Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews
A revised version of Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran's stage comedy, revisiting their character Alan B'Stard, the most selfish politician of all time from the television series The New Statesman, which toured earlier this year under the title The Blair B'Stard Project, will play as The New Statesman at Trafalgar Studios 1 from 13th December to 27th January. Rik Mayall returns as the former arch Tory, who has crossed the floor to become New Labour, and is once again stalking the corridors of power, leaving a trail of devastation in his wake. He will be joined by Lysette Anthony, Garry Cooper, Helen Baker, Alexandra Gunn and Kamaal Hussein. The show is directed by Jennie Darnell, and produced by the Ambassador Theatre Group and Live Nation.
English Pocket Opera Company's contemporary production of Mozart's The Magic Flute, directed by Mark Tinkler, will play a season of mostly daytime performances at the Cochrane Theatre in Holborn, from 2nd to 17th December. The company comprises Darren Fox, Giles Davies, Allison Bell, Julian Close and David Vivian Russell, who will be accompanied by a quintet.
The Royal Opera House is continuing its ROH2 series of innovative and experimental small scale dance, opera and music events, staged in the Linbury Theatre and Clore Studio. Upcoming highlights include: the return of The Wind In The Willows, Kenneth Graeme's story of the riverbank, directed and choreographed by Will Tuckett, with narration by Andrew Motion, and music by Martin Ward, after George Butterworth, from 15th December to 13th January; Jacky Lansley Dance Theatre with the London premiere of View From The Shore, inspired by the Cornish coastline, and Anamule Dance, using recordings of performances and interviews with jazz artist Jelly Roll Morton; Time Code, a mixture of dance, music, drama, comedy and science, directed and choreographed by Will Tuckett, with music by Martin Ward; Thomas Ades opera The Tempest, directed by Tom Cairns, with choreography by Aletta Collins; and Multimedia Music Theatre with the European premiere of Constantinople, an experience of Byzantium, combining music by Christos Hatziz, soundscape by Anthony Crea, and projections by Jacques Collin and Lionel Arnould, with movement directed and choreographed by Marie-Josee Chartier. Further information can be found on the ROH web site via the link from London Venues in the Links section of TheatreNet.
New York TheatreNet: The National Theatre production of Coram Boy, adapted by Helen Edmundson from the novel by Jamila Gavin, directed by Melly Still, which begins its second season at the National on 29th November, is to open on Broadway, at a yet to be announced theatre, on May 1st. The story follows the intertwined fortunes of two orphans at the Coram Hospital for Deserted Children in 18th century England, one rescued from an African slave ship, the other an abandoned son of the heir to a great estate. The New York producer is Boyett Ostar.
The London Bubble Theatre Company production of Spangleguts, featuring Nicole Charles, will play a season of mostly daytime performances at The Albany in Deptford from 6th December to 13th January. The show based on a 17th century Italian fairy tale, involving a girl in search of a name, an evil schoolteacher, a thirsty cliff top lemon tree, a talking book, a runaway horse, a dashing prince, a blabbermouth eagle, and fairies with holey socks.
Kneehigh Theatre Company has two new shows in preparation. Rapunzel, by Annie Siddons, retelling the Grimms' fairy tale about the girl with the long blond hair in a new way, using puppetry, live music and animation, directed by Emma Rice, opens at Battersea Arts Centre on 13th December. In its most ambitious show to date, Emma Rice and Tom Morris are adapting and re-imagining A Matter Of Life And Death, the expressionist 1945 Powell and Pressburger film, about a British wartime pilot who is shot down, but puts and wins his case against dying, which will open at the National Theatre on 10th May.
Forthcoming shows at the Shaw Theatre in Euston include My Music And Me, Dionne Warwick in concert from 1st to 15th December; and Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, adapted and directed by Chris Pickles, portrayed using life size puppets, physical theatre, magical staging, story telling, music and song, from 19th December to 12th January.
Ethan Mordden, who has written a series of books charting the history of Broadway musicals decade by decade from the 1920s to the 1970s, has thrown up his hands in horror at the development of musicals of last 25 years in The Happiest Corpse I've Ever Seen, published by Palgrave Macmillan. Mourning the fact that big orchestras, real voices, recognisable books and intelligent lyrics have gone out the window, Mordden catalogues the deficiencies of 'stupendous flops' such as Dance Of The Vampires, Jekyll & Hyde and The Capeman, while also saluting the widely different qualities of successes such as The Phantom Of The Opera, Rent and The Producers. Mordden contends that Broadway musical is dead, but the funeral has yet to take place, so he invites readers to the wake, and takes an acerbic and witty look at the condition of the corpse. A must for anyone with a real interest in the Broadway musical and of theatre in general.
The Christmas season at The Little Angel Theatre in Islington, home of British puppetry, will comprise a new production of Hans Andersen's The Snow Queen, a story of friendship and love set in the snowy mountains of Lapland, adapted by Sian Jones, told using short string marionettes and object animation, directed by Peter Glanville, with music by Rod Anderson; together with Snowflake, a special adaptation of the same story for 2 to 5 year olds, playing daytime performances in repertoire from 18th November to 28th January.
This year's Royal Variety Show, held aid of the Entertainment Artistes' Benevolent Fund, to be staged at the London Coliseum (returning to its more populist roots) on 4th December, will include excerpts from four of the autumn's new musicals: Avenue Q, Monty Python's Spamalot, The Sound Of Music and Wicked.
Mike Bradwell is to step down as artistic director of The Bush Theatre in Shepherd's Bush, after a decade at the venue that champions new writing. His final production will be Georgia Fitch's I Like Mine With A Kiss, opening on 14th February.
And Finally . . . Showbiz political correctness has reached its ultimate destination in the Broadway show Jay Johnson: The Two And Only, as the ventriloquist says that his working companion prefers to be known not as a 'dummy', but as a 'Wooden American'. Although, come to think of it, 'a person of timber' also has a nicely mealy mouthed ring to it.