News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 30th December 2005

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.

The Royal Shakespeare Company transfer of its season of Comedies from Stratford will continue at the Novello Theatre with The Comedy Of Errors, directed by Nancy Meckler . . . Lies Have Been Told: An Evening With Robert Maxwell, directed by Alan Dosser, will open at the Trafalgar Studios 2, with Philip York as the media mogul giving the 'true' account of his death, when he fell/jumped/was pushed from his yacht and drowned . . . Stella Feehily's O Go My Man, with Denise Gough, Sam Graham, Paul Hickey, Susan Lynch, Gemma Reeves, Aoife McMahon, Mossie Smith and Ewan Stewart, looking at relationships in a hectic world of personal and professional commitments, directed by Max Stafford-Clark, will launch the Royal Court Theatre's 50th anniversary season . . . the Royal Shakespeare Company will continue the transfer of its Gunpowder season of plays from the Stratford at the Trafalgar Studios with Sejanus - His Fall, by Ben Jonson, charting the rise and fall of Emperor Tiberius's chief lieutenant, directed by Gregory Doran . . . Sam Shepard's The Late Henry Moss, in which family secrets are revealed as two brothers return home to confront each other, their violent past and the death of their father, with Flaminia Cinque, Trevor Cooper, Brendan Coyle, Simon Gregor, Andrew Lincoln and Jason Watkins, directed by Michael Attenborough, will receive its European premiere at the Almeida Theatre . . . Polish identical twins Pierre and Pablo Caesar will bring their Edinburgh Fringe acrobatic show Caesar Twins And Friends to the Comedy Theatre . . . Robert Lepage will perform The Andersen Project, a one man show about a writer creating an opera based on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales, at the Barbican . . . the Motion Group production of Igor Stravinsky's Faustian music theatre piece about a violin playing soldier The Soldier's Tale, in a new translation by Abdul Karim Kasid and Rebecca Lenkiewicz, with Julian Glover, directed by Andrew Steggall will return to the Old Vic Theatre . . . Greg Hicks will perform Colin Teevan's Missing Persons: Four Tragedies And Roy Keane, tales of modern masculinity inspired by Greek myths, directed by Sarah Chew, at the Trafalgar Studios . . . the recent Tony Award winning Broadway production of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, the iconic darkly comic play detailing the breakdown of the 23 year marriage of a combative couple during a 'quiet evening with friends', starring Kathleen Turner, Bill Irwin, Mireille Enos and David Harbour, directed by Anthony Page, will open at the Apollo Theatre - all in January . . . the Royal Shakespeare Company's Gunpowder season at the Trafalgar Studios will conclude with Believe What You Will, by Philip Massinger, a story of the Roman Empire threatening war on any state that grants refuge to an exiled Middle Eastern leader, directed by Josie Rourke, and the premiere of Speaking Like Magpies by Frank McGuinness, about the background to the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, directed by Rupert Goold . . . the Royal Shakespeare Company's season of Comedies will continue at the Novello Theatre with A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Gregory Doran . . . David Harrower's Blackbird, about a meeting between a woman and the man who sexually abused her as a child fifteen years earlier, with Roger Allam and Jodhi May, directed by Peter Stein, which premiered at the Edinburgh Festival, will open at the Albery Theatre . . . Diana Rigg, Martin Jarvis, Natascha McElhone and Georgia Rich will star in Joanna Murray-Smith's Honour, which analyses the failure of a marriage on a family, directed by David Grindley, at Wyndham's Theatre . . . the Complicite co-production of Measure For Measure, with Naomi Frederick and Angus Wright, directed by Simon McBurney, and the world premiere of Southwark Fair, a contemporary comedy by Samuel Adamson, in which past misdemeanours bear down on the present in the stories of a variety of characters on the South Bank, with Margaret Tyzack, Rory Kinnear, Rhashan Stone, Con O'Neil, Simon Gleeson, Michael Legge and Madeleine Potter, directed by Nicholas Hytner, will open at the National Theatre . . . Arthur Miller's Resurrection Blues, a satire on cultural commercialisation, global politics and media saturation, with Neve Campbell, directed in his UK stage debut by film director Robert Altman, will receive its British premiere at the Old Vic Theatre . . . Christopher Eccleston will star in Peter Whelan's The School Of Night, a historical thriller that examines the mystery that surrounds the death of the playwright Christopher Marlowe, directed by Bill Alexander, at the Comedy Theatre . . . Mark Ravenhill's The Cut, about a seemingly ordinary man with a shocking secret, with Deborah Findlay, Ian McKellen, Jimmy Akingbola and Tom Burke, directed by Michael Grandage, will receive its world premiere at the Donmar Warehouse - all in February . . . Jeremy Irons will star in Embers, adapted by Christopher Hampton from Hungarian novelist Sandor Morai's story of two ex friends who meet thirty years after they split up, directed by Michael