News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 2nd January 2009

Elsewhere, it is customary at this time to look back over the past year, and review triumphs and failures. Well we don't do that because we're more interested in the future than the past, so the tradition here is to look forward to what will happen in the West End - all based on hard, solid, um, er, rumour.

Lionel Bart's musical Oliver!, adapted from Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist, with Rowan Atkinson and Jodie Prenger, will open at Drury Lane . . . Tom Stoppard and Andre Previn's Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, in which a dissident is locked up in an asylum with a real lunatic who thinks he is surrounded by an orchestra, with Toby Jones and Joseph Millson will open at the National Theatre . . . Joe Sutton's Complicit, exploring the current American political climate through the eyes of a journalist called before a Supreme Court Special Prosecutor, with Richard Dreyfuss, Elizabeth McGovern and David Suchet, will open at the Old Vic Theatre . . . Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, with Andrea Harris, Peter de Jersey, Joe Dixon and Mark Hadfield, will open at the Novello Theatre . . . Thriller Live, a Michael Jackson/Jackson 5 back catalogue compilation show, will open at the Lyric Theatre . . . Be Near Me, Andrew O'Hagan's novel about a Catholic priest who takes over a depressed Scottish parish and is drawn into the unstable world of two local teenagers, adapted by and featuring Ian McDiarmid, with Blythe Duff, Kath Howden, David McGranaghan, Richard Madden, Helen Mallon, Colette O'Neil and Jimmy Yuill, will open at the Donmar Warehouse . . . Samuel Adamson's Mrs Affleck, which relocates the story of Ibsen's Little Eyolf to Manchester in the 1950s, where a couple's reunion is overshadowed by the presence of the husband's half sister, with Claire Skinner, Naomi Frederick and Angus Wright, will open at the National Theatre . . . Noel Coward's Private Lives, the story of a divorced couple who, finding themselves honeymooning with new partners in adjoining hotel suites, also find that their relationship is actually not over, with Claire Price and Jasper Britton, will open at Hampstead Theatre . . . Tom Kempinski's Duet For One, about a concert violinist who is forced to rethink her career and her life after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, with Juliet Stevenson and Henry Goodman, will open at the Almeida Theatre . . .Joe Orton's Entertaining Mr Sloane, in which a young man charms his way into the home of two middle aged siblings, who vie for his attention, leading to blackmail and murder, with Imelda Staunton, Matthew Horne, Simon Paisley Day and Richard Bremmer, will open at Trafalgar Studios . . . and Lee Hall's The Pitmen Painters, which tells the true story of a group of Ashington coal miners in the 1930s who invited a professor to give them art appreciation classes, will open at the National Theatre - all in January . . . Complicite's Shun-kin, a devised work inspired by two texts written in the 1930s by Jun'ichiro Tanizaki, a tale of devotion, passion and power, where beauty is unforgiving and love is blinding, will receive its British premiere at the Barbican Theatre . . . Alan Bennett's Enjoy, in which a old couple who are refusing to leave a house scheduled for demolition are visited by a sociologist, with Alison Steadman, David Troughton, Carol Macready, Josie Walker and Richard Glaves, will open at the Gielgud Theatre . . . the Broadway musical Spring Awakening, book and lyrics by Steven Sater, music by Duncan Sheik, adapted from Frank Wedekind's 1891 expressionist play, about the sexual stirrings of young people in a world where adults create an atmosphere of shame, silence and ignorance, with Charlotte Wakefield, Iwan Rheon and Aneurin Barnard, will receive its British premiere at the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith . . . Shakespeare's King Lear, with Pete Postlethwaite, John Shrapnel, Forbes Masson, Nigel Cooke, Caroline Faber, Charlotte Randle, Amanda Hale, Jonjo O'Neill, Tobias Menzies, Michael Colgan, Clarence Smith, John-Paul MacLeod and Jacob Anderson, will open at the Young Vic . . . Arthur Miller's A View From The Bridge, the story of a longshoreman who has raised his orphaned niece, but become infatuated with her, and jealousy transforms him from a respected, honourable man to a virtual stranger shamed and broken by his own actions, with Ken Stott, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Haley Attwell, will open at the Duke of York's Theatre . . . Alan Ayckbourn's Woman In