News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 22nd January 1999

Shockhead Peter, which created a stir last year, both on tour and in its previous London appearance, returns to the Lyric Hammersmith from 22nd February to 10th April. Based on Heinrich Hoffmann's cautionary tale Struwwelpeter, but given a Rocky Horror style workover, Cultural Industry's combination of puppetry, music and narrative drive has swept all before it throughout the subsequent European tour. The show features the falsetto trio The Tiger Lillies, and the directors are Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch. It is a co-production with West Yorkshire Playhouse and Lyric Hammersmith.

The 1981 Tony award winning musical Dreamgirls, previously unseen in this country, may finally reach the West End in the Summer. It portrays the backstage drama surrounding the rise to fame of a '60's Motown style girl group, not a million miles from the Supremes. With book and lyrics by Tom Eyen, and music by Henry Krieger, it was originally staged by Michael Bennett. A reworked version is now touring America prior to a possible Broadway appearance. Mark S Hoebee is likely to direct here for a battery of producers including Sacha Brooks and Adam Spiegel.

The Royal Shakespeare Company is continuing the its On The Edge accountability/accessibility programme, with free Post Show Talkbacks held in the Barbican Pit, when the cast will take part in a discussion with the audience, after the matinees of Talk Of The City on 4th March, and Bartholomew Fair on 25th March, and evening performances of Shadows on 26th February, and Roberto Zucco on 16th April. There will also be Backstage...Upfront events in the Barbican Theatre, when the cast and production teams reveal the secrets of rehearsal and backstage work of The Merchant Of Venice on 25th February, The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe on 30th March and 3rd April, and The Winter's Tale on 27th April. All events start at 11.30am and last about an hour, and admission is 4.50. There is also a similar programme in the Stratford theatres.

A trilogy of short plays by Robert Holman, Making Noise Quietly, featuring Eleanor Bron and Peter Hanly, directed by Dominic Dromgoole is running at Oxford Playhouse from 4th to 13th February. The plays depict a trio of chance encounters between strangers, each overshadowed by a war. The Oxford Stage Company production will be looking for a West End home in March following a short tour. In the Autumn OSC will mount the first national tour of John Whiting's unusual comedy A Penny For A Song, directed by Peter Brook It is set in a Dorset garden in the summer of 1804, as the Bellboys family await the Napoleonic invasion.

Broadway seems to have turned ecological this year, as it's heavily into recycling. The big spring opening is Annie Get Your Gun from 1946, with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin and book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields (revised by Peter Stone, starring Bernadette Peters, and directed and choreographed by Graciella Danielle. This will be followed by Kiss Me Kate from 1948, with music and lyrics by Cole Porter and book by Bella and Samuel Spewack, directed by Michael Blakemore. Finally in the autumn, comes a stage version of the film Easter Parade from 1948, which will star Tommy Tune (who will co-direct and co-choreograph), Sandy Duncan and Rhonda Burchmore. The score is by Irving Berlin, with a book by Philip Oesterman (and possibly Peter Stone) who will also co-direct, with veteran Wally Harpur as Musical Director.

Samantha Janus, Joe McGann and Simon Slater star in the British premiere of Earth And Sky a contemporary American thriller by Douglas Post, at the Nuffield Southampton from 9th to 27th February, prior to an eight date tour. The play, which won the L Arnold Weissberger award when first presented in New York, is both a whodunnit, and an insight into how we see the people we love. Patrick Sandford directs.

The Royal Ballet has extended its July visit to Sadler's Wells, and in addition to Giselle, will now present The Turn Of The Screw Triple Bill , featuring the world premiere of William Tuckett's new work; Ondine, Frederick Ashton's only full length ballet; and Serenade Triple Bill. About 70% of the Royal Opera's cancelled season has now been reprogrammed, and so Sadler's Wells should have a significant extra contribution to its rebuilding fund.

National Theatre News: Phillip Franks will direct Juliet Stevenson in Noel Coward's Private Lives, opening on 7th May; Henry Goodman will play Shylock in Trevor Nunn's production of The Merchant Of Venice in June; Katie Mitchell is to stage new version of The Orestia by Ted Hughes in November; and there will also be productions of a new version of Maxim Gorky's Dashniki (usually known as Summerfolk) and Edward Bulwer Lytton's comedy Money.

The previously mentioned Gross Indecency - The Three Trials Of Oscar Wilde, opening at the Gielgud Theatre on 22nd March, will now feature Michael Pennington as Wilde, (not Corin Redgrave as in the British premiere last September) and Leslie Phillips as Edward Carson. Moises Kaufman directs his Off Broadway award winning play, which draws on transcripts of the trials and contemporary letters. The producers are Leonard Soloway, Chase Mishkin and Steven M Levy, the original New York producers, and Andrew Fell and Theatre Royal Plymouth.

The nominations for the 1999 Laurence Olivier Awards are dominated by The Blue Room (Best Actor, Actress, Director, Lighting, Set and New Play) and Oklahoma! (Outstanding Musical Production, Best Musical Actor, Actress, Supporting Performance, Director, Choreography, Lighting and Set) The awards will be presented in a ceremony at the National Theatre on 12th February, to be shown on BBC2 on 15th February. The full list of nominees is on the Society Of London Theatre web site if you click on the button opposite.