News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 1st February 2008

It's Official! As previously forecast here, High School Musical, the stage adaptation of Disney's world conquering television film, book by David Simpatico, from the film script by Peter Barsocchini, directed by Jeff Calhoun, with choreography by Lisa Stevens, will play a 6 week season at the Hammersmith Apollo, opening on 30th June. When a popular basketball star and an academically gifted newcomer discover they share a secret passion for singing, they audition for the lead roles in the school musical, and the rigid social order amongst the 'jocks' and the 'brainiacs' is threatened (Hamlet it ain't). The producers are Disney Theatricals and Stage Entertainment. This will be a second company, in addition to the touring show that opened recently, and is scheduled to play at 29 venues over the coming year.

The touring company Headlong, formerly Oxford Stage Company, has announced its second season, which will comprise: the premiere of Richard Bean's The English Game, which explores racial politics and the modern British psyche through the experiences of an inept Cricklewood cricket team, directed by Sean Holmes, opening at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford on 12th May; …Sisters, adapted and directed by Chris Goode, from Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters, the inaugural winner of the New Directions competition, created to encourage new approaches to classic plays, opening at the Gate Theatre in Notting Hill Gate on 11th June; Rupert Goold and Ben Power's contemporary reworking of Luigi Pirandello's Six Characters In Search Of An Author, in which six characters invade the rehearsals for a play and insist on being allowed to tell their story, directed by Goold, opening at the Minerva Theatre in Chichester on 8th July; and Shakespeare's King Lear, with Pete Postlethwaite, also directed by Goold, opening at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool on 5th November. Future productions will include Anthony Neilson's Edwart Gant's Amazing Feats Of Loneliness, an exploration of performance and performers inspired by a 19th century freak show act; and the premiere of Lucy Prebble's E.N.R.O.N., about the American energy company accounting scandal.

Legal Fictions, a double bill of plays by John Mortimer, with Edward Fox, Nicholas Woodeson and Polly Adams, directed by Christopher Morahan, which is currently touring, will transfer to the Savoy Theatre on 29th February for a limited season to 26th April. It comprises Dock Brief, in which an incompetent barrister represents a man who has murdered his wife, and Edwin, in which retired High Court Judge still sits in judgment on people in his imagination. It is a Theatre Royal Bath production.

On The Casting Couch: Jeremy Irons and Ian McNiece will be joined by Anna Carteret, Anna Chancellor, Clive Francis, Tim Francis, Robert Glennister, Terence Hardman and Anne Kavanagh in Never So Good, opening at the National Theatre on 26th March; and Jill Paice will be joined by Darius Danesh, Edward Baker-Duly, Madeleine Worrall, NaTasha Yvette Williams and Jina Burrows in Gone With The Wind, opening at the New London Theatre on 22nd April.

Make Me A Song: The Music Of William Finn, the hit revue of well and lesser known songs by Broadway composer and lyricist Finn, conceived by Rob Ruggiero, which has just completed an Off Broadway run, will open at the New Players Theatre under the arches at Charing Cross on 6th March. It will feature Louise Dearman, Frances Ruffelle, Gareth Snook, Simon Thomas and Ian H Watkins, directed by Andrew McBean. The producers are Junkyard Dog Productions, Demos Bizar Entertainment and Surefire Theatrical in association with Larry Hirschhorn, Remmel T Dickinson, Jayson Raitt and Mariano Tolentino Jr.

David Ian has left his job as global theatrical chairman of Live Nation, which is Britain's biggest theatre operator, following the $90m sale last week of the company's American theatrical interests to Key Brand Entertainment, headed by British producer John Gore. Live Nation disposed of Broadway Across America, the leading presenter of touring live theatre throughout North America, 8 theatres that it leased or managed in Minneapolis, Boston, Baltimore and Toronto, the Canadian arm of its touring business, investments in 13 current and upcoming Broadway productions, 8 current US touring productions and 6 West End and UK touring productions. Live Nation's UK portfolio, which includes the Lyceum, Apollo Victoria and Hammersmith Apollo theatres in London, is not affected, but it widely expected that the company's British and European interests will be up for sale in the near future. David Ian will now work as an independent producer.

Marilyn And Ella, a play with music by Bonnie Greer, adapted from her radio play inspired by the true story of how Marilyn Monroe helped launch Ella Fitzgerald's west coast career at the Mocambo Night Club in Hollywood, with Wendy Morgan and Nicola Hughes, directed by Colin McFarlane, with choreography by Nick Peel, will play at the Theatre Royal Stratford East from 15th February.

A double bill comprising Guerilla by John Cargill Thompson and Whore by Carol Vine, with Bob Cryer and Charlotte Weston, directed by Robert Wolstenholme, will open at the Tabard Theatre in Chiswick on 19th March. The monologues, in which Judas wrestles with his betrayal and Mary grieves at its consequences, chart their initial intoxicating rapture with the young prophet, through to the inescapable tragedy of their part in his destiny. The producer is Two Bob Theatre.

Arts Council England has announced its final decisions on funding, following consideration of appeals by many of the 194 organisations threatened with losing their grants. 17 companies have been successful in securing a reprieve, including the Bush and Orange Tree in London, and regional venues Bristol Old Vic, Harrogate and Exeter Northcott, together with the National Student Drama Festival. However, the National Association of Local Government Arts Officers has joined the numerous industry bodies complaining about the cuts, warning that they threaten to have a damaging knock-on effect when local authorites come to make their own funding allocations. NALGO fears that following an extremely poor government funding settlement, many councils are looking to cut their arts spending, and will take the opportunity to 'follow the lead' given by ACE, turning the cuts into a 'double whammy', which the companies will be unable to survive.

The Rumour Machine says: that Jonathan Lynn is working on a stage adaptation of Marina Lewycka's novel A Short History Of Tractors In The Ukraine, which Nica Burns and Max Weitzenhoffer will produce; that the two concert performances of the Tim Rice-Bjorn Ulvaeus-Benny Andersson musical Chess, with Idina Menzel and Josh Groban, at the Royal Albert Hall in May, is a flyer for a new West End production; that the current Broadway musical Legally Blonde, adapted from the 2001 film about a cosmetics friendly sorority girl who goes to Harvard law school and beats the swats, directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, will make its West End debut in November; and that Ben Elton has completed the 'book' for a sequel to the Queen show We Will Rock You - hasn't musical theatre suffered enough? The Rumour Machine grinds on.