Mind, about a woman who, after a bump on the head, creates an imaginary family to make up for the shortcomings of her real one, with Janie Dee, Perdita Avery, John Branwell, Bill Champion, Joanna David, Dominic Hecht, Paul Kemp and Martin Parr, will open at the Vaudeville Theatre . . . Marius von Mayenburg's The Stone, in which, as a house passes from owner to owner, secrets buried in the garden and seeping from the walls reveal themselves, will open at the Royal Court Theatre . . . Richard Greenberg's Three Days Of Rain, in which the cast have dual roles, as both the children of architectural partners engaged in solving a mystery, and moving back in time, the partners themselves, with James McAvoy, Nigel Harman and Lyndsey Marshal, will open at the Apollo Theatre . . . Nicholas de Jongh's Plague Over England, exploring attitudes to homosexuality in the 1950s, sparked by John Gielgud's arrest for importuning, will open at the Duchess Theatre . . . Richard Bean's England People, Very Nice, set in east London over four waves of immigration: French, Irish, Jewish and Bengali will open at the National Theatre . . . and Shakespeare's The Taming Of The Shrew, with Michelle Gomez, Stephen Boxer, Amara Karan and Patrick Moy, will open at the Novello Theatre - all in February . . . Mark Ravenhill's Over There, the story of twins divided by the Berlin wall who struggle to come together after 25 years apart, with Harry and Luke Treadaway will open at the Royal Court Theatre . . . Ian Kennedy Martin's The Berlin Hanover Express, set in the Irish consulate in Berlin in the autumn of 1942, exploring the implications of a country remaining neutral in a time of war will open at Hampstead Theatre . . . Yukio Mishima's Madame de Sade, about five women affected by the debauchery of the Marquis de Sade, including his wife and mother, with Judi Dench, Rosamund Pike, Frances Barber, Deborah Findlay, Fiona Button and Jenny Galloway, will open at Wyndham's Theatre . . . The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert, adapted by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott, from the 1994 Australian film about three drag queens on a road trip to Alice Springs, using existing disco songs, with Jason Donovan, Tony Sheldon, Oliver Thornton and Clive Carter, will open at the Palace Theatre . . . Christopher Marlowe's Dido, Queen Of Carthage, with Anastasia Hille, Mark Bonnar and Siobhan Redmond, will open at the National Theatre . . . Athol Fugard's Dimetos, a story about love, guilt and retribution, which examines faith in a modern world of moral decay, with Jonathan Pryce and Anne Reid, will open at the Donmar Warehouse . . . and Jez Butterworth's Parlour Song, which explores what happens when two ordinary people discover they hate who they have become, with Amanda Drew, Toby Jones and Andrew Lincoln, will open at the Almeida Theatre - all in March . . . Peter Flannery's Burnt By The Sun, adapted from the 1994 film by Nikita Mikhalkov and Rustam Ibragimbekov, a tale of sexual jealousy, retribution and political rivalry in Russia at the beginning of Stalin's Great Terror, with Ciaran Hinds, Rory Kinnear and Michelle Dockery, will open at the National Theatre . . . the National Theatre's production of Michael Morpurgo's War Horse, adapted by Nick Stafford, with Kit Harington, Bronagh Gallagher, Colin Mace and Patrick Kane, directed by Tom Morris and Marianne Elliott, in collaboration with South African puppet company Handspring, will transfer to the New London Theatre . . . Brian Friel's Dancing At Lughnasa, the story of 5 sisters in rural Ireland in the 1930s, with Niamh Cusack, Andrea Corr, Michelle Fairley and Susan Lynch, directed by Anna Mackmin, will open at the Old Vic Theatre . . . Wallace Shawn's The Fever, with Clare Higgins as a sick traveller in a poor foreign land who begins reassessing her impact on the world, will open at the Royal Court Theatre . . . Wole Soyinka's Death And The King's Horseman, set in 1943 Nigeria, using the story of a tribal king's transition from the living to the dead to examine the essence of corruption and the power of the human will, will open at the National Theatre . . . Michael Frayn's Alphabetical Order, about life in a provincial newspaper office in the 1970s will open at Hampstead Theatre . . . After Dido, a multimedia show inspired by Purcell's Dido And Aeneas, with Susan Bickley, James Gower, Adam Green, Helen Jarmanay, Katherine Manley and Nathan Vale, will open at the Young Vic . . . and Shakespeare's Romeo And Juliet, will open at Shakespeare's Globe - all in April . . . Calendar Girls, adapted by Tim Firth from the 2003 film, about the members