrayal because he had reinvented the role and his interpretation was used as the base for his replacements.

On 9 July 2005, the final Original London Cast (except with Fosco being played by Anthony Andrews) appeared on stage. It was also the final performance of the "first" version. The "second" version opened the following Monday night, with an almost completely new cast (some original ensemble members remained, along with Andrews and Edward Petherbridge, who played Mr. Fairlie). This version "previewed" through the rest of summer, inviting critics to return in early September 2005 with the arrival of Simon Callow as the fourth Count Fosco. The production was received with more enthusiasm though feelings were still mixed. The relations between the projections' movements and the revolve were said to be tighter, and the images were more in focus. The cast was also given good notices.

The show reportedly received some cutting, but still took roughly as long because of an extended ending which almost filled in the time saved earlier. Staging was also tightened.

On 20 January 2006, it was officially announced by producer Sonia Friedman and The Really Useful Theatre Company that the show would close in London on 25 February 2006 after a run of 19 months just reaching its 500th performance.


The Broadway production (which is chronicled below) was shortened far more than the Version 2.0. Verses were cut from "Perspective" and "The Seduction," along with "If Not for Me, For Her" (also cut in Version 2.0). The scenery was improved further. William Dudley's curved walls were no longer perfectly round, but oval shaped (it made the images feel more encompassing). The walls also had their doors fixed. The London production (through its end in 2006) had the doors aligned with the walls on only one side, so whenever they were spun around to the audience, there was roughly four inches of excess space between the wall and the door within. The Broadway production solved this problem by attaching the doors to tracks inside the six-inch thick walls so that they would move to the other side whenever the walls were spun.

The Broadway production opened on 17 November 2005 at the Marquis Theatre to mostly negative critical reaction. In his "New York Times" review Ben Brantley wrote: "It's not a terrible show, but it's an awfully pallid one." [ [ "New York Times", November 18, 2005] ] This followed much publicity after the show's star, Maria Friedman, who had created the role of Marian Halcombe in the original London production, was diagnosed with breast cancer during previews; however, she underwent treatment and returned for the Broadway premiere.

In a surprising announcement, the Broadway production closed even earlier than the London production on 19 February 2006, having played 109 regular performances and 20 previews. The producers cited Friedman's frequent absences (as well as the negative reviews) as difficult obstacles to overcome. [ [ article, Into the Mist: Broadway's Woman in White Will Close Feb. 19, 03 Feb 2006] ]

A rumoured tour of a reconceived production planned to open in Milton Keynes in January 2007 failed to materialise.

Musical numbers

"A railway cutting near Limmeridge, Cumberland, June 1870 "
*"Prologue";ACT I--Limmeridge, Cumberland
*"I Hope You Like It Here"
*"Trying Not to Notice"
*"I Believe My Heart"
*"You See I Am No Ghost"
*"A Gift For Living Well"
*"The Holly and the Ivy"Blackwater House, Hampshire"
*"All For Laura"
*"The Document"
*"Act I Finale";ACT II--Blackwater House, Hampshire
*"If I Could Only Dream This World Away"
*"The Nightmare"
*"Fosco Tells of Laura's Death/The Funeral/London"London"
*"Evermore Without You"
*"Lost Souls"
*"If Not For Me For Her" (cut from later productions)
*"You Can Get Away With Anything"
*"The Seduction"
*"The Asylum"Limmerage House"
*"Back To Limmeridge"A railway cutting near Limmerage"


On a midnight trip on the way to Limmeridge House as a drawing teacher, Walter Hartright stumbles across a strange woman dressed entirely in white, apparently escaping from someone and urgent to share a terrible secret with him. The next day, he meets his new students: Marian Halcombe and her pretty half-sister Laura Fairlie, the heiress of Limmeridge House. He tells them about his encounter, and they resolve to solve the mystery. Later, he meets up with the woman in white, who is actually named Anne Catherick, in a graveyard, and she reveals the name of her tormentor: Sir Percival Glyde.

Walter and Laura quickly fall in love. Marian, also secretly in love with Walter, informs Walter of Laura's arranged engagement with Sir Percival Glyde and tells him that his relationship with Laura must end. He receives the news angrily and leaves for London. Marian somewhat regrets sending him away, for she secretly loves him as well as Laura.

Before Hartright's departure, Sir Percival Glyde and his friend Count Fosco arrive at Limmeridge to move the wedding date over to Christmas. When questioned by Walter about Anne Catherick, Glyde tells him that Anne Catherick is mad. He mentions that he tried to help her, and she thinks him as her enemy and not her friend. Laura is reluctant to marry Glyde, but Marian encourages her to honor her father's dying wish.

Once Laura and Glyde are married, Marian moves into Blackwater House, Glyde's estate. Laura becomes angry and distrustful of Marian, when her advice led her to marry a man whom she discovers to be a physically abusive husband (she reveals severe bruises across her chest and arms) who wants nothing more than her money to pay off his debt. In the song "All For Laura," Marian is determined to free Laura from this ill-fated marriage.

The next day, Glyde presents Laura with a document to sign. He will not tell her the contents of the document. Laura is immediately suspicious, and refuses to sign something she knows nothing about. Glyde is furious, but he can't force her to sign the document. More suspicions rise. After the girls witness Glyde sending a completely innocent woman (Anne Catherick) back to the Asylum, they are completely convinced that Glyde and his flamboyant Italian friend are villains.

Later on in the evening, Marian goes off to the library to eavesdrop on Sir Percival and Count Fosco. She overhears their evil plans to steal the Limmeridge Estate. She also overhears their plans for Anne Catherick, but Count Fosco figures out that he's being watched before he reveals anything important about the madwoman. He leaves the library to put Marian to bed.

