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Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 22nd October 2010

Keira Knightley and Elizabeth Moss will star in a West End production of Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour, in which a disgruntled student in a girl's school in the 1930s claims that the two headmistresses are lovers, directed by Ian Rickson, opening in February. The producers are Sonia Friedman Productions and Scott Landis.

The Menier Chocolate Factory in Southwark will stage the British premiere of the musical Road Show, book by John Weidman, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, next summer, directed by John Doyle, who directed the New York premiere at the Public Theatre in 2008. It tells the story of two brothers and their attempts to grab a piece of the American dream, from the Alaska Gold Rush of the 1890s to the Florida real estate boom in the 1930's, inspired by the colourful lives of the Mizner brothers. In addition, the Menier will stage Merrily We Roll Along, book by George Furth, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, adapted from the play by George S Kaufman and Moss Hart, at Christmas 2012 as the directing debut of Maria Friedman. It charts the lives of a Broadway show writing partnership and their best friend over a 25 year period, running backwards in time from their disenchanted middle age to optimistic youth.

Stephen Sondheim's Finishing the Hat: The Collected Lyrics Of Stephen Sondheim With Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines And Anecdotes, recently published by Virgin Books, is exactly what it says on the cover. The book combines the lyrics from Sondheim's shows from Saturday Night in 1954 to Merrily We Roll Along in 1981, with personal reflections and stories about their creation and production. Sondheim discusses his relationship with his mentor, Oscar Hammerstein II, and his collaborations with legends such as Leonard Bernstein, Richard Rodgers and Hal Prince. His anecdotes are rich with history, personal insights, and intimate details, in addition to which, there is a wealth of background material, with manuscript pages, first night telegrams, typescripts and pencil notes all reproduced. Throughout the book, Sondheim analyses his work and dissects his own songs, as well as offering candid views on the work of others. Brilliant, poignant, scathing, and funny, it gives an unparalleled insight into the craft of theatre songwriting.

Now that the season of performances has drawn to a close, Shakespeare's Globe moves indoors to its Education Centre, to continue Read Not Dead, its programme of staged readings of rarely performed Elizabethan plays on Sunday afternoons. These comprise George Chapman's Alphonsus Emperor Of Germany, the story of a ruthless emperor who never learned to share, on 14th November; Henry Glapthorne's Albertus Wallenstein, a historical tragedy about the general in the Thirty Years War, on 21st November; and John Lyly's Mother Bombie, in which a mysterious old woman watches as parents haggle over their children's love lives, on 5th December. Each reading is preceded at 12noon by an introduction to its background by Diana Devlin, Andy Kesson and Leah Scragg.

The Print Room, a new 80 seater fringe theatre housed on a former printing house in Notting Hill will launch on 9th November with Pier Paolo Pasolini's Fabrication, in a new version by Jamie McKendrick, about a man's obsession with his teenage son, with Jasper Britton, Geraldine Alexander, Max Bennett, Enzo Squillino, Letty Butler, Martin Turner and Janet Fullerlove, directed by Lucy Bailey. This will be followed by Alan Ayckbourn's Snake In The Grass, a tale involving two sisters competing over their inheritance in the dead father's decrepit house, with Susan Wooldridge. The venue also includes an exhibition space.

On The Casting Couch: Matt Rawle, Hal Fowler, Paul Thornley, Michael Pickering, Kaisa Hammerlund and C J Johnson will head the cast of the Peter Raby-George Stiles-Paul Leigh musical The Three Musketeers, opening at the Rose Theatre in Kingston on 3rd December; and Imogen Doel, Tom Godwin, David Sterne, Amanda Hadingue, Bill Buckhurst, Robert Stocks and Gabriel Quigley will form the cast of Anthony Neilson's Get Santa!, opening at the Royal Court Theatre on 14th December.

New York TheatreNet: The 2010/2011 season at St Ann's Warehouse in DUMBO, Brooklyn, will include the Druid Theatre production of Enda Walsh's Penelope, a comic take on the story of the suitors competing for the favour of Odysseus's wife, from Homer's Odyssey, directed by Mikel Murfi, from October 23rd; the Kneehigh Theatre Company production of The Red Shoes, based on the Hans Christian Andersen story, directed by Emma Rice, from November 19th; and the Frantic Assembly/National Theatre of Scotland production of Bryony Lavery's Beautiful Burnout, set in a Glasgow training gym, where five aspiring young fighters are learning the art of boxing, directed and choreographed by Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett, from February 25th. News, information and special offers about theatre on and off Broadway, can be found on New York TheatreNet, via the link opposite below.

The New Red Lion, a new 80 seater theatre has opened at the Angel Islington, located in City Road, round the corner from the Old Red Lion Theatre, and run by the same management team. It will be programmed in themed seasons, with the auditorium and food and drinks menu changed according to each season's theme. The first production is Justin Butcher's one person play Scaramouche Jones, a bizarre, comic, epic and tragic tale in which a clown about to give his final performance reflects on a life that has taken him all over the world, performed by Tom Daplyn, directed by Jon Constant. This will be followed by standup comedy featuring Richard Herring, Lenny Henry, Dan Antopoloski, Imran Yusuf, Abandoman and Sara Pascoe; and Rachel Halliwell's Deirdre And Me, in which a woman reveals the crises of her own life through her obsession with a Coronation Street character, directed by Louisa FitzGerald.

Meanwhile, forthcoming productions at the Old Red Lion, include Philip Ridley's Vincent River, about an East End mother seeking answers about the murder of her gay son and the young man stalking her since his death, with Debra Baker and Frank C Keogh, directed by Gary Reid, opening on 4th November, produced by Charmers Productions; and Evelyn Waugh's Decline And Fall, the semiautobiographical satire of British society in the 1920s, from 30th November.

The autumn season at the Theatre Royal Stratford East will include Paul Sirett's Reasons To Be Cheerful, a coming of age tale set in 1979, with the songs of Ian Dury, directed by Jenny Sealey, opening on 27th October, a co-production with Graeae Theatre Company and the New Wolsey Theatre Ipwich; Red Riding Hood, a pantomime by Trish Cooke and Robert Hyman, with Derek Elroy, Chloe Allen, Delroy Atkinson, Michael Bertenshaw, Marcus Ellard, Darren Hart, Susan Lawson-Reynolds, Stephen Lloyd, Gemma Salter, Sharona Sassoon, Madeleine Kludje and Stacey Bland, directed by Omar F Okai, with choreography by Jason Pennycooke, from 4th December; and Martina Cole's The Graft, which examines the ramifications of a burglary during which the intruder is killed by the home owner, directed by Ryan Romain, opening on 16th February.