of the WI who posed for a calendar naked, but with their modesty preserved by artfully placed cakes, knitting and flower arrangements, with Lynda Bellingham, Patricia Hodge, Sian Phillips, Gaynor Faye, Brigit Forsyth, Julia Hills, Elaine C Smith, Joan Blackham, Abby Francis, Gary Lilburn, Gerald McDermot and Carl Prekopp, will open at the Noel Coward Theatre . . . J B Priestley's Time And The Conways, the story of a family that starts with hopes of new beginnings the end of the First World War, and then flashes forward to reveal how these have been dashed twenty years later at the approach of the Second World War, with Francesca Annis and Adrian Scarborough, will open at the National Theatre . . . Samuel Beckett's Waiting For Godot, in which, famously, 'nothing happens - twice', as two men by a roadside amuse themselves with a comical wordplay of poetry and nonsense, while they wait for someone to arrive, with Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart, will open at the Haymarket Theatre . . . Che Walker's The Frontline, a modern tale of London life on the edge, set on a Saturday night outside Camden tube, will open at Shakespeare's Globe . . . Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, in which a woman rebels against the confines of a Victorian marriage, in a new version by Zinnie Harris, with Gillian Anderson, will open at the Donmar Warehouse . . . Amongst Friends, a darkly comic satire centring on a successful couple who receive an unwanted guest for dinner at their home in a fashionable 'gated community' will open at Hampstead Theatre . . . Andrew Bovell's When The Rain Stops Falling, an epic play spanning four generations and two continents about people who emigrate from London to Australia in the 1950s, will open at the Almeida Theatre . . . and Wallace Shawn's Aunt Dan And Lemon, which explores the pathways of influence, the glamour of cruelty, and the dark side of nostalgia, with Jane Horrocks, will open at the Royal Court Theatre - all in May . . . Shakespeare's Hamlet, with Jude Law, will open at Wyndham's Theatre . . . Shakespeare's As You Like It will open at Shakespeare's Globe . . . and Frank McGuinness's Observe The Sons Of Ulster Marching Towards The Somme, about a group of volunteers in the First World War will open at Hampstead Theatre - all in June . . . Sister Act, a musical adaptation of the 1992 film about a disco singer fleeing the mob, who is given protective custody in a convent, where she clashes with the Mother Superior, but revolutionises the choir, book by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater will open at the London Palladium . . . Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale and Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, with Simon Russell Beale, Sinead Cusack, Ethan Hawke, Richard Easton, Josh Hamilton, Rebecca Hall, Michael Braun, Selina Cadell, Morven Christie, Josh Hamilton, Paul Jesson, Aaron Krohn, Dakin Matthews, Mark Nelson, Charlotte Parry, Jessica Pollert Smith, Gary Powell, Tobias Segal and Hannah Stokely, will open at the Old Vic Theatre . . . Jez Butterworth's Jerusalem, a comic, contemporary vision of life in rural Britain, with Mark Rylance, will open at the Royal Court Theatre . . . Shakespeare's Troilus And Cressida will open at Shakespeare's Globe . . . Racine's Phaedre, with Helen Mirren, Margaret Tyzack and Dominic Cooper, will open at the National Theatre . . . and Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire, which follows the woes of a faded Southern belle, and her road to madness aided by her violent brother in law, with Rachel Weisz, will open at the Donmar Warehouse - all in July . . . Euripides's Helen in a new version by Frank McGuinness, a strange, comic, fairytale like romance, will open at Shakespeare's Globe - in August . . . Trevor Griffiths's A New World, a play with music about the life of the revolutionary Thomas Paine, will open at Shakespeare's Globe . . . Odon Von Horvath's Judgement Day, in a new adaptation by Christopher Hampton, set in 1937, when a diligent village stationmaster's distraction causes a tragedy and the community seeks a scapegoat, will open at the Almeida Theatre . . . and Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost, will open at Shakespeare's Globe - all in September . . . Samuel Adamson's A Quiet Island, in which the worlds of two damaged people collide on a Greek island, will open at the Almeida Theatre - in October . . . and Patrick Hamilton's Rope, the classic thriller inspired by a true incident when two students committed a murder as an academic exercise, will open at the Almeida Theatre - in December.

