Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews
Simon Callow returns to the West End in the one man show The Mystery Of Charles Dickens, at the Albery Theatre, from 7th to 30th March. Written by Dickens biographer Peter Ackroyd, and directed by Patrick Garland, the show gives Callow the opportunity to bring Charles Dickens to life, plus thirty five of the characters he created, in a tour de force performance.
In an almost unprecedented move, British actor Henry Goodman is to succeed Nathan Lane in Mel Brooks The Producers, the multi Tony Award winning musical, which is Broadway's most successful show ever, on 19th March. Goodman will play veteran producer Max Bialystock, the role originally played in the film by Zero Mostel. It would seem logical that Goodman would then go on to open the show in London. American Steven Weber will replace Matthew Broderick as accountant and ingenue producer Leopold Bloom.
The English Touring Theatre production of Peter Gill's The York Realist is to transfer from the Royal Court Theatre to the Strand Theatre on 8th March for a seven week season. Set in York in the early 1960s, it focuses on the relationship and culture clash between a middle class outsider directing the Mystery Plays, and a local working class amateur performer. Gill directs a company comprising Richard Coyle, Lloyd Owen, Felix Bell, Ian Mercer, Wendy Nottingham, Caroline O'Neill and Anne Reid. English Touring Theatre's latest production, Ibsen's Ghosts, starring Diana Quick, directed by Stephen Unwin, is currently opening a regional tour at Malvern Festival Theatre.
Sotheby's is holding an auction of the entire stock of props hire company Ken Paul at its Bond Street saleroom from 13th to 15th March, when over 1,500 items are expected to fetch £1m. Ken Paul, which supplied film and television companies for over 50 years, had an illustrious history. The first film it furnished was The Elusive Pimpernel starring David Niven, while more recent productions include Shakespeare In Love and Titanic. Among early television series supplied were the legendary Robin Hood and The Avengers. The collection will be available for viewing before the sale on 8th and 10th to 12th March.
Greta Scacchi is to play the lead in the world premiere of The True Life Fiction Of Mata Hari, by Diane Samuels, at the Palace Theatre Watford, from 13th to 28th March. The play attempts to sift the truth from the fiction in the life of the infamous woman who was executed as spy during the First World War. Lawrence Till will direct. Preceding this will be a comedy double bill from 17th April to 4th May. It comprises Full House, a new play by John Mortimer, in which everything and everyone is at cross purposes and not what they seem, and Mortimer's new translation of Eugene Ionesco's The Hairless Diva (formerly known as The Bald Prima Donna) which is Ionesco's first and best known play, and a cornerstone of the Theatre Of The Absurd.
The League of American Theatres and Producers annual statistics for the 2000/2001 Broadway season show a record number of 11.9 million ticket sales, although because the season runs to mid year, these figures do not reflect business since September 11th. In a similar ratio to the West End, the split between tourists and residents is 56% to 44%, however the domestic/foreign split of the tourists is 83% to 17%, whereas in London it is nearer 50%/50%. The number of domestic tourists has grown by over 50% in the last two years, and the number of under 18s have quadrupled in the last decade - but that's probably due to Disney with Beauty And The Beast and The Lion King. Further information can be found on the LATP web site via the link from the Organisations section of TheatreNet.
Following the success of Shorts at BAC Opera 99, new opera gets a further airing in Six-Pack, a programme of six individual contemporary mini operas, which premieres at the Bridewell Theatre from 18th February to 9th March. It comprises Jack & Jill, words by Jo Davies and music by Rachel Leach; Doorstepping Susannah, words by Davey Moore and music by Helen Grime; Odd Numbers, words by Christina Jones and music by Julian Grant; The Phone Call, words by Barbara Diana and music by John Webb; Has It Happened Yet?, words by Bill Bankes-Jones and music by David Bruce; and Waiting For Jack, words by Lynne Williams and music by Richard Taylor. The performers are Nicholas Garrett, Daniel Norman, Natalie Raybould and Stephen Wallace, and the director is Bill Bankes-Jones. The project is jointly developed by Tete a Tete Opera Company and English National Opera Studio.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has set up a new division, MGM On Stage, with the aim of exploiting its 4,100 title film catalogue for the stage. It does not intend to finance or produce shows, as Disney has done, but simply lease their theatrical use - and participate in the profits of the merchandise generated. Unfortunately the catalogue does not include MGM's 'golden age of Hollywood' films that were sold off in troubled times in 1985, but consists of post 1948 films from United Artists, Orion, Goldwyn and Polygram, plus post 1985 MGM films. This move comes as the previously mentioned musical The Sweet Smell Of Success, based on the 1957 film, is about to start its Broadway previews and Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang, based on the 1968 film, is in production in London - both MGM films. The company is already in discussion with various interested parties about musical versions of Rocky (Sylvester Stallone), The Pink Panther (Blake Edwards), Marty and The Night They Raided Minsky's (both Charles Strouse) and Moonstruck (Patrick Shanley).
The Rumour Machine says: that the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Martin McDonagh's IRA black comedy The Lieutenant Of Inishmore will transfer to the West End when it finishes its run at the Barbican; that Disney has its eye on Drury Lane for a London production of Tim Rice and Elton John's critically trashed but commercially successful Broadway musical Aida; that Andrew Lloyd Webber's much discussed revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound Of Music will be going to the Palace Theatre (home of the original London production in 1961) when tomorrow comes for Les Miserables - although Cameron Mackintosh denies everything; and that now ALW is in producer mode, he is planning a revival of Denise Degan's schoolgirl saga Daisy Pulls It Off, which he originally produced in 1982. The Rumour Machine grinds on.