Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews
The second International Festival of Musical Theatre will be held in Cardiff from 1st to 17th April. The event will be a celebration of the art form of Musical Theatre, old and new, large and small, combining performances, concerts, cabaret, masterclasses, exhibitions and films. It will also include showcase performances of the 9 finalists selected from 237 entrants in the Global Search For New Musicals, and the Voice of Musical Theatre competition for young professional vocalists, the first winner of which in 2000 was Laura Michelle Kelly - currently to be found at 17 Cherry Tree Lane (entrance via Prince Edward Theatre). Among the highlights will be the premiere production of Amazing Grace, with book by Frank Vickery, and music and lyrics by Mal Pope, directed by Michael Bogdanov, about Evan Roberts and the Welsh revival; and Stephen Sondheim's participation in a symposium. Further information can be found on the IFMT web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.
Shakespeare 4 Kidz, the touring company that styles itself as the National Shakespeare Company for children and young people, is to bring its current productions of The Tempest and Macbeth, to central London for the first time. Performed by a company of fourteen, they will play afternoon and early evening performances at the New Players Theatre, from 22nd March to 9th April. The musical adaptations of the Bard have book and lyrics by Julian Chenery, who also directs, and music by Matt Gimblett.
Oxford Stage Company is presenting a season of three neglected plays by German writers: Frank Wedekind's Musik, a story involving a backstreet abortionist, directed by Deborah Bruce; Gerhart Hauptmann's Rose Bernd, about the downfall of a young woman, directed by Gari Jones; and Arthur Schnitzler's Professor Bernhardi, which examines institutional anti Semitism in a hospital, directed by Mark Rosenblatt. The productions, co-produced with Dumbfounded Theatre, will be performed by an ensemble of 16 actors in repertoire at the Arcola Theatre in Dalston from 17th March to 7th May. The company also opens a regional tour of August Strindberg's Easter, in a new translation by Gregory Motton, with Sally Edwards, Edward Peel, Bo Paraj, Nicholas Shaw, Frances Thorburn and Katherine Tozer, directed by Dominic Dromgoole, at the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton on 17th March. The play is the story of a family with a creditor about to seize their house and possessions, and the father in prison for embezzlement, who find hope over the three days of Easter with the return of the daughter from a mental institution. Dromgoole will also direct the classic Ben Travers farce Rookery Nook, which will open a regional tour at the Northcott Theatre in Exeter on 19th May.
For the first time, the Tower of London is to host a music festival, an unlikely combination of opera and jazz, taking place in the moat from 6th to 16th July. The opera will be Donizetti's Anna Bolena, the second act of which is set in the Tower, featuring Hannah Francis, Charles Johnston and Jennifer Johnston, and directed by Tom Hawkes. The jazz performers, ranging from names of the '50s to the present day, will include Amy Winehouse, Kyle Eastwood, Humphrey Lyttelton, Acker Bilk, Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames, James Taylor Quartet, Katie Melua, Clare Teal, Blue Harlem, Lisa Stansfield and Swing Out Sister. Further information can be found on the TLFM web site via the link from Festivals in the Links section of TheatreNet.
The spring season at the Bush Theatre will include three premieres: Amelia Bullmore's Mammals, a darkly humorous look at the flip side of 'home sweet home', with Niamh Cusak, Helena Lymbery, Jane Hazlegrove and Daniel Ryan, directed by Anna Mackmin, from 8th April to 7th May; Lin Coghlan's Kingfisher Blue, about four young men and the reality of their everyday life against their dreams of escape, directed by Paul Miller, from 20th May to 18th June; and People Show with The Obituary Show, exploring the story between the lines of a newspaper obituary, from 1st to 23rd July.
Hampstead Theatre will host the Bush Theatre/Royal Lyceum Edinburgh co-production of Sharman Macdonald's The Girl With Red Hair, with Sean Biggerstaff, Emma Campbell Jones, Joanne Cummins, Christopher Dunne, Patricia Kerrigan, Helen McAlpine, Sheila Reid and Sandra Voe, directed by Mike Bradwell, from 24th March to 16th April. It tells of how strangers, friends and family in a small community are united by their grief at the death of seventeen year old girl. The Eclipse Theatre production of Roy Williams's play about gang culture, Little Sweet Thing, with Kay Bridgeman, Ben Brooks, Richie Campbell, Seroca Davis, Glenn Hodge, Ashley Madekwe, Marcel McCalla and Lauren Taylor, directed by Michael Buffong, follows at Hampstead from 19th to 23rd April.
Architect Norman Foster is involved in a project to transform Castle Williams, a stone fortress on Governor's Island in New York harbour, south east of Manhattan, into a new Globe Theatre. The circular building, constructed in 1811, and now in a state of advanced disrepair, has 8ft thick walls three storeys high, and was variously a defence fortification, a prison, and a Coastguard station, but has been empty since 1997. The National Park service, to whom the 172 acre island has now been made over, is seeking proposals for public use of the site. The fortress has almost exactly the same floor plan as Shakespeare's Globe in London, and Foster's design is broadly similar to this, but with a retractable roof, seating for 1,200 and 400 groundling places for people to stand.
The Royal Opera House is continuing its ROH2 series of innovative and experimental small scale dance, opera and music events, staged in the Linbury Studio Theatre, Clore Studio Upstairs and Vilar Floral Hall. These include visits by outside companies such as American Ballet Theatre Studio Company with a classical mixed bill; Music Theatre Wales's new production of Michael Tippet's The Knot Garden, directed by Michael McCarthy; and Royal Opera House productions of William Tuckett's staging of Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale, with Adam Cooper, Mathew Hart and Will Kemp, and the British premiere of Philip Glass's Orphee, based on the Jean Cocteau film, directed and designed by Francisco Negrin and Es Devlin. The popular Lunchtime Jazz sessions with the Malcolm Edmonstone Trio and guests including members of the ROH Orchestra, and Tea Dances with the New Covent Garden Band continue. Full details can be found on the ROH web site via the link from London Venues in the Links section of TheatreNet.
The Rumour Machine says: that Blue Man Group, the bald blue headed performance trio, whose idiosyncratic multi media shows have played Off Broadway since 1991, and subsequently in other cities, are expected to open at the New London Theatre in April; that Ashley Judd will be the next American film actress to hit the West End stage, in Lanford Wilson's drama Burn This, courtesy of the 'star' importing company Out Of The Blue; and that London will soon be seeing Gregory Murphy's Off Broadway success The Countess, about the triangular relationship of Victorian art critic John Ruskin, his wife Effie and John Everett Millais - covering similar territory to Peter Whelan's recent The Earthly Paradise, about William Morris , his wife Janey and Dante Gabriel Rosetti. The Rumour Machine grinds on.