On the way from Broadway:

the musical Grey Gardens, book by Doug Wright, music by Scott Frankel, and lyrics by Michael Korie, telling the extraordinary story of the eccentric aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and how they came to live in a derelict mansion in East Hampton, with Christine Ebersole . . . Xanadu, a musical based on the 1980 film, book by Douglas Carter Beane, and original film score by John Farrar and Jeff Lynne, about a Greek muse, sent to Earth to inspire mortals in California in the 1980s, who falls in love with an artist while helping him realise his dream of opening a roller disco . . . Disney's stage adaptation of The Little Mermaid, based on the 1989 film about a mermaid who falls in love with a human and wants to live on land, book by Doug Wright, music by Alan Menken, and lyrics by Glen Slater and the late Howard Ashman . . . the first African-American cast Broadway production of Tennessee Williams's Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, in which hypocrisy, greed and secret passions threaten to tear apart a wealthy but dysfunctional Mississippi family, with James Earl Jones, Phylicia Rashad, Terrence Howard and Anika Noni Rose . . . the musical Legally Blonde, book by Heather Hatch, music and lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin, adapted from the 2001 film based on the Amanda Brown novel, about a cosmetics friendly sorority girl who goes to Harvard law school and beats the swats . . . and the quintessential American musical Gypsy, about the mother of 'ecdysiast' Gypsy Rose Lee, book by Arthur Laurents, music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, with Patti LuPone, Boyd Gaines and Laura Benanti.

Looking for a West End home after regional/fringe productions/tours:

the Chichester Festival Theatre companion piece productions of Ronald Harwood's Collaboration, about the 1930s writing partnership of the composer and Nazi sympathiser Richard Strauss, and the Jewish writer Stephan Zweig, and Taking Sides, imagining the interrogation of Willhelm Furtwangler, conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra throughout the Nazi era, by an American from the De-Nazification Tribunal in post-war Germany, both plays featuring Michael Pennington with Isla Blair, Pip Donaghy, Martin Hutson, David Horovitch, Melanie Jessop and Sophie Roberts . . . Yasmina Reza's God Of Carnage, in which two couples debate different styles of parenting, following a squabble between their children that turned violent, with Richard E Grant, Lia Williams and Paul Ritter . . . the Liverpool Everyman/Playhouse production Once Upon A Time At The Adelphi, a musical taking an irreverent look at the city's most famous hotel in its 1930s heyday, written and directed by Phil Willmott . . . and a stage adaptation of Flashdance, the 1983 film about a welder and part time exotic dancer who dreams of winning a place at a dance school and becoming a ballet dancer.