Not long after that, Marian is woken up by Count Fosco, who tells her that Laura was walking in her sleep and fell out the window. Marian is quite shaken by the tragic news. She vows to avenge her sister's death and punish whom she believes to be the murderers. Count Fosco, who is quite infatuated with Marian, heads off to his London home, and gives her his address in case she needs anything.

Marian goes to London in search of Walter Hartright. She discovers him as a penniless painter living in a rundown old home. At first, he is very angry with her for sending him away, but when Marian makes a heartfelt plea, he joins Marian in her quest to learn the Secret of Anne Catherick and avenge Laura's death. In the showstopping number "Evermore Without You," Walter expresses his grief at having the love of his life dead. Marian believes that Anne's location is in a document that she witnessed Count Fosco sign the night she eavesdropped.

They both go to Count Fosco's home to retrieve the document. Count Fosco attempts to seduce Marian; she willingly plays along. She sends him to the bathroom to shave as a diversion, and then she finds the document. When Count Fosco comes back, she has figured out the location of Anne's asylum. Count Fosco offers to bring her with him to the Continent to live life to the fullest, but Marian declines his request.

Marian and Walter go to the asylum to talk the Secret out of Anne Catherick. However, when they arrive at Anne's cell, they find not Anne, but Laura! Laura explains the conspiracy: Sir Percival Glyde put Laura in Anne's place at the asylum, killed Anne and buried her in Laura's grave. In desperation, the threesome head to Limmeridge House to try to get the Secret out of Mr. Fairlie, who knows more about Anne Catherick than he says he does.

Meanwhile, Sir Percival Glyde has convinced Mr. Fairlie to give the Limmeridge Estate to him because he was married to Laura. Mr. Fairlie signs the document and Glyde goes off to catch a train.

Marian, Laura and Walter arrive at Limmeridge House right after Glyde has left for the train. Mr. Fairlie admits that he doesn't know her Secret, but he does reveal that Anne Catherick is in fact Laura's half-sister, and they looked identical. Marian tells him of the conspiracy, but Mr. Fairlie sadly tells her that he already signed the document. The three run to the train to stop Glyde from getting away.

While still in Anne's white clothing, Laura pretends to be Anne and attempts to haunt Glyde for the rest of eternity if he doesn't tell the truth about the Secret. "I "had" to drown your bastard child!" he exclaims. Laura reads between the lines and figures out the Secret: Glyde had raped Anne, and drowned the child at Blackwater Lake. He tries to kill Laura to silence her, but then he gets run over by a train.

Walter and Laura are happily married, Walter inherits Limmeridge House, and Marian is left onstage heartbroken.

Later on in the original run (and subsequent Broadway production), Marian's heartbroken ending is interrupted to so that she goes with them and helps to take care of their children (this is inferred). This was apparently to make the ending more appealing.

Cast members

Original London cast

*Marian Halcombe - Maria Friedman
*Count Fosco - Michael Crawford
*Anne Catherick - Angela Christian
*Walter Hartright - Martin Crewes
*Laura Fairlie - Jill Paice
*Sir Percival Glyde - Oliver Darley
*Mr Fairlie - Edward Petherbridge
*Corn Dolly Girl - Sophie Catherside/ Leah Verity White/ Sydney White

Original Broadway cast

*Marian Halcombe - Maria Friedman
*Count Fosco - Michael Ball
*Anne Catherick - Angela Christian
*Walter Hartright - Adam Brazier
*Laura Fairlie - Jill Paice
*Sir Percival Glyde - Ron Bohmer
*Mr Fairlie - Walter Charles
*Corn Dolly Girl - Justis Bolding

Cast replacement history

In the role of Marian Halcombe:
*Laura Michelle Kelly (Sydmonton Workshop)
*Maria Friedman (Broadway and Original London Cast)
*Ruthie Henshall (London Cast, July 2005 - February 2006)
* Yvette Robinson (London Cast, 6 February 2006 - 25 February 2006)

In the role of Count Fosco:
*Roger Allam (Sydmonton Workshop)
*Michael Crawford (Original London Cast)
*Michael Ball (Broadway and Second London Cast)
*On Broadway, Ball was replaced from 20 January 2006 by his two understudies Norman Large and Daniel Marcus, who both alternated in the role until the 19 February closing.
*Anthony Andrews (London Cast, May-August 2005)
*Simon Callow (London Cast, August-November 2005)
*David Burt (London Cast, November 2005 - February 2006)

In the role of Anne Catherick:
*Jaime Farr (Sydmonton Workshop)
*Angela Christian (Broadway and Original London Cast)
*Elinor Collett (London Cast, July 2005 - 25 February 2006)

In the role of Walter Hartright:
*Kevin McKidd (Sydmonton Workshop)
*Martin Crewes (Original London Cast)
*Adam Brazier (Broadway Cast)
*Damian Humbley (London Cast, July 2005 - 25 February 2006)

In the role of Laura Fairlie:
*Anne Hathaway (Sydmonton Workshop)
*Jill Paice (Broadway and Original London)
*Alexandra Silber (London Cast, July 2005 - 25 February 2006)

In the role of Sir Percival Glyde:
*Kevin Colson (Sydmonton Workshop)
*Oliver Darly (Original London Cast)
*Ron Bohmer (Broadway Cast)
*Michael Cormick (London Cast, July 2005 - 25 February 2006)

Awards and nominations

;Olivier Award Nominations
*Best New Musical
*Best Actress in a Musical, Maria Friedman
*Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical, Michael Crawford
*Best Set Design
*Best Sound Design -- WINNER

;Tony Award Nominations
*Best Original Score

;Theatre World Award
*Maria Friedman -- WINNER


External links

* [ Homepage of the Really Useful Group] , Andrew Lloyd Webber's production company
* [ Homepage of the Musical]
* [ Internet Broadway Database listing]

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