News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 2nd October 1998

The Almeida season at the Albery Theatre will continue in the new year, with Maxim Gorky's Vassa (aka Vassa Zheleznova and Mother Zheleznova), in a new translation by Peter Gill, directed by Howard Davies, opening on 20th January. The play tells the story of a formidable matriarch who sees her family destroyed by its adherence to her values.

At the 14th, and possibly most successful Vivian Ellis Prize Showcase ever, at Theatre Royal Drury Lane on 1st October, the award for Most Promising Musical was shared between China Song by Gary Carpenter and Simon Nicholson, and Dearly Beloved by Timothy Higgs and Robert Styles. Quote of the event from Tim Rice: Let's keep this in perspective - the writing in Oklahoma! is so strong it could have been directed by Stevie Wonder.

Talking of which, the sell-out National Theatre production of Oklahoma! which is just closing, is as previously forecast here, to be remounted at the Lyceum Theatre for a season from 20th January to 26th June, presented by Cameron Mackintosh. Most of the existing principals will remain, including Hugh Jackman, Josefina Gabrielle and Shuler Hemsley (Curly, Laurey and Judd).

There are plans for a West End version of Sam Mendes Broadway production of Kander and Ebb's Cabaret, with Natasha Richardson and Alan Cumming late next year, possibly at the Prince Of Wales Theatre, with the stalls converted to table and chair cabaret seating. This production is based on Mendes previous Donmar Warehouse presentation, with Cumming and Jane Horrocks, who had some difficulty coping with the show's vocal demands.

The Mousetrap Foundation, the charity which provides opportunities for young people to attend West End theatre, has been awarded 50,000 from the Arts Council's New Audiences programme. This will enable the Foundation to pursue three initiatives: Student Matinees - free tickets for student-only performances of a West End play; First Act - an education programme to help teachers develop curriculum related projects involving a West End play; and Family First Nights - an initiative to help families who could not normally afford tickets to see a West End musical. This follows the pilot project which enabled more than 2000 students to see the comedy Art, attend a pre-show workshop at the Theatre Museum, and participate in an after-show discussion with the cast.

Ugly Rumours, the contemporary political satire by Tariq Ali and Howard Brenton, will finally be seen at the Tricycle Theatre from 22nd October to 28th November. It features Richard Durden, Jaye Griffiths, Gordon G Kennedy, Carla Mendonca, Neil Mullarkey and Sylvia Syms. The directors are Christopher Morahan and Stephen Rayne.

The Sunday night Perrier Pick Of The Fringe season at Her Majesty's Theatre will feature: 4th October - Sean Lock and Sean Cullen; 11th October - Peter Kaye and Ed Byrne; 18th October - Best Newcommer winners The Mighty Boosh and Perrier Award Winner Tommy Tiernan. Another fringe performer, Lenny Beige will be appearing late night at the Criterion Theatre for the next ten Fridays, until 4th December, presented by Criterion Productions. The run of The Reduced Shakespeare Company continues unaffected.

Touring Dates: Peter Bowles and Mark McGann will star in a tour of Anthony Shaffer's landmark thriller Slueth during the first half of next year, which will then look for a West End home. It will be directed and produced by Peter Wilson. Dulcie Gray will lead a stage production based on the film The Ladykillers starting in January.

If you would like to take part in the selection process of the Laurence Olivier Awards, rather than simply marvelling at the inability of the presenters to read an autocue at the ceremony, this is your chance. The three adjudicating panels for the Theatre, Opera and Dance awards include members of the public who enjoy going to the theatre regularly, and have wide and varied taste. Panellists receive complementary tickets for each production they are asked to see, which may be anything up to 60 in total. People professionally connected with the theatre industry are not eligible to participate. For more details see the Society Of London Theatre web site via the link to the right of this column, or call 0171 557 6700. The closing date for applications is 16th November.

The Rumour Machine says: that Cameron Mackintosh's stage version of Mary Poppins has completely stalled, because of a stalemate with Disney Productions. Mackintosh thought he had bought out the stage rights completely, but Disney has final approval. George Styles and Anthony Drewe have written new songs and Mackintosh wants Julie Andrews to star (she is now the age the character is in the books) but Disney don't want her, and won't give approval, so there is paralysis. The Rumour Machine grinds on.