Current Biography

As a freelance director Hugh Wooldridge has directed theatre and television productions throughout Europe, Africa, Japan, Australia, Canada and the United States.

Having trained on the technical theatre course at LAMDA, as a young actor Hugh was in The Dame of Sark (Wyndham’s Theatre) with Celia Johnson and Tony Britton.  He started his career as a director by assisting leading UK directors such as Alan Ayckbourn, Eric Thompson, Frank Hauser and Michael Blakemore; he has been directing plays in his own right since the age of 17.

In the first 10 years as a director, Hugh directed more than 60 productions in London and throughout the UK – from Alan Ayckbourn to Rene de Obaldia, and Pam Gems to Athol Fugard.  He was resident director at the Haymarket Theatre, Leicester; the Thorndike Theatre, Leatherhead, and the Old Vic Theatre, London.

For the Old Vic Company he directed the world premieres of the Graham Collier / Malcolm Lowry jazz suite, Under A Volcano and The Undisput’d Monarch of the English Stage with Gary Bond portraying David Garrick: for the Royal Ballet he directed The World of Giselle.

Other world premieres include the Charles Strouse opera, Nightingale, with Sarah Brightman at the Buxton Opera Festival; Francis Wyndham’s Abel And Cain (Haymarket, Leicester); the Donald Campbell / Robert Pettigrew musical Blackfriars’ Wynd (Lyceum, Edinburgh); David Wood’s There Was  An Old Woman and Nutcracker Sweet (Haymarket, Leicester); Mike Read’s musical about the life of Rupert Brooke, Young Apollo (Thorndike Theatre, Leatherhead); Deborah Moggach’s Double Take (Minerva, Chichester) and the British premieres of Richard Crane’s Decent Things (Bush Theatre, London) and David Ives’s All in the Timing (Playhouse, Nottingham). 

He directed and lit the original Jeeves Takes Charge at the Lyric Hammersmith with Edward Duke winning the Olivier Award for Most Promising Newcomer ; the first productions of the Andrew Lloyd Webber / TS Eliot Cats (Sydmonton Festival), and the Andrew Lloyd Webber / Don Black song-cycle Tell Me on a Sunday with Marti Webb at the Royalty Theatre; also Lloyd Webber’s Variations at the Royal Festival Hall (later combined together to become Song and Dance) and Liz Robertson’s one-woman show Just Liz compiled by Alan Jay Lerner at the Duke of York’s Theatre, London.

During the next 10 years, he ran his own multi-media company, the Jolly Good Production Company, which produced plays and TV programmes, managed artistes and published books.   During this time he was also responsible for music programmes and programming in the ITV network, specifically in the South and South East of England (TVS).  Whilst the Associate Head of Music for TVS he produced many music and light entertainment programmes including The A-Z of Music with Richard Stilgoe and his own Showcase series. The latter featured, amongst others, Nigel Kennedy, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sarah Brightman, Paul Jones, Benjamin Luxon, Rod Argent, Barbara Thompson and Jon Hiseman, Julian Lloyd Webber and the Gabrieli String Quartet.

He also devised and was the Creative Consultant of BBC TV’s Saturday night, prime-time TV programme, Challenge Anneka.

In 1987 he co-produced with Liz Robertson and directed An Evening with Alan Jay Lerner at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London with Placido Domingo and a host of stars which raised funds for The Alan Jay Lerner Fund for Cancer Research at the Royal Marsden Hospital (available on CD). This event was remounted in March 1988 at the Opera House, Manchester with Richard Harris and many others.

In October 1989, he wrote and directed An Evening with Alan Jay Lerner at the New York State Theatre, Lincoln Center starring Julie Andrews, Liza Minnelli, Robert Goulet, Sally Ann Howes, Rudolph Nureyev, Leonard Bernstein and many others.  This was televised by PBS live on the night.

Subsequently he has produced, devised and directed numerous, major, fund-raising events including The Night of 1000 Voices and The Night of 1000 Stars, originally a one-off Gala Concert to celebrate the centenary of NODA but, between 1999 to 2019, a regular fixture at the Royal Albert Hall, London.  The Night of 1000 Voices was themed and people celebrated included Trevor Nunn, Stephen Sondheim, Tim Rice and The Music of the Knights.  In 2006 there was an Iriish production for the Caron Keating Foundation in Belfast with the regular international company plus Peter Corry, Sir James Galway and Riverdance.  In 2013, the production celebrated the great Broadway producer and director Harold 'Hal' Prince hosted by Alan Titchmarsh and Gloria Hunniford.  In 2014 the 15th Anniversary of The Night of 1000 Voices was a fund-raiser for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research and introduced by Hugh Bonneville.

