News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 30th December 2011

Elsewhere, it is customary at this time to look back over the past 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.

Nicholas Wright's Travelling Light, about Eastern European immigrants' influence on the golden age of Hollywood, with Antony Sher, Lauren O'Neil, Damien Molony and Paul Jesson, directed by Nicholas Hytner, will open at the National Theatre . . . Alan Bennett's The Madness Of George III, the epic play combining drama, politics and humour into a vivid theatrical portrait of 18th century English history, with David Haig, Clive Francis, Beatie Edney and Madhav Sharma, directed by Christopher Luscombe, will open at the Apollo Theatre . . . Frank Skinner And Friends, a cabaret show, will open at the Noel Coward Theatre . . . Federico Garcia Lorca's The House Of Bernarda Alba, about sibling rivalry and a clandestine affair in a household of sexually repressed women, in a new version by Emily Mann, relocating the setting to Iran, with Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo, directed by Bijan Sheibani, will open at the Almeida Theatre . . . Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops To Conquer, the Georgian comedy of class, courtship, mistaken identity and dysfunctional families, with Sophie Thompson, Steve Pemberton, Katherine Kelly, Harry Hadden-Paton and John Heffernan, directed by Jamie Lloyd, will open at the National Theatre . . . and Midnight Tango, with Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace, joined by 10 international Tango dancers, choreographed by Simone and Cacace, directed by Karen Bruce, will open at the Aldwych Theatre - all in January . . .

Terrence McNally's Master Class, inspired by the classes opera singer Maria Callas gave at the Juilliard School performing arts conservatory in New York in the 1970s, with Tyne Daly, directed Stephen Wadsworth, will open at the Vaudeville Theatre . . . Alan Ayckbourn's Absent Friends, set at a friendly gathering meant to cheer up someone who has lost their fiancee, which dissolves into jealousy, infidelity and barely concealed loathing, with Kara Tointon, Reece Shearsmith, Katherine Parkinson, Elizabeth Berrington, Steffan Rhodri and David Armand, directed by Jeremy Herrin, will open at the Harold Pinter Theatre . . . George Farquhar's The Recruiting Officer, the Restoration comedy of sex, money and the military, with Tobias Menzies, Mackenzie Crook, Nancy Carroll, Mark Gatiss, Rachael Stirling and Gawn Grainger, will open at the Donmar Warehouse . . . Barmy Britain, the latest Birmingham Stage Company Horrible Histories production, adapted from Terry Deary's series of children's books, by Deary, Neal Foster and Ciaran McConville, with Benedict Martin and Lauryn Redding, directed by Neal Foster, will open at the Garrick Theatre . . . the Betty Comden-Adolph Green-Nacio Herb Brown-Arthur Freed musical Singin' In The Rain, adapted from the film set in Hollywood in the early days of the talkies, with Adam Cooper, Daniel Crossley and Scarlett Strallen, directed by Jonathan Church, with choreography by Andrew Wright, will open at the Palace Theatre . . . Nicky Singer's Island, relating a boy's adventures in an Arctic wilderness, with James Cooney and Rebecca Boey, directed by Adam Penfold, will open at the National Theatre . . . Edward Bond's Bingo, which depicts Shakespeare in the last days of his life, facing poverty and lacking creative energy, with Patrick Stewart, Richard McCabe and Matthew Marsh, directed by Angus Jackson, will open at the Young Vic . . . 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, with Lindsay Duncan, Jeremy Northam, Kevin McNally and Olivia Colman, directed by Howard Davies, will open at the Noel Coward Theatre . . . All New People, written by and featuring American television actor Zach Braff, in which a man seeking peace in a Long Beach Island apartment in winter, is interrupted by a motley parade of misfits, directed by Peter Dubois, will open at the Duke Of York's Theatre . . . and David Eldridge's In Basildon, exploring inheritance in the heart of Essex, with Linda Bassett, Debbie Chazen, Christian Dixon, Lee Ross, Ruth Sheen and Jade Williams, directed by Dominic Cooke, will open at the Royal Court Theatre - all in February . . .

