News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 19th September 2003

The survivors of the Edinburgh Fringe continue to head south, and the previously mentioned San Francisco based Riot Group's production of Pugilist Specialist, proclaimed First Of The Fringe Firsts, will play at the Soho Theatre from 14th January to 7th February prior to a regional tour. The show is a documentary style account of four American soldiers on the hunt for evil in foreign lands mishandling the assassination of a rogue Middle Eastern leader. Adriano Shaplin wrote, directed and stars, along with Paul Chowdhry, Dave Lamb and Stephanie Viola.

As the picnic hampers and travel rugs are packed away for another year, Glyndebourne Touring Opera takes to the road until December, following a launch mini season of performances on home turf from 7th to 25th October. The repertoire comprises: this season's new production of Mozart's Idomeneo directed by Peter Sellars; Verdi's La Traviata directed by Christopher Cowell; and Peter Sellars 1996 production of Handel's Theodora.

Walkin' Broadway is a new audio walking tour that guides visitors on a journey through Times Square and the surrounding area, pausing outside many of the theatres to impart stories about the shows and personalities who have played in them. Interwoven with the narration by Elliot Forrest are quotes from performers, writers and directors, as well as excerpts from more than 60 Broadway cast recordings. The tour costs $10, and is available each afternoon from the famous Colony record and music store in the Brill Building, which housed many music publishers, songwriters and arrangers in the days of Tin Pan Alley, on the corner of Broadway and 49th Street.

A Star Danced, a musical that givea a contemporary 'Cold Feet' style twist to Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, is running at the Watermill Theatre Newbury until 25th October. Written and directed by John Doyle, with music by Sarah Travis, it features the Doyle trademark of actor-musicians Chris Dickins, Jeremy Harriosn, Rebecca Harrison, Nina Lucking, Karen Mann, Angela Sims, Robert Sterne and Edward York. Doyle will also direct Sweeney Todd, the tale of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Hugh Wheeler, which will run at the Watermill from 4th February to 27th March. Meanwhile, the Watermill's earlier production Gigolo, written and directed by Ade Morris, is once again touring around the highways and byways of Berkshire and beyond. Shaun Hennessey, Sam Hudson-Thomas and Toni Midlane star in the comedy detailing the adventures of an out of work actor, his ex-girlfriend, and their cross dressing mutual friend, when the men start an escort agency in Stoke on Trent.

The autumn season at the Bridewell Theatre includes: Fatale, a musical celebration of the life of a Jazz Age Femme Fatale that echoes the lives and work of the Bloomsbury Group, written and directed by Mark Akrill, with music by John White and Andrew Crookall, and choreography by Francesca Jaynes, from 7th to 25th October; and Notes Across A Small Pond a programme of three new one act musicals, directed by Carol Metcalfe, from 1st to 15th November, comprising Blood Drive, music by Joel Derfner and lyrics by Rachel Sheinkin, a sharp take on the pitfalls of 'believing the hype', The Happiness Of Fish, book and lyrics by Mindi Dickstein and music by Mary Lloyd-Butler, a surreal investigation of the worries that keep people awake at night, and Re: Love, music and lyrics by Osnat Schmool, an accapella jazz-blues-Brazillian confection about first love.

Susan Gilbert and Jay Shir's new book, A Tale Of Four Houses: Opera At Covent Garden, La Scala, Vienna And The Met Since 1945, published by HarperCollins, sounds like an undertaking of Wagnerian proportions, and at nearly 1,000 pages is a weighty tome, but opera lovers will be enthralled. The work charts the suitably histrionic goings on backstage in the world's greatest opera houses in a very readable way, and proves that the recent 'little local difficulty' at the Royal Opera House is by no means an isolated incident. It is somehow reassuring to find that the extravagance of the behaviour of not only the singers, but the conductors, the directors and even the managements echoes that of the characters in the operas that they are producing. Gilbert and Shir skilfully bring alive the people, the productions and the events in the upper echelons of world opera during period of great artistic change.

Though the season of performances is drawing to a close, Shakespeare's Globe moves indoors to continue its programme of staged readings of rarely performed works by Shakespeare's contemporaries on Sunday afternoons in its Education Centre. In November: 2nd: Lodowick Carlell's Osmond The Great Turk; 16th: Philip Messinger's The Renegado; and 30th: John Mason The Turk. Each reading is preceded at 12noon by an introduction to its background.

The world premiere of a new musical Like Jazz, with a book by Larry Gelbart, music by Cy Coleman, and lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman will be staged at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles from 4th December to 25th January. Devised from a Portraits In Jazz concert at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, created by Coleman and the Bergmans, it is a celebration of the performers and the world of jazz. Artistic director Gordon Davidson will direct with choreography by Patricia Birch.

The Rumour Machine says: that maverick classical impresario Raymond Gubbay, whose offer to run Covent Garden was rejected out of hand, is to set up his own commercial opera house at the Savoy Theatre (where he has presented several D'Oyly Carte Gilbert and Sullivan operetta productions), with three month runs starting next April with Mozart's The Marriage Of Figaro and Rossini's The Barber Of Seville; that The Woman In White, Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical version of Wilkie Collins Victorian novel, will open at the Palace Theatre next year (although possibly over Cameron Mackintosh's dead body); and that Eric Idle is working on a Broadway musical based on the 1975 film Monty Python And the Holy Grail, to be called Spamalot, with music by John Du Prez, to be directed by Mike Nichols and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell. The Rumour Machine grinds on.