News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 28th December 2007

Elsewhere, it is customary at this time to look back over the past 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.

A one man show, An Audience With The Mafia, in which 'The Mercy Man', a character based on an assassin employed by the mob, played by an 'unnamed man', tells the stories of legendary Mafia figures over the last century, will play at the Apollo Theatre . . . Kwame Kwei-Armah's Let There Be Love, with Joseph Marcell, a story of cross generational immigrants, set against the music of Nat King Cole, in which a West Indian pensioner teaches his young Polish home help how to be British, directed by Nicholas Kent and Kwei-Armah, will open at the Tricycle Theatre . . . the British premiere of David Hare's The Vertical Hour, the story of an American war correspondent turned academic, who meets (and clashes with) her English boyfriend's father, while on holiday in rural Wales, with Anton Lesser, Indira Varma and Tom Riley, directed by Jeremy Herrin, will open at the Royal Court Theatre . . . Penny Gold's The President's Holiday, telling the story of how Mikhail Gorbachev and family were taken captive and cut off from the world while on vacation, which initiated the fall of Communism, with Julian Glover and Isla Blair, directed by Patrick Sandford, will open at Hampstead Theatre . . . Edward Bond's The Sea, a blend of farce, social satire and poetic tragedy set in an Edwardian seaside village, with Eileen Atkins, David Haig, Marcia Warren, David Burke, Mariah Gale, Harry Lloyd, William Chubb and Russell Tovey, will open at the Haymarket Theatre . . . Lucinda Coxon's Happy Now?, in which a chance encounter provokes a woman's midlife crisis, with Olivia Williams, Jonathan Cullen, Emily Joyce, Anne Reid, Dominic Rowan, Stanley Townsend, directed by Thea Sharrock, will open at the National Theatre . . . a double bill by Harold Pinter, The Collection, about the repercussions of two fashion designers having a one night stand, and The Lover, in which a husband pretends to be his wife's lover (or doers he?), with Timothy West, Richard Coyle, Charlie Cox and Gina McKee, directed by Jamie Lloyd, will open at the Comedy Theatre . . . Oscar Wilde's 'trivial comedy for serious people' The Importance Of Being Earnest, with Penelope Keith, William Ellis, Harry Hadden-Paton, Daisy Haggard, Janet Henfrey, Maxwell Hutcheon, Rebecca Night, Roger Swaine and Tim Wylton, directed by Peter Gill, will open at the Vaudeville Theatre . . . and Thomas Babe's A Prayer For My Daughter, in which, on a summer night in New York, two cops and two crooks battle with wits and fists to uncover the truth about a crime, with Sean Chapman, Corey Johnson, Matthew Marsh and Colin Morgan, directed by Dominic Hill, will open at the Young Vic - all in January . . . Jo Brand, Nichola McAuliffe and Alistair McGowan join the Carl Rosa Opera Company in a short season of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas comprising The Mikado, Iolanthe and The Pirates Of Penzance at the Gielgud Theatre . . . David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow, a behind the camera look at Hollywood, centring on a producer's decision to film a novel about a nuclear catastrophe and the end of the world, rather than his usual star laden surefire hit, with Kevin Spacey, Jeff Goldblum and Laura Michelle Kelly, directed by Matthew Warchus, will open at the Old Vic Theatre. . . Harold Pinter's The Homecoming, a 'meet the in-laws' occasion with a typically Pinteresque family in north London, as the eldest son introduces his new wife to the all male household, with Kenneth Cranham, Neil Dudgeon, Danny Dyer, Jenny Jules, Nigel Lindsay and Anthony O'Donnell, directed by Michael Attenborough, will open at Almeida Theatre . . . the Young Vic's presentation of the South African company Isango/Portobello production of Mozart's The Magic Flute (Impempe Yomlingo) a capella (but with percussion), re-imagined in a contemporary South African township setting, adapted and directed by Mark Dornford-May, will transfer to the Duke of York's Theatre . . . Peter Handke's The Hour We Knew Nothing Of Each Other, in a new translation by Meredith Oakes, a 'play without words', painting a portrait of a community through the comings and goings in the town square, with Susannah Fielding, Lisa Dillon, Pip Carter, Callum Dixon, Noma Dumezweni, Amy Hall, Daniel Hawksford, Mairead McKinley, Daniel