News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 8th October 1999

Jonathan Miller is to direct John Gay's The Beggar's Opera, with the music newly arranged by Jonathan Lloyd, for Broomhill Opera at Wilton's Music Hall, from 24th November to 18th December. Since its first performance in 1728, Gay's satire on self-interest, public corruption and vice, has become one of the most performed and adapted works in musical theatre. Wilton's, built in 1858, and the oldest surviving music hall in the world, is in Grace's Alley off Cable Street E1.

Associated Capital Theatres (we're number 2 - we're trying harder to find a new owner) is not standing still while it awaits a buyer. ACT has taken over the management and programming of the Playhouse Theatre, which has itself been up for sale for nearly a year, during which time it has mostly been dark. This should ensure a secure future for the Playhouse, which has had a chequered career under a succession of non theatre experienced owners, since it was refurbished and returned to theatre use, after many years as a BBC radio studio. However, it's not all good news for ACT. Following his recent snatching of the leases of the Gielgud and Queens theatres from Stoll Moss, Cameron Mackintosh has now outbid ACT for the Albery and Wyndhams, and will take control from 2005.

The Royal Shakespeare Company has released the final details of its winter season at the Barbican. Timon Of Athens and Don Carlos transferring from Stratford, will be joined by two new productions: Chekhov's The Seagull, in a new version by Peter Gill, with Penelope Wilton, Richard Johnson, Richard Pasco and Barry Stanton, directed by Adrian Noble; and Victoria, a new play by David Greig, set on the Scottish coast, where a woman's actions affect the community over a 60 year period.

German impresario Peter Schwenkow is negotiating a rescue package for Harvey Goldsmith's concert promotion companies, which are now in receivership. Schwenkow had been talking about buying a stake before the collapse, and it is expected that he will refinance the business through his company Deutsche Entertainment. Goldsmith would retain some equity and continue to run the companies. Schwenkow took a 50% stake in Marshall Arts, another British concert promoter last July, and aims to become a global player.

Further productions in the new Almeida Theatre season have been announced. Jean-Louis Trintignant makes his British stage debut performing a piece with music based on the poems of Loius Aragon, from 11th to 15th January. Bash, a trilogy of plays by Neil LaBute about "beautiful people doing awful things", will play from 2nd February to 11th March. It premiered in June Off Broadway, directed by Joe Mantello (the original director of the controversial Chorpus Christi) with a cast which included Calista Flockhart. Harold Pinter's new play Celebration will star Lindsay Duncan, Steven Pacey and Lia Williams, and play as a double bill with his first work The Room. Richard Eyre will direct his new version of Jean Paul Sartre's The Novice running from 10th May to 17th June.

Broadway is facing the biggest demand for theatres since the '60's, with more than a dozen new musicals vying for prime venues. Landlords Shubert, Nederlander and Jujamcyn claim that there are three shows for every musical house. Past relationships will come into play, as among the contenders are: Cameron Mackintosh still trying with Martin Guerre; Scott Rudin with two shows - Stephen Sondheim's Wise Guys directed by Sam Mendes, and George C Woolfe's The Wild Party; and Alexander Cohen with Lauren Bacall in Noel Coward's Waiting In The Wings.

Despite this, the downsizing of existing shows is becoming a trend. First The Scarlet Pimpernel closed at the Minskoff, took a four month sabbatical while it slimmed down (losing 12 performers in the process) and reopened at the Neil Simon last month. Beauty And The Beast, which has closed at the Palace, will reappear on 12th November at the Lunt-Fontanne, scaled down both scenically and in personnel. Now SFX is considering a similar cost cutting move in January for Ragtime, which it acquired in its take over of Livent. SFX is looking at reducing the cast of 45, and claims that the show was "overproduced" originally. The Actors Equity contract allows producers to reshape shows in this way after a minimum six week closure, as they are considered new productions, rather than transfers.

Richard O'Brien is seriously(!) working on a sequel to The Rocky Horror Show, which seems to have been continuously touring for its entire 26 year lifespan. It is to be called inevitably Rocky Horror: The Second Coming, and most of the numbers have been completed. With the problems which Annie 2 has faced, and Andrew Lloyd Webber abandoning Phantom II, the omens are not propitious for creating a follow up to any show, least of all a cult.

And talking of cults, film director Peter Greenaway has become disenchanted with the medium, declaring "Cinema is dead". Having tortured filmgoers with his work over the last twenty years, he has turned his attention to opera, and is already engaged in his second opus, Writing To Vermeer. This is based on 18 letters written by Greenaway in response to the painter's life, and is scheduled to open in Amsterdam. No news of what happened to his first attempt.

The Rumour Machine says: that David H Bell's musical of Caspar is looking to come to the Shaftesbury Theatre for Christmas - the show was tried out at a Butlin's holiday centre, and will certainly be an unprecedented transfer if it goes ahead; that the musical Napoleon is also interested in the Shaftesbury in the spring; and that the Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell team, of writer Keith Waterhouse and director Ned Sherrin, is working on bringing the Alan Clarke diaries to the stage - presumably under the title of Alan Clarke Is In flagrante - the possibility of Peter O'Toole's participation is unknown. The Rumour Machine grinds on.