News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 28th December 2001

Elsewhere, it is customary at this time to look back over the year, and review triumphs and failures. Well we don't do that because we're more interested in the future than the past, so the tradition here is to look forward to what will happen in the West End - all based on hard, solid, um, er, rumour.

Maggie Smith will star in The Breath Of Life, a new play by David Hare, about two women involved with the same man, produced by Robert Fox, but a director is yet to be signed . . . a new adaptation of Chekhov's The Three Sisters by Christopher Hampton, directed by Sean Mathias, will be the first joint venture between the Ambassador Theatre Group and Natural Nylon Entertainment in the autumn . . . Richard Briers and June Whitfield will star in a West End revival of Alan Ayckbourn's Bedroom Farce, directed by the ubiquitous Loveday Ingram, and produced by Michael Codron - an opening is scheduled for 8th April, but the theatre is yet to be announced . . . Sean Bean will make his West End debut as Macbeth, directed by Edward Hall, produced by the Ambassador Theatre Group, in the autumn . . . Picasso's Women, a series of monologues by Brian McAvera, which presents contrasting portraits of the painter by women in his life, will open a regional tour at the Churchill Theatre Bromley in March, starring Jerry Hall, Cherie Lunghi and Gwen Taylor . . . the first West End venture by pantomime producer Qudos will be Debbie Isitt's The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband with Alison Steadman in the tale of a wife's ultimate revenge when her husband leaves her for a younger woman . . . Fiona Shaw and director Deborah Warner will bring an adaptation of Jeanette Winterton's The PowerBook, about a series of almost linked stories being typed on screen to an online audience, to the stage at the National in June . . . a regional tour of Godspell, an adaptation of St Matthew's gospel which relates events leading up to the crucifixion, with book by John-Michael Tebelak, and music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, will open at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre on 11th March, with Daniel MacPherson and Jonathan Wilkes alternating the leading roles, for producers David Pugh and Kevin Wood . . . Bill Kenwright is developing a musical called Jeanie Skye, by Brian Spence, based on Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped, to be directed by Bob Tompson, which may premiere at the Edinburgh Festival . . . Bernadette Peters may finally make her West End debut in Stephen Sondheim's Gypsy - although we've heard that so many times Waiting For Godot might be more appropriate . . . Brian Conley may star in John Fisher's An Evening With Tommy Cooper, set during Cooper's final performance in a televised variety programme, directed by Alan Ayckbourn, produced by Lee Menzies and actor Patrick Ryecart, in the autumn . . . a musical based on Terry Pratchett's Only You Can Save Mankind, the first of his Johnny Maxwell trilogy (the only works about real people and in a contemporary setting), with book and lyrics by Shaun McKenna and music by Leighton James House, directed by Jonathan Butterell, will premiere at the Theatre Royal Plymouth in the spring . . . Dominic Maddern will produce a revival of 84 Charing Cross Road, James Roose-Evans adaptation of Helene Hanff's book, based on her transtlantic correspondence with the London second hand bookshop Marks and Co, in the autumn . . . Gidget, a musical aiming to do for kids on the beach what Grease did for kids high school, with book, lyrics and direction by film director Francis Ford Coppola, music and lyrics by John Farrar, and Michael White producing . . . David Thewlis may star in a stage version of Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands, featuring original music by Danny Elfman, telling the modern day fairy tale of an invented boy, left with scissors for hands when his maker dies, who lives a solitary existence until he meets a sympathetic Avon lady and her daughter, which will be the first production by Matthew Bourne's New Adventures company . . . Ray Davies, formerly of The Kinks, is continuing development on a show called Come Dancing after a successful workshop at the National Theatre studio . . . and Rupert Everett may play the title role in Oscar Wilde's The Picture Of Dorian Gray, the Faust inspired story which sees a portrait in his attic age while Gray retains his youth, in a production adapted and directed by Philip.

