News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 29th January 1999

Mystery surrounds the future of Starlight Express. Andrew Lloyd Webber was reported as saying that faced with the forthcoming competition from The Lion King in October, he would "retire the show" and rework it for a tour. A spokesman later claimed that he was misquoted and that it would continue indefinitely. It is not known if this was a change of mind, or an elaborate hoax to gain publicity and drive up the advance - naturally claimed to be "over 1m". It is a sure thing that other producers won't be fighting to get their hands on the Apollo Victoria because of its Off West End position, apart from Apollo themselves, who would have preferred that to the banishment of Hammersmith for their show Dr Dolittle, which itself may not survive the arrival of the new Disney show.

The previously mentioned production of Neil Simon's The Prisoner Of Second Avenue, with Richard Dreyfuss and Marsha Mason making their West End debuts, will open at the Haymarket Theatre on 30th March. Although originally produced in New York in 1971, this is the London premiere. The story centres on a Manhattan executive's inability to cope with life at home when he is made redundant. It also features Harry Ditson, Frances Jeater, Janette Legge and Margaret Robertson, and is directed by David Taylor. The producer is Duncan Weldon. Simon's latest play The Dinner Party, currently being workshopped in Los Angeles, may open in London rather than New York, as his last piece did not do well on Broadway. It will be the first time he has premiered a work outside New York.

The remains of the Rose Theatre, the first Elizabethan playhouse on Bankside, are to be opened to the public from April, with a sound and light show created by designer William Dudley. Built in 1587, the Rose is where a number of Shakespeare, Marlowe, Johnson and Kyd's plays were first performed. There were protests and sit ins by many actors when the site was discovered by Museum of London archaeologists, during the construction of an office block in 1989. As a result, alterations were made to the building in order to preserve the remains intact. The Rose Theatre Trust is raising funds for a complete excavation of the site, which has remained under a protective layer of sand since the discovery. The trust can be contacted at HSE Room 007A GSW, Rose Court, 2 Southwark Bridge, London SE1 9HS or call 0171 207 6280.

Irvine Welsh's play You'll Have Had Your Hole, which premiered at West Yorkshire Playhouse last February, is playing a London season from 2nd February to 27th March at a new venue, the Astoria 2, below the Astoria Theatre in Charing Cross Road. Welsh's first original theatre piece, styled as a neo-Jacobean revenge tragedy, capitalises on the controversy surrounding the graphic depiction of violence in the drug culture in which his works are set. The cast includes Tam Dean Burn, Kirsty Mitchell, Kenneth Bryans and James Cunningham, directed by Ian Brown and presented by Phil McIntyre Promotions.

This year's schedule for the Donmar Warehouse has been confirmed as C P Taylor's Good, from 18th March to 22nd May, with Eva Maria Bryer, Charles Dance and Benedict Taylor, directed by Michael Grandage; Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing, from 27th May to 7th August, directed by David Leveaux; a second season of Divas At Donmar, with names yet to be finalised, from 9th to 28th August; and the much postponed production of Sean O'Casey's Juno And The Paycock, directed by John Crowley, from 2nd September to 6th November.

Carnegie Hall has announced plans to renovate the building's lower level, originally a recital hall and most recently a commercial cinema, into a flexible use performance space with up to 628 seats. It will be used to expand the programme of chamber music events, musical theatre presentations, training and development workshops, and events for young children. Construction is expected to begin this year, and the opening will take place in the 2001-2002 season. The return of the space to live performance, joining the 2,804 seat Carnegie Hall and the 268 seat Weill Recital Hall, will restore Carnegie Hall to its original purpose of three halls at one location in service to music.

For the first time, the Bolshoi Opera will join the Bolshoi Ballet in a season at the Coliseum from 6th July to 7th August, presented by Victor Hochhauser. The Ballet programme will be La Bayadere, Don Quixote, Spectre de la rose Pas de Quatre, Giselle, Raymonda, Spartacus and Swan Lake. The Opera programme will include BorisGodunov and The Love Of Three Oranges.

Following last year's stage version of the '50's film Kind Hearts And Coronets, comes another Ealing comedy The Ladykillers, again adapted by Giles Croft and opening at Colchester Mercury on 4th March, prior to a tour produced by Charles Vance. The cast includes Tim Brooke-Taylor, Dulcie Gray and Brian Murphy, directed by Richard Baron. The story concerns the efforts of the Professor and his string quartet, to keep from their landlady, the fact that they are planning a major robbery, when they are supposed to be rehearsing. Coming next year from the same stable: The Lavender Hill Mob.

The Peacock Theatre winter programme features a return visit by Paco Pena in the world premiere of his first flamenco dance drama Musa Gitana, from 2nd February to 7th March; Diva On The Verge, Julia Mignes one woman show with favourite arias and backstage gossip, on 8th & 22nd February and 1st & 8th March; Hot Mouth the European premiere of the latest New York vocal sensation, an a capella mixture of gospel, rock, hip hop and doo wop, from 20th April to 1st May; and Rota - Companhia de Danca Deborah Colker, the Brazilian modern dance company, making its British debut from 12th May.

The Rumour Machine says: that Covent Garden is moving towards appointing rising star director Francesca Zambello as its new artistic director. Negotiations are bogged down however, over the exact relationship between the artistic director and the new executive director Michael Kaiser. It is believed that Zambello is looking for complete equality, while Kaiser wants the final word. The Rumour Machine grinds on.