News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 9th July 1999

Cameron Mackintosh has confirmed that after early demise of Miss Saigon on 30th October, The Witches Of Eastwick will open at Theatre Royal Drury Lane in late spring. This is a musical adaptation of John Updike's novel, and the subsequent film, with book and lyrics by John Dempsey and music by Dana P Rowe. Eric Shaeffer will direct and Bob Avian choreograph. Casting is just beginning, and is not expected to include Cher, Catherine Zeta Jones or Michael Douglas. Booking opens in September.

The programme for the 52nd Edinburgh Festival Fringe, running from 8th to 30th August, is now available. It features 15,699 performances by 14,562 performers from 607 companies producing 1,346 shows. Over 300 companies are from England and Wales, with 172 from Scotland, 52 from America, 20 from European Union countries, 7 from the Far East, 6 from Eastern Europe and Russia, 6 from Australia and 1 from the Middle East. Theatre comprises of 514 productions, including 295 debuts, 23 different of Shakespeares and many world, European and British premieres. There is a link to the Festival and Fringe web sites from the TheatreNet Festivals section.

Bill Kenwright is bringing the touring compilation show 4 Steps To Heaven to the Piccadilly Theatre from 2nd August for nine weeks. It features Peter Howarth as Roy Orbison, Reuven Gershon as Buddy Holly, Rebel Dean as Elvis Presley, and Kludo White as Eddie Cochran, and is directed by Keith Strachan. Having toured Elvis - The Musical for the best part of two decades, Kenwright is moving up a gear next year. He is joining with Stig Edgren and Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc, to present a UK arena tour of Elvis 2000: The King Returns. The event, which has toured in America, uses sound and images of Elvis Presley performing, with live musicians and backing singers.

On The Casting Couch: Barbara Dickson and Rachel Leskovac and will play the older and younger Viv Nicholson, with Steven Houghton as the squeeze in Spend Spend Spend at the Piccadilly from 12th October; Chita Rivera (returning to the role she created in the original Broadway production) and Valerie Petiford (from the current Broadway cast) join Chicago at the Adelphi from 16th August; and Tara Fitzgerald will play the lead in Antigone at the Old Vic from October.

A new play by Hugh Whitemore, Disposing Of The Body is playing at Hampstead Theatre until 28th August. Forced early retirement seems to presage a secure and predictable middle age in a rural idyll, but an unexpected passion changes this life irrevocably. It stars Stephen Moore, Charlotte Cornwell and Gemma Jones, and is directed by Robin Lefèvre.

Figures released by the League of American Theatres and Producers show that the 1998/1999 Broadway season was a record breaker in all areas. Total attendances were 11.7m (up 0.3m), producing box office grosses of $588.5m (up 5.5%). 39 shows opened (up 6), of which 14 were musicals (9 new), 17 were plays (10 new), and 8 were special events. Broadway theatres operated at 81% capacity, for a total of 1,114 playing weeks, with an average seat price of $50.45 (up $1.87).

Producer Michael White has West End plans next year for two shows, both of which have been expected for some time. The first will be the compilation of Don Black's songs Black Goes With Everything, now scheduled for the spring, to be directed by Arlene Phillips. The other is the French Quasimodo musical Notre Dame de Paris. Disney's stage adaptation of their animated musical film of the Victor Hugo novel has already been tried out in Berlin and is Broadway bound.

30,000 free tickets for theatre and other arts events are to be made available to children as part of a £2.5m New Generation Audiences scheme. The project, which is designed to introduce young people to a quality live arts experience, launches this week. It is being piloted through local education authorities in London from now until September, with a further 55,000 tickets in the following three months, and should go nationwide from January onwards. The scheme is being organised by The Learning Circuit, and further details are on their web site, via the link from TheatreNet's Organisations section.

Real Life: Libby Purves: The British Council guide to British culture contains 55 references to Scottishness, 20 to Caribbean culture, 27 to Welsh, and 28 to Irish. There are 3 to English, all uncomplimentary.

Blitz 99, Britain's biggest free dance festival, now in its 14th year, is coming to every corner of the South Bank from 24th July to 15th August. A diverse array of performances, workshops, talks, classes, demonstrations and shows will be given in every kind of dance, including salsa, tap, ballet, African, Celtic and jazz, building to a grand finale with the Ballroom Blitz Ball featuring doyen Peggy Spencer. Every event, both indoors and out, is free. For further information call 0171 921 0971.

The Rumour Machine says: that opera director Francesca Zambello will take the commercial shilling and direct Napoleon, a musical by Timothy Williams and Andrew Sabiston in London next year; that the Almeida Theatre's West End plans include , a new play by Nicholas Wright, directed by Nicholas Hyntner, featuring Michael Gambon as John Shank, manager of a troupe of boy actors in 1630's London;.and that a stage play based on the BBC2 sitcom The Royle Family, with Caroline Aherne, Ricky Tomlinson and Sue Johnston, will come to town next year - TV adaptations have never worked before and this looks particularly unlikely - so it's bound to happen. The Rumour Machine grinds on.