New Year Honours for British actresses

Dame Angela Lansbury: the actress is recognised in 2014's New Year Honours (Credit: Featureflash)

Dame Angela Lansbury: the actress is recognised in 2014’s New Year Honours (Credit: Featureflash)

The Queen’s 2014 New Year Honours list has recognised and celebrated some of the country’s leading acting and theatre talent: theatre, film and television actress Angela Lansbury is to become a Dame of the British Empire for her services to drama, charitable work and philanthropy. Bafta and Olivier Award winner Penelope Keith will receive the same honour for her services to the arts and charity, as will choreographer Gillian Lynne, director of more than 50 shows in the West End, on Broadway and on tour, for her services to dance and musical theatre.

Andrew Lloyd Webber, a collaborator of Gillian Lynne’s on productions such as Cats and Phantom of the Opera, said that he was ‘thrilled that the grand lady of British musical theatre has got the recognition she deserves.’

Accolades for women in the arts continues: Canadian-born stage and television actress Lynda Bellingham is to be awarded an OBE for voluntary service to charitable giving in the UK. Actress and writer of Gavin and Stacey, Ruth Jones, will receive an MBE.

There were also a few notable male honours in this year’s selection, including CBEs for television actor Michael Crawford and former Royal Court artistic director Dominic Cooke, as well as a knighthood for Michael Codron, the owner of London’s Aldwych Theatre, for his services to theatre.

Actress Joanna Page hits out at Lloyd Webber reality show

‘Insulting’: Actress Joanna Page attacks Lloyd Webber’s reality show

Stage and screen actress Joanna Page has called the latest reality television show to find the next stage star ‘disgusting’. The RADA graduate criticised the ITV series Superstar and shows with a similar format.

The programme saw Andrew Lloyd Webber search for a new male lead to perform the role of Jesus in the forthcoming arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar. The finale, broadcast last night, saw 31-year-old Ben Forster win the reality TV show. He will join Chris Moyles, Tim Minchin and former Spice Girl Mel C in performances around the UK.

Page, speaking to The Stage, voiced her concerns that reality television programmes overlooked performers already working in the industry: ‘There are actors and musical theatre performers who have given their whole lives to the profession because it is their passion, and then you have some bloody van driver on a show saying “I didn’t do this when I was 12 but I wish I had done, but I didn’t have the guts”. Well, that’s your problem, because you obviously didn’t have the passion, spirit, drive, and the determination, to dedicate your whole life to it.’

The Gavin and Stacey actress also questioned Andrew Lloyd Webber’s choice not to cast actors he has previously worked with, labelling it as ‘insulting’ to those who had performed in his previous shows.

She also went on to query how useful the arrangement of the series really was in showing the true potential amongst the contestants, as the show had no real platform to display their acting ability. Page said: ‘I am finding myself really happy now that they are left with people who aren’t suitable. There is no one with the charisma, the authority, the stature or the maturity to play Jesus.’

This isn’t the first time Superstar has come under attack. When plans for the show were first announced Lloyd Webber’s long time collaborator Sir Tim Rice voiced his discontent that Jesus Christ Superstar would be getting the ‘tasteless reality television treatment’.

Rice said at the time: ‘Andrew wants to rehash things all the time, but I really don’t think Superstar needs that. Those shows are relentlessly downmarket, which is fine if the show is a lightweight bit of fluff.

‘It’s just possible that it might be the most sophisticated, tasteful show hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, but I doubt it. It sounds tacky and I really don’t think Andrew should do it.’