News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 28th January 2000

A survey commissioned by the Arts Council of England has found that most regional producing theatres are trading while insolvent. The majority of the fifty venues contacted had no realistic hope of clearing their accumulated debts by trading their way out of trouble, as thirty returned a deficit last year. Lack of funding is discouraging experimentation and locally produced work, resulting in a reliance on "safe" programming and touring productions, which in turn is failing to attract new audiences. The future of some theatres is seriously threatened by the situation, and radical changes in funding are needed to ensure their survival.

The previously mentioned musical Lautrec will open on 6th April at the Shaftesbury Theatre. The book is by Shaun McKenna, the music and lyrics by Charles Aznavour, with English lyrics by Dee Shipman, and the director is Rob Bettinson. It features Sevan Stephan in the title role and Hannah Waddingham. The producers are Mike Merrick and Allen Becker, in association with Theatre Royal Plymouth.

As part of a three month UK tour celebrating its 21st year, Circus Oz brings a new show to the Queen Elizabeth Hall from 22nd to 25th April. The Australian company more or less invented the "street cred - post modern - chainsaw juggling - dangerous" circus format, which has been taken up by many others. A rare chance to see the original. The producers are Circus Australia and Fifth Amendment.

Cunard is to institute a series of workshops and showcases of new musicals on the QE2, under the banner of Broadway Bound. Passengers will be invited to sit in on the creative process and attend rehearsals and discussions as well as performances. The first show in May will be Enter The Guardsman, with book by Scott Wentworth (who will also direct), music by Craig Bohmler and lyrics by Marion Adler, based on Ferenc Molnar's The Guardsman. It is not actually that new, having won the 1966 New Musicals Competition, and been presented at Donmar Warehouse the following year.

Producers Green and Lenagan have scheduled West End opening dates for two of their touring productions. Mindgame, a thriller starring Simon Ward, which is the first stage work by TV scriptwriter Anthony Horowitz, is slated for 10th April. Fanny Burney's A Busy Day, a Bristol Old Vic production directed by Jonathan Church, is due on 22nd May.

Hampstead Theatre is presenting a season of four new contemporary plays under the Arts 4 Everyone scheme. The season opens on 17th February with Gone To LA by Lolly Susi, directed by Rupert Goold, followed from 25th February by Jess Walters' Terracotta, directed by Marianne Elliott (co-produced with Birmingham Rep), Local Boy by Roy Williams, directed by Julie Anne Robinson, opening on 16th March, and ends with Flesh And Blood by Helen Griffin, directed by Phil Clark (co-produced with Sherman Cardiff) from 23rd March.

The Theatre Museum is conducting a National Audit of Live Performance on Film and Video. Its aim is to discover what material is available, as the first step in an initiative to better conserve an enduring record of live performance, and ensure its collection and accessibility for the future. Any company or venue with audio-visual documentation of live performance which has not already been contacted by the Museum, is urged to request and fill in a copy of the Audit Questionnaire. Since 1992 the National Video Archive of Stage Performance has been creating high quality recordings of live performance, which are available for research and educational use. It now seeks to augment this with existing official or unofficial recordings from outside sources. Further details from the Theatre Museum web site via the link from the Information section of TheatreNet.

Paul Farrah Productions, producers of Girls' Night Out and its many variants, is merging with Metro Entertainment. Future plans include Dusty The Musical touring from next month, prospective West End show The Adjustment with Stefanie Powers and Michael Brandon, the long awaited musical version of The Fly and A Night At The Apollo by Alan Janes and Bob Thomson, and The Fourth Presence by Anthony Horowitz (suddenly he's everywhere) about Ernest Shackleton's Antarctic journeys.

The Lowry Centre in Salford, which opens in April, has secured the first UK appearance of the Paris Opera Ballet for 15 years. The company will perform Nureyev's last lavish production La Bayadere in May.

Broadway musicals are about to join sports events and films on pay-per-view television channels, direct broadcast satellite and the internet. Broadway Television Network is to broadcast up to four performances a year over the next five years, at a price of $35 per showing, under the banner Live From Broadway: One Night Only. The last performance of Smokey Joe's Café was recorded, and will be shown sometime before September. Future shows will be seen live. The four major New York theatre owners, Shubert, Nederlander, Jujamcyn and SFX Entertainment, are among investors in BTN, as are a number of producers including Dodger Theatricals. All performing and craft unions and organisations have agreed to a ground breaking deal. To protect live business, no show will be featured during the first six months of its run, and a penalty will be paid if a show closes within nine weeks of transmission.

Ray Cooney's Out Of Order opens at the Theatre Royal Nottingham on 20th March, prior to a fourteen week national tour. It features Gorden Kaye, Henry McGee, Trevor Bannister, Deborah Watling, Ruth Burton and Colin Baker. Infidelity and a dead body collide in the environs of the Palace of Westminster. Information about investment in this, and other Swallow Productions plays, can be found in the Investment section of TheatreNet.

Poison, a contemporary musical reworking of Othello opens at the Tricycle theatre on 21st February. Music and lyrics are by David Kramer and Taliep Petersen, and book by Jenny McLeod. Kramer also directs.

And finally . . . Ian McShane is to play the male lead in The Witches Of Eastwick, as the previously mentioned Michael Crawford ultimately declined the role. Lucie Arnaz, Joanna Riding and Maria Friedman remain, and are joined by Rosemary Ashe, Peter Joback, Caroline Sheen and Stephen Tate. The opening has been put back to 18th July. McShane seems more likely casting as far acting is concerned, plus he has the one quality which producers of West End musicals look for nowadays - he's never been in one before. Sounds like another significant contribution to Mary Hammond's pension fund over the next six months.