Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews
Owing to restoration work on its usual home, Nicholas Hawkesmoor's Christ Church, this year's Spitalfields Winter Festival will centre on Shoreditch Church from 10th to 20th December. It will explore the sound of the festive season through the centuries, from some of the earliest written Christmas music right up to the present day, with musical forces ranging from the solo piano to the full orchestra of Bach's Christmas Oratorio, music inspired by faith that embraces the visionary universe of Messiaen, and the opportunity for the audience to join in with the irresistible enthusiasm of the London Adventist Chorale. All this, plus bell ringing, free events, walks, talks, workshops and exhibitions about the Spitalfields and Shorditch area and the restoration of Christ Church, one of the great baroque churches of Europe. Further information can be found on the Spitalfields Festival web site via the link form the Festivals section of TheatreNet.
After a long wait (partly due to a legal battle over the rights) Gold!, the new musical by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman, has been announced for Chicago's Goodman Theater next June. The show, which was workshopped a while back under the title Wise Guys is about the eccentric real life brothers Addison and Wilson Mizner, who went to Alaska during the gold rush of 1890s, and ended up as real estate developers in Florida. The production will reunite Sondheim with director Harold Prince after a gap of twenty years.
Clare Buckfield, Michael Jayston and Gwen Taylor open a regional tour of Donald Churchill's play Moment Of Weakness, at the Belgrade Theatre Coventry on 12th November. The bittersweet comedy about a divorced couple meeting after three years apart is directed by David Taylor, and produced by Ivan Hale.
Dress Circle, the Covent Garden musical theatre store that rejoices in the soubriquet of 'The World's Greatest Showbiz Shop', which was damaged by arson following a burglary in August, has announced its comeback. There will be a grand re-opening celebration on 23rd November. 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.
Ticket Plan is offering insurance cover for theatregoers who are unable to attend a show for which they have purchased non-refundable tickets. It includes the personal eventualities of illness and bereavement, and the transport difficulties of breakdown or industrial action - but not the cancellation of the event itself. Cover costs from £1 per ticket and can be obtained from the box office at the time the booking is made.
Graciela Daniele will direct and choreograph a workshop of Pamela's First Musical, a musical based on Wendy Wasserstein's illustrated children's book, at the Lincoln Center Theater in New York in November. Wasserstein has made the adaptation, with music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by David Zippel. The 1998 book, illustrated by the Broadway scenic designer Andrew Jackness, tells the story of how Pamela is taken to lunch at the Russian Tea Room by her quirky Aunt, and then to a Broadway musical, where she meets the performers and creators.
Theatre lovers looking for souvenirs and memorabilia are in luck, as the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Guildford is holding a charity auction on eBay UK from 18th to 28th October. All manner of items, from signed scripts, photographs, programmes and books, to the shoes worn by Sheila Gish in London and Broadway productions of Company, are up for grabs. Full details can be found on the Yvonne Arnaud web site via the link from the Regional Theatres section of TheatreNet.
Last Word On: Creating Musicals "Musicals are never finished, they're just abandoned. You've just run out of time and it's opening night, and that's when you know that you're done." - Jerome Robbins.
Santa's Kingdom is planning to blur the line between exhibition and performance art with interactive Christmas experiences at Wembley Exhibition Halls in London, the NEC in Birmingham and the SECC in Glasgow, between 9.30am to 10pm from 29th November to 23rd December. A visit to the themed extravaganza will last two and a half hours and cover an area of over 60,000 sq ft. Features will include a journey through a winter wonderland to a huge ice cave, a toy factory with elves in full production, Santa's North Pole village (with real reindeer), Mrs Claus house and official post office, a 100ft toboggan ride and snowballing area (with 250 tonnes of real snow), and all sorts of weird and wonderful characters guiding visitors around, plus of course, an opportunity to meet Father Christmas himself. Only in America you might think, but no, it's here.
Kenneth MacMillan: The Outsider - Celebrating A Rebel Within A Tradition is a new exhibition at the Theatre Museum exploring the work of one of Britain's most outstanding and controversial choreographers. It examines the theatricality of MacMillan's work, showing how he challenged the accepted ideas of staging a ballet. The Museum has drawn from its extensive collections of designs, photographs and costumes to show how Macmillan's innovative work is expressed through a unique blend of choreography, design and music. Dance fans can also see continuing displays celebrating the 75th anniversary of Rambert Dance Company, the origins of the Diaghilev Ballets Russes, and costumes worn by Margot Fonteyn. Further information can be found on the Theatre Museum web site via the link from the Information section of TheatreNet.
The Rumour Machine says: that Stephen Spielberg is in discussions with Sam Mendes about him directing a stage musical based on the animated film Shrek; and that Bea Arthur: Just Between Friends - rather like Elaine Stritch At Liberty but taller - which and has already toured extensively in America and played a Broadway season, may arrive in London in the new year. The Rumour Machine grinds on.
Just when you thought things couldn't get worse dept: Ben Elton is apparently working on a sequel to the much (and justly) derided We Will Rock You, continuing the 'story' using other material from the Queen back catalogue. Apparently his ambition is for it to be the first stage sequel to run concurrently with the original. Once again, haven't we suffered enough?