News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 29th December 2000

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.

Japes, a new play by Simon Gray, which played at the Mercury Colchester in November, with Jasper Britton, Toby Stephens and Clare Swinburne directed by Peter Hall, will open at the Haymarket Theatre on 7th February. It is a "comedy of life" about two brothers (both writers) in love with the same woman. Michael Redington is the producer.

Barring divine intervention (possible after the Witches debacle) Cameron Mackintosh will transfer the upcoming National Theatre production of My Fair Lady with Jonathan Pryce and Martine McCutcheon to Drury Lane.

Andrew Lloyd Webber's Bollywood musical Bombay Dreams, with book by Meera Syal, music by A R Rahman and lyrics by Don Black may arrive this year. The project is co-produced with film director Shekhar Kapur.

Don Black is also working on a musical based on Graham Greene's Brighton Rock with composer John Barry, which may be ready next winter.

Despite The Beautiful Game, Andrew Lloyd Webber and new best friend Ben Elton are working on another show, based on the story of the Nativity. Elton is also scripting the film of The Phantom Of The Opera.

On the plane from Hollywood: Nicole Kidman possibly for Ibsen's The Lady From The Sea at the National; Brendan Fraser and Francis O'Connor for Tennessee Williams Cat On A Hot Tin Roof directed by Anthony Page next September; Farrah Fawcett to replace Stefanie Powers in a London season of The Adjustment which toured last summer; and Calista Flockhart to make her London debut in "a major American classic" (expected to be The Philadelphia Story) at the Savoy Theatre next summer, produced by Duncan Weldon.

Composer Philip Henderson and film director Shekhar Kapur are working on a musical adaptation of M M Kaye's weighty tome The Far Pavilions with the West End as their aim. Set during the Indian Mutiny of 1857, it tells of a love affair between a British officer and an Indian princess. Michael Ward will produce.

Richard Briers stars in the world premiere of Spike by Simon Day at the Nuffield Theatre Southampton in February. It is the story of a car showroom owner whose world is turned upside down by the arrival of a strange boy. This will be the first time Briers has appeared alongside wife Ann Davies and daughter Lucy Briers. The director is Dominic Hill and it is co-produced with The Theatre Of Comedy Company in association with Lemon Inc with London in mind.

Katharine Dore, producer of Adventures in Motion Pictures, has commissioned Royal Ballet/AMP dancer Adam Cooper to choreograph a dance show based on Les Liaisons Dangereuses for production next winter.

Maria Friedman will star in Rogers and Hammerstein's last show The Sound Of Music, at the Palladium directed by Steven Pimlott in the autumn.

On the way from Broadway: this year's Tony Award winning musical Contact - three stories about sex and power - co-conceived (with John Weidman), directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, produced by Michael White; Stroman's revival of Meredith Willson's The Music Man (the 76 trombones show) starring Brian Conley; current hot ticket, the American stage musical version of The Full Monty, book by Terence McNally and music and lyrics by David Yazbek (with the action relocated in Buffalo); Michael Blakemore's revival of Cole Porter's Kiss Me Kate, with Marin Mazzie and Brian Stoke recreating their performances in the leading roles; Jekyll And Hyde, book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and music by Frank Wildhorn, which is just ending a run of almost three years (currently starring David Hasselhof), produced by David Ian for SFX; and 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.

Anton Rodgers, Peter Davison and Belinda Lang star in Peter Tilbury's modern farce Under The Doctor, opening the Churchill Theatre Bromley at the end of January. Fiona Laird will direct the "prior to West End" production.

The Chichester Festival Theatre's contemporary version of Godspell is looking to come in, presented by David Pugh. Based on the Gospel according to St Matthew, it was a "hippier" rival to Jesus Christ Superstar in the 1970s. The book is by Michael Tebelak, and music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz.

Pugh is also expected to transfer Matthew Warchus National Theatre production of Yasmina Reza's Life X 3, which offers three versions of what happens/might happen when a couple arrive for a dinner party 24 hours early. Imelda Staunton, Mark Rylance, Harriet Walter and Oliver Cotton do the honours.

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

Run For Your Wife 2 "Caught In The Net", farceur supreme Ray Cooney's sequel to his best play and biggest hit, which continues the tale of a bigamist taxi driver trying to keep two wives happy. Eighteen years on there is a Romeo and Juliet twist, when the son from one marriage meets the daughter from the other. Paul Nicholas led in the Windsor try out.

God Only Knows by Hugh Whitemore, with Derek Jacobi, Francesca Hunt, Margot Leicester, Richard O'Callaghan and David Yelland directed by Anthony Page. A kind of thriller set in Italy, with Jacobi playing a fugitive who claims to know dangerous information about the Vatican (could it be the definitive account of events which led up to the newspaper headline "Pope Dies Again"?) The producer is Duncan Weldon.

A Family Affair, a French comedy adapted and directed by Andy de la Tour telling the story of a horrendous family get together, with Rik Mayall, Steven Pacey, Anne Reid and Susan Wooldridge.

God And Stephen Hawking by Robin Hawdon, with Robert Hardy and Stephen Boxer, directed by Jonathan Church. An account of the life and vision of the author of A Brief History of Time, and his struggle with motor neurone disease, which includes among its cast of characters Newton, Einstein, Pope John Paul, The Queen and God.

The Diary Of Anne Frank, Wendy Kesselman's new adaptation of Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett's play, incorporating the recently released material. The story of the years which the Frank family and friends spent hiding in the attic of their house in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. David de Keyser, Lynn Farleigh and Zena Walker star, with Jonathan Church directing a Touring Consortium production.

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

Producer Michael Rose is still working on Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, which will premiere in Huston in July, directed by David Taylor. It is 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.

The Last Of The Mohicans, a musical based on James Fenimore Cooper's novel is aiming for London after a Canadian try out. The action is set in America in 1757 during the colonial wars, when British and French forces set the native Mohican and Huron tribes against each other. The show is written by Julian Ronnie and Paul Miller, and the director again is David Taylor.

Richard O'Brien is still seriously(!) working on a sequel to The Rocky Horror Show, which seems to have been continuously touring for its entire 27 year lifespan. It is to be called inevitably Rocky Horror: The Second Coming. Most of the numbers have been completed, and it should arrive next winter.

The 1981 Tony Award winning musical Dreamgirls, previously unseen in this country. With book and lyrics by Tom Eyen, and music by Henry Krieger, it portrays 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 prior to a possible Broadway reappearance. Mark S Hoebee is likely to direct here for a battery of producers including Adam Spiegel.

Peter Shaffer's new play, about the relationship between (Pyotr) Tchaikovsky and his brother Modest.

Steel City, a new show by Australian choreographer Dein Perry, creator of Hot Shoe Shuffle and Tap Dogs.

The Pet Shop Boys musical Closer To Heaven, which is set in a club, with book by Jonathan Harvey.

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?