News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 18th September 1998

Fame is returning to the West End, opening at the Prince Of Wales Theatre on 15th October for a fifteen week run, with a company made up from members of previous casts. Based on the Alan Parker film of 1980, which spawned the TV series, it presents the "next generation" of students at the New York High School of Performing Arts, featuring new songs and characters. The show played at the Cambridge Theatre for fifteen months in 1995/96 and the Victoria Palace last Christmas. The producer is Adam Spiegel.

With New York's Metropolitan Opera constantly held up as an example of how to run an unsubsidised opera house, the Royal Opera House has looked to America for management expertise. However, in line with most of its previous plans going off at half cock, it has signed only one half of the dream team it had been targeting. Michael M Kaiser, currently executive director of the American Ballet Theatre, will join Covent Garden in November as chief executive director. Sarah Billinghurst, second-in-command at the Met has declined to become artistic director, saying she was not prepared to be number two at the ROH. Kaiser, who has a reputation for taking tough action to eliminate deficits, will arrive as the new working practices of the "fresh start" are being formulated. The search for an artistic director continues.

The previously mentioned one man show Jesus, My Boy, featuring Tom Conti, will open at the Apollo Theatre on 10th December for a Christmas season. It is a portrayal of Christ in a modern context, written and directed by John Dowie and produced by Laurence Myers.

The gloves are off (or perhaps more correctly the pointe shoes are on) as English National Ballet ups the stakes in the Christmas "Battle Of The Ballets". It's been known for some time that ENB's traditional season of The Nutcracker at the Coliseum will face competition from the Birmingham Royal Ballet's production at the Lyceum, presented by Victor Hochauser and Barry Clayman Concerts. Now ENB has announced that it will follow on at the Coliseum with Cinderella, which the Royal Ballet is already performing at the Royal Festival Hall. I wonder what the next move will be.

Glyndebourne Festival Opera has announced its plans for the 1999 season, the first under Nicholas Snowman as general director. There will be new productions of Debussy's Peleas et Melisande and Smetana's The Bartered Bride, and revivals of La Clemenza de Tito, Rodelinda and Manon Lescaut. The repertoire will be completed by Flight a new opera by Jonathan Dove which is premiered by Glyndebourne Touring Opera on its home turf on 24th September this year, and then tours until Christmas.

Gerry Robinson's reform of the Arts Council, having halved the size of the board so that it no longer includes any practitioners in the performing arts, has moved on to the administrative staff. The slash and burn policy will reduce the workforce to less than half in an attempt to find savings of 2m a year. Some decision making in both grant and Lottery funding distribution will be passed to regional arts boards. The new Arts Council will only deal with organisations of national stature, touring companies and capital grants of over 100,000.

Peter Hall's revival of Alan Bennett's play Kafka's Dick is now confirmed to open at the Piccadilly Theatre on 12th November. The cast will include Eric Sykes, Julia McKenzie and John Gordon-Sinclair, who will also join Judi Dench, Michael Pennington and Michael Byrne in Filumena.

The National Theatre has started compiling a list of the 100 most significant plays of the 20th century for a project (or you might say publicity stunt) called NT2000. The intention is to present 45 minute excerpts, together with talks by actors and directors, in a series of events throughout next year. I have previously bemoaned the fact that new writing (even by established writers) seems unable to amass enough ideas to stretch beyond 75 minute one acters, but to reduce existing works to bite sized chunks seems perverse. Better surely to do that with the list which I propose to compile: the 10 most over-rated plays of the 20th Century. It starts with Shopping And Fucking - any other suggestions?

The next stage in the government's systematic dismantling of British heritage and culture is the Royal Tournament. In order to make it more "relevant", after 118 years the event is to be "re-imagined" as a high tech spectacle, and moved away from its home at Earl's Court. Presumably it will involve shooting down aircraft over Hyde Park, while a pop concert is in progress, and no doubt the race to dismantle and transport a field gun over a ravine will be replaced by competitive rebooting of computer terminals. At this rate, I wouldn't give much for the long term future of The Changing Of The Guard.

The Off Broadway hit Late Nite Catechism, which played last year at St Luke's Church on W46th Street is coming to London in December. Written by Maripat Donovan and Vicki Quade, and performed by Donovan as a Nun, this part lecture, part stand-up, part Oprah, part improv experience is unlike any other comedy - it crosses all boundaries. The producer, D & G Productions, is currently looking for angels. Find out more from the investment links in our Investment section by clicking on the Angel to the right of this column.