News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 23rd December 1999

As previously forecast here, the Royal Court Theatre has postponed its reopening for a fourth time, as building work on its 25m refurbishment programme will not be complete by 12th January. The Court intends to continue with the announced season however, by relocating the opening production, the world premiere of Conor McPherson's Dublin Carol with Brian Cox, possibly to the Old Vic Theatre. It may transfer to Sloane Square during its run, if not, the building will reopen with Hard Fruit by Jim Cartwright on 21st March.

The French musical Notre Dame de Paris is confirmed to open at the Dominion Theatre on 23rd May. Based on Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the lyrics are by Luc Plamondon, and music by Richard Cocciante, with English lyrics by Will Jennings. The cast includes Tina Arena, Daniel Lavoie, Garou and Steve Balsamo. The English adaptation of the show will be launched with a showcase featuring the London cast at the Midem Festival in Cannes on 25th January. This will be followed in March by an English language album of the score, which will include a number sung by Celine Dion. It is directed by Gilles Maheu and produced by Michael White. The rival Disney musical of the story The Hunchback of Notre Dame based on the animated film, continues its world premiere season in Berlin. Further details on the Disney show can be found via the link to The Lion King web site opposite.

Prior to welcoming the hunchback, the Dominion Theatre will house Shaolin: Wheel Of Life from 12th to 15th April. This is the "Buddhist Monk" show which caused a stir at the Royal Variety Performance last month.

Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom Of The Opera has been declared the most successful show of the century. Worldwide box office receipts have topped 1.8bn, which is more than any stage production or film in history, including the Hollywood blockbusters Star Wars, Titanic and Gone With The Wind. Since its London premiere in 1986, the show has been seen by more than 50 million people in 91 cities and 15 countries, and 25m copies of recordings have been sold. The initial investment in the West End production has now been paid back 600 times over. It is set to open soon in Antwerp and Mexico City, bringing the number of current productions worldwide to nine.

The Royal Shakespeare Company has announced a ten play season for Stratford next year, running from 15th March to 7th October. In the Royal Shakespeare Theatre: As You Like It with Alexandra Gilbreath, directed by Gregory Doran; The Comedy of Errors featuring David Tennant, directed by Lynne Parker making her RSC debut; Romeo and Juliet starring David Tennant and Alexandra Gilbreath, directed by Michael Boyd; and William Houston as Henry V, directed by Edward Hall. In the Swan Theatre: Henry IV Parts I & II, with David Troughton, Desmond Barrit, and William Houston, directed by Michael Attenborough; and Sheridan's The Rivals, featuring Benjamin Whitrow, directed by Lindsay Posner. In The Other Place: Richard II starring Samuel West, directed by Steven Pimlott; Giovanni Verga's La Lupa directed by Simona Gonella making her RSC debut; and Shaw's Back to Methuselah directed by David Fielding.

Personals, a musical with book and lyrics by the writers of Friends - David Crane, Seth Friedman and Marta Kaufman - will come to the West End in May. A revue style show, it uses the premise of personal ads to look at contemporary dating and romance. Friedman, Stephen Schwarz and four other composers contributed to the score. It is directed by Dion McHugh, and was seen at the New End Theatre in the autumn of last year.

Director Mike Ockrent, best known for his productions of Me and My Girl and Crazy For You, who died on 2nd December, will be remembered at memorial services in both London and New York. The London service will be held at 2.00pm on 30th January at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn. In New York it takes place at 1.00pm on 24th January at the New Amsterdam Theatre. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Mike Ockrent Charitable Trust c/o Flat 8, 28 Hyde Park Gardens, London W2 2 NB, or c/o Julia McCormick, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 1275 York Avenue, New York, NY.

It is now confirmed that Kathleen Turner will make her West End debut in The Graduate at the Gielgud Theatre on 5th April, with Matthew Rhys and Kelly Reilly. This is the world premiere of Terry Johnson's adaptation of the original novel by Charles Webb and the screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry. Johnson also directs, and the producers are Sacha Brooks and John Reid.

Oxford Stage Company will produce Billy Roche's Wexford Trilogy on tour and for a West End season next autumn. The trilogy consists of A Handful Of Stars, Poor Beast In The Rain and Belfry. It was seen at the Bush Theatre in the early '90's, when the artistic director was Domonic Dromgoole, who now runs Oxford Stage Company.

The Garrick Club has decided how to spend some of the "Winnie The Pooh" money it was left by A A Milne. The 30,000 Garrick/Milne Prize is to be launched with the aim of encouraging the historical art of theatrical painting and portraiture. The organisers have expressed the hope that theatres will open their doors to artists both during performances and rehearsals. Sounds a better way of updating the Club's interior decoration scheme than getting the Changing Rooms team in.

Janet Suzman has adapted Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, relocating it in present day South Africa, and entitled The Free State. Suzman directs and stars with Jeffery Kissoon and Jack Klaff in a regional tour, which is looking for a West End transfer.