In the pipeline:

All About Eve, a stage adaptation of the 1950 film inspired by Mary Orr's backstage story of an over ambitious understudy, (not the musical version Applause) may join the season at the Haymarket Theatre . . . Jeffrey Archer is adapting A Prison Diary, the memoir about his time in clink,for the stage . . . the National Theatre will stage Alan Bennett's latest play - as yet untitled - about the friendship between W H Auden and Benjamin Britten . . . The Last Cigarette, adapted by Simon Gray and Hugh Whitemore from the final volume of Gray's Smoking Diaries, featuring a cast of two men and a woman, possibly Felicity Kendal . . . the Mark Bramble-Michael Stewart-Cy Coleman circus musical Barnum, about the American showman P T Barnum, possibly with Hugh Jackman in the title role . . . Conor McPherson is working on a stage adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's short story The Birds, set in a coastal town where birds start to attack people . . . rock musician Pete Doherty is working with former band member Carl Barat on a stage musical, about the struggles of an up and coming band, which may premiere at the Donmar Warehouse . . . The Motion Group has acquired the rights to the 1973 film The Wicker Man, and director Andrew Steggall is working with the film's director Robin Hardy, on a stage adaptation of Anthony Shaffer's screenplay and David Pinner's original novel Ritual . . . Jonathan Lynn is working on a stage adaptation of Marina Lewycka's novel A Short History Of Tractors In The Ukraine . . . Jim Steinman is working with book writer Stephen Clarke on a multimedia Cirque du Soleil style show based on his songs from Meatloaf's three Bat Out Of Hell albums . . . and Lee Hall is working on a stage musical adaptation of Pink Floyd's album The Wall, which will also contain other back catalogue numbers and new material by Roger Waters.

Still possibly alive, and may yet start kicking, these were predicted for the West End in '08 (some in earlier years - even the last century) and could make it in '09:

Andrew Lippa's musical The Wild Party, based on Joseph Moncure March's 1928 poem about a decadent evening in the apartment of two vaudevillians . . . Caroline O'Connor as Judy Garland in Peter Quilter's play with music End Of The Rainbow . . . Christopher Hampton's play based on William Dalrymple's novel White Mughals, about the East India Company at the turn of the 18th century, in which a Muslim princess falls in love with an English officer. . . Cyrano, a musical version of Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac, with book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, and music by Broadway composer Frank Wildhorn, may premiere in London, possibly starring Douglas Sills . . . Nicole Kidman may return to the West End as Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler . . . Natalie Portman may star in Richard Greenberg's The American Plan, a story of five outsiders in 1960s America, directed by David Grindley . . . Ashley Judd may star in Lanford Wilson's Burn This, exploring the loneliness and dissatisfaction of a group of friends attempting to make sense of the accidental death of one of their own . . . Terry Johnson may direct Christian Slater in Tennessee Williams's Sweet Bird Of Youth, about an ageing film star's relationship with a gigolo . . . a stage version of The King Of Comedy, adapted and directed by Jeremy Sams, from Martin Scorsese's 1983 film about a man obsessed with becoming a comedian, who kidnaps his talk show host idol in order to perform his stand-up routine for him . . . Ralph Fiennes as Hamlet again, directed by Adrian Noble, at an off West End venue . . . Hans Christian Andersen, Maury Yeston's new stage musical based on the biofilm, with a score by Frank Loesser . . . a stage musical version of Frank Capra's 1946 Christmas film It's A Wonderful Life, with book by Francis Matthews, and music and lyrics by Steve Brown . . . a Bollywood style musical based on the 2002 film Bend It Like Beckham, directed by Gurinder Chadha . . . Jake Gyllenhaal in Romeo And Juliet, staged by 'director to the stars' Laurence Boswell . . . the musical version of The Three Musketeers, book by Peter Raby, music by George Stiles and lyrics by Paul Leigh. . . Disney's first original stage musical Aida, based on the same legend that inspired Verdi, with book by Linda Woolverton, Robert Falls and David Henry Hwang, music by Elton John, and lyrics by Tim Rice . . . the 1981 Tony Award winning musical Dreamgirls, previously unseen in this country, with book and lyrics by Tom Eyen, and music by Henry Krieger, portraying the backstage drama surrounding the rise to fame of a '60s Motown style girl group.