Poyser, Sara Stewart, Giles Terera, Jason Thorpe, Simon Wilson and Sarah Woodward, directed by James Macdonald, will open at the National Theatre . . . Jean Anouilh's Ring Round The Moon, translated by Christopher Fry, the comic tale of twin brothers (one good, one bad) set during a ball at a French chateau in the 1950s, with Angela Thorne, Belinda Lang, Peter Eyre, John Ramm, Elisabeth Dermot Walsh, Joanna David, Andrew Havill, Fiona Button and JJ Field, directed by Sean Mathias, will open at the Playhouse Theatre . . . Tracy Ann Oberman and Diane Samuels's 3 Sisters On Hope Street, which relocates the story of Chekhov's Three Sisters among a Jewish family in Liverpool in 1946, with Ben Caplan, Anna Francolini, Elliot Levey, Jennie Stoller and Philip Voss, directed by Lindsay Posner, will open at Hampstead Theatre . . . Noel Coward's The Vortex, a dark comedy of emotional blackmail and drug abuse in the relationship of a young musician and his socialite mother, with Felicity Kendal, Dan Stevens, Phoebe Nicholls, Barry Stanton, Annette Badland, Daniel Pirrie, Paul Ridley, Cressida Trew, Timothy Speyer and Vivien Keene, directed by Peter Hall, will open at the Apollo Theatre . . . and a triple bill for teenagers about the transition to adulthood, comprising Baby Girl by Roy Williams, about an unwanted pregnancy, DNA by Dennis Kelly, about a group misdemeanour, and The Miracle by Lin Coghlan, about a life changing event, directed by Paul Miller, will open at the National Theatre - all in February . . . George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara, the story of a Salvation Army member who becomes disillusioned when the organisation accepts money from her father, an arms manufacturer, whose workers live in model conditions, with Simon Russell Beale, Clare Higgins, Hayley Atwell and Paul Ready, directed by Nicholas Hytner, will open at the National Theatre . . . Arthur Miller's The Man Who Had All The Luck, about a man blessed with what appears to be almost supernatural good fortune while those around him fall in defeat, with Andrew Buchan, directed by Sean Holmes, will open at the Donmar Warehouse . . . Debbie Tucker Green's Random, about youth violence, with Nadine Marshall, directed by Sacha Wares, will open at the Royal Court Theatre . . . Jersey Boys, the Tony Award winning Broadway back catalogue musical about '60s pop group Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with Ryan Molloy, Stephen Ashfield, Glenn Carter and Philip Bulcock, directed by Des McAnuff, will open at the Prince Edward Theatre . . . and Yasmina Reza's The God Of Carnage, translated by Christopher Hampton, a comedy in which two couples debate different styles of parenting, following a squabble between their children that turned violent, with Ralph Fiennes, Tamsin Grieg, Janet McTeer and Ken Stott, directed by Matthew Warchus, will receive its world premiere at the Gielgud Theatre - all in March . . . American writer Stephen Adly Guirgis's The Last Days Of Judas Iscariot, a 'time-bending, serio-comic drama in an imagined world between heaven and hell', re-examining the fate of Judas Iscariot with 20th century figures testifying at his trial, directed by Rupert Goold, will open at the Almeida Theatre . . . English National Opera will stage small scale productions of Lost Highway, adapted from the David Lynch film, music by Olga Neuwirth and libretto by Elfriede Jelinek, with Alice Lisa Saffer, directed by Diane Paulus, and a new production of Harrison Birtwhistle's Punch And Judy, with Andrew Shore, Lucy Schaufer, Gillian Keith and Graham Clark, directed by Daniel Kramer, at the Young Vic Theatre . . . the Shared Experience production of Helen Edmundson's two part adaptation of Tolstoy's War And Peace, directed by Nancy Meckler and Polly Teale, the epic story depicting the impact of the Napoleonic Wars on Russian society over a period of 15 years, with a company of 15 playing 72 roles between them, will play at Hampstead Theatre . . . the Royal Shakespeare Company's Stratford productions of Shakespeare's History Cycle, comprising Richard II, Henry IV Parts I and II, Henry V, Henry VI Parts I, II and III and Richard III, directed by Michael Boyd, will play at The Roundhouse . . . Small Change, written and directed by Peter Gill, set in 1950s Cardiff, about the friendship between two boys and the relationship with their mothers, and things that go unsaid and are forever unresolved, will open at the Donmar Warehouse . . . a new