News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 16th August 2002

Sorely missed this year, the Covent Garden Festival is to be revived, with the Ambassador Theatre Group producing events in partnership with other companies. The musical theatre festival had built a strong reputation by staging shows in unusual venues - such as Trial By Jury in Bow Street Magistrates Court. However, despite record ticket sales in 2001, it was suspended indefinitely when its major sponsor pulled out. ATG managing director Howard Panter is now chairman, and is in discussion with various parties about productions for a relaunch next year. A sponsor is still being sought, so if anyone can step forward, the future of this valuable theatreland event can be assured.

Edinburgh Report: The tail is beginning to wag the dog, with the Fringe eclipsing the main International Festival, as this year looks like becoming an all time record breaker. This is in part due to the runaway success of pre-booking online on the Fringe web site, which is accounting for a staggering 44% of ticket sales - more than double last year . . . The Perrier Awards have signed a deal with Channel 4 so that from next year the format of the presentations will be revamped into a major ceremony to be shown over the August Bank Holiday weekend . . . Pleasance director Christopher Richardson is concerned about rising prices, and has threatened to ban producers if they attempt to raise prices above 12. Prices currently average 8.50 across the Pleasence venues. There are links to the various Edinburgh Festival web sites from the Festival section of TheatreNet.

Tom Conti is to star as John Barrymore in the British premiere of the Tony Award winning comedy One Helluva Life by William Luce, which opens a tour at the Tivoli Dublin on 30th September as part of the Dublin Festival. The one man show about the hell-raising member of the American theatrical 'Royal Family' is set in 1942, as he attempts to recreate his performance of Richard III, and is directed by Richard Baron.

Dress Circle, the Covent Garden musical theatre store that rejoices in the soubriquet of 'The World's Greatest Showbiz Shop' has been damaged by arson following a break-in during the early hours of 13th August. There is considerable smoke damage to the Monmouth Street premises and it is closed at present, although it hopes to be back in action soon. Meanwhile the online shop is still in business for the eclectic mix of CDs, music, books, magazines and memorabilia, and can be found via the link from The Emporium section of TheatreNet.

Rat Pack Confidential, adapted by Paul Sirett from the book by Shawn Levy, will receive its world premiere at Nottingham Playhouse on 6th September. It tells the story of the group of Hollywood stars Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis JR, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop in the 1950s and 60s, interspersed with many of their classic songs. The show, which is directed by Giles Croft is a co-production with Bolton Octagon Theatre.

The Royal Court is presenting The Lying Kind, written and directed by Anthony Neilson, as an alternative Christmas show, from 29th November to 11th January. Two policemen have one last duty to perform before they can go home for Christmas, which is imparting some bad news.

A stage adaptation of the 1936 Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film Swing Time, retitled Never Gonna Dance, which workshopped in New York last December, will go into full production this December. A regional date will precede a Broadway opening in April. The show boasts a score by Jerome Kern, with lyrics by Dorothy Fields, Ira Gershwin, Otto Harbach, Johnny Mercer, Oscar Hammerstein and P.G. Wodehouse. Jeffrey Hatcher has (re)written the book, Michael Grief will direct, with choreograpy in the Astaire style by Jerry Mitchell.

Richard Wilson is to play Captain Hook in Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure, with book by Willis Hall, music by George Stiles, and lyrics by Anthony Drewe, which is this year's Christmas production at the Royal Festival Hall, running from 19th December to 11th January. The show, which has already been seen in productions all over the world, received its British premiere in a concert version at the RFH in May last year. It will be directed by Ian Talbot, with frocks by Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, and produced by Imagination Entertainments and Raymond Gubbay.

Raymond Gubbay's next mega-opera venture at the Royal Albert Hall will be a third visit by Puccini's Madam Butterfly from 20th February to 2nd March. Once again the arena will be flooded to form a Japanese water garden, for the production directed by David Freeman.

Broadway Bound: Hollywood stars are not just beating a path to the West End but to Broadway too this autumn. Paul Newman plays the Stage Manager in Thornton Wilder's Our Town in the recent Westport Country Playhouse production, which will transfer to the Booth Theatre for an eight week run. The play, which is a folksy story of small town America, is directed by James Naughton. Al Pacino will star with Billy Crudup and Steve Buscemi in Brecht's The Resistible Rise Of Arturo Ui for Tony Randall's National Actors Theater company in a season at Pace University. The play satirises the rise of Hitler in Germany with the story of Chicago gangster's takeover of the city's greengrocery trade. Simon McBurney will direct.

The Rumour Machine says: that Trevor Nunn's final musical at the National next Christmas will be Cole Porter's Anything Goes, with Jane Krakowski as first choice for the lead; that the Tony Award winning Broadway musical Urinetown will arrive in London next spring courtesy of European producer Stage Holding, which is aiming to increase profitability by raising seat prices; that David Bowie is to join the list of rock stars seeking to bolster their pension funds by turning his back catalogue into a musical; and that the much discussed Broadway revival of the Jule Steyn-Stephen Sondheim-Arthur Laurents musical Gypsy, starring Bernadette Peters and directed by Sam Mendes, has now set an opening date of 24th April - but not a theatre. The Rumour Machine grinds on.