DV8's Can We Talk About This?, exploring freedom of speech, Islam and multiculturalism, through text, dance and archive footage, directed by Lloyd Newson, will open at the National Theatre . . . Jackie Mason: Fearless! will open at Wyndham's Theatre . . . Errol John's Moon On A Rainbow Shawl, set in post Second World War Trinidad, where a man wants to escape his dead end job for a fresh start in England, directed by Michael Buffong, will open at the National Theatre . . . the Hugh Wheeler-Stephen Sondheim musical Sweeney Todd, the Victorian melodrama about the demon barber of Fleet Street, with Michael Ball, Imelda Staunton, Lucy May Barker, Peter Polycarpou, John Bowe, Luke Brady, Robert Burt and James McConville, directed by Jonathan Kent, with choreography by Denni Sayers, will open at the Adelphi Theatre . . . Eduardo De Filippo's Filumena, in a new version of Tanya Ronder, a slice of Neapolitan life in the late 1940s, with Samantha Spiro, directed by Michael Attenborough, will open at the Almeida Theatre . . . and John Webster's The Duchess Of Malfi, the Jacobean tragedy of a young widow's refusal to obey her brother's command never to remarry, with Eve Best, directed by Jamie Lloyd, will open at the Old Vic Theatre - all in March . . .

Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night, a semiautobiographical work about a family as they battle their demons of alcohol and drug addiction during a long summer's day, with David Suchet, Laurie Metcalf and Kyle Soller, directed by Anthony Page, will open at the Apollo Theatre . . . Jung Chang's Wild Swans, charting the history of China from the Communist Revolution to Super Power status, adapted by Alexandra Wood, with Katie Leung, directed by Sacha Wares, with choreography by Leon Baugh, will open at the Young Vic . . . and Robert Holman's Making Noise Quietly, a triptych of chance encounters between strangers, each overshadowed by a war, directed by Peter Gill, will open at the Donmar Warehouse - all in April . . .

Mike Bartlett's Love Love Love, looking at the baby boomer generation as it retires, directed by James Grieve, will open at the Royal Court Theatre . . . the Matthew White-Howard Jacques-Dwight Taylor-Allan Scott-Irving Berlin musical Top Hat, a backstage musical of mistaken identity, with Summer Strallen, Tom Chambers, Martin Ball, Vivien Parry, Ricardo Afonso and Stephen Boswell, directed by Matthew White, with choreography by Bill Deamer, will open at the Aldwych Theatre . . . The Suit, adapted by Barney Simon and Mothobi Mutloatse from Le Costume by Can Themba, set in South Africa, where a man insists his wife treat her lover's suit as an honoured guest, directed by Peter Brook and Marie Helene Estienne, will open at the Young Vic . . . Matthew Dunster's Children's Children, centring on two acting college friends 20 years after they have left student life behind, one successful, one not, directed by Jeremy Herrin, will open at the Almeida Theatre . . . the Terence McNally-Stephen Flaherty-Lynn Ahrens musical Ragtime, based on E L Doctorow's epic novel, tracing the cultural, political and social changes in America at the beginning of the 20th century, through the stories of three families, directed by Timothy Sheader and Liam Steel, will open at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park . . . and Lisa D'Amour's Detroit, about American middle class neighbours riding out the economic downturn in suburbia, directed by Austin Pendleton, will open at the National Theatre - all in May . . .

Shakespeare's Henry V, with Jamie Parker, directed by Dominic Dromgoole will open at Shakespeare's Globe . . . Friedrich Durrenmatt's The Physicists, which examines questions of scientific ethics and mankind's ability to handle its intellectual responsibilities, in a new version by Jack Thorne, directed by Josie Rourke, will open at the Donmar Warehouse . . . Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Timothy Sheader and Liam Steel, will open at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park . . . Shakespeare's The Taming Of The Shrew, directed by Toby Frow, will open at Shakespeare's Globe . . . and Joe Penhall's Birthday, which takes a no-holds-barred look at pregnancy and childbirth, with Stephen Mangan, directed by Roger Michell, will open at the Royal Court Theatre - all in June . . .

