News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 24th October 2003

It's Official! As previously forecast here, Mary Poppins, the stage musical adapted from the 1964 film, based on the stories of P L Travers, will open at the Prince Edward Theatre on 15th December next year, following a regional try-out. The book will be by Julian Fellowes, with the existing score by Richard and Robert Sherman augmented by composer George Stiles and lyricist Anthony Drewe. It will be directed by Richard Eyre, co-directed and choreographed by Matthew Bourne, with additional choreography by Stephen Mear, and set and costume designs by Bob Crowley. The producers are Cameron Mackintosh and Disney Theatrical Productions. Current money is on Joanna Riding playing the title role (Joanna Riding is the new Liz Robertson, who was the new Julie Andrews) and the try-out being at the Bristol Hippodrome.

The names of this year's thespians to be inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in the 33rd annual ceremony at the Gershwin Theatre in New York on 26th January have been announced. They include actors Vanessa Redgrave, Madeline Kahn, Kevin Kline and Patricia Neal; librettist Peter Stone; poet and translator Richard Wilbur; costume designer Jane Greenwood; and founders of The Living Theater company Judith Malina and Julian Beck. The Hall of Fame was created in 1973 to honour performers and creatives who have made a lasting impression in American theatre. To be eligible for induction, a candidate must have a career that spans twenty five years, with at least five major stage credits. Membership is marked by a plaque located in the lobby of the Gershwin Theatre at the top of the main staircase.

It's Official! As previously forecast here, Peter Egan, Belinda Lang, Jenny Seagrove, Simon Shepherd and Liza Walker will star in David Hare's The Secret Rapture, directed by Guy Retallack, opening at the Lyric Theatre on 26th November. It is about two sisters, one of whom is pressured by the death of their father into giving their alcoholic stepmother a job in her design firm. The producer is Bill Kenwright.

The actor David Garrick was the subject of more portraits that any Briton with the exception of kings and queens, and was the first celebrity to have his picture reproduced on teapots, tiles and wallpaper. Every Look Speaks, an exhibition at the Holburn Museum of Art in Bath running until 7th December, explores this first example of the phenomenon of 'Celebrity Culture', showing how Garrick manipulated his image through paintings, prints and merchandise. Over 70 works include paintings by Batoni, Dance, Gainsborough, Hayman, Hogarth, Kauffman, Reynolds and Zoffany, showing Garrick as actor, writer, manager, gentleman and Grand Tourist. The display includes his dressing room table from Drury Lane and furniture designed by Chippendale for his country villa.

It's Official! As previously forecast here, the Donmar Warehouse spring season will start with the transfer of the Sheffield Crucible production of Steve Waters World Music, directed by Josie Rourke, from 16th February to 13th March. The play explores how the relationship between Africa and Europe spills into the personal lives and loves of two generations in Central Africa. The original cast, who are expected to recreate their roles, featured Nikki Amuka-Bird, Sebastian Harcombe, Sara Powell, Paul Ready and Assly Zandy. It will be followed by The Dark, a new play by Charlotte Jones, directed Anna Mackmin, running from 23rd March to 24th April. Ian McDiarmid will then play the title role in a new translation of Pirandello's Henry IV, directed by Michael Grandage.

In a reverse of the recent stream of Hollywood film actors appearing in productions London studio theatres, three London studio plays are being filmed. Rachel Weisz, Gretchen Mol, Paul Rudd and Fred Weller, the original Almeida Theatre cast of Neil LaBute's The Shape Of Things, (who also transferred to New York) are featured in his film version, which opens next month as part of the London Film Festival; Gwyneth Paltrow is reprising her role from the Donmar Warehouse production of David Auburn's Proof, alongside Anthony Hopkins and Jake Gyllenhaal, in John Madden's film, which is currently shooting at Elstree; and Jude Law, Clive Owen, Natalie Portman and Julia Roberts will star in Mike Nichols screen version of Patrick Marber's Closer, which begins filming early in the new year.

The survivors of the Edinburgh Fringe continue to head south. Hurricane, the one man show written and performed by Richard Dormer, which traces the highs and lows of the snooker legend Alex Higgins, will play at the Soho Theatre from 12th January to 7th February, prior to a regional tour. The show is directed by Rachel O'Riordan, and presented by Martin Witts and Edward Snape.

On The Casting Couch: David Threlfall, Kevin Wathen, Cathryn Bradshaw and Antony Byrne head the cast of David Almond's Skelig, directed by Trevor Nunn, which opens at the Young Vic Theatre 3rd December; and Jonathan Pryce, Kate Fahy and Matthew Marsh will star in the British premiere of Edward Albee's The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia?, directed by Anthony Page, opening at the Almeida Theatre on 3rd February.

The Theatre Alibi production Why The Whales Came, based on the children's book by Michael Morpurgo, adapted and co-directed by Greg Banks and Nikki Sved, will play at the Comedy Theatre from 10th December to 7th January. An adventure story aimed at 8 to 13 year olds, it is set in the Scilly Isles during the First World War. It is a co-production with Theatre Royal Plymouth, where it was first seen two years ago.

David Bamber, Marcus D'Amico, Tristan Gemmill and Matthew Thrift star in the British premiere of Terrence McNally's The Lisbon Traviata, at the King's Head Theatre from 17th November to 21st December. A shared interest in the hyped up passions of opera reflects the overheated personal lives of two friends. The production is directed by Stephen Henry and produced by Kevin Wilson and Sarah Earl for Theatre 28.

The Rumour Machine says: that Blake Edwards is working with Leslie Bricusse on a musical based on Inspector Clouseau from his Pink Panther films; that Stephen Rea will star in Irish poet Derek Mahon's adaptation of Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac, directed by Howard Davies, at the National Theatre in April; and that Frasier star Jane Leeves has decided that her $20m deal means she can afford to work in the West End when the TV show ends next year, and is looking for a play. The Rumour Machine grinds on.