News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 30th January 1998

Nicholas Hytner is to return to musical theatre for the first time since Miss Saigon - and I thought he'd learnt his lesson. He will direct a stage version of the 1957 film The Sweet Smell Of Success, with a book written by John Guare of Six Degrees Of Separation fame. Livent are producing, so it will probably take their usual route of opening in Toronto, and playing Los Angeles before reaching Broadway, as Ragtime has just done.

As forecast here two weeks ago, Patrick Marber's Closer is to move from the National to the West End, opening at the Lyric Theatre on 31st March, with Lisa Walker, Frances Barber and Neil Pearson. Robert Fox is the producer. Future plans at the National include Fiona Shaw in a new production of Muriel Spark's The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie, opening on 25th June. Director Phyllida Lloyd is working on a revised version of the script with writer Jay Presson Allen.

Peter Hall has renewed his association with producer Bill Kenwright to secure a new home for his company at the Piccadilly Theatre. Owners ACT are taking advantage of the opportunity to source product for the venue, which has had the most chequered history in their group. Details will be announced, and bookings opened, as soon as they have been finalised. It is expected that the season will be less ambitious than the seven day a week operation at the Old Vic, with repertory replacing repertoire.

Patrick Garland's production of his one man show Brief Lives, based on the writings of John Aubery, will arrive at the Duchess Theatre in late March. It stars Michael Williams and has been touring extensively. The Theatre Of Comedy heads a New York style list of co-producers.

The musical at the Open Air Theatre Regent's Park this year will be Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the 1949 show of Anita Loos' book, adapted by her and Joseph Stein, with music and lyrics by Jule Styne. Sounds like a firm of lawyers in a Marx Brothers film: "You mean you've never heard of Stein, Styne and Loos?"

Next in the Live At The Vaudeville season from 23rd February will be a three week run for David Benson's much toured show about Kenneth Williams. In sprucing itself up for the West End, the title has grown so it has now become Think No Evil Of Us: My Life With Kenneth Williams A bit of a mouthful, but still shorter than the full title of The Marat/Sade.

A modified version of the current London Palladium production of Oliver! is to tour, following the completion of its West End run. For the first time Cameron Mackintosh is to join forces with Theatre Royal Plymouth - where most West End and national tours of musicals seem to start nowadays - to co-produce. Pockets will be picked from June or July.

Entries are invited for the 1998 Vivian Ellis Prize, which now has the mission statement: A national competition to discover, nurture and promote new writers in musical theatre working in Britain. A showcase of the winning entries will be held at Her Majesty's Theatre in October, when prizes totalling 4,000 will be awarded. The closing date for entries is 3rd April, so open that bottom draw and start writing (or rewriting). Full details and application forms from Chris Grady, Vivian Ellis Prize, Rose-Morris, 11 Denmark Street, London WC2H 8LS. And don't forget a discount is available on the book Writing A Musical in our Special Offers section.

The Rumour Machine says that musical chairs are the order of the day in the West End. Alan Davies, previously reported as being Live at the Vaudeville in March, will now be appearing at the Duchess. Replacing him at the Vaudeville will be the return of The Herbal Bed which played last year at the Duchess. The Rumour Machine grinds on.