Sir Cameron Mackintosh is the world’s biggest musical producer, with a string of hit shows on both Broadway and the West End stage including Oliver, The Phantom of the Opera and Book of Mormon to name a few. He tells me that he has something rather special planned for next year and said: “We have seen that people love to revisit greats like Miss Saigon, so take my word for it, we are looking to give all our fans a special surprise, and I know that they will love it, Ann.” From the master indeed...
Count Arthur Strong is moving to BBC One for its second series. The comedy – which is penned by Doncaster comic Steve Delaney – will air seven new episodes beginning next year. He tells me: “I can’t quite believe it, we are all so happy, but now the big test, we just hope that people will watch it.”
Zoe Ball has proved a hugely popular stand-in for Claudia Winkleman recently – so much so that TV bosses are now seriously looking at how they can work the radio DJ into the slot on a more permanent basis. Should one of the current presenters be worried? A source tells me: “Tess is proving she relied on Sir Bruce, and it’s a tough time for her.”
Best known as the Hotel Inspector, Alex Polizzi is to front a restaurant rescue series for BBC Two as the channel bids to refresh its 7pm slot. She told me: “I think given my experience in the hotel industry it will be fascinating to see just how well, or badly, some of our favourite restaurants operate.”
EastEnders actor Jake Wood, now also appearing in Strictly Come Dancing, tells me that he does not allow his young daughters to watch the soap. “I think it’s a little risqué for that age group, even though I know other people allow their children to,” he said. “I have made my rules, and yes I am sticking with that. Well, until they are at least 16...”
Ant and Dec are to be the new hosts of the Brit Awards – 14 years after they last fronted the event. Ratings for the show have been terrible in recent years, so Brit bosses hope to stem the decline with the duo, who are both being paid in excess of £50,000 each. Now they have to deliver, of course...
Len Goodman may be head judge on Strictly Come Dancing, but he tells me that he often defers to the lady in the group, Darcy Bussell. “She is great and with all the Royal Ballet training, she is the best of course, but don’t tell her I told you that will you?” he laughed.
Downton’s Penelope Wilton says she has to ‘up her game’ acting with Maggie Smith. “She is rather brilliant on camera and off actually, but you do have to be ‘on’ all the time as she is so clever,” she said. “That is a good thing in a way, it makes you work harder and look at options on how to improve ... or she will steal all the scenes.”
Legendary US performer Bette Midler will star in her first-ever UK television special, Bette Midler: One Night Only, which will be shown on ITV in December. Hosted by Joanna Lumley, the one-off studio show, will feature musical performances, candid chat and plenty of laughs in front of a celebrity audience.
ITV drama series Lewis is one of the highest-rated shows outside of soaps. The current series was seen by an average audience of 4.4 million people, which basically means that the ITV bosses now want to film more. But will lead actor Kevin Whately agree, as he recently stated: “I don’t know how much longer I can stay in the role for.”
A baby boom in soap land means pregnant Corrie, EastEnders and Neighbours stars are having to use all kinds of cunning tricks to keep their baby bumps hidden on set. A source tells me: “It’s getting easier now with the winter coming on with bigger clothes, large bags and all that, plus we get the actresses to stand behind as many bars , plants and worktops as possible, yet all true fans know they are expecting...”
The Great British Bake Off is filming a celebrity version on a budget for next year’s Comic Relief. I can reveal. It ‘stars’ Jonathan Ross, Gok Wan and someone from Hollyoaks, but the BBC state: “It’s not about star names, just how well they get on with the baking.”
TV newsreader Mary Nightingale has labelled the celebrity lifestyle as “nonsense”. The ITV evening news anchor, said that a life in the public eye is not for her. She added: “I don’t want to be the news, I am just reading it, so you won’t get me appearing on reality TV shows or the like ... it’s not for me.”