musical adaptation of Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind, the epic saga of the South during and after the American Civil War, as seen through the life and loves of plantation owner's daughter Scarlett O'Hara, book, music and lyrics by American Margaret Martin, with Jill Paice, Madeleine Worrall and Edward Baker-Duly directed by Trevor Nunn, (who also adapted Martin's book and lyrics), with movement by David Bolger, will open at the New London Theatre . . . Shakespeare's King Lear, directed by Dominic Dromgoole, will open at Shakespeare's Globe . . . and Martin Crimp's The City, a darkly comic mystery in which three characters fight to make sense of a surreal and collapsing world, directed by Katie Mitchell, will open at the Royal Court Theatre - all in April . . . Bertolt Brecht's A Good Soul Of Szechuan, in a new adaptation by David Harrower (hence the title change), about the impossibility of being a good person thanks to man's frailties, with Jane Horrocks, directed by Richard Jones, will open at the Young Vic Theatre . . . the Peter Hall Company production of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, now more famous as 'My Fair Lady without the songs', telling the story of the transformation of a flower seller into a lady by an eccentric phonetics professor, with Tim Pigott-Smith, Michelle Dockery, Tony Haygarth, Pamela Miles and Una Stubbs, directed by Hall, will open at the Old Vic Theatre . . . Marguerite, a musical based on Alexandre Dumas's La Dame Aux Camellias, set in Paris during the German occupation in the Second World War, with music by Michael Legrand, book by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, and English lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer from the original French lyrics by Boublil, starring Ruthie Henshall, will receive its world premiere at the Haymarket Theatre . . . Never Forget, a musical featuring the back catalogue of the group Take That, book by Danny Brocklehurst, about a Take That tribute band, directed by Ed Curtis, with choreography by Karen Bruce, will open at the Savoy Theatre . . . Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, will open at Shakespeare's Globe . . . and Henrik Ibsen's Rosmersholm, in a new version by Mike Poulton, charting the struggle between freedom and the cruelty of conscience in an age of political division, as an aristocrat's brother in law plants doubts in his and his lover's minds, leading to a tragic conclusion, with Helen McCrory, Paul Hilton and Malcolm Sinclair, directed by Anthony Page, will open at the Almeida Theatre - all in May . . . Enid Bagnold's The Chalk Garden, the story of a 16 year old who lives in a fantasy world and runs wild in the garden of a manor house, whose life changes with the appointment of a mysterious governess, with Penelope Wilton, directed by Michael Grandage, will open at the Donmar Warehouse . . . Shakespeare's The Merry Wives Of Windsor, directed by Christopher Luscombe, will open at Shakespeare's Globe . . . and the Edinburgh Fringe hit Blackwatch, Gregory Burke's piece of verbatim theatre based on interviews with former soldiers of the Blackwatch regiment who served in Iraq, will open at the Barbican Theatre - all in June . . . Che Walker's The Frontline, a modern tale of London life on the edge, set on a Saturday night outside Camden tube station, will receive its premiere at Shakespeare's Globe . . . West Side Story, the musical relocating the story of Romeo And Juliet to Hell's Kitchen in 1950s New York, book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, will open at Sadler's Wells - both in July . . . Shakespeare's Timon Of Athens, directed by Lucy Bailey, will open at Shakespeare's Globe - in August . . . Glyn Maxwell's Liberty, an adaptation of Anatole France's novel about a revolutionary magistrate who turns from being a radical idealist to a fanatical apologist for state violence, directed by Guy Retallack, will open at Shakespeare's Globe . . . and the Donmar Warehouse will open a year long season at Wyndham's Theatre with Chekhov's Ivanov, about a troubled landowner in a domestic and philosophical crisis in pre revolutionary Russia, in a new version by Tom Stoppard, with Kenneth Branagh, directed by Michael Grandage - both in September . . . the Donmar Warehouse season at Wyndham's Theatre will continue with Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, with Derek Jacobi, directed by Michael Grandage - in December.

