Dave Stewart musical inspired by Soho cafe

Bar Italia in 1966 Bar Italia has changed little since it opened in 1949

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The story of a famous London cafe is to be told in a stage musical written by one of its most famous customers, Eurythmics star Dave Stewart.

Stewart is writing Bar Italia about the Soho cafe of the same name, which was one of London's first continental coffee shops when it opened in 1949.

He is working with Porridge and The Likely Lads writer Ian La Frenais.

Stewart said: "This coffee shop is very small but what goes on in there is as big as the world."

The musician and songwriter has just finished writing the score for a stage musical based on the movie Ghost, which opens in Manchester in March.

Bar Italia, his next project, has been inspired by the Polledri family, who opened Bar Italia to cater for immigrants in London's Italian quarter, and who still run the cafe.

"It's about la famiglia - about an Italian family out of place in the middle of Soho, where there are strip joints and everything, and they're a little Catholic family opening a coffee shop," Stewart said.

"You've already got that great juxtaposition."

The show will tell the fictional story of the owners' son, who is lined up to take over the cafe but becomes involved with local criminals.

Stewart will be able to draw on the real cafe's colourful history. It was opened by US superstars Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, and has continued to be a favoured haunt of celebrities ranging from Rocky Marciano to Francis Ford Coppola.

Dave Stewart Dave Stewart has previously composed music for shows based on the films Barbarella and Ghost

It was used by Sade as the location for a photoshoot to promote Smooth Operator.

Pulp wrote a song about it and it was recreated for the 1986 movie Absolute Beginners, starring David Bowie.

The cafe was also in the thick of Soho's gang culture, with notorious fights taking place outside and customers with mob connections.

"My father used to bring me down in the 70s and it used to be like a scene out of Goodfellas or A Bronx Tale," says manager Antonio Polledri, grandson of the founders Luigi and Caterina.

"The Maltese and Italians used to be standing on the streets, some with string vests on. Everybody that my father introduced me to had a nickname - there was Russian Bill, French Lou, Joe the Crow.

"It was a very colourful period. Easy money was coming, easy money was going."

Stewart, a regular patron, has previously written the score for a stage production of the cult 1968 film Barbarella as well as Ghost, which starred Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore on the big screen.

Ghost - the Musical will star former Coronation Street star Richard Fleeshman and Canadian actress Caissie Levy. It will open at the Manchester Opera House before moving to London's West End.

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