News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 31st January 2003

It's Official! As previously forecast here, the Tony award winning Broadway musical Ragtime will receive its West End premiere at the Piccadilly Theatre on 25th March, featuring Graham Bickley, Maria Friedman and Dave Willetts. Based on EL Doctorow's epic novel, it traces the cultural, political and social changes in America between the turn of the 20th century and the start of the First World War, through the stories of three fictional families, whose lives become intertwined with one another, and with real characters and events of the period. The show has a book by Terence McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty, and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, and was originally directed by Frank Galati. It was scheduled to open in London in 1999, but became a casualty of the collapse of the production and theatre owning company Livent, whose principal officers are still being pursued for fraud.

After a number of different incarnations and titles, Cooper! Not Like That, Like This, the autobiographical play about comedian and magician Tommy Cooper, will open at the Garrick Theatre on 8th April. Jerome Flynn stars as Tommy Cooper in John Fisher's play, set during Cooper's final performance in a televised variety programme, directed by Simon Callow, and choreographed by Lionel Blair, with Geoffrey Durham as magic consultant.

Attendance figures for last year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe were up 12% to 975,000. This year the Fringe, running from 3rd to 25th August, hopes to top the million mark - a feat unparalleled for any cultural event worldwide. Over 1200 artists have already registered to take part. The Fringe has launched its annual nationwide programme of seminars to give would be producers an idea of what is involved. Confirmed February dates and locations are: 8th - London, 15th - Leicester, 22nd - Edinburgh, plus a press and marketing event on 23rd March - London. The Fringe organisation will also dispense its wisdom to aspiring and existing festival organisers in a conference called Fringe Factor on 21st and 22nd February in Edinburgh. Further information and contact details to request a registration form for any of these events can be found on the Fringe web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

The spring season at the Tricycle Theatre from 10th February includes the return of Marty Maguire in Marie Jones A Night In November, in which one character assumes the role of everyone, male and female, who moves through his life, directed by Tim Byron Owen; Julia Pascal's Crossing Jerusalem, which charts 24 hours in the life of an Israeli family in March 2002, directed by Jack Gold; and a new adaptation by Kerry Lee Crabbe of Hold Pinter's first work (and only novel) The Dwarfs, about three old friends whose relationship disintegrates into mistrust, and one of whom starts to imagine a party of dwarfs haunting him, directed by Christopher Morahan.

A bill barring the use of mobile phones in places of public performance in New York seems almost certain to become law, after being passed by the City Council by a vote of 40 to 9. The bill now goes to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who had threatened to veto it, but the proponents believe they have enough votes to override this. The ban covers any place where the public can witness cultural, recreational or educational activities, so it applies to museums and galleries as well as theatres and concert halls. The penalty for ignoring the law will be a $50 fine.

The new management at the Playhouse Theatre hits the ground running in March, although not in the Off Broadway manner which it promised. It will reopen with a production Chekhov's The Three Sisters, starring Kristen Scott Thomas, Kate Burton, Madeleine Worrall, Robert Bathhurst, James Fleet, Eric Sykes and Susannah Wise, and directed by Michael Blakemore.

The Peter Hall Company is to play a ten week residency at the Theatre Royal Bath from June, with As You Like It; D H Lawrence's semi autobiographical The Fight For Barbara; and two 'triangular relationship' plays performed by the same cast: Noel Coward's Design For Living and Harold Pinter's Betrayal - the first production of which in Hall directed 1978.

A revised version of Robert Longden and Hereward Kaye's musical Moby Dick! -A Whale Of A Tale has received a reading in New York, with a view to introducing it to America. The show has been seen in various forms, but the premise is of a St Trinians like group of schoolgirls and their head mistress (played of course by a man) staging Herman Melville's epic sea adventure story with limited resources as a fundraiser for the school.

Rosamund Pike will play the title role in Hitchcock Blonde, written and directed by Terry Johnson, which premieres at the Royal Court Theatre on 2nd April. The cast also includes Alexandra Delamere, Victoria Gay, Fiona Glascott and Owen McDonnell. A media lecturer and his female protegee discover previously unseen Hitchcock footage featuring a mysterious blonde in the basement of a Spanish villa, and try to discover who and what the blonde and the film are.

The digital arts channel BBC4 is to broadcast four recent West End theatre productions: Vincent In Brixton, about the relationship of Vincent van Gogh and his Brixton landlady; Elaine Stritch At Liberty; On An Average Day, with Woody Harrelson and Kyle MacLachlan; and The Mysteries, the South African reinterpretation of the Chester Mystery Plays. This follows the success of showing Victoria Hamilton and Eddie Izzard in A Day In The Death Of Joe Egg, which attracted an audience of over 100,000, one of the highest since BBC4's launch in March.