On the plane from Hollywood:

Kristin Chenowerth will join the cast of English National Opera's production of Leonard Bernstein's Candide, directed by Robert Carsen, with choreography by Rob Ashford, in June; Kelsey Grammer may play former FBI chief J Edgar Hoover in the world premiere of a 'musical comedy fantasia' J Edgar!, book and lyrics by Tom Leopold and Harry Shearer, music by Peter Matz . . . Robert Downey Jr may make his West End debut in a play about the last days of the actor Peter Sellers by John Antrobus . . . and Michelle Pfeiffer is in negotiations to make her debut on the West End stage.

On the way from Broadway:

The Wedding Singer, a musical adapted from the 1998 film, book by Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy, music by Matthew Sklar, and lyrics by Chad Beguelin, set in the 1980s, telling the story of a jilted wannabe rock star, making a living singing at weddings, who falls for a waitress, but finds she is about to be married . . . the musical Grey Gardens, book by Doug Wright, music by Scott Frankel, and lyrics by Michael Korie, telling the extraordinary story of the eccentric aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and how they came to live in a derelict mansion in East Hampton , featuring Christine Ebersole, directed by Michael Greif . . . Xanadu, a musical based on the 1980 film, book by Douglas Carter Beane, and original film score by John Farrar and Jeff Lynne, directed by Christopher Ashley, about a Greek muse, sent to Earth to inspire mortals in California in the 1980s, who falls in love with an artist while helping him realise his dream of opening a roller disco . . . and the Steppenwolf Theatre Company of Chicago's production of Tracy Letts's August: Osage County, a family drama set in rural Oklahoma.

Looking for a West End home after regional/fringe productions/tours:

The Kneehigh Theatre/Birmingham Rep staging of Brief Encounter, David Lean's 1945 film based on the Noel Coward play Still Life, which explores betrayal and adultery through three separate love stories set in a railway station, adapted and directed by Emma Rice . . . Legal Fictions, a double bill of plays by John Mortimer, comprising Dock Brief, in which an incompetent barrister represents a man who has murdered his wife, and Edwin, in which retired High Court Judge still sits in judgment on people in his imagination, with Edward Fox, directed by Christopher Morahan . . . Jeff Baron's Visiting Mr Green, about an executive guilty of reckless driving, who is ordered to make regular visits to the elderly man he almost knocked down, during which an uneasy relationship develops, with Warren Mitchell and David Sturzaker, directed by Patrick Garland . . . Anthony Shaffer's classic thriller Sleuth, with Simon MacCorkindale and Michael Praed, directed by Joe Harmston . . . Surviving Spike, adapted by Richard Harris, from the book Spike by Norma Farnes, who was Spike Milligan's agent, manager and confidante for 36 years, presenting an intimate glance into his personal life by the only person who ever really knew him . . . and a stage adaptation of Flashdance, the 1983 film about a welder and part time exotic dancer who dreams of winning a place at a dance school and becoming a ballet dancer, directed by Kenny Leon and choreographed by Arlene Phillips.

