Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews
Paul Elliott, Britain's Pantomime King (Oh yes he is!) has resigned as managing director of E&B Productions, which merged with Nick Thomas and Jon Conway's AMG (Artists Management Group) to form Qdos Entertainment last year. It appears that Elliott's management style did not mesh with the new business environment. As a result he will not only leave the company he founded 36 years ago, but will cease to be Pantomime King (Oh no he isn't!) since he is bound not to produce a pantomime for three seasons after departing. At its peak E&B staged 30 simultaneous productions. Elliott will continue to manage his existing portfolio of shows, Annie, Jolson, Kat And The Kings, Buddy and the recently opened Stones In His Pockets.
Sadler's Wells summer season includes: Cookin - the new Wok'n Roll - last year's Edinburgh Fringe hit which brings Stomp and Tap Dogs into the Korean kitchen from 19th to 24th June; Grupo Corpo, fusing Afro Brazilian rhythm with classical ballet grace from 29th June to 1st July; and Circus Oz, the company which invented the "street cred - post modern - chainsaw juggling - dangerous" contemporary circus format from 1st to 27th August. The autumn/winter season will include visits by Bejart Ballet, Opera Brasil, Siobhan Davies Dance Company, Universal Ballet Korea and Paul Taylor Dance Company. At Sadler's Wells other venue, the Peacock Theatre, Okinawa Classical Dance Troupe will make its London debut on 29th and 30th June. The company is trained in the ancient traditions of the Japanese Ryukyuian royal court, and performs traditional Okinawan dances and Kumiodori dance drama which is influenced by Noh theatre.
The eighth Hampton Court Palace Festival runs from 8th to 17th June and comprises of a series of prestige events. These include Itzhak Perlman performing Beethoven's Violin Concerto, Opera North with Madame Butterfly, Jessye Norman making her only UK appearance this year, the Royal Shakespeare Company in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Flamenco And Fireworks with Paco Pena.
The regeneration of the Times Square area takes another step forward this month with the opening of the New 42nd Street Studios. The $28m 84,000 square foot building is located in the heart of the redevelopment area on 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues, next to the refurbished Times Square Theatre. It houses rehearsal facilities, and studio and office space for performing arts companies. The Roundabout Theatre Company, the Williamstown Theatre Festival and the Parsons Dance Company are among the organisations expected to relocate there. The building also contains an available for rent 199 seat black box theatre.
The Theatre Royal Bath seems to be bidding for the Theatre Royal Plymouth's crown as West Country Hit Factory, with three productions which are hopefully West End bound. Robert Hardy and Stephen Boxer star in the premiere of God and Stephen Hawking by Robin Hawdon, directed by Jonathan Church from 22nd to 26th August. It is an account of the life and vision of the author of A Brief History of Time, and his struggle with motor neurone disease, which includes among its cast of characters Newton, Einstein, Pope John Paul, The Queen and God. This will be followed by Alison Steadman, Clive Francis and Bryan Pringle in Joe Orton's Entertaining Mr Sloane directed by Terry Johnson, from 29th August to 2nd September. Orton's tale of attempted blackmail which backfires, his first produced work in 1964, established his distinctive and subversive style and outraged the establishment. English Touring Theatre's production of Ferenc Molnar's The Guardsman starring Greta Scacchi, directed by Janet Suzman, plays from 11th to 16th September. It is the story of an obsessive and jealous actor who disguises himself and attempts to test his wife's fidelity. Enter the Guardsman, an adaptation of the 1910 play, won an international musical competition and was staged at the Donmar Warehouse in 1997.
Asda supermarkets, presumably under the influence of their American parent company Wal-Mart, are launching a programme of drive in movies in their car parks this summer. It will feature at selected branches across the country from Edinburgh to Plymouth, and will be the complete experience, with usherettes on roller skates delivering popcorn, pizza, hot dogs and drinks to customers, who can tune their car radios to hear the soundtrack. Asda is aiming for the family market showing films such as Jurassic Park, Babe and most suitably Grease. For those who tire of the entertainment, the supermarkets will remain open for the duration. The money raised from the £1 ticket sales will be donated to charity.
The City Of London Festival running from 20th June to 13th July includes the usual mixture of lunchtime events, an early evening Rush Hour series and evening concerts, with music ranging from Bach and Handel to Tavener. The theme of the mostly free The World At One lunchtime programme of concerts, talks and performances is life at the turn of the last millennium. Rush Hour concerts are devoted to the complete cycle of Beethoven's violin sonatas. Evening concert performers range from major orchestras through to the Jacques Loussier Trio and Ravi Shankar. An accompanying programme of walks, visits and exhibitions reveals hidden treasures of the City. There is a link to the City of London Festival site from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.
The Battersea Arts Centre is presenting Matters of Life And Death a month long season inspired by death from 16th June. It includes: John Hegley performing Death And Dancing "the two most important words beginning with D"; Frantic Assembly in Hymns; Simon Munnery investigating Sex And Death; Stiff, the collaboration between physical comedy director Cal McCrystal and international black clown surrealists Spymonkey; Corin Redgrave performing Oscar Wilde's De Profundis, and Robert Katz as John Diamond in A Lump In My Throat. BAC must be catching the current wave, because 5th June sees the launch of www.burymeright.com, a web site which allows visitors to explore the options for their final curtain call. It is not a sales site, but an overview of historical practice and current possibilities, plus links to sites offering everything from cryogenics to legal advice.
Business Section: SFX, the "start up to world's largest promoter, producer and venue operator in five years" company, which owns Apollo Theatres and Barry Clayman Concerts in Britain, has struck again. It has swallowed up three Canadian companies: Core Audience Entertainment, the country's second largest concert promoter, the Sports Management Group, and Black Canyon, an award winning television production company. Ticketmaster, the world's biggest ticketing agency has bought highflying online newcomer TicketWeb, the American company specialising in software which allows venues to run a box office from any internet connected computer.
The Rumour Machine says: that this year's Christmas show at Sadler's Wells will be the RSC production of C.S. Lewis The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe; and that after a high powered workshop, the Really Useful Group has decided that the Pet Shop Boys/Jonathan Harvey musical, now called Closer To Heaven, is not West End material. The Rumour Machine grinds on.