News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 3rd December 2004

The previously mentioned stage musical version of Victoria Wood’s Acorn Antiques, the cod soap opera with dubious production values that appeared regularly in her television series, will premiere at the Theatre Royal Haymarket on 31st January. It will feature the original cast of Julie Walters, Celia Imrie and Duncan Preston, who will be joined by Josie Lawrence, Neil Morrissey and Sally Ann Triplett, directed by Trevor Nunn. Walters will play only six shows a week, with Wood standing in at the other two. The show will break all previous West End ticket price barriers, with stalls and dress circle seats costing £65, and even balcony seats costing £27.50. This is considerably more than the price of a ticket for a musical on Broadway. The producer is Phil McIntyre.

The Barbican’s new BITE: 05 season will include visits from the Abbey Theatre Dublin with Sean O’Casey’s The Plough And The Stars, directed by Ben Barnes; the CICT / Theatre des Bouffes du Nord production of Ta Main Dans La Mienne (Your Hand In Mine) by Carol Rocamora, taken from correspondence between Olga Knipper and Anton Chekov, adapted by Marie Helene Estienne, with Natasha Parry and Michel Piccoli, directed by Peter Brook; Fabulous Beast Dance Company’s radical contemporary Irish reworking of Giselle, written and directed by Michael Keegan-Dolan; New York City Players with two plays written, directed and composed by Richard Maxwell, Joe, in which five actors portray a life journey from pre-teen to senior citizen, and beyond, and Showcase, a site specific performance in a hotel bedroom as a man ponders his recent encounters; the premiere of Theatre O’s Astronaut ‘a domestic odyssey about faith, lost opportunities and conquering gravity’; and a new production of Julius Caesar, with Ralph Fiennes leading a cast of over 100, directed by Deborah Warner.

Broadway Bound: Shockheaded Peter, created by Julian Bleach, Anthony Cairns, Tamzin Griffin, Jo Pocock and Graeme Gilmour, will open at the Little Shubert Theatre on 22nd February, with the original cast, directed by Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott . . . Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman will open at the Booth Theatre 10th April, starring Billy Crudup, Jeff Goldblum, Zeljko Ivanek and Michael Stuhlbarg, directed by John Crowley, and produced by Bob Boyett, Robert Fox, The Shubert Organization and The National Theatre . . . Christine Baranski will lead the cast in the American premiere of Moira Buffini’s Dinner, for which the setting will be moved from the Scottish Highlands to Newport, Rhode Island.

The Sleeping Beauty On Ice aims to marry world class skating with the intimacy of theatre, in a national tour opening at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff on 12th January. Mandy Woetzel heads a company of 23 Olympic, World and European championship skaters performing to Tchaikovsky’s ballet score.

It is confirmed that Brad Oscar, Nathan Lane’s original Broadway replacement, will succeed Lane in the West End production of Mel Brooks’s The Producers in January. Oscar is currently playing the role at St James’s Theatre in New York.

Ian Marshall Fisher’s Lost Musicals series, presenting neglected shows by great American Broadway theatre writers, is returning with a new season of Sunday afternoon performances at the Lilian Baylis Theatre. Fanny, by Harold Rome, Joshua Logan and S N Behrman, based upon Marcel Pagnol's comedic melodramatic trilogy Fanny, Marius and Cesar, set in Marseilles, where a young girl is faced with a dilemma to avoid disgrace, will play in March. Silk Stockings, by Cole Porter, George S Kaufman, Leueen McGrath and Abe Barrows, based on the film Ninotchka, about a Cold War era romance between a Soviet commissar and an American movie producer, will play in May and June. Evening Primrose by Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman, written for television from a short story by John Collier, about a poet, who escapes the world by living in a department store, where he falls in love with one of the window mannequins, will play in July.

Margot Fonteyn, Meredith Daneman’s account of Britain’s best known ballet dancer, recently published by Viking, reveals a life that was part fairy tale and part American dream. Born plain Peggy Hookham, she was transformed into a world star by the architects of British ballet, Ninette de Valois, Frederick Ashton and Constant Lambert - and of course by her talent. Her public image, allied to the pure and poetic heroines she portrayed (and with whom she made her name) was completely at odds with her private life. Having been a star since she was 16, at the age when other dancers think of retirement, her career began again, reaching new heights in partnership with Rudolf Nureyev. Daneman, who trained at the Royal Ballet school, has produced not only a fascinating account of a life that defied its image, but also an insight into the tough reality of the supposedly refined and effete world of ballet, with contributions from just about everyone who was anyone in ballet at the time.

Angela Thorne, Brigit Forsyth and Sylvester McCoy will star in a regional tour of Joseph Kesselring’s Arsenic And Old Lace, directed by Robin Herford, opening at Richmond Theatre on 31st January. The classic American black comedy is the tale of two little old ladies who poison ‘sad and lonely old men’ as a act of charity, and bury them in the basement of their Victorian home in Brooklyn. It is a Churchill Theatre Bromley production.

A provision in the late Broadway lyricist Fred Ebb’s will has set up The Fred Ebb Foundation, among whose initiatives supporting new musical theatre writing will be a $50,000 annual prize to a young composer or lyricist. This is in the tradition of the foundations set up in memory of lyricist Ed Kleban and writer, lyricist and composer Jonathan Larson. Winners can use the money either to stage readings or productions, or to support themselves so that they are able to concentrate on writing full time. Curtains, a long time project of Ebb’s, with music by regular collaborator John Kander, and book by Peter Stone and Rupert Holmes, will get a reading in New York February. An original story, it is set during the tryout of a Broadway bound musical, in which one of the producers is murdered, and every member of the cast and crew is a suspect. Susan Stroman is to direct The Minstrel Show, another Kander and Ebb musical in development, with book by David Thompson, which will use blackface to tell story of the Scottsboro Boys, an infamous case of injustice and prejudice in the 1930s American south.