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Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 20th January 2006

The Tony Award winning Broadway musical Monty Python's Spamalot, Eric Idle's adaptation of the film Monty Python And The Holy Grail, directed by Mike Nichols, with choreography by Casey Nicholaw, will open at the Palace Theatre in October. The show features the songs from the film, plus a new score with lyrics Idle and music by John Du Prez. No casting has yet been announced. Tim Curry originated the role of King Arthur, which is currently being played by Simon Russell Beale.

In the nominations for this year's Laurence Olivier Awards, Billy Elliott The Musical, faces no real competition for Best New Musical, nor does Guys And Dolls for Outstanding Musical Production, but they go head to head in most eligible categories, including Haydn Gwynn, Jane Krakowski and Jenna Russell vying for Best Actress, James Lomas/George Maguire/Liam Mower, Douglas Hodge and Ewan McGregor battling for Best Actor, and Peter Darling vs Rob Ashford for Best Choreographer. Among the plays, things are more evenly spread, although the most strongly featured are Death Of A Salesman up for Best Revival, plus Brian Dennehy for Best Actor and Clare Higging for Best Actress, and Mary Stuart, also Best Revival, with Janet McTeer and Harriet Walter battling for Best Actress. In opera, the troubled English National Opera has taken all the nominations in Best New Production and Outstanding Achievement (although one is shared with Royal Opera). The winners will be announced at a ceremony at the Hilton Park Lane on Sunday 26th February. Full details of the nominations can be found on the Society Of London Theatre web site via the link opposite below.

Abi Titmuss is to make her London stage debut with Jay Benedict in Arthur Miller's Two Way Mirror, directed by Mike Miller, opening at the Courtyard Theatre at the Theatre Museum on 2nd March. The play is a semi-autobiographical exploration of illusion and the power of desire, through a seemingly unlikely relationship.

The Open Air Theatre has announced this year's season, which runs from 9th June to 9th September, and comprises: Taming Of The Shrew, directed by Rachel Kavanaugh; the return of Ian Talbot's 2004 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream; Sandy Wilson's musical The Boyfriend, a musical romance set in 1920s Niece, also directed by Talbot; and as the daytime children's play, Babe, The Sheep-Pig, adapted and directed by David Wood, from Dick King-Smith's story about a confused piglet, with music by Peter Pontzen, and choreography by Sheila Falconer. There will also be Sunday and late night cabaret and comedy from Jimmy Carr, Natalie Haynes, Daniel Kitson, Clare Teal and The Comedy Store Players.

On The Casting Couch: Jeremy Irons will be joined by Patrick Malahide and Jean Boht in Embers, opening at the Duke of York's Theatre on 1st March; Alun Armstrong and Philip Voss will be in the company of The Royal Hunt Of The Sun, opening at the National Theatre on 12th April; British performer James Fox will be the featured singer in Movin' Out, opening at the Apollo Victoria Theatre on 18th April; Tamsin Grieg and Joseph Milson will lead the cast of Much Ado About Nothing, opening at Stratford upon Avon on 11th May; and (Michael Junior) Harvey will be joined by Michelle Collins and singer Javine in Daddy Cool, opening at the Shaftesbury Theatre on 16th May.

Douglas Hodge is directing Philip King's See How They Run, with Jo Stone-Fewings, Benjamin Whitrow, Hattie Morahan, Julie Legrand, Simon Wilson, Nicholas Blane, Adrian Fear, Chris Macdonnell and Natalie Grady, which opens a regional tour at the Theatre Royal Plymouth on 15th February. The classic British farce is set in a village vicarage in 1942, involving the vicar, his wayward former actress wife, their incompetent maid and a local spinster. The producer is the Touring Partnership

The New York Musical Theatre Festival, a celebration of the next generation of musical theatre writers and their work, is accepting submissions for this year's Festival, which will run from 10th September to 1st October. Writers are invited to submit 'production ready' musicals to the Festival's Next Link Project, from which a jury of theatre professionals will choose 18 shows to be performed. In only two years, NYMF has introduced nearly 70 new musicals to the New York stage, with 5 of the shows in the inaugural season transferring to commercial productions within a year. Over 25,000 people attended the 2005 Festival, and The Great American Trailer Park Musical moved straight to an Off Broadway production. The deadline for submissions is 10th March. Further information and an application form can be found on the NYMF web site via the link from the Festivals section of New YorkTheatreNet.

The spring season at Greenwich Theatre includes: the Theatreworks production of Little Women, Louise M Alcott's story of a family of sisters during the American Civil War, adapted by Ali Gorton, with Julia Watson and Cassie Compton; Northern Stage's multimedia production of Charles Dickens's Great Expectations, adapted by John Clifford, directed by Neil Murray; Beggarsbelief with Jason And The Argonauts, adapted by Tom Morria and Cark Heap, who also directs; The Alchemist, adapted from Paulo Coehlo's novel about a boy travelling through the bazaars of Tangiers and the Egyptian desert in search of his dream, directed by Dominic Knutton, presented by the Cornish Theatre Collective and James Seabright; and the Compass Theatre Company production of Herman Melville's Moby Dick, the epic tale of man against mammal, adapted by Richard Hurford, directed by Neil Sissons.

The Bolshoi Ballet, under its new artistic director Alexi Ratmansky is returning to Britain for its first regional tour for 16 years, opening at the Birmingham Hippodrome on 28th March. The company will perform Yuri Grigorovich's productions of Swan Lake and Spartacus, and Marius Pepita's Giselle. The season will be presented by Victor Hochhauser.