News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 2nd March 2001

All You Need Is Love, a compilation show featuring more than sixty John Lennon and Paul McCartney songs, will open at the Queen's Theatre on 29th May, following a short regional tour. Rather than attempting to inject the Beatles songs into a story, the show takes the theme of a love affair, and uses the material to illustrate the passage of the relationship. It is written and directed by Pete Brooks and Jon Miller and produced by Wizard Productions.

Maureen Lipman is joining an Off Broadway production of her daughter Amy Rosenthal's play Sitting Pretty on 7th March for its final five performances, replacing Tanny McDonald who has a prior commitment. She plays an art gallery guide, whose Rubenesque sister's life is transformed when she is made redundant and becomes a nude model for a figurative art class. Aviva Jane Carlin and Marc Jacoby also star in the play at the Hypothetical Theatre Company's space at the New 14th Street Y.

Peter Brook's controversial Paris production of Hamlet, which cuts about 40% of the text and reduces the cast to eight, is coming to London. Now retitled The Tragedy Of Hamlet, it will play at the Young Vic from 22nd August to 8th September - its only UK appearance. Adrian Lester plays the title role.

The Almeida Opera 2001 season will run from 28th June 14th July, and will include the British premieres of: Alexandra Goehr's Japanese opera double bill Kantan and Damask Drum, about the hopes and fears of two men at different ends of their lives, inspired by Noh Theatre (but sung in English) directed by Tim Hopkins; and John Casken's God's Liar, based on Tolstoy's novella Father Sergius, an epic tale of the moral and spiritual journey of cavalry officer who ends his life as a vagrant in Siberia, directed by Keith Warner.

West End Bound: Hoping to find a theatre in the autumn are: Peggy Sue Got Married, a musical based on the 1986 film, in which the leading character faints at a high school reunion and finds herself thrust back in time and given the chance to change the course of her life, with book and lyrics by Arlene Sarner and Jerry Leichtling, and music by Bob Gaudio; and Gidget, a musical aiming to do for kids on the beach what Grease did for kids high school, with book, lyrics and direction by film director Francis Ford Coppola, music and lyrics by John Farrar, and Michael White producing.

The League of American Theatres and Producers, the organisation which co-produces Broadway's Tony Awards, is creating a new a nation-wide award. The National Broadway Theatre Awards, to be known as the Star Awards, will cover Broadway shows touring across America, and be voted for by the theatregoing public. Balloting will be by post or email for productions during the 2000/2001 Broadway season, in ten categories. The awards will be presented at a ceremony in New York on 21st May. American Equity has objected to the inclusion of non-union productions in the list of nominees. As production and touring costs have escalated there has been a sharp rise in non-union tours. LATP has yet to respond. Further information can be found on the LATP web site via the link from the Organisations section of TheatreNet.

Meanwhile the Shubert Organisation has regained full control of the Lyceum, Broadway's oldest theatre, which will secure its future as a live venue. Last year a plan was proposed by co-owner Bertelsmann to turn it into the Broadway Hall Of Fame visitor attraction, with a Spirit Of Broadway theme park show featuring characters from hit musicals. The Shubert Organisation opposed this, and it has now concluded a deal for Bertelsmann to relinquish its interest. An architectural gem of its period, the Lyceum has mostly been dark in recent years. It was built in 1903 for producer David Froman who had an apartment at the top of the building, with a trap door looking down over the stage.

Actress Kathy Burke will direct the premiere of Jonathan Harvey's Out In The Open, playing at Hampstead Theatre from 20th March to 14th April. Michele Austin, Linda Bassett, Sean Gallagher and Vilma Hollingbery star as a group of friends who examine romantic love and loss and the limits of friendship. It is a co-production with Birmingham Repertory Theatre, where it runs from 23rd April to 19th May. This will be followed at Hampstead by Philip Osment's Buried Alive, a thriller that probes the family secrets which lay behind the work of a radical photojournalist, from 18th April to 19th May. It features Jane Arnfield, Louise Bush and Al Nedjari and the director is Mike Alfreds. This is a co-production with the Theatre Royal Plymouth where it premieres in the Drum from 23rd March to 7th April.

There will be sign language interpreted performances of the musicals The Witches Of Eastwick, Blood Brothers and My Fair Lady in the next three months. Further information can be found on the Society Of London Theatre web site via the link from TheatreNet.

The Rumour Machine says: that Amanda Donohoe is to play Hedda Gabler at the Royal Exchange Manchester in September, directed by Braham Murray as a prospective West End production; that Gabriel Byrne will return to the London stage in a revival this summer; and that Joley Richardson will star alongside Macaulay Culkin in Madame Melville when it transfers to Broadway next month. The Rumour Machine grinds on.


Cameron Mackintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber have cited London's crumbling infrastructure as being responsible for a decline in West End box office returns. While it is undoubtedly true that the quality of life in London has deteriorated in recent years, it has certainly not reached the stage of Broadway in the 1980s, as they would seem to assert. The biggest factor in attracting audiences is always the shows on offer. The greatest disincentive to audiences turning up at the box office is finding that plays have been reduced to the one act/seventy five minute "two blokes talking in a pub" school of drama, or that millions have been spent staging "vanity publishing" productions of unproducible musicals. The reason why Mackintosh and Lloyd Webber's latest shows are only half full is not the rubbish in the streets outside, but the quality of what is on the stage inside. They were beaten for Best Musical in the Olivier Awards by Merrily We Roll Along purely and simply by the quality of its writing. They don't need to look for excuses elsewhere.