News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 16th February 2001

Hugh Whitemore's new play God Only Knows, with Derek Jacobi, Francesca Hunt, Margot Leicester, Richard O'Callaghan and David Yelland, which toured in the autumn, will open at the Vaudeville Theatre on 20th March. It is a kind of thriller set in a holiday villa in Tuscany, with Jacobi playing a fugitive who claims to know dangerous information about the Vatican (could it be the definitive account of events which led up to the newspaper headline "Pope Dies Again"?) Anthony Page directs and the producer is Duncan Weldon.

American entrepreneur Max Weitzenhoffer, who last year made unsuccessful bids for the Stoll Moss and Associated Capital Theatre chains, has bought the freehold of the Vaudeville. This is his first move into theatre ownership, having produced both in New York and London. He is currently co-producer of Medea and Feelgood at Hampstead Theatre. Stephen Waley-Cohen will continue to run the theatre on Weitzenhoffer's behalf.

Patrick Stewart returns to the British stage in J.B. Priestley's Johnson Over Jordan at the West Yorkshire Playhouse Leeds in the autumn. This will be the play's first revival of since the original London production in 1939. Described as a Yorkshire version of It's A Wonderful Life, it is about a dead man who looks back over his life. Jude Kelly will direct. There will be an accompanying J B Priestley conference in association with the University of Texas, which holds the largest collection of Priestley papers in the world.

Business investment in the arts has doubled in the last five years to a record 156.6m, according to a survey by Arts & Business, the organisation which helps to forge cultural and commercial partnerships. It has a range of publications and programmes to help both communities make the most of co-operation. Further information can be found on the A&B web site via the link from the Organisations section of TheatreNet.

Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg's musical Miss Saigon will start a UK tour at the Palace Theatre Manchester in November. It relocates the story of Madame Butterfly in the Vietnam War, and is most famous for its recreation of helicopter evacuation from the roof of American Embassy. The longest-running musical in the history of Theatre Royal Drury Lane, it has just closed on Broadway.

The Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme has found a new long term sponsor and has metamorphosed into The Channel 4 Theatre Director Scheme. It offers an 18 month programme for anyone over the age of 20 who wishes to make a career as a theatre director, with attachments at three theatres available. Last year's placements were at the Royal Court, the Young Vic and Salisbury Playhouse. Previous participants include Trevor Nunn and Ken Loach. For details and an application form send an A5 SAE to C4TDS, PO Box 444, Teddington TW11 8FS. The closing date for the receipt of applications is 15th March.

The 46th National Student Drama Festival, which takes place in Scarborough from 4th to 11th April, has extended the deadline for entries to 28th February. The Festival embraces all styles and themes of student production, from devised work to modern classics, from musical theatre to new writing, and from physical theatre to the great classic drama of the past. In addition to performances, there will also be a programme of workshops led by the Bush Theatre, and masterclasses. During the Festival Scarborough assumes the mantle of a mini Edinburgh Fringe, as a variety of venues across the town become performance spaces. Scarborough's Cultural Godfather Alan Ayckbourn is the patron. Further information from the NSDF web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

The Land Of Cakes is a contemporary musical melodrama, written by locals Don Paterson (words) and Gordon McPherson (music), which premieres at Dundee Rep from 7th to 24th March. Set in the ward of a large hospital in a city (with a boat) on the east coast of Scotland, it relates what happens when six inmates wake up one morning and find their inner voice as left - and they have to confront their past (and future) alone. It features Rodney Matthew, John Ramage, Keith Fleming, Andrew Clark, Irene Macdougall, and Meg Fraser, and is directed by Sandy Neilson.

The government is to assign 35m for a 'Billy Elliot' grant programme to inner city schools, so that they can offer working class pupils the middle class extras of drama, music and dance lessons. Up to 360 per pupil will be available to fund these activities. Instead of cheap publicity stunts, it would be better if the government used the money to fund further education in the arts properly. Then students who won places in drama, music and dance colleges could be awarded grants so they would be able to take them up.

The Rodgers and Hammerstein Organisation has signed an agreement with the Really Useful Group for the sole licensing rights for stock and amateur productions in America and Canada for six Andrew Lloyd Webber shows. In addition to controlling the rights to the R&H catalogue, it represents more than one hundred songwriters, over seventy musicals and concert works, and in excess of three thousand songs. There is a link to the R&HO web site from the Organisations section of TheatreNet.

The Rumour Machine says: that Kim Cattrall (of Sex And The City fame), Elisabeth Shue and John Dino will star in Tennessee Williams A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Peter Hall on Broadway in the autumn; and that Dirty Blonde, the Broadway "comedy with songs" hit about Mae West, written by and starring Claudier Shear (as both a fan and the woman herself), directed by James Lapine, will transfer to the West End in late summer. The Rumour Machine grinds on.