News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 9th June 2000

The list of Tony Award winners once again has a strong showing of British names. Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing won Best Revival of a Play, with Jennifer Ehle and Stephen Dillane taking Best Leading Actress and Best Leading Actor. Michael Frayn's Copenhagen was Best Play. Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida won Best Original Score, and Best Scenic Design for Bob Crowley. Roy Dotrice took Best Featured Actor for A Moon For The Misbegotten. Michael Blakemore (Australian but adopted Brit) made history by winning Best Direction of a Play for Copenhagen and Best Direction of a Musical for Kiss Me, Kate. Dame Edna Everege (ditto) was given a special Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre award for Dame Edna: The Royal Tour. Full details can be found on the Tony Awards web site via the link from the Organisations section of TheatreNet.

$CAM, a new play by Jeffrey Beatty, which runs at the Riverside Studios from 13th June to 1st July, is the true story one of the greatest con tricks of the 20th century. Oscar Hartzell, an Iowa farm boy, claimed to have seized control of the estate of Sir Francis Drake, and worked his way through the mid west over a 14 year period persuading over 70,000 people to part with their life savings in return for a share. The producers, Head To Toe Productions, have just proved that man's instincts haven't changed much in 80 years, by launching a similar online scam. Using Hartzell's own name and language they promised 6,200 for a 10 investment, and 35,000 people registered. HTT claim that they didn't take the money - but try to access their web site and all you get is an error message. The question is, does the play exist?

A suitably epic saga of dynastic succession is being played out at the opera house in Bayreuth over the Wagner heritage. Control of the annual opera festival, dedicated to the work of Richard Wagner, is currently in the hands of his 80 year old grandson Wolfgang. A 24 member committee is charged this week with nominating a successor from the feuding family factions. The contenders are wife Gudrun, daughter Eva and niece Nike. Wolfgang favours his wife, seen as a caretaker appointment until his younger daughter Katharina (who has just finished a theatre studies degree) is ready to take over. Nike is considered the best qualified, but controversial, since she has voiced plans to revitalise the festival by extending the performances and repertoire. When Eva appeared to be coming through as the compromise candidate, Wolfgang's response was to say that he might change his mind about retiring. Nobody mentions the son Gottfried who has been banned from setting foot in the building. Wolfgang has been at odds with most of his family since an interview in 1976 when he said that none of them was fit to succeed him. Confused? You will be.

The British street dance and percussion phenomenon Stomp is to become a 3D giant screen digital surround sound Imax film, to be directed by Jim Stern for release in 2002. Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas created the show as street theatre in Brighton in 1991. Since then it has been continuously touring the world, and has now played to more than seven and a half million people in thirty one countries. There are currently three international touring companies, and the Off Broadway production at the Orpheum Theatre is in its seventh year. Meanwhile the latest release at the BFI London Imax, Britain's largest ever cinema screen, is Into The Deep an underwater extravaganza which brings moviegoers within biting distance of a great white shark.

Figures just released for the 1999/2000 Broadway season contain mixed messages. The total box office take was a record breaking $603bn, up 2.6% on the previous year, but this was accounted for by higher prices rather than bigger attendences. Total numbers were 11.4m, dipping from the previous year's all time record of 11.7m, while average seat price was $53, up from $50.5. There were 1,460 playing weeks in the season, the highest since 1980/81. Theatres operated at 78% capacity, with 37 openings, down 2., a new web site which claims to offer the most comprehensive coverage ever of the Great White Way, can be found via a link from the On-line Guides section of TheatreNet.

This year's Lost Musicals season, the annual concert showcases of musicals that have rarely been revived will include: Cole Porter's The Gay Divorce at the Palace Theatre on 17th and 24th September; and Kurt Weill's One Touch of Venus, written with S.J. Perelman and Ogden Nash, at the Linbury Studio Theatre at the Royal Opera House in December. The concerts will feature the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the original Agnes De Mille ballet.

The Theatre Investment Fund, in association with the Society Of London Theatre and the Arts Council of England, is inviting applications for a New Producer's Bursary. The bursaries are intended to support individuals in progressing their careers as theatre producers. Successful applicants will be able to use the bursary to develop and/or present a new production. In addition to a broad package of financial assistance of up to 15,000 per applicant, the scheme also provides the benefit of an established industry figure as a mentor for the project. For further information and an application form, send an A4 SAE to: New Producer's Bursary, Theatre Investment Fund, Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1V 8AY. The closing date for the first round of applications is 30th June.

Actor and writer David Haig's The Good Samaritan, which premieres at Hampstead Theatre on 11th July, features Polly Adams, Julian Wadham, Claudie Blakley, Victoria Alcock, Daniel Crowder, Jane Gurnett and Jay Simpson. Haig used his experience as a Samaritan as inspiration for the story of a man who is caught between personal and professional motives. Jonathan Dove directs.

This year's Buxton Festival runs from 13th to 23rd July. It centres on performances at the Opera House of Schubert's Fierrabras, Handel's Rodelinda and Jane Eyre with music by Michael Berkeley and libretto by David Malouf, commissioned for the Cheltenham International Festival of Music. There is an accompanying programme of recitals, chamber music concerts, and for the first time, literary events with Fay Weldon, Vanessa Redgrave, Sir Jeremy Isaacs, Margaret Drabble and Beryl Bainbridge. Full details from the Buxton Festival web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

The Rumour Machine says: that the cast for the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Ben Elton musical The Beautiful Game will include Hannah Waddingham who made a big impression in Lautrec; that Dusty The Musical starring Mari Wilson will open on 16th October at the Vaudeville Theatre; and that Bernadette Peters will make her West End debut next summer in Gypsy, which Sam Mendes has been approached to direct. The Rumour Machine grinds on.