News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 8th January 1999

Fascinating Aida return to the West End with a new show, Fascinating Aida: Barefaced Chic for a four week season at the Haymarket Theatre, opening on 8th February. Dillie Keane, Adele Anderson and Issy Van Randwyck, each a star in her own right, will be directed for the first time by Clarke Peters, currently playing Billy Flynn in Chicago. FA's web site can be found via a link from our UK Theatre Companies section.

Despite its double bubble of 1.3m compensation for the cancellation of the Royal Opera season, and the anticipated income from alternative events programmed during the period, the new Sadler's Wells is facing financial problems, after only ten weeks. Chief executive Ian Albery is looking for an increase of 2m in its annual subsidy, otherwise he says he will have to increase prices and pursue a less adventurous programming policy. Albery maintains that this will be the challenge that must be faced by all the Lottery funded new or refurbished buildings, which are just beginning to open. At last we have the facilities, but now we must fund the performances in them properly. The "third way" might be not to book shows like the four performances by Pina Bausch, which are expected to lose 200,000 even with full houses. Sadler's Wells still has to raise 3.6m to meet its share of the rebuilding costs, and meanwhile has to pay interest on the 3m bank loan taken out to cover this shortfall.

The Russian clown troupe Derevo, which made a big impact at the last Edinburgh Fringe Festival, is just one of eighteen companies from all over the world taking part in the 21st London International Mime Festival, which runs from 9th to 24th January. The companies cover the entire spectrum of physical and visual theatre - only striped jerseys and white faces will be missing. Venues include Battersea Arts Centre, ICA, Pleasance, Watermans Arts Centre, Young Vic and South Bank Centre. There will also be a series of full and half day workshops. Further information from the Festival Office on 0171 637 5661.

British theatre featured significantly in American Time magazine's Best Of Theatre 1998 list. It captured numbers: 1 - The Beauty Queen Of Leenane, the Royal Court Theatre production; 2 - Cabaret, Sam Mendes Donmar Warehouse production; 4 - Not About Nightingales, a lost Tennessee Williams play directed by Trevor Nunn; 6 - Trainspotting, the stage version of Irvine Welsh's novel; and 8 - Swan Lake, Matthew Bourne's Adventures in Motion Pictures production.

Once again a star steps down from the silver screen and alights on the streets of Islington - could there be some kink in the time space/continuum? German actor Klaus Maria Brandauer is to make his English speaking theatrical debut at the Almeida Theatre on 4th March. He will direct and star in the British premiere of Esther Vilar's play Speer, a two hander about Hitler's favourite architect, which also features Sven Erik Bechtols. This will be preceded from 24th to 27th February by David Hare in Via Dolorosa, his one man show about a visit to Israel on his (and the country's) fiftieth birthday, which was previously seen at the Royal Court Theatre.

Jonathan Harvey's new play Hushaby Mountain opens at Lyceum Theatre Crewe on 3rd February, as part of a tour presented by English Touring Theatre, which ends with a season at Hampstead Theatre during April and May. It features Andrew Lincoln and is directed by Paul Miller.

Concert promoter Harvey Goldsmith's plan to achieve stock market listing with a reverse take over of Tring International, an ailing budget CD and video distributor, seems to have gone awry. Although Tring was technically to have taken over Goldsmith's Allied Entertainments, and merged with fellow promoter Raymond Gubbay's company, Goldsmith and partner Ed Simons were to have been in the driving seat. The deal aimed to create a 15m company with access to city investment for production, and CD and video distribution to extend the life of their shows. First Gubbay backed out, frustrated at the time the deal was taking to complete, and now it appears that Tring is demanding more advantageous terms than Goldsmith is prepared to offer.

Happy Days - The Musical will receive its world premiere at Churchill Theatre Bromley on 3rd February. Based on characters from the 1970's American TV series (set in the late 1950's), the show will recycle rock 'n' roll songs of the period. The creative team includes writer/director Jon Conway, choreographer Alan Harding, script associate Terry Morrison and designer Andy Walmsley. Together with the Churchill they were responsible for the atrocity that was Boogie Nights, which applied the same technique to the hits of the 1970's, and has now gone to a better place - the knacker's yard. Craig Urbani will star as Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli. Henry Winkler, who originally played the role, will be "Creative Consultant". Hope he has a strong stomach.

Entries are invited for the 15th Vivian Ellis Prize, the national competition to discover, nurture and promote new writers in musical theatre working in Britain. A showcase of the finalists will be held at Theatre Royal Drury Lane on 23rd September, when prizes totalling 4,000 will be awarded. The closing date for entries is 1st February. Full details and application forms are available from Chris Grady, Vivian Ellis Prize, Gloucester Mansions, 140A Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1H 8AH, and there is a link to their web site from our Organisations section. A discount is available on my book Writing A Musical in our Special Offers section. The BBC is developing plans for The Cardiff International Festival Of Musicals to be held from 21st to 29th October 2000. The aim is to provide an opportunity for new writing in musical theatre and cabaret to be performed to a wide audience by major artists. It will work in tandem with the Vivian Ellis Prize, with Chris Grady as Festival Administrator. Sponsorship is being sought to make this the first of an ongoing biennial event.

The Rumour Machine says: that Duncan Weldon will present Charlton Heston in a play in the West End some time this year, but precisely what and when is still under negotiation; and that Sian Phillips will take Marlene to Broadway in April, with an American supporting cast. The Rumour Machine grinds on.