News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 23rd January 2004

Chichester Festival Theatre has announced its summer season, running from 29th April to 25th September. In the Festival Theatre: the British premiere of Cole Porter's 1950 musical Out Of This World, in which Ancient Greece meets Hollywood as Jupiter falls in love with a movie star, directed by Martin Duncan, and choreographed by Vanessa Gray; A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Gale Edwards; a revised version of the musical Just So, inspired by the children's stories of Rudyard Kipling, with music by George Stiles, and book and lyrics by Anthony Drewe, directed by Drewe, and choreographed by Stephen Mear; and the world premiere of Edward Kemp's The Master And Margarita, adapted from the novel by Mikhail Bulgakov, about a magician who mystifies Muscovites with his show, directed by Steven Pimlott. In the Minerva Theatre: the world premiere of Helen Cooper's Three Women And A Piano Tuner, a comedy about a composer with old scores to settle; Jeremy Sams's new translation of German dramatist Botho Strauss's Seven Doors, a surreal cabaret of contemporary manners, directed by Martin Duncan; Martin Crimp's Cruel And Tender, a contemporary reworking of Sophocles's, Trachiniae, directed by Luc Bondy; and Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, in a promenade production beginning in the Minerva, progresses through the streets, and culminating in a battle at Chichester Cathedral, directed by Duncan, Pimlott, Edward Kemp and Dale Rooks.

A gala evening to celebrate the centenary of John Gielgud's birth will be held at the Gielgud Theatre on 19th April, featuring an all star cast led by Judi Dench. It takes place 55 years to the day since Gielgud first worked at the Memorial Theatre in Stratford, as the director of a production of Much Ado About Nothing. Proceeds will go towards funding a bursary for Royal Academy of Dramatic Art students, and a voice and verse training programme for Royal Shakespeare Company actors. The event is presented by the RSC, RADA, the Shakespeare Guild, Bill Kenwright and Thelma Holt.

Broadway: An Encyclopedia, by Ken Bloom, recently published by Routledge, is a comprehensive guide to the producers, writers, composers, lyricists, set designers, theatres, performers, shows, and landmarks of the Great White Way. Lavishly illustrated, including dozens of original photographs, in an A-Z format, and with a full bibliography, this work provides a comprehensive history of Broadway, from its beginnings to the present day. Naturally, as a large format hardback with 512 pages it is not cheap, but it is certainly worth the money for anyone with a real interest in the business of show in New York.

Lucy Barker, Luke Roberts and Sam Gordon star in Joe Penhall's Love And Understanding, directed by Wojciech Duczmal, at the Old Red Lion in Islington from 27th January to 14th February. The life and relationship of two overworked doctors heads for casualty when a former best friend arrives on the scene.

Greenwich Theatre is presenting Musical Voices, a celebration of musical theatre, from 10th to 22nd February. The season includes performances, cabaret, and workshops of four new musicals: Punch, a dark look at the story of Punch and Judy, with book and lyrics by Chris Broderick, and music by Rob Shepherd and Chris Broderick; The Jolly Folly Of Polly The Scottish Trolley Dolly, a trilogy of mini-musicals, with book and lyrics by Lesley Ross, and music by James Williams (and Puccini); Eejit Of Love, a fantastic tale of two young lovers in search of fame and fortune, with book, music and lyrics by Jody Trehy; and Farm!, about a zebra, a racehorse and the knackerman, with book and lyrics by Robbie Hudson, and lyrics and music by Susannah Pearse. Greenwich Theatre will stage Musical Futures, its annual showcase of new musicals, from 17th to 21st May, and is holding an open meeting for those interested in taking part on 6th March at 11am. Further information can be found on the Greenwich Theatre web site via the link form the London Venues section of TheatreNet.

William West And The Regency Toy Theatre is an exhibition that celebrates a great British institution, on the 150th anniversary of the death of its inventor. In 1811, William West began to issue sheets of engraved figures from current theatrical productions as an amusement for children - the phrase 'penny plain and two pence coloured' was coined to describe them. When the children started to use them to perform the plays on miniature stages, West found that he had accidentally stumbled on a new career. West developed and perfected the idea over the next twenty years, commissioning wooden theatres for sale, and publishing plays that crossed the boundary from souvenir to practical toy. This exhibition features the best of West's characters and scenes from the 146 miniature plays he produced, together with scenic designs, playbills and scripts from the exotic melodramas produced at Covent Garden, Drury Lane, the Olympic and Astley's Amphitheatre that were his inspiration. It is at Sir John Soane's Museum in London until 27th March.

Two By Two, the little known musical of the story of Noah, with book by Peter Stone, music by Richard Rodgers, and lyrics by Martin Charnin, is to open a prospective pre Broadway tour at the Cumberland Playhouse in Tennessee in October. Based on the Clifford Odets play The Flowering Peach, the show had a troubled original production in 1970, when the star Danny Kaye refused to play the show as written, and pushed it into becoming a personal vehicle. Martin Charnin, the only surviving member of the writing team who will direct the revival, is determined to restore the show's original concept.

The Rumour Machine says: that Michael Grandage's current Donmar Warehouse production of Patrick Marber's updated version of Miss Julie, with Richard Coyle, Helen Baxendale and Kelly Reilly, will transfer to another West End theatre for an extended run; that Eddie Izzard and Victoria Hamilton will star in Macbeth on Broadway in 2006; that Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh will collaborate on a new West End production of Evita next year, with Denise Van Outen the leading contender for the title role; that despite last week's rumour of Kristin Scott Thomas heading back to the West End in Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, directed by Michael Blakemore, there are plans for a rival production starring Eve Best, directed by Richard Eyre; that Kelsey Grammer is in negotiations to star in Mel Brooks's The Producers on Broadway this summer, when his television series Frasier ends, and that Nicole Kidman is to play the Swedish secretary (who can't type, take shorthand - or even speak English) in the upcoming film of the show, starring the Broadway originals Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, and directed by Susan Stroman. The Rumour Machine grinds on.

And Finally . . . The show that is claimed to be North America's longest running theatrical production, The Toronto Truck Theatre staging of Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap, closed on 18th January, after a run of twenty six and a half years and over 9,000 performances. The original West End production is almost twice that age, but with changes in public taste, and tourists (its main audience) fewer in number, thanks to the increasingly long list of disincentives to global travel, can it survive for much longer?