Other major fund-raising events include DANCEPOWER, a celebration of World Dance for the Red Cross at the London Palladium; Comedy Tonight with the leading UK comic artistes at the Royal National Theatre for the Roy Kinnear Trust; Around the World at the Royal Albert Hall, London with Elaine Paige and Michael Flatley and his then, newly- formed, Riverdance, for The Royal National Institute for the Blind; the 125th Anniversary of the Red Cross with Dame Shirley Bassey; the Ira Gershwin Centenary celebration at the Royal Albert Hall, London in aid of Mencap – Who Could Ask For Anything More?; and more recently in New York the inaugural Bernard Jacobs Award For Excellence In Theatre, which was presented to James Nederlander.

Other diverse theatre productions have included the European premiere of US playwright Dennis McIntyre’s Split Second at the Lyric Hammersmith; two multi-mediaproductions of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood (Plymouth, Liverpool and UK Tour); the first major revival of Howard Barker’s Claw (repeated several years later with the Final Year 2005 students at RADA); a UK tour of Noël Coward’s Present Laughter; his own musicals’ revue, The Ones that Got Away at the Almeida Theatre and the Barbican Centre (where it was featured as part of the Leonard Bernstein Festival);The Fabulous Singlettes at the Pinter Theatre; two spectacular concert performances of Jesus Christ Superstar introduced by Sir Tim Rice at the Barbican Centre, London; the European Tour of The Rocky Horror Show starring Clive Carter, Anita Dobson and Martin Duncan; and, as UK Associate, the long-running West End production of Jerry Zaks’ Smokey Joe’s Cafe (the Prince of Wales Theatre).

Concerts and special events include An Evening with Tim Rice (Henley Festival and Holder’s Festival, Barbados introduced by Tim Rice); the Variety Club stellar tribute to lyricist Don Black; a celebration of 350 years of Jewish Music with Michael Ball, Maria Friedman and Michel Legrand (re-opening the Roundhouse Theatre); the workshop production of the Ben Elton screenplay of the Andrew Lloyd Webber / Charles Hart  movie, The Phantom of the Opera; the live, stadium-event version of BBC TV’s Robot Wars; also a full-scale revival of the Rice / Lloyd Webber musical Evita featuring a cast of 125 (Grand Theatre, Leeds).  He created and directed the original UK Tour of The Magic of the Musicals starring Marti Webb (also seen at the London Palladium); the 20th Anniversary Tour of Jesus Christ Superstar – In Concert starring the original Jesus, Paul Nicholas, in England and two full scale, American productions of Jesus Christ Superstar which toured throughout Europe; and the 150th Anniversary celebrations of Thomas Cook Ltd in the presence of the late Diana, Princess of Wales.

Also, an international Millennium Musicals’ Celebration for Eurovision and the Bayerischer Rundfunk Orchester (Gasteig, Munich); the UK Tour of the Rodgers and Hammerstein revue, Something Wonderful; the all-star Noël Coward, The Centenary Celebration (Savoy Theatre, London); a major revival of Peer Gynt for Orchestra, Chorale, Dancers and Acting Company in Chicago (the first such production since 1876); Sondheim Tonight, a gala celebration of the music of Stephen Sondheim (Barbican Centre); the Royal Anniversary Gala celebrating the 50th Wedding Anniversary of Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Prince Philip (co-produced by the Royal Festival Hall and the Earl of Wessex); Jack In Review for Sir Cameron Mackintosh (London Palladium); the all-star Gala, BAM Salutes Sondheim at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York; the Richard Rodgers Awards and The 50th Anniversary Gala Concert for the Civic Light Opera in Pittsburgh celebrating the talents of Mary Martin, Julie Andrews, Stephen Sondheim, Hal Prince and Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber; the international Gala Concert for Hal Prince starring Len Cariou, Debbie Gravitte and many others in Munich, Germany  and for Eurovision, (also available on CD); and two all-star revivals of Rebecca for the Du Maurier Estate.

For Andrew Lloyd Webber and the Really Useful Group, Hugh Wooldridge created and directed the original US production of The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber (also seen in the Prince Edward Theatre, London and the London Palladium; and the Irish, North American and Scandinavian productions).  This has been in production somewhere around the world since 1999 with headline stars including Sarah Brightman, Michael Crawford, Michael Bolton, Petula Clarke and many, many, more.

With Welsh composer, Julie Cooper, Hugh Wooldridge created SEASONS, a spectacular work for the percussionist Evelyn Glennie which features words specially written by Christopher Fry spoken by Dame Judi Dench, Jeremy Irons, Robert Powell and Imogen Stubbs. This work was also performed by Denmark’s the Safri Duo at the Royal Albert Hall, London.

