News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 30th May 1997

Plans have been announced for a new theatre on the site of Collins Music Hall, the famous venue at the northern end of Islington Green, which closed in the late 1950's. The building was gutted and used as a warehouse, and has been semi derelict for some years. The Royal Shakespeare Company, Manchester Royal Exchange and a number of major touring companies are interested in using the new theatre as a London showcase. The plan is to create a thrust stage similar to the RSC's Swan Theatre, but capable of being adapted to in-the-round for the Royal Exchange. The RSC would transfer its smaller productions from the Swan and The Other Place, while main house shows would continue to be seen at the Barbican. The project will rely on a successful Lottery bid for 13m, but matching funds of 4m are said to be already in place.

On the subject of the National Lottery, arts supporters should keep a close eye on the government's plans for siphoning off funds into health and social services spending. The arts have more to lose from this than the "excess" profits made by Camelot. At a time when we are at last making a start on refurbishing and replacing our crumbling venues we can't afford to relax. The arts still need all the money they can get to tackle the backlog. We must also consider what will happen to the proportion of funds administered by the Millennium Fund when it has been wound up. Perhaps a New Century Fund to establish brand new arts ventures in hitherto cultural desserts would be a good idea. Start lobbying now - don't wait until the funds have been filched to plug holes in general government spending.

Money yet again. Damn Yankees which started previews at the Adelphi Theatre last night is still looking for investment. If you think London is really looking for a musical about baseball with Jerry Lewis, and have the money to back your judgement, then Frank and Wogi Gero would like to hear from you. You can reach them on 0171 734 3257. Remember that of every five West End shows, three lose money, one breaks even and one makes a profit. As they say the curtain can go down as well as up. Even so the odds are better than the National Lottery - although of course the stake is higher.

There is speculation that if Andrew Lloyd Webber really is working on Phantom II, then Don Black will be the lyricist. Meanwhile there are plans for a compilation show of the work of Black, arguably this country's most successful lyricist. The show is to be called Black Goes With Everything, a particularly suitable title since he has probably worked with more collaborators than any other lyricist. The show will be directed by Gayle Edwards of Aspects Of Love and Superstar fame, in the autumn or next spring.

And talking of Andrew Lloyd Webber's collaborators, Tim Rice and his new partner Alan Menken have just relaunched the New Amsterdam Theatre in New York. The historic theatre has been restored by the Disney Organisation in co-operation with the City as part of the 42nd Street regeneration programme. Mike Ockrent directed a staged concert of King David which played eight performances. It received mixed reviews and plans for a full scale production remain tentative. Meanwhile the stage version of Rice and Menken's The Lion King will open at the New Amsterdam in November.

The Rumour Machine says: that part of the reason for the failure of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Whistle Down The Wind may be hiring a screenwriter with no stage experience to write the book - apparently in the first draft script Act II started not with the Entr'acte but the Interact; and that the front runner for Stephen Daldry's job at the Royal Court seems to be Dominic Dromgoole - ex Bush theatre and now at Old Vic where his new play repertoire is not doing much - but can he fulfil the most important criterion - does he wear dungarees? The Rumour Machine grinds on.