Album dedicated to theatre mainstay

John Smith, whose partner co-wrote the musical
John Smith, whose partner co-wrote the musical

A new musical dedicated to the memory of former Rugby Theatre artistic director John Smith has announced its cast for a studio album.

The title role on the forthcoming album recording of new British musical Tess is to be played by West End star Siobhan Dillon.

The television favourite, who first rose to fame in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hunt for a Mariafor The Sound of Music, has been unveiled as the eponymous heroine in the musical adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Performing opposite Siobhan will be Broadway leading man Tam Mutu, playing the villainous Alec d’Urberville, and Jersey Boys star Simon Bailey as her great love Angel Clare.

Written by Smith’s partner Michael Blore and playwright Michael Davies, the album is the culmination of two years’ work and is scheduled to be recorded later this year, with a fully staged production expected to follow.

Composer Blore and lyricist Davies said they were “absolutely blown away” to have the stellar trio on board.

They added: “There was a very short shortlist for the role of Tess, and Siobhan was on it.

“We didn’t dare hope we might be able to secure her fantastic talent, so we are more than excited that she, Tam and Simon are so keen to support this new work.”

Siobhan’s first professional appearance was understudying Sandy in the 2007 revival of Grease at the Piccadilly Theatre.

She went on to tour the UK in Can’t Smile Without You and as Sally Bowles in Cabaret before playing the role of Vivienne in the Olivier award-winning Legally Blonde, Claire in EX and the leading role of Molly in Ghost The Musical.

She recently played opposite Glenn Close in Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard at English National Opera and before that appeared as Ellen in Miss Saigon.

Tam Mutu, who made his Broadway debut last year in the title role of Dr Zhivago, is a multi-award-winning performer and West End favourite. He alternated the role of the Phantom in Love Never Dies with Ramin Karimloo, starred as Anatoly in Chess and won a clutch of awards as Javert in Les Miserables, including best performance in a long-running musical and best performance of a song for Stars.

Simon Bailey is currently appearing as Bob Gaudio in the West End production of Jersey Boys, and has performed in some of the biggest shows in musical theatre history. He’s played Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera, Enjolras in the 21st anniversary cast of Les Miserables and Pharaoh in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Also featuring on the album will be Rugby Theatre regulars Nathan Dowling, Michael Barker, Mark Tolchard, Philippa Cottle and Aaron Gibson.

Tess is a fully sung-through adaptation of the much-loved novel. Pre-production on the album is already under way, produced by Lutterworth-based Sunim Koria and with orchestrations by Michael Blore.