Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews
Dame Edna Everage's new West End vehicle Edna The Spectacle, which opens at the Haymarket Theatre on 21st April, will be even more ambitious than her usual shows. It is an autobiographical musical extravaganza, with songs written by Kit and the Widow, and orchestrated by David Cullen. In addition to the Dame and Madge, a cast of ten includes Paul Bentley, Rachel Stanley and James Murdock. It is directed by Alan Strachan, with choreography by Lisa Kent, and the producers are Lee Menzies and Jeffrey Archer.
Jason Donovan is to play Frank N Furter, and Michael Cashman the Narrator, in the 25th anniversary tour of The Rocky Horror Show, directed by Christopher Malcolm. A co-production with Turnstyle, it opens at Birmingham Repertory Theatre on 26th March, where it plays until 18th April, hoping to reach the West End by the autumn. Birmingham will also be the starting point for the Musicals Alliance tour of The Pyjama Game, directed by Simon Callow, later in the year.
The Mousetrap Foundation is a charity set up last year to encourage play-going by young people between the ages of 15 and 18, tied in with educational programmes related to the National Curriculum. It is distributing a limited number of free tickets to three student matinee performances of Art on 26th March, 21st May and 18th June. Tickets are only available to teachers, who must supply full details of their school. The Theatre Museum is holding a workshop on the play prior to the performance, and the cast will take part in a discussion afterwards. Contact Susan Whiddington, The Mousetrap Foundation, St Martin's Theatre, London WC2H 9NG, fax: 0171 836 4399 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information. There will be a link to their web site from our Organisations section as soon as the site goes live.
Robert Stigwood will follow Saturday Night Fever at the Palladium with a new musical called Cry To Heaven by Matthew Wilder at the Queen's Theatre in October.
The National Theatre has bought the Old Vic Annex for £1.1m by using some of its Lottery refurbishment grant. The Annex has housed the National's Studio work rent free since the Mervishes bought the Old Vic in 1983. The studio is used to develop new writing, and amongst others, has produced both Patrick Marber's plays Dealer's Choice and Closer which have moved on to West End success.
Trevor Nunn's previously mentioned production of Oklahoma!, opening on 15th July, is beginning to take shape. Maureen Lipman is to make her National Theatre debut playing Aunt Eller, and she will be serenaded with Oh What a Beautiful Mornin' by Australian Hugo Jackman as Curly. This is an important production, as it will be the first not to use Agnes De Mille original balletic choreography. Award winning Broadway choreographer Susan Stroman is likely to make it more robust, as in her work on Crazy For You.
A new scheme called Artshare is being planned to encourage companies to help fund arts organisations. Nigel Brown's idea is for commercial businesses to donate shares, rather than money, so that the income generated can be used to provide grants to cash starved arts companies. The Treasury is believed to be looking at the American system of allowing companies to write off contributions to the arts against tax.