News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 12th February 1999

Radio 3 is entering the new millennium by dragging itself firmly into the 1960's. To "capture the excitement of 21st century for a young audience", it has commissioned Pete Townshend to complete a rock opera Lifehouse which he started in 1969 as a follow up to Tommy, but abandoned because of lack of interest. The work combines computer technology, science fiction and eastern mysticism, in a vision of a future world where people experience life only through virtual reality, but are awakened to real life through the discovery of 20th century rock'n'roll. Given the success of the recent Pinball Wizard revival in New York (and despite it flopping here, both in the West End and on tour) Townshend is intending to develop a multi-media stage version.

The previously mentioned season of Forbidden Broadway at the Jermyn Street Theatre will open on 9th March and run for ten weeks. The revue takes a satirical look at shows, their creators and performers. Over 16 years has become an Off Broadway institution, spawning versions in other American cities. It features British actors Louise Dann, Mark O'Malley and Alistair Robbins, plus New York Forbidden veteran Christine Pedi. The show was conceived and written by Gerard Alessandrini and the London production is directed by Philip George.

Further details on the Shakespeare's Globe season: Julius Caesar will be directed by Mark Rylance, and will play on 21st September - the 400th anniversary of the first recorded performance at the original Globe; The Comedy Of Errors will be directed by Kathryn Hunter, and played in modern dress, with Marcello Magini as both Dromios; Antony And Cleopatra will be directed by Giles Block; and Augustine's Oak will be directed by Tim Carroll. The Shakespeare Birthday Festival will comprise of the Spearshaker Talk on the theme of Government on 22nd April; a musical celebration of Shakespeare's influence throughout the world in Southwark Cathedral on 23rd April; and Sweet Love Remembered, sonnet walks from Westminster Abbey to Shakespeare's Globe led by Mark Rylance in the morning and afternoon of 24th April.

Scriptware, the scriptwriting software company has just released an upgraded Windows version, and is now available for Mackintosh. It has also made its formerly paid for book, Scriptwriting Secrets - Writing Your Million Dollar Story available free as a web site: There is a link to the Scriptware web site from our Suppliers section.

James Horner, who composed the prize winning score for Titanic, which has become the biggest selling soundtrack album in film history, will conduct the live concert world premiere of the music at the Royal Albert Hall on 19th and 20th May. This will be a Raymond Gubbay mega event, with the Philharmonic Orchestra augmented by musicians who worked on the film, and the King's College Choir. Given the lasers, fireworks and maroons of Gubbay's other concerts, and the flooding of the arena of for his production of Madam Butterfly, it might be wise to bring a life jacket.

Fay Weldon's new play The Four Alice Bakers, which looks at human cloning, receives its world premiere at Birmingham Repertory Theatre on 23rd February. It is the story of four women born into different generations who share a terrible secret. The cast includes David Hargreaves, Michael Cashman, Carol Royle, Diand Fletcher, Flora Montgomery, Paula Stockbridge and Sophia Myles. The director is Bill Alexander.

The future of Broadway's Tony Awards has been assured, as the partnership agreement between the two organisations responsible for their staging has been renewed until 2004. This follows months of negotiations, with neither side prepared to accept the other's proposals. The rights to the awards belong to the American Theatre Wing, which is a charitable institution, most concerned with artistic matters. The League of American Theatres and Producers is the commercial organisation which promotes Broadway theatre. LATP has successfully undertaken a number of marketing initiatives in the last few years, and wanted to exploit the Tonys in the same way. ATW had rejected their ideas as too commercial. Both the LATP and ATW's Tony web sites can be found via links from our Organisations section.

Samuel Pepys, The Secret Diaries by Dennis Saunders opens a tour at the Palace Theatre Manchester on 25th February. It features Nick Wilton with Sophie Walker, Brian Deacon, Jeremy Gittins, Edward De Souza and Abigail Rokison, and is directed by Sue Pomeroy. The play presents a modern view of a society out of control, in the heady and dangerous days of the Restoration period, as seen by both the youthful and mature Pepys, with live period music and dance. The producer is Good Company.

A survey by the Independent Theatre Council has confirmed what we all knew, that theatre practitioners are overworked and underpaid. The survey of leading small and middle scale performing arts companies found that 98% of artistic directors and general managers work significantly more hours than they are contracted to do - on average about 25%. It also found that 24% of the administrative workforce is unpaid, and with less that 50% working as full time paid employees. The average salaries were 19,000 for artistic directors and 17,900 for general managers.

Full details of the winners of the 1999 Laurence Olivier Awards can be found on The Society Of London Theatre web site via the link to the right of this column.

The Rumour Machine says: that the 1996 Broadway musical The Life may finally reach the West End in the Spring, with some of the original cast. It is an uncompromising look at the lives and loves of prostitutes and pimps on 42nd Street before the recent clean up. Music is by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Ira Gasman and book by David Newman, Cy Coleman and Ira Gasman, and Michael Blakemore directed. It won Best Musical in the Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Drama League awards. The Rumour Machine grinds on.