News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 14th September 2001

Barbie is joining English National Ballet, thanks to an 85,000 sponsorship deal funded by her sugar (plum) daddy Mr Mattel for ENB's annual London Christmas season of The Nutcracker at the Coliseum. Barbie won't actually find time in her crowded diary to appear live, but will star in an animated video version with New York City Ballet to be released soon. ENB will sell merchandise with Barbie dressed as Clara and the Sugar Plum Fairy during the run. In addition to Derek Deane's staging of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker from 18th December to 9th January, the season includes Michael Corder's award winning production of Prokofiev's Cinderella playing between 11th and 19th January, and a triple bill comprising Double Concerto, a new ballet created by Christopher Hampson, and Balanchine's Apollo and Who Cares? from 14th to 16th January. Once again it will be tutus at dawn as the Royal Ballet will be performing Lev Ivanov and Peter Wright's production of The Nutcracker at Covent Garden from 13th December to 5th January. There is no truth in the rumour that Ronald McDonald will be playing the Prince.

The Society Of London Theatre is looking for 12 enthusiastic and knowledgeable theatregoers to join one of the judging panels for next year's Laurence Olivier Awards. Panellists will receive a pair of free tickets for all shows playing in the West End between 1st January and 31st December. There are four panels assessing Theatre, Opera, Dance and Affiliates (covering work at the Almeida, Hampstead, Lyric Hammersmith, Royal Court Upstairs, Tricycle and Young Vic). The Theatre panel is expected to attend about 60 play or 20 musical performances, Opera and Affiliates about 20 each and Dance about 40. Applications can be made online on the SOLT web site, which can be found via the link from the Organisations section of TheatreNet. Alternatively there are leaflets in all West End theatres. The deadline for applications is 16th November.

Chichester Festival Theatre will celebrate its 40th anniversary by moving to producing all year round in the Minerva Theatre, instead of reverting to a receiving house during the winter, as it has done in the past. Highlights of the season include: Aiden McArdle and Catherine Walker in the British premiere of Tennessee Williams Stairs To The Road, an early work which is a love story, a comedy and a vision of how life should be, from 9th to 27th October, directed by Lucy Bailey; Hock And Soda Water, by John Mortimer, a quintessentially English comedy concerning the much sought after recipe for happiness, which receives its world premiere from 14th November to 8th December, directed by Christopher Morahan; and the world premiere of One Snowy Night by Charles Way, a tale for children of a young boy's adventures with trolls, glaciers, volcanoes and a dog, directed by Andy Brereton, from 13th December to 5th January. Touring productions will continue in the Festival Theatre, where the Christmas show will be A Christmas Carol, in a new adaptation by Nigel Bryant, directed by Sean Holmes, running from 12th December to 5th January.

Cirque du Soleil is returning to London with last year's show Quidam from 22nd November, once again pitching its 2500 seater Grand Chapiteau tent at Battersea Power Station. The show features 52 performers from 10 countries in a unique mixture of circus skills, music and special effects, directed by Franco Dragone. Cirque du Soleil is currently staging seven shows on four continents. Over 30 million people have seen its productions since Guy Laliberte founded the company in Montreal in 1984. If the current development plans for Battersea Power Station go ahead, the company will set up a permanent London home there in a purpose built theatre.

Tim Curry is to play Scrooge in the spectacular production of Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens musical version of A Christmas Carol, at The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York from 24th November to 29th December. A regular part of the city's Christmas scene since 1994, the show was originally directed by Mike Ockrent and choreographed by Susan Stroman, who now recreates it each season. It aims to rival the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show in scale, by turning the lobby into a Victorian market place, with carollers, street performers and food stalls. The show itself features the biggest theatrical set in the history of New York theatre, and the world's largest indoor snowfall. Previous Bah Humbugers have included Frank Langella, Tony Roberts, Roger Daltrey, Roddy McDowell and Tony Randall.

Roy Barraclough stars in A Different Way Home, an unusual and poignant comedy by Jimmie Chinn, at the Palace Theatre Watford from 27th September to 20th October. Baraclough plays both a brother and sister whose inability to communicate mean that they are unable to reconcile their long standing differences, even when faced with a family tragedy. Later in the current season, from 1st to 23rd March, the Palace will present the world premiere of The True Life Fiction Of Mata Hari by Diane Samuels. This play attempts to sift the truth from the fiction in the life of the infamous woman who was executed as spy during the First World War.

The London Arts Development Fund, which offers financial support for many different performing and visual arts activities, has streamlined its application structure in an attempt to make it as simple as possible. There are seventeen different categories of grants, ranging from bursaries to individual artists, through the commissioning of new writing, to support for the production and presentation of new work. Full details and application forms can be found on the London Arts section of the English Regional Arts Boards web site via the link from the Organisations section of TheatreNet.

The Young Vic Theatre's winter season includes Monkey: A Tale From China, Colin Teevan's adaptation of a Chinese legend about a Monkey and his friends who guide a Buddhist monk from China to India in search of sacred scriptures, directed by Mick Gordon, from 22nd November to 19th January; and Thomas Babe's A Prayer For My Daughter, a tragicomedy set in a New York police precinct as two officers interrogate two murder suspects, directed by Joe Mantello, from 6th February to 16th March. Also scheduled for next year are Dr Faustus, starring Jude Law, directed by David Lan, and Thomas Otway's The Soldiers Fortune.

Rising cost and delays are threatening Placido Domingo's plans to stage a Star Wars style production of Wagner's Ring Cycle in association with George Lucas for Los Angeles Opera. Originally proposed with a budget of 18m for production in early 2003, the project is now expected to cost well over 25m and is already six months behind schedule. It will be Lucas first stage production, and plans by his company Industrial Light + Magic include rebuilding the Shrine Auditorium to incorporate speakers, projectors, smoke machines and mirrors in the theatre walls, in order to create a 'sensaround' experience. Domingo became Artistic Director of LA Opera last year with a brief to turn it into a globally recognised company. As its total income last year was 16.5m, it appears that Domingo may be confusing noted with notorious.