News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 8th June 2001

Mel Brooks musical The Producers made history at the 55th Tony Awards ceremony by winning in all the categories in which it was nominated, receiving a record breaking 12 awards. These included Best Musical, Designs, Score and Book, and shattered the previous record of 10 Tonys set by Hello Dolly! in 1964. Both its stars, Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, were nominated for Best Actor, and when Lane won, he took Broderick up on stage and accepted the award on behalf of them both. Susan Stroman cemented her position as the world's leading stager of musicals by winning both Best Direction and Best Choreography. The only (and very tenuous) British involvement was via Tom Stoppard's The Invention Of Love, where Richard Easton took Best Actor and Robert Sean Leonard won Best Featured Actor. Full details can be found on the Tony Award web site via the link from the Organisations section of TheatreNet.

The Producers helped Broadway to break other records in the 2000/2001 season which has just ended, according to figures released by The League of American Theatres and Producers. Grosses reached $666m - an increase of 10% on the previous season. This was partly due to a price rise of 5.7%, which saw best seats break the $100 barrier for the first time. It was also due to total attendances rising by over 4% to 11.9m, with week ending 23rd April setting a new Broadway record of 308,000 admissions. The down side was a substantial fall in the number of new productions at 28, compared with 37 in the previous season. Further Broadway statistics can be found on the LATP web site via the link from the Organisations section of TheatreNet.

It's a familiar event for Edinburgh, but the Covent Garden Festival has achieved its first West End transfer. The Watermill Theatre Newbury's production of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Gondoliers is to open at Lyric Theatre on 21st June. The show has been given a jazz makeover by adaptor and director John Doyle, and now a Chicago Mafia family descends on a London Italian jazz cafe (The Gondola) to find out which of the Palmieri brothers is the new head of 'the family'. As in Doyle's previous Watermill musicals the company is made up of actor musicians who accompany themselves: Karen Mann, Mike Afford, Chris Dickens, Jo Baird, Rebecca Arch, Elizabeth Marsh, Eddie Burton and Mark Crossland.

Harold Pinter is to star in his play One For The Road which will play twice nightly at the very busy New Ambassadors Theatre from 3rd to 7th July. In the one act piece an interrogator in a totalitarian state torments in turn a tortured prisoner, his wife and their child. Cries of "Born to play it"? There will be no Vagina Monologues that week.

The Venice Opera Company has found its first home for five years in the newly reopened Malibran Theatre, which is one of Europe's oldest musical theatres, dating from 1678. The VOC has been performing in a circus tent on the outskirts of the city since the famous La Fenice Theatre was destroyed by fire 1996. The slow progress being made on the restoration of La Fenice should be judged against the nine years it took to refurbish the Malibran after the city council assumed control of the project, which had already been in hand for ten years. Current projections of La Fenice reopening in 2003 seem unrealistically optimistic. Progress can be monitored on La Fenice's web site (which also includes a history of the Malibran) via the link from the International section of TheatreNet.

The Bridewell Theatre's summer programme includes the British premiere of the musical Songs For A New World, written by Jason Robert Brown, from 13th August to 15th September. It captures life-changing moments, exploring the excitement and danger people feel when on the brink of something new and unknown, whether it's founding a new civilisation or starting a new relationship. The cast includes Anna Francolini, Nigel Richards and Jenna Russell, and the director is Clive Paget. The Bridewel concert series presents LalalalaChiusa featuring the words and music of John LaChiusa, with Michael Cahill, Anna Francolini, Nigel Richards and Jenna Russell, again directed by Clive Paget on 16th, 23rd and 30th July; and Agent Provocateur, songs of social, political and sexual provocation, devised and directed by Carol Metcalfe, on 20th and 27th August and 3rd and 10th September.

The Royal Opera and The Royal Ballet have announced details of their 2001/2002 seasons, with 270 performances, an increase of 16 on the current season. The Royal Opera will present 20 productions, of which 4 will be new, with highlights including Luciano Pavarotti in Tosca, Placido Domingo in The Queen Of Spades, Bryn Terfel as Don Giovanni, Willard White in Parsifal, Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu in La Rondine, and Cecilia Bartoli's Covent Garden debut in Orfeo ed Euridice. The Royal Ballet will add a number of international works to its repertoire including Rudolf Nureyev's staging of Don Quixote, John Cranko's Onegin and a triple bill featuring Stephen Baynes Beyond Bach; while Peter Wright's The Nutcracker and Kenneth MacMillan's Romeo And Juliet return. Deborah Bull will become artistic director of the two new spaces, the Linbury and Clore studios, with a brief to develop new attractions. In a bid to make tickets affordable, the cheapest seat prices will be frozen, with over half the house under 50 and almost a quarter under 28 for opera, and almost half the house under 19 for ballet.

The Theatrical Management Association is looking for enthusiastic and knowledgeable regional theatregoers to join the 140 strong judging panel for next year's Barclays Theatre Awards, which are given for excellence in all areas of regional theatre. Panellists receive a pair of free tickets for all shows playing in their area during the qualifying year. Leaflets containing full details and an application form can be found in regional theatres throughout the UK, or can be obtained direct from the TMA by calling 020 7557 6722 or emailing The closing date for applications is 6th July.

The London Bubble will be performing Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels as an outdoor promenade entertainment in Valentines Park, Waterlow Park, Brockwell Park, Oxleas Woods, Gunnersbury Park and Dulwich Park during July and August. Further information can be found on the London Bubble web site via the link from the UK Theatre Companies section of TheatreNet.

The Rumour Machine says: that David Essex will be joining Andrew Lloyd Webber's Bollywood musical Bombay Dreams, which has now been bumped to next summer; that historic but unlisted stage machinery at the London Palladium, including the famous revolve, is to be scrapped in order to accommodate the stage musical of Ian Fleming's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; and that Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan will rekindle their Les Liaisons Dangerous spark for a West End production of Noel Coward's Private Lives. The Rumour Machine grinds on.