Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews
The BBC is about to sign a £10m deal with the Really Useful Group for the television rights to the Andrew Lloyd Webber canon. A video of Cats with Elaine Paige and John Mills has been on sale for 2 years, Joseph with Donny Osmond and Joan Collins was released last year, and production on Jesus Christ Superstar with Rik Mayall as Herod is nearing completion. This deal would provide RUG with a significant contribution to the production costs of the shows yet to be shot. The only property excluded is The Phantom Of The Opera which will be filmed for cinema release by Warner Brothers.
The show which drew the attention of the Disney organisation to the work of director/designer Julie Taymor - and resulted in the opportunity for her to stage The Lion King - has reached Broadway. The Green Bird is adapted from Italian playwright Carlo Gozzi's 18th century satirical fable of a king who longs for his lost wife, and of brother and sister twins searching for their true identities. Taymor originally staged the show for Theatre For A New Audience in 1996, and it features her trademark blend of puppetry, masks, live performers, and music to tell its story. The show is now running at the Cort Theatre.
The National Theatre's autum/winter season will include a new adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures In Wonderland by Simon Reade and Tim Supple, and directed by Supple; Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard in a new version by David Lan, with Vanessa Redgrave, Corin Redgrave, Eve Best and Michael Bryant, directed by Trevor Nunn; Michael Frayn's Noises Off directed by Jeremy Sams; Hamlet with Simon Russell Beale, Cathryn Bradshaw, Denis Quilley, Sara Kestelman and Peter McEnery, directed by John Caird; Ibsen's Peer Gynt in a version by Frank McGuinness, directed by Conall Morrison; Romeo And Juliet featuring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Charlotte Randle, directed by Tim Supple; the premiere of Marcel Proust's Rememberance Of Things Past adapted by Harold Pinter and Di Trevis, and directed by Trevis; J M Synge's The Playboy Of The Western World, directed by Conall Morrison: and Ken Campbell's History Of Comedy Part One: Ventriloquism directed by Colin Watkeys, the first in a series of one man shows.
The current leaseholder of the Mermaid Theatre, Blackfriars (PD) Ltd, has submitted plans to the Corporation of London for a redevelopment of the site. The company is hoping to sneak the scheme through the planning system by including the provision of a new 200 seater venue, which will form part of a home for the British Academy of Songwriters and Composers. The Corporation is not only the planning authority but also the freeholder of the site, but it may wish to protect the Barbican by letting the Mermaid go. Save London's Theatres Campaign, while welcoming BASC's involvement, is against the proposal. Although the Mermaid has been little used commercially in recent years, such a redevelopment would end its position as a possible mainstream venue.
Leonard Bernstein's On The Town will be presented in concert at the Royal Festival Hall on 1st, 2nd and 3rd October. It will feature Kim Criswell, Sally Burgess, Brent Barrett, Karl Daymond, George Dvorsky and Ned Sherrin, supported by the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Paul Daniel.
Following its launch season last September, Miles Tredinnick's Topless, a one woman show about a tour guide on a sightseeing bus, is returning for a full summer season. With Rachael Carter and Alexandra Moses sharing the role, the show is actually being staged on a Big Bus Company open top sightseeing bus. Departing every evening at 7.30pm from beside the Ritz Hotel in Piccadilly, passengers are welcomed aboard by tour guide Sandie, and the play begins. As driver Sid negotiates the streets of London, Sandie entertains with her life story, whilst pointing out all the major sights. Two for the price of one indeed. It runs nightly (except Sundays) until 30th September, and if wet there is a convertible roof.
The Warehouse Theatre Croydon is holding its 15th International Playwriting Festival, in partnership with Italian festival Primo Candoni Arta Terme. It is in two parts: a competition with entries from all over the world, followed by a series of workshops and readings, leading on to the presentation of the best work in November. The Dove by Roumen Shomov, one of last year's finalists, is currently receiving a full scale production. The deadline for entries is 30th June. Further information and an entry form is available on the Warehouse web site via the link from the UK London Venues section of TheatreNet.
Foreshadowed in a spoof "show within the film" in The Tall Guy, The Elephant Man: The Musical has now become a reality in New York. It uses the story of John Merrick's desire to become a Broadway star to satirise the mega musicals of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh era. Its creators, Jeff Hylton (music, lyrics and book), Tim Werenko (book), Paul Jones (music) and director James Riggs originally staged the piece at NYU. Now it is played as a Monday night Off Broadway treat Upstairs at Rose's Turn in the Village.
Revue is returning to London in the form of The Jermyn Street Revue, playing from 2nd May to 3rd June at the Jermyn Street Theatre. The company consists of Stefan Bednarczyk, Judy Campbell, Jonathan Cecil, Sophie-Louise Dann, Peter Land, Thelma Ruby, Frank Thornton and Issy Van Randwyck. Sheridan Morley has selected and directed material by Alan Bennett, Peter Cook, Flanders and Swan, Tom Lehrer, Harold Pinter and Stephen Sondheim amongst others. A great heritage but will it stand up to 21st century scrutiny?
The Rumour Machine says: that Michael Gambon will star in Pinter's The Caretaker in the autumn, with Patrick Marber directing and Robert Fox producing; that Harry Connick Jr is working on a stage musical adaptation of Emile Zola's Therese Raquin with director/choreographer Susan Stroman and book writer David Thompson (despite a number of previous unsuccessful attempts at musicalisation); and that Dusty - The Musical with Mahri Russell which Paul Farrah is currently touring will arrive at the Vaudeville in October. The Rumour Machine grinds on.