News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 20th September 2002

The West End is getting more and more like Broadway, with shows announced for theatres months in advance - sometimes even before their predecessors have opened. Although Abba Mania is still staggering on, and Brenda Blethyn doesn't assume the mantle of Mrs Warren until next month, Arsenic And Old Lace is confirmed to open at the Strand Theatre on 25th February. Stephen Tomkinson, Thelma Barlow and Marcia Warren are joined by American Michael Richards in Joseph Kesselring's classic black comedy about two little old ladies who poison 'sad and lonely old men' as a act of charity, and bury them in the basement of their Victorian home in Brooklyn. The original production ran at the Strand for a record breaking 1,337 performances from December 1942. This time the director is Matthew Francis, and the producer is Katherine Dore Management.

It's Official 1! As previously forecast here, the Hampstead Theatre 25th anniversary production of Mike Leigh Abigail's Party will transfer to the New Ambassador's Theatre in December. The ultimate embarrassing party experience stars Elizabeth Berrington, Rosie Cavaliere, Wendy Nottingham, Jeremy Swift and Steffan Rhodri, and is directed by David Grindley. It is the final production in the present Hampstead Theatre building before a new 15m theatre opens next year.

5000 children participated in over 30 free events, and thousands more attended 27 West End shows in this year's Kids Week in the West End, which ran from 23rd to 30th August. It is being followed up with Kids Club On-line, offering Kids Week style deals and competitions throughout the year. This is in addition to the free Kids Club which takes place every Saturday at the Theatre Museum - for further information and bookings call 020 7943 4806. The Kids Club On-line can be found on the Kids Week web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

The Royal Shakespeare Company has announced its winter season at Stratford. In the RST: the conclusion of the productions from the Roudhouse season, The Winter's Tale, The Tempest and Pericles, will be followed by the return of Adrian Noble's production of The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, running from 21st November until 9th February. In the Swan Theatre: The RSC Academy Company in King Lear directed by Declan Donnellan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor, directed by Rachel Kavanagh, and Coriolanus. The last two are presented in association with University of Michigan, and will undertake a UK regional tour and then transfer to Michigan.

It's Official 2! As previously forecast here, Michael Moore - Live! will receive its world premiere at The Roundhouse on 7th November. As with his television shows, provocateur Moor will mix comedy with commentary about the state of the American nation, but for the first time live, employing a host of multi-media paraphernalia. The producers are Karl Sydow and David Johnson. If it works, it's next stop Broadway.

The Market Theatre Johannesburg production Sezar, an adaptation of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar relocated in a mythical African kingdom, by writer and director Yael Farber, opens a UK regional tour at Oxford Playhouse on 25th September. It is presented by Oxford Playhouse and Arc Productions, and further information can be found on the Oxford Playhouse web site, via the link from the Regional Theatres section of TheatreNet.

Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Cats will open a UK regional tour at the Theatre Royal Plymouth on 15th February.

Japanese comedian Issey Ogata returns to make his fifth appearance in London at the Playhouse Theatre from 23rd to 27th October. Described as "Tokyo's Woody Allen", Ogata will appear with Kaori Momoi, a leading Japanese film actress in a new show exposing the absurdity of people's reactions when confronted with extreme situations. The show will be performed in Japanese and accompanied by a live simultaneous translation.

The official start to the Broadway season has seen the launch of a further Season Of Savings campaign, with a wide variety of discounts on shows, restaurants and other activities. The original Season Of Savings scheme was devised last January by the Empire State Development Corporation and the League of American Theatres and Producers to encourage audiences to return to New York following the attack on the World Trade Centre, and resulted in over 78,000 theatre ticket sales. Further information can be found on the I Love NY Theater web site via the link from the New York section of TheatreNet.

John Doyle weaves his multidisciplinary wand over the Richard Rodgers song book to create another idiosyncratic Watermill Theatre Newbury musical with Ten Cents A Dance, running until 26th October. Set in a New York bar, it features over 30 numbers drawn from over 900 published songs, written for over 40 Broadway shows during a 60 year career, performed by an all singing, all dancing, all instrument playing cast of 6. The show moves on to be part of the International Festival of Musical Theatre in Cardiff.

Broadway veteran Liliane Montevecci and Roy Barraclough are to star in a 50th anniversary production of Sandy Wilson's The Boyfriend, which began life at the now much missed Player's Theatre in 1953. It will open at the Theatre Royal Plymouth next spring, prior to a regional tour with the West End in mind, directed by Martin Connor.

"Tuesdays at 7" may be the new big thing on Broadway from January. In an effort to boost audiences on a traditionally quiet night, there is a move afoot to set the curtain time back an hour from the universal 8pm, enabling theatregoers to get home earlier on a work night. Some Off Broadway theatres have already tried this successfully, and now Broadway producers are giving it serious consideration.

And Finally . . . It's rumoured that Ben Elton is now working on a "musical" based on Rod Stewart's back catalogue called Tonight's The Night - hasn't the theatre suffered enough?