News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 19th November 1999

The world premiere of Blast!, the musical extravaganza at the London Apollo on 14th December, will feature a company of 40 brass players, 12 percussionists and a 16 strong "visual ensemble". Although predominantly American, six of the brass players are from the Royal Academy of Music. While performing a wide variety of music from classical to rock, the company marches at high speed, and performs intricate synchronised drills involving rifles, sabres and flags, as well as their instruments (although apparently there's no actual baseball game). The show is produced by the Star of Indiana and Brass Theatre, from Bloomington Indiana, which was founded twelve years ago to benefit young people in music education.

We know that Shakespeare speaks to all people in all times, but now we are presented with evidence that he invented business training. In "Shakespeare in Charge: The Bard's Guide to Leading and Succeeding on the Business Stage", Norman Augustine and Kenneth Adelman apply Shakespeare's psychological insights to the tortuous and unpredictable workings of the corporate world. Using the examples of characters from Shakespeare's plays, such as Henry V for Leadership, Augustine and Adelman cover Communication, Marketing, Diversity Training, Team Building, and Law & Ethics. Their operation is called Movers And Shakespeares, and surprisingly these gentlemen are American. If you dare, more can be found at: http://www.shakespeareincharge.com

Also (only) in America, the Women's Shakespeare Company continues its mission to give women the opportunity to play roles they are not usually able to play, by presenting Shakespeare's plays with all female casts. The WSC production of Othello, directed by Sidney Fortner, plays Off Broadway at The Trilogy Theater from 2nd to 19th December. Artistic director Kelly Ann Sharman, reassuringly explains: "the women will play male roles as men, just as men played women's roles in Elizabethan times".

Sadlers Wells has announced its spring season. It features Conjunto Folklorico Nacional de Cuba with Rumbadelicia, which explores the roots of Afro-Cuban culture; La La Human Steps; Northern Ballet Theatre performing Carmen; NDT2 with Peter Schaufuss' Elvis inspired ballet The King; The Grand Union Orchestra presenting Where The Rivers Meet, a music theatre piece demonstrating the possibilities of global culture; Rambert Dance Company; and Zurich Ballet blending German folk dances and neoclassical ballet in Motzartina.

The Teachers Preview Club is a new initiative from The Mousetrap Foundation, to give teachers the chance to see West End shows at discounted prices. This is designed to enable them to make informed decisions when choosing productions for their pupils. An annual fee of £15 entitles members to a pair of reduced price tickets to over fifty productions, a quarterly newsletter with show details plus curriculum links and teaching resources, exclusive invitations to special theatre events, and a dedicated 24 hour hotline for booking, information and last minute offers. For more information call Susan Whiddington on 0171 836 4388 or to become a member call 0171 413 3545.

Mind (The Gap), a new musical by Martin Seager, plays at the Canal Café Theatre from 23rd to 27th November. Set in the morning rush hour on the London Underground, it explores the thoughts and feelings of commuters, who though thrust together physically, remain spiritually isolated. A band of buskers accompanies the action. Random Acts Of Kindness Theatre Company is the producer.

Lacking our pantomime tradition, America's main festive theatrical fare generally consists of adaptations of Dickens A Christmas Carol. The annual production at Madison Square Garden, staged by British director Mike Ockrent and choreographer Susan Stroman, opens on 26th November. A regular part of New York's Christmas scene since 1994, it aims to rival the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show in scale, by turning the lobby into a Victorian market place, complete with carolers and street performers. The show itself features the biggest theatrical set in the history of New York theatre, and the world's largest indoor snowfall. But in NYC this year the market seems to be saturated, as in addition, there are two other more modest Off Broadway productions scheduled, at Waterloo Bridge Theatre opening on 2nd December, and at 13th Street Repertory Theatre on 3rd.

The new no nonsense, on time, on budget and on stage regime at Covent Garden has revealed its season for next summer. It consists of visits from Birmingham Royal Ballet performing David Bintley's new work Arthur I, and the Kirov Ballet and Opera presenting Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, Verdi's La Forza del Destino and Prokofiev's War And Peace. The Royal Ballet will dance programmes of short works and the full length Manon.

Hampstead Theatre has received a £9.85m Lottery grant towards its building project, providing it raises £5m matching funding. Construction will start next summer on a new theatre on an adjoining site, with completion due in 2002. It will house an auditorium with flexible seating arrangements, accommodating between 200 and 325. The existing theatre, a temporary structure which cost £25,000 to build in the early 1960's, will continue in use until the opening of the new venue. The Almeida Theatre also received a £1.5m grant towards its £4.3m refurbishment programme.

A musical based on James Fenimore Cooper's The Last Of The Mohicans is scheduled for a spring opening at a regional theatre and West End transfer. The action is set in America in 1757 during the colonial wars, when British and French forces set the native Mohican and Huron tribes against each other. The show is written by Julian Ronnie and Paul Miller, and the director is David Taylor.

The Rumour Machine says: that Matthew Bourne is being courted by Trevor Nunn to choreograph the much discussed revival of My Fair Lady, with Jonathan Pryce as Higgins, late next year or early 2001 - Cameron Mackintosh will co-produce and transfer the show to the West End, as he did with Oklahoma!; and that Ray Davies' musical Come Dancing, set in the pre rock'n'roll 50's, which was workshopped at the National Theatre Studio by Fiona Laird, may come to the West End next year produced by Adam Spiegel. The Rumour Machine grinds on.