In the pipeline:

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert, a stage musical adaptation of the 1994 Australian film, about three drag queens on a road trip to Alice Springs, using existing disco songs, by original writer/director Stephan Elliott, writer Allan Scott and director Simon Phillips, which premiered in Sydney last year . . . and a stage musical adaptation of Pink Floyd's album The Wall, with book by Lee Hall, which will also contain other back catalogue numbers and new material by Roger Waters.

Still possibly alive, and may yet start kicking, these were predicted for the West End in '07 (some in '06, '05, '04, '03, '02, '01, or even the last century) and could make it in '08:

Neil LaBute's Fat Pig, about how a man reacts to his friends' horror when he dates an overweight woman, directed by LaBute . . . Andrew Lippa's musical The Wild Party, based on Joseph Moncure March's 1928 poem about a decadent evening in the apartment of two vaudevillians . . . Simply Ballroom, a spinoff of the television series, featuring international dance champions, hosted Lionel Blair . . . the Open Air Theatre production of Sandy Wilson's 1920s musical The Boyfriend, directed by Ian Talbot, with choreography by Bill Deamer . . . the comedy There's No Place Like A Home, written by producer Paul Elliott, set in a home for retired theatrical performers, which is threatened with closure, so the inmates decide to kidnap a celebrity and demand a ransom, in order to secure their future, directed by Chris Colby . . . Caroline O'Connor as Judy Garland in Peter Quilter's play with music End Of The Rainbow . . . Christopher Hampton's play based on William Dalrymple's novel White Mughals, about the East India Company at the turn of the 18th century, in which a Muslim princess falls in love with an English officer, may receive its premiere at the National Theatre . . . Cyrano, a musical version of Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac, with book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, and music by Broadway composer Frank Wildhorn, may premiere in London, possibly starring Douglas Sills . . . Nicole Kidman may return to the West End as Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, directed by Daniel Kramer . . . Natalie Portman may star in Richard Greenberg's The American Plan, a story of five outsiders in 1960s America, directed by David Grindley . . . Ashley Judd may star in Lanford Wilson's Burn This, exploring the loneliness and dissatisfaction of a group of friends attempting to make sense of the accidental death of one of their own . . . Terry Johnson may direct Christian Slater in Tennessee Williams's Sweet Bird Of Youth, about an ageing film star's relationship with a gigolo . . . a stage version of The King Of Comedy, adapted and directed by Jeremy Sams, from Martin Scorsese's 1983 film about a man obsessed with becoming a comedian, who kidnaps his talk show host idol in order to perform his stand-up routine for him . . . Ralph Fiennes as Hamlet again, directed by Adrian Noble, at an off West End venue . . . Hans Christian Andersen, Maury Yeston's new stage musical based on the biofilm, with a score by Frank Loesser . . . a stage musical version of Frank Capra's 1946 Christmas film It's A Wonderful Life, with book by Francis Matthews, and music and lyrics by Steve Brown . . . a Bollywood style musical based on the 2002 film Bend It Like Beckham, directed by Gurinder Chadha . . . Jake Gyllenhaal in Romeo And Juliet, staged by 'director to the stars' Laurence Boswell . . . the musical version of The Three Musketeers, with book by Peter Raby, music by George Stiles and lyrics by Paul Leigh, which was runner up in the 1996 International Musical Of The Year competition . . . Ray Davies (of The Kinks) musical Come Dancing . . . Disney's first original stage musical Aida, based on the same legend that inspired Verdi, with book by Linda Woolverton, Robert Falls and David Henry Hwang, music by Elton John, and lyrics by Tim Rice . . . Michael Rose's production of a musical adaptation of Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, 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, which has played in America with Millicent Martin . . . 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, which S Hoebee is likely to direct here . . . 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?