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Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 12th June 2006

New York TheatreNet: British talent achieved record breaking wins in this year's Tony Awards. Alan Bennett's The History Boys, took 6 awards: Richard Griffiths - Best Actor Play (Leading) and Frances de la Tour - Best Actress Play (Featured), Nicholas Hytner - Best Director Play, Bob Crowley - Best Scenic Design (Play), Mark Henderson - Best Lighting Design (Play) and Best Play. Other British winners were: John Doyle - Best Director (Musical) and Sarah Travis - Best Orchestrations for Stephen Sondheim-Hugh Wheeler's Sweeney Todd; and Ian McDiarmid - Best Actor Play (Featured) for Brian Friel's Faith Healer. The big American hitters were the musicals, with honours spread between Jersey Boys, The Drowsy Chaperone and The Color Purple. The full list of nominees and winners can be found on the Tony Awards web site via the link from the Organisations section of New York TheatreNet

With 28,014 performances, of 1,867 shows, in 261 venues, involving 16,990 performers, the 60th Edinburgh Festival Fringe, running from 6th to 28th August, is once again bigger than ever, retaining its position as the world's largest arts festival. Highlights include: Mel Smith as Winston Churchill in Allegiance about a meeting between Churchill and Michael Collins; Levelland, written by and starring Rich Hall, a thriller set amidst soaring oil prices and global economic meltdown, directed by Guy Masterson; Midnight Cowboy, adapted from the film by Tim Fountain; Chanbara, featuring Yamoto drummers and Samurai swordsmen; and Eric Bogosian's Talk Radio, a satire on reality programming and the slippery nature of free speech, featuring 8 comedians, including Mike McShane, Phil Nichol and Will Adamsdale, playing 37 parts, directed by Stewart Lee. Further information and online booking can be found on the Edinburgh Fringe web site via the link from Festivals in the Links section of TheatreNet.

The latest show from Cirque du Soleil is Love, featuring the music of The Beatles, opening at The Mirage in Las Vegas on 2nd July. The show, conceived and directed by Dominic Champagne and Gilles Ste-Croix, is a 1960s phantasmagorical spectacular, with a cast of 60 dancers, aerialists and acrobats, playing characters drawn from around 27 songs. Musical directors George Martin and his son Giles have remixed the 90 minute soundtrack, a radical tapestry created with access to all the material ever recorded by The Beatles at Abbey Road Studios, including outtakes, demos and uncompleted songs.

New York TheatreNet: The world's longest running musical, The Fantasticks, is returning to New York, opening on 17th August at the new Snapple Theater Center, West 50th Street at Broadway. The coming of age fable, about a boy and girl whose romance is engineered by their fathers, but is cemented by their experience of the world outside, has music by Harvey Schmidt, and book and lyrics by Tom Jones, who will direct the new production. The show ran for over 17,000 performances at the Sullivan Street Playhouse in Greenwich Village from May 1960 to January 2002.

Theatre Set-Up, the company that takes Shakespeare outdoors to historic settings across the country, is this year performing The Winters Tale in Elizabethan costumes, with a company of eight, comprising Terry Ashe, Karen Boniface, Morag Brownlie, Jack Hughes, Wendy Macphee, Tony Portacio, Christopher Terry and Elliot Tiney. Now in its 30th season, Theatre Set-Up works in association with English Heritage, The National Trust, and public and private stately homes, gardens and castles, performing mostly one night stands, this year from 10th June until 20th August. The diverse venues include Alnwick Castle, Chatley Heath Semaphore Tower, The Rookery Streatham Common and The Lost Gardens Of Helligan. Further information can be found on the TSU web site via the link from Theatre Companies in the Links section of TheatreNet.

On The Casting Couch: Henry Goodman and Rosamund Pike will star in Brian Friel's Performances, opening at Wilton's Music Hall on 4th July; Ron Cook, Conleth Hill, Karl Johnson and Jim Norton will lead the cast in Conor McPherson's Seafarer, opening at the National Theatre on 20th September; and Anthony Head and Leslie Garrett will star in Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound Of Music, opening at the London Palladium on 14th November.

This year's Greenwich and Docklands Festival, which runs from 2nd to 24th July, features processions, pyrotechnics and performance from major international companies, all free and taking place outdoors. Highlights include: Italy's Compagnia di Valerio Festa with painted helium spheres suspending aerialists, water screen projections and a flying ship, at the Old Royal Naval College Greenwich; Dancing City, with all kinds of dance in the squares and waterfronts of Canary Wharf, including bungee choreography and the premiere of Miniatora from CandoCo Dance Company; French Compagnie Off with a processional baccanal of 30 performers in body paint, special effects, techno music, and 9m high wheels converging on Roman Road street market; and Burning Bright, celebrating Bengali culture, with dance, percussion and new music, plus pyrotechnics by The World Famous, on Three Mills Green Bromley By Bow. Further information can be found on the G&DF web site via the link from Festivals in the Links section of TheatreNet.

Wicked, the Stephen Schwartz musical, this week celebrated its 20th week at the top of Billboard's Top Cast Album chart, out of the 22 weeks that the chart has been published. Jersey Boys, the Four Seasons musical, fills the number 2 slot, followed by Mamma Mia!. The top 5 is completed by Harry on Broadway Act 1, by Harry Connick Jnr (comprising songs from his current appearance in The Pajama Game and the musical Thou Shalt Not) and The Color Purple. The chart - the latest addition to Billboard's 112 charts - measures sales of albums from stage musicals, with Broadway show recordings filling most of the list, although London cast recording of Sunday In The Park With George has entered this week at number 8. Wicked was number 1 in the first chart on 12th January, and so far, has only been beaten in their release weeks by Harry on Broadway Act 1 and The Color Purple. Further information can be found on the Billboard web site via the link from Information in the Links section of TheatreNet.