Blakemore, at the Duke of York's Theatre . . . Paul Chequer will play Private Peaceful, in Michael Morpurgo's First World War story adapted and directed by Simon Reade, at the Trafalgar Studios . . . the Royal Shakespeare Company's season of Comedies at the Novello Theatre will conclude with As You Like It, directed by Dominic Cooke . . . Sinatra At The London Palladium, a multimedia recreation of a Frank Sinatra concert, with a live orchestra and chorus of singers and dancers, directed by David Leveaux, with choreography by Stephen Mears, will open at the London Palladium . . . double bills made up from three short plays about the lives of teenagers - Burn by Deborah Gearing, Chatroom by Enda Walsh and Citizenship by Mark Ravenhill will open at the National Theatre . . . Tennessee Williams's Period Of Adjustment, a tangled comedy about a war veteran and his new bride visiting a friend whose wife has just left him on Christmas Eve, directed by Howard Davies, will open at the Almeida Theatre - all in March . . . Dawn French and Alison Moyet, with June Watson, will star in Carmel Morgan's Smaller, a wistful comedy about two sisters whose lives have taken very different paths, directed by Kathy Burke, will open at the Lyric Theatre . . . Frank McGuinness's version of Phaedra, Racine's classical tragedy of guilty passion, with Clare Higgins, directed by Tom Cairns, will open at the Donmar Warehouse . . . The Royal Hunt Of The Sun, Peter Shaffer's epic play about the Spanish conquest of Peru, directed by Trevor Nunn, will open at the National Theatre . . . the Broadway dance musical Movin' Out, choreographed by Twyla Tharp to the songs of Billy Joel, telling the story a group of friends whose lives are torn apart by the Vietnam War, but are finally mended, will open at Apollo Victoria Theatre . . . Simon Stephens's Motortown, the story of a soldier returning from Iraq, with Daniel Mays, directed by Ramin Gray, will open at the Royal Court Theatre . . . Judi Dench, Peter Bowles and Belinda Lang will star in Noel Coward's Hay Fever, the story of a weekend at the country retreat of a bohemian actress, her writer husband, and their two adult children, all of whom behave extravagantly badly in front of their mystified house guests, directed by Peter Hall, will open at the Haymarket Theatre . . . a Samuel Beckett Centenary Festival will begin at the Barbican, co-produced with the Gate Theatre Dublin, featuring Waiting For Godot, with Barry McGoven and Johnny Murphy, and Endgame, both directed by Walter Asmus, plus double bills of Rockaby and Ohio Impromptu, Footfalls and Come And Go, and Play and Catastrophe, and the return of John Hurt in Krapp's Last Tape, directed by Robin Lefevre - all in April . . . David Hare's new version of Gorky's Enemies, set in pre Revolutionary provincial Russia amid the struggle between workers and industrialists, directed by Michael Attenborough, will open on at the Almeida Theatre . . . Cheek By Jowl will launch its residency at the Barbican with Thomas Middleton and William Rowley's The Changeling, the psychological tragedy prompted by obsessive love, directed by Declan Donnellan . . . Daddy Cool, a compilation musical of the disco songs of Frank Farian, as recorded by Boney M, a contemporary 'Romeo And Juliet' style story about east and west London gangs, featuring singer (Michael Junior) Harvey, directed by Andy Goldberg, with choreography by Sean Cheesman, will open the Shaftesbury Theatre - all in May . . . Cheek by Jowl's production of Twelfth Night, directed by Declan Donnellan will open at the Barbican . . . John Mortimer's A Voyage Round My Father, about his relationship with his blind barrister father, with Derek Jacobi, directed by Thea Sharrock, will open at the Donmar Warehouse . . . Tom Stoppard's Rock 'n' Roll, set in Czechoslovakia and Britain, moving between 1956, 1968 and the present day, with Rufus Sewell, directed by Trevor Nunn, will receive its premiere at the Royal Court Theatre - all in June . . . Tanika Gupta's Sugar Mummies, exploring Jamaican sex tourism, directed by Indhu Rubasingham will open at the Royal Court Theatre . . . Peter Morgan's Frost/Nixon, about the interviews David Frost had with Richard Nixon after his resignation from the White House, with Michael Sheen, directed by Michael Grandage, will open at the Donmar Warehouse - both in August . . . Piano/Forte, written and directed by Terry Johnson, with Kelly Reilly and Alicia Witt, will receive its world premiere at the Royal Court Theatre . . . Kevin Spacey will star in Eugene O'Neill Moon For The Misbegotten, about a quick witted young woman, her scheming father, and their landlord, directed by Howard Davies, will open at the Old Vic Theatre . . . the Tony award winning musical Wicked, which tells the history of the Good and Wicked Witches of Oz before Dorothy arrived, revealing how and why they are not as good or wicked as they seemed, with book by Winnie Holtzman, and music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, directed by Joe Mantello, with musical staging by Wayne Cilento, will receive its British premiere at the Apollo Victoria Theatre - all in September . . . and finally, Mark Ravenhill and the Barbican's first ever pantomime, Dick Whittington will open in December.

