News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 11th September 1997

In a game of West End musical chairs, the resurrection of Damn Yankees will now take place at the Savoy Theatre, instead of the Victoria Palace, with Jerry Lewis doing his Lazarus routine on 10th October. The switch has been made to enable the previously mentioned Play On! to benefit from the larger capacity of the VP. Since Damn Yankees had difficulty filling the Adelphi, downsizing to the Savoy is probably a good thing. Play On! relocates the story of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night in 1940's Harlem, and features the music of Duke Ellington. It is conceived and directed by Sheldon Epps with a book by Cheryl L West. The American producer is Mitchell Maxwell.

A reminder that the Vivian Ellis Prize Showcase will be staged at Her Majesty's Theatre on 18th September at 2.00pm. Now in its thirteenth year, the Prize is being relaunched with Stoll Moss Theatres, Warner Chappell Music and Rose Morris joining the Performing Right Society as sponsors. The aim is to give a higher profile to this important showcase of new musical theatre writing. It has moved from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where it used to be performed by the students, to a West End theatre and cast, and for the first time it will be open to the public. Excerpts from five new musicals will be presented, before the winner is chosen. As is so often the case however, it is the taking part which is the most important thing, and Her Majesty's is a very appropriate venue to illustrate this. Charles Hart was a contender in 1985, the first year of the prize. He did not win, but caught the attention of Andrew Lloyd Webber, who invited him to write the lyrics of The Phantom Of The Opera. Not bad for a second prize. This is an event which can change lives and musical theatre history.

In a move to develop their business in an new area, and bolster flagging profits, the Really Useful Group is filming a staged performance of Cats for home video release next spring. They hope to emulate the success of the Riverdance videos. It is currently being recorded at the Adelphi Theatre, without an audience, featuring a company made up from current and previous cast members, including Elaine Paige. This does not affect the animated version of the show in production by Universal.

The new Royal Shakespeare Company season at Stratford, which will be seen at the Barbican next autumn will include: Main House productions of: Twelfth Night and The Tempest, both directed by Adrian Noble, The Merchant Of Venice directed by Gregory Doran, and Measure For Measure directed by Michael Boyd; Swan productions of: Two Gentlemen Of Verona directed by Edward (son of Peter) Hall - making his RSC debut - and a new as yet untitled play by Stephen Polliakoff; and at The Other Place, the world premiere of Richard Nelson's Goodnight Children Everywhere.

Despite the demise of TheaterWeek earlier this year, New York is about to see a new weekly glossy magazine of stage news, reviews and listings called InTheater. The first cover will feature one person from every Broadway show in a picture shot at Sardi's. Meanwhile Playbill has acquired the assets of TheatreWeek and will relaunch it as an internet site later this year.

The Rumour Machine says: that Cameron Mackintosh is to stage a Millennium revival of My Fair Lady with a younger Higgins - Kenneth Brannagh and Colin Firth (can he sing?) have been mentioned. As the pace of his productions has slowed to a trickle, and in light of Martin Guerre, since My Fair Lady was his first West End success, there is speculation that this could this be his retirement show. The Rumour Machine grinds on.