On the way from Broadway:

Last year's Tony Award winning dance musical Contact - three stories about sex and power - co-conceived (with John Weidman), directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, produced by Michael White in May . . . Stroman's revival of Meredith Willson's The Music Man (the 76 trombones show) . . . Jekyll And Hyde, book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and music by Frank Wildhorn, produced by David Ian for Clear Channel Entertainment heading for the Phoenix Theatre in the summer . . . Swing!, the all singing, all dancing, big band show, which originally featured Ann Hampton Calloway and Everett Bradley . . . Disney's first original musical Aida, based on the same legend which inspired Verdi, with book by Linda Woolverton, Robert Falls and David Henry Hwang, music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice . . . Dirty Blonde, the 'comedy with songs' about Mae West, written by and starring Claudier Shear (as both a fan and the woman herself), directed by James Lapine . . . Neil Simon's The Dinner Party, a melancholy comic drama in which six guests at a restaurant confront the best and worst aspects of marriage and divorce . . . a new production of the musical Footloose, based on the 1984 film, with book by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie (who also directed the original production) and music by Tom Snow, directed by Arlene Phillips . . . and Joe Mantello's Roundabout Theater production of Noel Coward's Design For Living, but probably without stars Jennifer Ehle, Alan Cumming and Dominic West.

Still looking for a West End home after regional productions/tours:

Donald Margulies Pulitzer Prize winning play Dinner With Friends seen at Hampstead Theatre, with Kevin Anderson, Samantha Bond, Elizabeth McGovern and Rolf Saxon in the story of an apparently happy couple who re-examine their relationship when their best friends decide to divorce, directed by Simon Curtis . . . Alan Ayckbourn's Damsels In Distress trilogy GamePlan, FlatSpin and RolePlay (his 58th, 59th and 60th plays), which premiered at the Stephen Joseph Theatre Scarborough, features one group of actors in three separate comedies that share the same set . . . the Northcott Theatre Exeter production of Trevor Griffiths The Comedians, about a group of people attending evening classes in stand up comedy technique, with actor/comedians John and Martin Marquez playing brothers, in the co-production by Oxford Stage Company and ACT Productions, directed by Sean Holmes . . . Stephanie Cole stars in Peter Nichols comedy So Long Life, which premiered at the Theatre Royal Bath, set at an 85th birthday party, and tackling the problem of how children cope with their aged widowed mother who is no longer capable of living on her own, with Cheryl Campbell and Paul Shelley playing the children, and Dominic Hill directing the Theatre Royal Bath Productions/Show of Strength Theatre Company co-production . . . and Simon Williams stars in his comedy Nobody's Perfect, with Stephanie Beacham, Moray Watson and Amy Williams, directed by Andy De La Tour, which opened at the Yvonne Arnaud Guildford, about a male winner of a women-only romantic fiction competition who has to collect the prize in person, and does so in the character of his non-existent aged Aunt, but fails to let the rest of his family in on the secret, resulting in complications.

Still claiming to be alive, and may yet start kicking, these were predicted for the West End in '01 (some even in '00, '99 or '98) and could make it in '02:

Lyricist Don Black is working on a musical based on Graham Greene's Brighton Rock with composer John Barry, which may be ready next winter . . . a rival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound Of Music, co-produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Ian for Clear Channel Entertainment . . . composer Philip Henderson and film director Shekhar Kapur are working on a musical adaptation of M M Kaye's weighty tome The Far Pavilions, set during the Indian Mutiny of 1857, and telling of a love affair between a British officer and an Indian princess, which Michael Ward will produce . . . John Escott's play Money To Burn, about fleeing robbers who stop at a farm where a young girl and her brother try to stop their escape . . . producer Michael Rose is still working on Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, which premiered in Huston in July, directed by David Taylor, based on Robert Aldrich's 1962 film, with book by Henry Farrell (from his original novel) music by Lee Pockriss, and lyrics by Hal Hackaday . . . Steel City, a new show by Australian choreographer Dein Perry, creator of Hot Shoe Shuffle and Tap Dogs . . . The Last Of The Mohicans, a musical based on James Fenimore Cooper's novel set in America in 1757 during the colonial wars, when British and French forces set the native Mohican and Huron tribes against each other, written by Julian Ronnie and Paul Miller, and directed by David Taylor . . . Peter Shaffer's play about the relationship between (Pyotr) Tchaikovsky and his brother Modest . . . the 1981 Tony Award winning musical Dreamgirls, previously unseen in this country, with book and lyrics by Tom Eyen, and music by Henry Krieger, portraying the backstage drama surrounding the rise to fame of a '60s Motown style girl group, originally staged by Michael Bennett, a reworked version is now touring America, and Mark S Hoebee is likely to direct here for a battery of producers including Adam Spiegel . . . and Jean de Florette, a musical inspired by the films Jean de Florette and Manons des Sources - but will it feature the famous theme which sold a million pints of lager?