On the way from Broadway:

The musical Avenue Q, a kind of adult Sesame Street with a mixture of real and puppet performers, with book by Jeff Whitty, and music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, directed by Jason Moore, with choreography by Hen Roberson, will make its London debut at the Theatre Royal Stratford East . . . Spamalot, Eric Idle's musical adaptation of the film Monty Python And The Holy Grail, with the songs from the film, plus a new score with lyrics Idle and music by John Du Prez, directed by Mike Nichols, with choreography by Casey Nicholaw . . . the recent production of David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross, about the cut-throat world of real estate agents, directed by Joe Mantello . . . The Boy From Oz, the biomusical about the Australian writer and entertainer Peter Allen who made it big in America, with book by Martin Sherman and Nick Enright, and songs by Allen and Carole Bayer Sager, directed by Philip W M McKinley . . . and the musical adaptation of Hairspray, the 1988 John Waters film about how the Swinging '60s hit Baltimore, with book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan, music by Mark Shairman and lyrics by Scott Wittman, directed by Jack O'Brien, with choreography by Jerry Mitchell, possibly with Desmond Barrit in the drag role of the mother.

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

The Broadway musical Footloose, based on the 1984 film, about a big city boy who finds himself relocated to a small Bible belt town where dancing is banned as the work of the Devil (along with fun in general), so his rock 'n' roll ways are frowned upon, a revised version of the 1998 original, with book by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie, and songs by Dean Pitchford and Tom Snow and others, directed and choreographed by Karen Bruce . . . the Watermill Theatre Newbury production of the musical Mack And Mabel, set in Hollywood at the peak of the silent movie era in the 1920s, charting the relationship of director Mack Sennett and his star, the comedienne Mabel Normand, with book by Michael Stewart, and music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, starring David Soul and Janie Dee, directed by John Doyle . . . the Salisbury Playhouse production of Arthur Miller's Playing For Time, based on a memoir by Fania Fenelon, about the formation of a women's orchestra in the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Second World War, with Joanna Riding, directed by Joanna Read . . . and the Sheffield Crucible production of the Promises, Promises, the musical adaptation of the film The Apartment, in which a man tries to climb the corporate ladder by letting his bosses use his apartment for their romantic trysts, with book by Neil Simon, music by Burt Bacharach, and lyrics by Hal David, with Emma William and Richard Frame, directed by Angus Jackson, with choreography by Adam Cooper.

In the pipeline:

Philip Quast may play Peron in the new production of Evita, with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, directed by Michael Grandage, choreographed by Rob Ashford, which may open at the Adelphi Theatre . . . The Sound Of Music, with book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein, directed by Jeremy Sams, possibly with Lesley Garratt as the Mother Abbess, at the London Palladium . . . This Is Elvis: Viva Las Vegas, a show by Philip Norman about Elvis Presley's Las Vegas comeback, in which the first act is a fictional pre show backstage 'rockumentary', and the second act is the on stage performance, may be London bound . . . Caroline O'Connor may bring her Australian success as Judy Garland in Peter Quilter's play with music End Of The Rainbow to London . . . a new play by Charlotte Jones, The Lightning Play, an emotional thriller about a family set at Halloween, may premiere at the Almeida Theatre . . . Juliet Stevenson may star in Chekhov's The Seagull, directed by Katie Mitchell, Simon Russell Beale may play the title role in Bertolt Brecht's The Life Of Galileo, and 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, all at the National Theatre . . . Noel Coward's Present Laughter, about the home life of an actor, directed by Michael Rudman, may tour with Simon Callow and then come to the West End . . . Sienna Miller and Rupert Everett may star in a West End production of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion . . . and 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.

On the plane from Hollywood:

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 . . . Robin Williams may play Peter Sellars in the premiere of a play by John Antrobus about the actor's last days . . . 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 . . . and Terry Johnson may direct Christian Slater and an as yet unsigned American co-star in Tennessee Williams's Sweet Bird Of Youth, about an ageing film star's relationship with a gigolo.

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

Trevor Nunn may direct a new musical adaptation of Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind, the saga of the south in the American Civil War, with book by American Mary Martin . . . 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 . . . Bob Carlton's idiosyncratic production of John Buchan's The Thirty Nine Steps, which has toured three times but failed to find a home . . . 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 . . . a musical based on Bad Girls, the television series set in a women's prison . . . 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) show 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?