His production of his own Alan Jay Lerner revue, The Night They Invented Champagne was seen in Cape Town and Johannesburg; and the UK production, re-titled Almost Like Being In Love completed a season at the Royal National Theatre, London with Dame Sian Phillips, John Standing, Clive Carter, Anita Dobson and Anna Francolini.

In 2008 he adapted and directed Chess in Concert at the Royal Albert Hall with Josh Groban, Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal, Kerry Ellis, Clarke Peters and Marti Pellow introduced by Tim Rice (available on DVD  and double CD).  This was aired by PBS in the US and internationally in Spring 2009.  In London and the UK, Chess in Concert was the first live musical theatre concert to be shown in main-stream cinemas.

In May 2010, he devised and directed the 10th Anniversary production of The Night of 1000 Voices featuring Kerry Ellis, Philip Quast, Adam Pascal and the Queen composer and guitarist, Brian May.

In 2010/12 he directed the Bill Kenwright/UK Tours of The Haunting by Charles Dickens adapted by Hugh Janes with Paul Nicholas, Sean Maguire and Charlie Clements, subsequently with David Robb and James Roache; the 21st Anniversary production of his The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber for the University of Oklahoma, and ANTHEMS: The Concert with Kerry Ellis, Brian May, Adam Pascal and Escala at the Royal Albert Hall which won the Whatsonstage.com Jo Hutchinson International Award for Best Solo Performance.

At the Royal Albert Hall he directed the all-star version of the Jeremy Lloyd / Jim Parker classic, The Wonderful World of Captain Beaky and his Band, for UNICEF with Sir Roger Moore, Vanessa Redgrave, Joanna Lumley, Alan Titchmarsh, Hugh Bonneville, the National Youth Ballet and many others; and Seasons of Love for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research – a celebration of the Calendar Girls with John Alderton, Lynda Bellingham, Janie Dee, Patrick Doyle, Patricia Hodge, Tim Firth, Sue Holderness, Celia Imrie, Lesley Joseph, Willy Russell, Christopher Timothy, Stephen Tompkinson, Stilgoe & Skellern, Julie Walters and many more…

During 2010/3, he was the Beatrice Carr and Ray Wallace Visiting Professor at the A. Max Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts based at the University of Oklahoma where he created and directed the 21st Anniversary production of The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber and a new production, There Is More To Love..., a contemporary revue of the love songs of Andrew Lloyd Webber.

In 2013/4 he directed the European and US production of BelCanto in conjunction with Luigi Caiola and the Luciano Pavarotti Foundation, Italy which was first seen at the New York City Center in November 2013 and subsequently in Naples, Rome and Paris.

In 2016, he directed the brand-new production of Twist of Lemmon at The Other Palace, London, with Christopher Lemmon portraying his father, the great Jack Lemmon.

In 2017 he conceived, wrote and directed an exciting new production for Rolando Sanz and the Young Artists of America celebrating the songs of Tim Rice, hosted by Sir Tim, The Circle of Life, which was first seen at the Strathmore Center, Maryland, and was later aired on PBS in the US.  This MPT programme was nominated for three local Emmy Awards – Best Artistic Program, Best Lighting and Best Direction.  It won the Emmy for Best Lighting.

In 2018, aside from his international masterclass and teaching commitments, Hugh Wooldridge directed Play On Words - a celebration of PG Wodehouse and his fellow Wordsmiths on Broadway - with Hal Cazalet at Live at Zedel/Crazy Coqs and New York - and a brand-new production of Jesus Christ Superstar at Teatru Astra, Gozo/Malta with David Michael Johnson playing Jesus.

In 2019, The Night of 1000 Voices was rebooted for a younger audience as The Best of Rock Musicals at the Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, London and was a fund-raiser for the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust – a young person's suicide-awareness organisation.  This first concert was introduced by Sir Tim Rice and Christopher Biggins and featured VIP performers from the US and Europe (www.thebestofmusicals.com).  The 2020 production of The Best of Rock Musicals has been postponed because of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Hugh Wooldridge has directed many showcase, workshops and first productions of new writing, and has been much in demand helping others to improve their own productions – he is currently mentoring four authors, two composers and a producer.  He hopes to direct a production every year at a drama school in the US, UK or Denmark – as at BADA with his own adaption of Under Milk Wood with music by Julie Cooper.

In the future, in addition to his commitment to working on his large-scale productions, Hugh Wooldridge hopes to spend more time directing smaller projects similar to those he thrived on during his first 10 years and being available to help others achieve their goals.

Hugh Wooldridge is a member of The Dramatists’ Guild (US) and The Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers (US), and The Directors’ Guild of Great Britain (UK).

 
 

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