News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 16th December 2005

It's Official! As previously forecast here, the Tony award winning spectacular musical Wicked, currently Broadways biggest selling show, will receive its British premiere at the Apollo Victoria Theatre on 27th September. Adapted from Gregory Maguire's novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, it tells the history of the Good and Wicked Witches of Oz before Dorothy arrived, revealing how and why they are not as good or wicked as they seemed. The show has a book by Winnie Holtzman, and music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, and is directed by Joe Mantello, with musical staging by Wayne Cilento.

Prior to this, the Tony Award winning Broadway dance musical Movin' Out, choreographed by Twyla Tharp to the songs of Billy Joel, will open a European tour at Apollo Victoria Theatre from 18th April to 17th July. The show tells the story a group of friends whose lives are torn apart by the Vietnam War, but are finally mended. The producer is IP Live.

The Royal Shakespeare Company will bring its New Work Festival to the Soho Theatre from 14th March to 22nd April. It will include Debbie Tucker Green's Trade, about female sex tourism, directed by Sacha Wares; the return of Yasmin Alibhai-Brown with Nowhere To Belong, recalling playing Juliet in 1960s Uganda, directed by Gavin Marshall; David Greig's The American Pilot, examining the situation when a pilot who crashes his plane in a distant country, directed by Ramin Gray; Postcards From America, a double bill of David Adjmi's monologue Elective Affinities, on the limits of tolerance in an age of global terror, and Brett Neveu's Eric Larue, about the aftermath of a shooting in a small town school, directed by Dominic Cooke; and Fraser Grace's Breakfast With Mugabe, an imagined session with a psychiatrist for the African dictator, directed by Anthony Sher.

Rod Beacham's one man play Lies Have Been Told: An Evening With Robert Maxwell, directed by Alan Dosser, will join the inaugural season at the Trafalgar Studios 2, from 11th to 28th January. Philip York plays the media mogul giving the 'true' account of his death, when he fell/jumped/was pushed from his yacht and drowned. It is produced by Andy Jordan Productions and Dale Djerassi.

Having presented opera and ballet in the round, the Royal Albert Hall will present its first musical: Show Boat, with book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein, and music by Jerome Kern, directed by Francesca Zambello, with choreography by Arthur Pita, will play from 10th to 25th June. Based on Edna Ferber's novel, telling the story of life aboard a show boat travelling the Mississippi during the early 1890's, it is generally considered to be the first modern musical. It is a co-production by the Royal Albert Hall and Raymond Gubbay.

On 9th January, with its 7,486th performance at the Majestic Theatre, The Phantom Of The Opera will overtake Cats to become Broadway's longest running show. A night of celebrations is planned, including a 'post-show show' on stage devised by the creative team to mark the occasion, followed by a masked ball at The Waldorf Astoria's Grand Ballroom. On Broadway, since its debut on 26th January 1988, The Phantom Of The Opera has taken nearly $600m, making it the highest grossing show in Broadway history, with a total attendance of 11m. Three performers have been with the show since the beginning: George Lee Andrews (Monsieur Andre), Mary Leigh Stahl (Wardrobe Mistress/Confidante) and Richard Warren Pugh (Don Attilio). On that night the others in Broadway's top five longest runners will be: Cats - 7,485 performances, Les Miserables - 6,680 performances, A Chorus Line - 6,137 performances and Oh! Calcutta! - 5,959 performances.

KIT Productions have resigned from running Sound Theatre, off Leicester Square, after withdrawal of support by its financial backers, following the demise of its Christmas show Snow! The Musical. The building's landlords have now taken over the 150 seater venue, which was launched six months ago, and it will become a receiving house, programmed by Mig Kimpton. It will reopen on 12th January with Jonathan Harvey's Beautiful Thing, which tells of life during a long hot summer on the Thamesmead Housing Estate, with Naomi Bentley, Leo Bill, Gavin Brocker, Andrew Garfield and Sophie Stanton, directed by Toby Frow, and produced by NML Productions.

The Donmar Warehouse has announced its new season, comprising the world premiere of Mark Ravenhill's The Cut, with Deborah Findlay and Ian McKellen, directed by Michael Grandage, opening on 23rd February, about a seemingly ordinary man with a shocking secret; Frank McGuinness's version of Phaedra, Racine's classical tragedy of guilty passion, with Clare Higgins, directed by Tom Cairns, opening on 11th April; John Mortimer's A Voyage Round My Father, about his relationship with his blind barrister father, with Derek Jacobi, directed by Thea Sharrock, opening on 8th June; and the world premiere of Peter Morgan's Frost/Nixon, about the interviews David Frost had with Richard Nixon after his resignation from the White House, with Michael Sheen, directed by Michael Grandage, opening on 10th August.

David Harrower's Blackbird, with Roger Allam and Jodhi May, which premiered at the Edinburgh Festival, directed by Peter Stein, will open at the Albery Theatre on 13th February. The play tells of a meeting between a woman and the man who sexually abused her as a child fifteen years earlier. The producer is MJE Productions.

The American based world wide conglomerate Clear Channel Communications, which currently spans billboard advertising, radio stations, theatre, sports stadia and arena management, and show and concert production and promotion, is to spin off its entertainment division as a separately quoted company. Live Nation, as the $2.75bn company will be called, will have three divisions: theatrical, music and sports. There is widespread speculation that once the demerger has taken place, parts or all of the new company may be sold off. In Britain the company owns or manages 21 venues, including the Apollo Victoria, Dominion and Lyceum theatres in London, and the Opera House and Palace theatres in Manchester, Liverpool Empire and Bristol Hippodrome.

The spring season at The Gate Theatre will include August Strindberg's The Great Highway, in a new translation by Gregory Motton, a psycho-spiritual pilgrimage drama exploring the landscapes of memory, with Stephen Boxer and Laurence Penry-Jones, directed by Wally Sutcliffe; a triple bill of Harold Pinter's short plays, A Slight Ache, in which a couple are at breakfast when the man's eyes start to ache, a condition worsened by a mysterious matchseller, A Kind Of Alaska, where a woman wakes up after 30 years in a coma still thinking she's 16, and Precisely, an anti-nuclear weapons piece, directed by Claire Lovett and Thea Sharrock; and Hear And Now, written by Lara Foot Newton and Lionel Newton, who also appears with Denise Newman, directed by Lara Foot Newton, a love story about people who aren't so young anymore.