News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 13th November 1998

Rachel Weisz and Sheila Gish will star in the previously mentioned production of Tennessee Williams Suddenly Last Summer next April. This will be the first West End production of the play, as at the time it was written, the subject matter (of a young girl witnessing the rape and beating of her male cousin by a street gang) was considered too shocking. As a result, the Lord Chamberlain banished it to a club theatre. No doubt that fact will be played up in the publicity, but by today's standards we may find that it seems tame. Sean Mathias directs, and producer is Warehouse Productions.

A new flexible pricing structure for Broadway shows, proposed by the Producers Network, is under consideration by the League of American Theatres and producers. The idea is akin to that of airlines, and would see top price seats double to a "standard" rate of $150, with "APEX" discounts of up to 70% for advanced bookings. The question is, would there be a "bucket shop" bargain price at curtain up. First moves in flexible pricing have so far included Bring In Da Noise, Bring In Da Funk, which offers an advanced booking discount (but not of the proposed magnitude) and Rent, which has increased best seats to $80, while reducing Balcony prices. The only comparable move in the West End, is the two week November sale by Cameron Mackintosh, offering "two shows for the price of one" for the hard to sell winter months of January and February.

Despite Michael Flatley's positively final performance in Hyde Park during the summer, Lord Of The Dance will rise again for dates at Wembley Arena from 2nd to 4th March, Birmingham NIA Academy from 16th to 18th March, and Manchester Arena from 23rd to 25th March.

Maintaining its long tradition, the Players Theatre will again present an original Victorian pantomime, Whittington Junior And His Sensation Cat by H J Byron and R Reece, in proper (or improper) rhyming couplets, from 3rd December to 14th February. In addition, this year there will also be morning and afternoon matinees of Children's Wonderland, a miscellany including magic, Punch and Judy and paper sculptures, from 12th December to 16th January. Further details and performance schedules are on the Players web site via our UK London Theatres section.

It has now become clear where government arts funding money will end up, with the announcement of the formation of M&C Saatchi Arts, a new division of the international advertising agency. Its aim is to assist (or frighten) the so called "elitist" arts organisations into using Saatchi's expertise in mass consumerism marketing techniques, rather than developing their own in house skills. The obvious first candidate is the Royal Opera House, and I'm sure that the board will be reassured to find that the chief executive of M&C Saatchi Arts is to be none other than Judy Grahame, who resigned as the House's marketing director a month ago. It's a funny old world.

Despite the falling out with Peter Hall, Bill Kenwright has demonstrated the truth of the saying: "There is a financial solution to every problem". In view of the rave reception for Filumena, and the expected response to Kafka's Dick, he has extended the booking period for the Peter Hall Company season at the Piccadilly Theatre until 27th February.

The previously mentioned Off Broadway hit Late Nite Catechism opens at the Jermyn Street Theatre on 2nd December for a twelve week run. Written by Maripat Donovan and Vicki Quade, and performed by Donovan as a Nun, this part lecture, part stand-up, part Oprah, part improv experience is unlike any other comedy event. The producer, D&G Productions, is looking for a final angel or two to complete the capitalisation. Find out more from the investment links in our Investment section by clicking on the link to the right of this column.

Inspirations: When I was a teenager, my parents took me to see Ethel Merman in the original production of Annie Get Your Gun. As soon as I got home, I sat down at the piano and played There's No Business Like Show Business and a couple of other numbers straight through from memory. I knew then that my life would be in musical theatre. - Jerry Herman, a compilation of whose work, The Best Of Times is now at the Vaudeville Theatre.

The Rumour Machine says: that a National Theatre of Brent retrospective, comprised of The Messiah and The Greatest Story Ever Told is to be held at the Cottesloe. Easy to see which way Gerry Robinson's mind is working. The Rumour Machine grinds on.

The Department of Culture's Creative Industries Taskforce report reinforces this administration's lack of commitment to (and suspicion of) the arts. The report is most enthusiastic about computer software and advertising, with the main government help and support proposed in protecting intellectual property rights and combating piracy. It is highly unlikely that Chris Smith will be acting to stop a copycat production of a play, ballet or opera. The report claims that the creative industries have a growth rate of 5%, which will create 50,000 jobs in the next three years. Not presumably in the theatres which will have closed down because of reduced or withdrawn public funding.