Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews
British theatre is trailblazing once again. It is common during the production process of Broadway musicals for the stars - director - choreographer - whoever to be replaced - it's almost seen as a virility symbol. Well we've now gone one better by firing the producer! It seems that the hostile press reception for New Edna - The Spectacle was preceded by the Dame parting company with not only the director - Alan Strachan - but also the producer - Lee Menzies. She's even feistier than we realised. Further, as an isolated incident becomes a trend, Pola Jones is now no longer the UK producer of Chicago, with the stunning logic that as the show is so successful it doesn't need one. Only in the business of show!
Kevin Whatley joins Helen McRory in the British premiere of Paula Vogel's Pulitzer prize winning play How I Learned To Drive, at the Donmar Warehouse from 24th June to 8th August. The play tells of the central character's recollection of her youth in '60's Baltimore, and of her incestuous relationship with her married Uncle. John Crowley directs.
The diverse cast of the previously mentioned Hey Mr Producer! - The Musical World of Cameron Mackintosh on 8th June at the Lyceum Theatre will include Tom Lehrer, Bernadette Peters, Donald Sinden, Jimmy Logan, Judi Dench, Robert Lindsay, Marion Montgomery, Stephen Sondheim and a supporting company of hundreds. The event is in aid of the Royal National Institute for the Blind and the Combined Theatrical Charities, and will be attended by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.
For sensation seekers only: The Battersea Arts Centre is presenting a season called Playing In The Dark which consists of drama, comedy, music, storytelling, poetry, meals and a seance taking place in complete darkness. The events run from 12th May to 12th July. Coming soon - a uniquely challenging interactive experience involving paint and the drying process.
The cast for the previously mentioned world premiere of John Meyer's American '40's film noir style musical The Betrayal Of Nora Blake is John Levitt, Michael Matus, Claire Moore, Issy Van Randwyck, Andrew C Wadsworth and Ann Wakefield. Nickolas Grace directs the Bobbie Horowitz/Cole Kitchenn production, which runs from 19th May to 20th June at the Jermyn Street Theatre.
Marcel Marceau will bring his new mimodrama company of 13 artists to the Old Vic for a five week season from 12th May. The Bowler Hat, a love story set in London featuring Charlie Chaplin's creation of the Little Tramp, with a musical accompaniment, plays Tuesdays to Saturdays, and The Pantomimes Of Bip with his own best known character plays Sundays. Bill Kenwright is the British producer.
Michael Rose, co-producer of Sweet Charity opening at the Victoria Palace next month (minus its original director), is working on Baby June - a musical version of Robert Aldrich's 1962 film Whatever Happened To Baby June? for the Autumn, with music by Lee Pockriss, and lyrics by Hal Hackaday. The film famously featured Bette Davis as a former child movie star, who terrorises her wheelchair bound sister - Joan Crawford. Is the West End ready for choreographed wheelchairs as in the famous Bette Midler concert?
Paul Elliott has confirmed his West End transfer of the recent Broadway revival of Annie, a revised version of the 1977 original, with music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin and book Thomas Meehan. It will open in late September, following a season in Bromley, and is currently auditioning for acting, singing and tap dancing girl orphans. Although there have been two attempts to stage a follow-up Annie II - Miss Hannigan's Revenge neither actually made it as far as Broadway.
The Rumour Machine says: that Gary Wilmot is to play Fagin in the national tour of Oliver! based on the recent Palladium production - the first black actor ever to have played the role; that Clarke Peters will take over as Billy Flynn the lawyer in Chicago in June; and that based on preview audience response, by the time Saturday Night Fever finally opens at the London Palladium, there won't be much of the book left. The Rumour Machine grinds on.