Shakespeare's Richard III, with Mark Rylance, directed by Tim Carroll will open at Shakespeare's Globe - in July . . .

The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel, the doomed love story of a naive mill worker and a glamorous but unreliable roustabout, directed by Jo Davies, with choreography by Kim Brandstrup, will open at the Barbican Theatre . . . the Royal Shakespeare Company productions of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, with Meera Syal, directed by Iqbal Khan, and Julius Caesar, with Adjoa Andoh, Ray Fearon, Paterson Joseph, Jeffery Kissoon and Joseph Mydell, directed by Gregory Doran, will open at the Noel Coward Theatre - all in August . . ..

Shakespeare's King Lear, with Jonathan Pryce, directed by Michael Attenborough, will open at the Almeida Theatre . . . and Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, with Mark Rylance, directed by Tim Carroll, will open at Shakespeare's Globe - both in September . . .

On the way from Broadway:

The Trey Parker-Matt Stone-Robert Lopez musical The Book Of Mormon, telling the story of two young Mormon missionaries sent off to spread the word in a dangerous part of Uganda, co-directed by Trey Parker and Casey Nicholaw, who also choreographed . . . Hugh Jackman In Concert, staged by Warren Carlyle . . . [title of show], the musical telling of the trials and tribulations of two struggling writers creating a show for the New York Musical Theatre Festival, featuring the writers, Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell, together with Susan Blackwell and Heidi Blickenstaff, directed by Michael Berresse . . . the New York Shakespeare In The Park production of The Merchant Of Venice, with Al Pacino, directed by Daniel Sullivan . . . the Roundabout Theatre Company revue Sondheim On Sondheim, featuring the songs of Stephen Sondheim, punctuated with interview footage of the writer discussing his work, conceived and directed by John Weidman . . . Roger Bean's Off Broadway musical The Marvellous Wonderettes, set at 1958 High School prom, and a reunion 10 years later, as four girls find life didn't turn out like they planned, using songs of the period. . . and Carrie Fisher's darkly comic autobiographical solo show Wishful Drinking, directed by Tony Taccone . . .

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

The Chichester Festival Theatre double bill of Terence Rattigan's The Browning Version, about a cowed schoolmaster who finds the courage to make a stand against his bullying headmaster and his unfaithful wife, directed by Angus Jackson, and David Hare's new play written in response to it, South Downs, directed by Jeremy Herrin, with Anna Chancellor and Nicholas Farrell . . . the West Yorkshire Playhouse/Northampton Theatres production of David Wood and Richard Taylor's musical adaptation of L P Hartley's The Go Between, in which a young boy comes of age as he is unwittingly enlisted as a messenger in an adult affair of deceit and desire, at the turn of the 20th century, directed by Roger Haines . . . David Seidler's A King's Speech, from which the film was adapted, with Charles Edwards, Jonathan Hyde, Emma Fielding, Joss Ackland and Ian McNeice, directed by Adrian Noble . . . and return visits by the Cheri/Bill Steinkellner-Alan Menken-Glenn Slater musical Sister Act, adapted from the film about a disco singer fleeing the mob, who is given protective custody in a convent, and the Lincoln Center Theater New York production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific, with Samantha Womack and Paulo Szot, directed by Bartlett Sherr.

In the pipeline:

