News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 6th July 2001

Broadway legend Barbara Cook is to play a four week season at the Lyric Theatre from 18th July with Mostly Sondheim. This is part of Stephen Sondheim's 70th birthday celebrations, being a selection of his work, together with pieces from the Great American Songbook that "he wishes he had written." Cook will be accompanied by her long time musical director Wally Harper, with Steve McManus on bass. Bill Kenwright presents.

Central London is to receive a 4.6m New York style makeover, with street wardens, improved rubbish collection and other environmental improvements. The scheme, called the Circle Improvement, is funded by the London Development Agency through the Central London Partnership. Its aim is to strengthen Central London's attractiveness as a place to live, work, visit and invest, after recent critical reports that have cast the capital in an unfavourable light. Five pilot projects have been established in Coventry Street, Paddington, Holborn, Lower Marsh, and Borough. The private/public partnership Business Improvement District projects in America have been hugely successful, and the Times Square BID has transformed and revitalized the theatre district, since it was established in 1992. Further information on the Times Square BID can be found from the Times Square Visitors center web site via the link from the Online Guides section of TheatreNet.

David Mamet's latest play Boston Marriage, which received its London premiere at the Donmar Warehouse earlier this year, is to be remounted at the New Ambassadors Theatre for a 12 week run from 3rd December. It will feature the original cast of Zoe Wanamaker, Anna Chancellor and Lyndsey Marshal. Set at the turn of the 19th century, it examines the ambiguous friendship between two women who live together (and their maid). Phyllida Lloyd directs.

The current Agatha Christie Theatre Festival at the Palace Westcliff, which runs until 28th July, looks as though it will mark the end of an era. Rights holders for the Christie plays (excluding The Mousetrap) are to refuse licences for further productions for an indeterminate period. Their aim is to find a new modern audience by 'repositioning the plays in the market place'. The idea is to move the Christie image away from period potboiler, by stressing the inherent violence in the tales, thus giving them a 'Tarantinoesque' makeover.

Jackie Mason returns to London with a new Millennium Show (wasn't that last year?) from 10th October to 25th November. Although the venue is yet to be officially disclosed, it will be the Queen's Theatre.

The 11th Cannizaro Park Open Air Theatre Festival runs from 14th July to 12th August. The programme includes the usual mix of Opera - Opera School Wales in Mozart's The Magic Flute and Opera Box in Puccini's La Boheme; Ballet - Ballet Russ in The Nutcracker; Shakespeare - the Cliveden Festival production of Richard III; and Music from jazz to flamenco - the Jacques Loussier Trio to Juan Martin; plus other performance and comedy events. For the first time this year Polka Theatre will present children's workshops. Full details can be found on the Cannizaro Park web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

The Theatre Museum has been awarded 330,000 by the New Opportunities Fund to digitise its collection, so that it can be made more widely available as an internet resource. Sadly the motivation for this project is not to increase the opportunities for scholarship. Under the title PeoplePlayUK, it is to create interactive games aimed at non-theatregoers, in pursuit of the dreaded accessibility, which the NOF is designed to encourage.

Penelope Wilton is to star in Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes, directed by Marianne Elliot, at the Donmar Warehouse from 4th October to 24th November. Wilton will play the matriarch of a rich and powerful Southern family who taint everything they touch with their schemes. Roger Allam to star in Peter Nichols and Denis King's Privates On Parade, directed by Michael Grandage, which follows at Christmas.

After seven years, the rules of the 50,000 Peggy Ramsay Foundation Award are to be changed, and eligibility will no longer be restricted to staging an unproduced work. Production companies who have been in existence for over two years, and have already produced at least two new plays by UK writers, can submit any proposals for encouraging new writing, such as running workshops, appointing a literary manager or commissioning plays. Further information can be obtained from the PRF at Hanover House, Hanover Square, London W1R 0BE. The deadline for submissions is 31st July.

With 666 companies, from 49 countries, presenting 1,462 shows, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, running from 5th to 27th August, retains its position as the world's largest arts festival. Among the premieres will be: Steven Berkoff's backstage comedy Dahling You Were Marvellous, originally written for television ten years ago; Mark Ravenhill's translation of Xavier Durringer's A Desire To Kill On The Tip Of The Tongue, about six social misfits driven by their search for gratification; and comedian and actor Martin Beaumont's White Van Man, introducing Sun reading urban philosopher Dave, all at C underground, presented by Wisepart Productions. Full details can be found on the Edinburgh Fringe web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

Riverdance is coming home, and will be undertaking a UK tour starting in January, which will conclude with a return to the London Apollo Hammersmith from 15th May to 22nd June.

The Rumour Machine says: that Gillian Anderson is to star in a West End play after she leaves The X Files next summer; that Sylvester Stallone is planning to turn Rocky into a Broadway musical; and that Rufus Sewell will play the title role in John Osborne's Luther, directed by Peter Gill, at the National in the autumn. The Rumour Machine grinds on.