News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 27th December 1998

The entertainment element of the Millennium Experience, which forms its focal point, has now been revealed. Surprisingly religion has made a last minute comeback, as the 25m musical will be a morality play, retelling the biblical story of man's fall from grace in the Garden of Eden, and his long search for redemption. The production has impeccable credentials by the standards of the government, as it involves no theatre practitioners. It has been conceived and designed by Mark Fisher, and choreographed by Micha Bergese, who stage Rolling Stones and other rock concerts, with a score by Peter Gabriel, the former member of Genesis. So we now know how the troupe of one hundred circus skills performers will be deployed, descending from the roof in the centre of the Dome, around a Tree of Life. The story will be interpreted through the eyes of William Blake in his Songs of Innocence and Experience, published in1795, with mankind's fallen state illustrated by the "dark satanic mills" of his Jerusalem. Man's arrival in the Promised Land of New Britain is presumably symbolised by the conversion of the mills into shopping centres. The 30 minute show will be performed up to five times a day.

The swift demise of Jackie has created the opportunity for a varied programme at the Queens Theatre in the next few months. Following his presentation of The Mikado on the South Bank in September, Raymond Gubbay continues his association with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, bringing in their new production of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates Of Penzance from 21st December to 9th January. The cast includes Richard Stuart, Jill Pert and Gareth Jones, directed by Stuart Maunder and choreographed by Lindsay Dolan, in the well known tale of the consequences of a leap year birthday. Next comes Theatre de Complicite's production of The Street Of Crocodiles, based on the stories of Bruno Schulz, seen previously at the National Theatre and the Young Vic. It is adapted and directed by Simon McBurney. Finally, Thelma Holt's previously mentioned production of Macbeth will open on 3rd March, playing until 5th June. The cast is headed by Rufus Sewell and Sally Dexter and it is directed by John Crowley.

Raymond Gubbay's next mega-opera venture at the Royal Albert Hall will be Puccini's Tosca, for eight performances from 18th February. Once again this will be a new "in the round" production, by the creative team which staged Madam Butterfly earlier this year. There is a new translation by Amanda Holden, the director is David Freeman and Peter Robinson conducts the BBC Concert Orchestra. The title role will be shared by Susan Bulloch and Suzanne Murphy.

Despite a good audience response from audiences, the pre-Broadway Atlanta tryout of Tim Rice and Elton John's new musical Elaborate Lives: The Legend Of Aida was greeted with a critical hammering. This has resulted in the show going on, but the director, choreographer, scenery, costume and lighting designers all being fired. Thus Disney has shown that it has fully embraced the ethos of Broadway musical theatre production. And the cost so far? Anywhere from $5m-$15m.

Robert Lepage returns to Britain next year with a new production called Geometry Of Miracles. It will play five performances at Glasgow's SECC from 30th March, and ten performances at the National Theatre from 14th April.

The Almeida Theatre is bringing its production of Brecht's Mr Puntilla And His Man Matti to the Albery Theatre from 22nd December to 9th January. Previously seen at the Edinburgh Festival, Malvern Theatre and the Almeida, this new version by Lee Hall, features Sean Foley and Hamish McColl, directed by Kathryn Hunter, and is a co-production with Right Size Theatre Company. The season will continue with the previously mentioned productions of Gorky's Vassa directed by Howard Davies, opening on 20th January, and David Hare's Plenty, directed by Jonathan Kent and starring Cate Blanchett, opening on 21st April.

Meanwhile in Islington, the Almeida's next production will be the world premiere of Certain Young Gentlemen, written and directed by Peter Gill, on 27th January. This is a comedy of contemporary manners, centred on eight London men. It features Danny Dyer, John Light, Jeremy Northam, Peter Sullivan and Andrew Woodall.

The Canadian based production organisation Livent, hailed as a major new force in New York, which uncovered accounting irregularities in August, has filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy for its American operation, and may be forced to do the same in Canada. The American interests include the current Broadway production of Ragtime (whose London production was cancelled when the problems surfaced), a number of touring productions and the newly refurbished Ford Centre Theatre. The previous chairman and chief executive Garth Drabinsky, and executive vice president Myron Gottlieb, both of whom were suspended - though they deny any wrong doing - have now had their contracts terminated.

The previously mentioned revival of The Pyjama Game, by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, will open at Birmingham Repertory Theatre in April, and is looking to come to the West End after touring. This was a milestone musical, being the first to be about an industrial dispute, and to feature a duet with a dictaphone. It will be directed by Simon Callow and choreographed by David Bintley, and is a co-production with the Ambassadors Group.

The Rumour Machine says: that the National Theatre production of Michael Frayn's Copenhagen will transfer to the West End when it closes on 27th January; that Cameron Mackintosh is to produce a musical adaptation of John Updike's The Witches Of Eastwick by Dana P. Rowe and John Dempsey, who wrote The Fixformally known as Jesus, My Boy, will now be called My Boy - presumably the producers didn't want to be accused of dragging religion into Christmas. The Rumour Machine grinds on.