News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 13th April 2012

Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Theatres has sold the Palace Theatre to Nica Burns and Max Weitzenhoffer's Nimax Theatres for an undisclosed sum. The proceeds will be used in part to fund the refurbishment of the London Palladium and the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Jesus Christ Superstar, which established Lloyd Webber as a composer ran at the Palace from 1972 to 1980, and it was the first theatre he purchased in 1983. Having sold its play houses to Nimax in 2005, Really Useful Theatres continues to own the Adelphi, Cambridge, Her Majesty's and New London theatres, in addition to the London Palladium and Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

It's Official! As previously forecast here, a stage musical adaptation of Finding Neverland, the 2004 film about how J M Barrie came to write Peter Pan, book by Allan Knee from his original novel, music by Scott Frankel, lyrics by Michael Korie, with Julian Ovenden, directed and choreographed by Rob Ashford, will play a prospective pre West End season at the Curve in Leicester in September.

The Russian Vakhtangov Theatre's contemporary interpretation of Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, a story of unrequited love, dogged perseverance, and the strength of the human spirit, directed by Rimas Tuminas, will play at the Noel Coward Theatre from 5th to 10th November.

The St James Theatre, which has finally risen from the ashes of the Westminster Theatre, in Palace Street, Victoria, has announced its first confirmed show. The Out Of Joint production of Timberlake Wertenbaker's Our Country's Good, set around a theatre production of of George Farquhar's The Recruiting Officer mounted by a convict settlement in Australia in the 1780s, directed by Max Stafford Clark, will play from 30th January. It is a co-production with Karl Sydow and the Octagon Theatre in Bolton, where it opens a national tour on 3rd September.

New York TheatreNet: The Broadway League has announced that The Lion King is now the highest grossing show in Broadway history, recording a cumulative total of $854m at the box office as of Sunday 8th April, overtaking The Phantom Of The Opera, which had taken $853m to the same date. The Lion King has been running on Broadway for less than 15 years, while The Phantom Of The Opera has been playing for more than 24, but it has a higher average ticket price and is in a slightly larger theatre. The Phantom Of The Opera is the longest running show in Broadway history, having played more than 10,065 performances, and also leads in total Broadway tickets sold, with 14.8m, while The Lion King only recently crossed the 10m mark. News, information and special offers about theatre on and off Broadway can be found on New York TheatreNet, via the link opposite below.

On The Casting Couch: David Bedella and Sara Kestelman will head the cast of Harvey Fierstein's Torch Song Trilogy, at the Menier Chocolate Factory from 30th May; and Miranda Raison, Sophie Thompson, John Heffernan, Paul Bhattacharjee, John Ramm, Justin Salinger and Joanna Brookes will feature in Friedrich Durrenmatt's The Physicists, opening at the Donmar Warehouse on 7th June.

Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be, a biography of Lionel Bart, by David Stafford and Caroline Stafford, published by Omnibus Press, tells a classic backstage story of triumph and disaster. Lionel Bart wrote some of the most popular and enduring songs of the past 60 years, but while he had a breathtaking theatrical imagination, he was also flawed and damaged. Best known for creating Oliver!, Bart also wrote a huge catalogue of pop songs for early British rock'n'rollers. He was a millionaire aged 30 in the 60s, bankrupt in the 70s, but made a comeback in the 90s. In producing this revealing biography, the authors gained access to Bart's personal archives, including his unfinished autobiography, his letters and scrapbooks, and also interviewed his secretaries, friends, family, counsellors, and many of the performers, musicians and producers who worked with him. They detail the ups and downs, and how, fatally believing his own publicity, he signed away the rights to Oliver! in order to finance the ill feted show Twang, which virtually ended his career.

The musical Merrily We Roll Along, book by George Furth, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, adapted from the play by George S Kaufman and Moss Hart, charting the lives of a Broadway show writing partnership and their best friend over a 25 year period, running backwards in time from their disenchanted middle age to optimistic youth, with Darren Bennett, Matt Cross, Billy Cullum, Adrian Grove, Rebecca Lock, Amira Matthews, Julia Nagle, Martin Neely, Verity Rushworth, Simon Thomas, Owain Williams and Lucy Williamson, directed by Nikolai Foster, with choreography by Nick Winston, will play at Clwyd Theatr Cymru in Mold from 3rd May.

This year's season at Grange Park Opera, one of the 'alternative Glyndebournes', runs from 31st May to 2nd July, with performances staged in the historic conservatory. It comprises new productions of Puccini's Madama Butterfly, with Claire Rutter and Marco Panuccio, directed by John Doyle; Mozart's Idomeneo, with David Danholt and Daniela Lehner, directed by Charles Edwards; and Tchaikovsky's Queen Of Spades, with Carl Tanner and Anne-Sophie Duprels, directed by Antony McDonald; plus a concert by Simon Keenlyside. In addition there will be performances of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, with James McOran-Campbell and Ilona Domnich, directed by Stephen Medcalf, at Neville Holt from 9th to 14th July. In order to accommodate a dinner interval, entry is from 3.30pm, with performances beginning at 5.20pm. Further information can be found on the GPO web site, via the link from Dance & Opera in the Links section of TheatreNet.

The Rumour Machine says: that Judi Dench may return to the West End in a new play by John Logan, in which an aging 'Alice in Wonderland' looks back on her life, both real and imagined, with Ben Wishaw, directed by Michael Grandage in the autumn; that Bridget Jones The Musical, adapted from the film, has been postponed until next year, because Sheredan Smith, who was to have starred, has withdrawn from the project; and that the producers of the $80m Broadway musical Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark are looking for venues in London and Hamburg for a European tour, zeroing in on arenas rather than theatres. The Rumour Machine grinds on.