Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews
After a sell out opening at Plymouth, Bill Kenwright will bring Stepping Out - The Musical to the West End in the new year. This is a musical version of Richard Harris' award winning comedy about nine women (and one man) attending a tap dancing class in a London church hall. Music is by Denis King and lyrics by Mary Stewart-David. The cast includes Liz Robertson as the teacher, Diane Langton, Jan Hartley and David McAlister. There was real backstage drama when Olivia Breeze broke a bone in her foot on the first night.
The new production of Jesus Christ Superstar is remarkable for its lack of newness. Anyone old enough to be familiar with the original production - a group of hippies in brown rags, climbing over a steeply raked set surrounding a platform incorporating a lift, which rises up to form the last supper table - may find themselves on familiar ground. The arrangements (by Andrew Lloyd Webber) are very similar to the original, although the conducting steamrollers through, flattening previous the variety of tempi. The main innovations seem to be moving the interval earlier - to before the last supper - and David Burt playing Pilate like Abanaza in Aladdin.
Which brings us to seasonal productions. Christmas will see the battle of the Beauties. Presumably "inspired" by the impending Disney version, both Stratford East and the Young Vic are offering Beauty and the Beast as their festive fare. At Stratford it is presented in traditional panto style by the usual writing team of David Cregan and Brian Protheroe, while the Young Vic promises a fairy-tale thriller by Laurence Boswell and Mick Sands. Meanwhile rumour is that Disney's Beauty And The Beast will star Graham Bickley (whose previous triumphs include Which Witch!) and newcomer Julie-Alanah Brighten who is currently in the chorus of Oliver!
Making the most of Christmas, Keith Prowse Londoners are offering two night breaks combining shopping with tickets to a West End show from £87. They can be reached on 01534 870709.
On to next year, and Ann Crumb, the original Rose in Aspects Of Love in both London and New York is joining Gary Wilmot as The Goodbye Girl. Don Black - probably this country's most successful lyricist - has been drafted into the creative team to contribute additional lyrics as part of the reworking process.
Finally, a new musical called Always, about Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson, is to open at the Victoria Palace in June. Written by William May and Jason Sprague, it will be directed by Frank Hauser and Thommie Walsh - who also choreographs. This should not be confused with earlier show about the same subject written by Les Reed which did a tryout tour a few years ago.