News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 7th May 1999

The Pajama Game has found a London Home. Simon Callow's eccentrically cast (Ulrika Johnson, performance poet John Hegley, and disco diva Alison Limerick, in addition to the more likely Anita Dobson and Graham Bickley) Birmingham Repertory Theatre production will open at the Victoria Palace Theatre on 14th September. The book is by George Abbott and Richard Bissell, with music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross.

In the meantime, co-producers the Ambassadors Group and the Musicals Alliance have plans to keep the venue warm. After their current season of The Rocky Horror Show finishes, they will bring in Soul Train. This compilation show of soul songs by Mark Clements and Michael Vivian first saw the light of day (or dark of night) at Derby Playhouse in 1998 as The Grapevine. The revised version opens at Churchill Bromley and plays a shot tour before arriving at the VP on 22nd June. The cast includes Sheila Ferguson, who was there the first time round (and so may even play herself) Sharon Benson and Jackie Boatswain, and the director is Mark Clements.

The Royal Shakespeare Company has announced its Winter season. This will include: King Lear with Nigel Hawthorne, directed by Youki Ninagawa, co-produced with Thelma Holt, Samokuni Shakespeare Company, Point Tokio and HonPro, opening in Japan in September, followed by Barbican Theatre, and then Royal Shakespeare Theatre; Macbeth with Antony Sher, directed by Gregory Doran in Swan Theatre; The Taming Of The Shrew directed by Lindsay Posner in The Pit, then Swan Theatre and a national tour in the RSC mobile auditorium; Goldoni's The Servant Of Two Masters directed by Tim Supple, co-produced with the Young Vic, in The Other Place then the Young Vic; and C S Lewis' The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe returning to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre for Christmas.

Fosse will arrive in the West End in February. Following the success of Chicago, the show recreates the best known routines of Broadway choreographer Bob Fosse from the original productions of The Pajama Game, Damn Yankees, How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, Sweet Charity and Pippin. It has been playing in New York since January, produced by Livent. Ann Reinking co-directs with Richard Maltby, and co-choreographs with Chet Walker.

Music Theatre London's latest tour will play at the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith from 1st to 12th June. It consists of Tony Britten's new versions of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin directed by Nicholas Bloomfield, and Strauss' Die Fledermaus directed by Britten. The company includes MTL regulars Simon Butteriss, David Firth, Daryl Knock, Mary Lincoln and Gaynor Miles. Cultural Industry's Shockheaded Peter returns to weave his strange and magic spell for a further season from 22nd June to 10th July. Heinrich Hoffmann's cautionary tale Struwwelpeter, given a Rocky Horror style makeover, features puppetry, mime and the falsetto music of Martin Jacques and The Tiger Lillies.

Vanessa Brooks' new comedy Love Me Slender does for slimming groups what Stepping Out did for tap classes. Currently on a regional tour, and heading for London, it features Lorraine Chase as the achiever who has lost seven stone, with Alexandra Bastedo and Bella Emberg among the six chubby hopefuls. It is directed by Marina Caldarone and ITF is presenting the Perth Theatre production.

Britons have received twenty three nominations for Broadway's Tony Awards. Not About Nightingales took six, including Director - Trevor Nunn; The Iceman Cometh five, again including Director - Howard Davies; Lonesome West four; Swan Lake four, including Direction and Choreography - Matthew Bourne; Electra three, including Leading Play Actress - Zoe Wanamaker; Marlene three, including Leading Musical Actress - Sian Phillips; Amy's View two, Leading Play Actress - Judi Dench and Featured Play Actress - Samantha Bond; but Closer only received Play. There was nothing at all for The Blue Room or The Weir. Full details are on the Tony Awards site via the link from the Organisations section of TheatreNet.

The new musical Spend, Spend, Spend is coming to the West End in October. It tells the rags to riches to rags again story of Viv Nicholson. When she became the biggest pools winner ever known in 1962, she coined the title phrase, and blew the money in a couple of years. Music is by Steve Brown, with book and lyrics by Steve Brown and Justin Greene (who also directs). It is based on Nicholson's autobiography ghosted by Stephen Smith, and was well received when it was tried out at the West Yorkshire Playhouse last June, with Rosemary Ashe as Nicholson. Pola Jones is the producer.

The Vivian Ellis Prize, supporting new writing in musical theatre, is looking for an Assistant Administrator. The brief is to work on the final stages of this year's competition, from the end of May through to the Gala Showcase Of New Work at the London Palladium on 21st September. This is an expenses only position, but offers the opportunity to work with the most important figures in British musical theatre today. Contact Chris Grady on 0171 836 7732 or

Warehouse Productions is to continue its association with the Comedy Theatre. Despite the mixed response to Suddenly Last Summer, the Donmar Warehouse's West End producing arm is planning to stage Sophocles' Antigone from 15th October to 29th January. It will be directed by Declan Donnellan. I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change plays at the Comedy during the Summer. Meanwhile on home turf, Stephen Dillane and Jennifer Ehle will star in Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing from 2nd July to 7th August, directed by Donmar's newly appointed Associate Director, David Leveaux.

The Rumour Machine says: that Andrew Lloyd Weber is working on a musical about football with Ben Elton - unlikely to get even as far as the show about cricket he started on with Tim Rice some years back, which disappeared after a tryout at Sydmonton, although some of the tunes reappeared in Sunset Boulevard; and that Brian Dennehy may be next on the Hollywood to Cricklewood trail, with the current Tony nominated Broadway production of Arthur Miller's Death Of A Salesman transferring to the Old Vic Theatre at the end of the year. The Rumour Machine grinds on.