West End stars lead the cast for new British musical premiering this autumn at Bristol Old Vic

 Gloria Onitiri (Josiana), Louis Maskell (Grinpayne), Julian Bleach (Barkilphedro), Audrey Brisson (Dea) - Photo by Craig Sugden

Image: Gloria Onitiri, Louis Maskell, Julian Bleach, Audrey Brisson. (Credit: Craig Sugden)

West End stars lead the casting announced today for The Grinning Man - a brand new musical from Bristol Old Vic, currently celebrating its 250th anniversary year, directed by Tom Morris (War Horse) and based on the Victor Hugo novel and cult silent movie The Man Who Laughs. 

Twisted morals and characters from the darkest corners of Victor Hugo’s imagination are brought to life in a tale of the exquisite pain and pleasure found in remembering who you are and who you love. 

Rising star Louis Maskell takes the title role of Grinpayne, The Grinning Man. He recently appeared in Flowers for Mrs Harris (Sheffield Crucible) and is well-known for the role of Freddy in the award-winning My Fair Lady (Sheffield Crucible) and as Tony in the UK tour of West Side Story

Julian Bleach takes the role of the deliciously corrupt court clown, Barkilphedro. He is an actor best known as co-creator of Olivier award-winning Shockheaded Peter. His theatre roles include playing Ariel to Patrick Stewart’s Prospero in the RSC production of The Tempest, and his television roles include Davros, creator of the Daleks, in Doctor Who, and Macheavelli in Showtime/Sky Atlantic’s The Borgias.   

Sean Kingsley is musical theatre royalty. He is taking the role of Ursus, the father figure with a dark secret. Sean has appeared in Cats, played the role of Jean Valjean in the West End production of Les Misérables, toured Mamma Mia! internationally and appeared in West End hits from Billy Elliot to We Will Rock You. He is currently appearing in Jesus Christ Superstar (Regents Park Open Air Theatre). 

Gloria Onitiri will play the wantonly amoral Princess, Josiana. She has appeared as Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard as well as other high profile roles in The Lion King and Avenue Q. Josiana’s half-brother (and love interest) is played by Stuart Neal. His stage work includes Kenneth Branagh’s West End season, as well as appearing in musical theatre hits Le Cage Aux Folles, Evita and Mary Poppins

Audrey Brisson will play Grinpayne’s childhood love, Dea. Currently starring in Kneehigh Theatre’s The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, Audrey has had lead roles in Romeo and Juliet (The Rose, Kingston), Dead Dog in a Suitcase and The Wild Bride (both Kneehigh Theatre) and Elephantom (West End). 

Also joining the cast are Ewan Black (Sleeping Beauty, Bristol Old Vic), Alice Barclay (Swallows and Amazons), Stuart Angell (The Lorax, Running Wild) and Patrycja Kujawska (Kneehigh’s Tristan & Yseult, The Red Shoes). 

Tom Morris is Artistic Director of Bristol Old Vic and has been Associate Director of the National Theatre since 2004. Previous productions at Bristol Old Vic include: King Lear, The Crucible, Swallows and Amazons, Juliet and Her Romeo, and Messiah (Bristol Proms, 2012). Tom was also co-director of War Horse

Tim Phillips is a Canadian composer who has written music for many screen productions, including HBO's Entourage, Talk To Me and (with Murray Gold) the Channel 4 series ShamelessMarc Teitler is a composer whose work spans musicals, opera, film soundtracks and albums and has had music featured in Game of Thrones. His current commissions for original musicals include The Ghost Map (dir. Bijan Sheibani) and in collaboration, Marc and Tim have composed music and lyrics for The Circle (National Theatre).  

Writer Carl Grose has worked extensively with Kneehigh theatre as writer and actor. His writing for the Cornish-based company includes Dead Dog in a Suitcase, The Wild Bride and Tristan & Yseult. Other recent writing credits include Grand Guignol (Southwark Playhouse) and Oedipussy (Spymonkey). 

Puppetry will be created by Gyre and Gimble, founded in 2014 by Finn Caldwell and Toby Olié having met whilst performing in the original production of War Horse. Their work has appeared in productions as varied as The Lorax (Old Vic), The Light Princess (NT), Running Wild (Regents Park), Elephantom (NT and West End) and Shrek:The Musical

The creative team is completed by designer Jon Bausor (The Little Mermaid - Bristol Old Vic), Costume Designer Jean Chan (Lionboy – Complicite), Music Supervisor Tom Deering (Wonder.Land - National Theatre), Lighting Designer Richard Howell (The Crucible – Bristol Old Vic, East is East –Trafalgar Studios) and Sound Designer Simon Baker (Matilda The Musical - Olivier for Best Sound, A Midsummer Night’s Dream -Shakespeare’s Globe and The Caretaker - Old Vic).