Richard Griffiths and Danny De Vito in Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys, the comedy in which a vaudeville double act that broke up in acrimony is reunited for a television special, directed by Thea Sharrock, is aiming for the West End in the spring courtesy of producer Sonia Friedman . . . a musical adaptation of the 2010 film Made In Dagenham, about the 1968 Ford factory women's strike, book by Richard Bean, music by David Arnold, lyrics by Richard Thomas, directed by Rupert Goold . . . a musical adaptation of the film Finding Neverland, about J M Barrie's inspiration for Alice In Wonderland, book by Allan Knee from his original novel, music by Scott Frankel, lyrics by Michael Korie, directed by Rob Ashford . . . Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, in a translation by Christopher Hampton, with Ken Stott, directed by Lindsay Posner . . . Simon Gray's Quartermaine's Terms, which follows an English Language teacher at a Cambridge private school for overseas students through the terms of the academic year, with Rowan Atkinson, directed by Richard Eyre . . . a stage adaptation of the 1992 film The Bodyguard, about the relationship of a singer and an ex-secret service agent hired to protect her from a stalker, book by Alex Dinelaris, with Heather Headley, directed by Thea Sharrock . . . a musical adaptation of Roald Dahl's Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, book by David Greig, music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman, directed by Sam Mendes . . . a musical adaptation of From Here To Eternity, James Jones's novel set in Hawaii just before the Japanese invasion in 1941, book by Bill Oakes, music and lyrics by Stuart Brayson, with additional lyrics by Tim Rice, directed by Tamara Harvey . . . Baz Lurman's stage adaptation of his 1992 film Strictly Ballroom, featuring an original score . . . Lee Hall and Elton John's musical adaptation of George Orwell's allegorical novel Animal Farm . . . and James Dearden's stage adaptation of his screenplay for the 1987 film Fatal Attraction.

Still possibly alive, and may yet start kicking, these were predicted for the West End in '11 (some in earlier years - even the last century) and could make it in '12:

A revised version of the 1981 Tony Award winning musical Dreamgirls, 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, previously unseen in this country . . . the Off Broadway musical Altar Boyz, conceived by Ken Davenport and Mark Kessler, book by Kevin Del Aguila, music and lyrics by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walter, which satirises the unlikely mixture of boy bands and religion, the musical Minsky's, book by Bob Martin, music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Susan Birkenhead, about the burlesque king Billy Minsky, about the burlesque king Billy Minsky, directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw . . . Vanessa Redgrave and Eileen Atkins may star in The Spare Room, Atkins's stage adaptation of Helen Garner's novella about a woman caring for a female friend dying of cancer . . . Gwyneth Paltrow may feature in Chekhov's Three Sisters . . . the Broadway musical Grey Gardens, book by Doug Wright, music by Scott Frankel, lyrics by Michael Korie, telling the extraordinary story of the eccentric aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and how they came to live in a derelict mansion in East Hampton, with Christine Ebersole . . . Xanadu, the Broadway musical based on the 1980 film, book by Douglas Carter Beane, and original film score by John Farrar and Jeff Lynne, about a Greek muse, sent to Earth to inspire mortals in California in the 1980s, who falls in love with an artist while helping him realise his dream of opening a roller disco . . . Disney's stage adaptation of The Little Mermaid, based on the 1989 film about a mermaid who falls in love with a human and wants to live on land, book by Doug Wright, music by Alan Menken, and lyrics by Glen Slater and Howard Ashman . . . the quintessential American musical Gypsy, about the mother of 'ecdysiast' Gypsy Rose Lee, book by Arthur Laurents, music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, with Patti LuPone, Boyd Gaines and Laura Benanti . . . All About Eve, a stage adaptation of the 1950 film inspired by Mary Orr's backstage story of an over ambitious understudy, (not the musical version Applause) . . . Jeffrey Archer's stage adaptation of A Prison Diary, the memoir about his time in clink . . . the Mark Bramble-Michael Stewart-Cy Coleman circus musical Barnum, about the American showman P T Barnum. . . Conor McPherson's stage adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's short story The Birds, set in a coastal town where birds start to attack people . . . Jonathan Lynn is working on a stage adaptation of Marina Lewycka's novel A Short History Of Tractors In The Ukraine . . . Jim Steinman is working with book writer Stephen Clarke on a multimedia Cirque du Soleil style show based on his songs from Meatloaf's three Bat Out Of Hell albums . . . Lee Hall is working on a stage musical adaptation of Pink Floyd's album The Wall, which will also contain other back catalogue numbers and new material by Roger Waters . . . Andrew Lippa's musical The Wild Party, based on Joseph Moncure March's 1928 poem about a decadent evening in the apartment of two vaudevillians . . . 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. . . 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. . . 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 . . . 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 . . . Terry Johnson may direct Christian Slater in Tennessee Williams's Sweet Bird Of Youth, about an ageing film star's relationship with a gigolo . . . 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 . . . 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 . . . and 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.