News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 31st May 2002

After much speculation about dates and venues, the Tony Award winning dance-musical Contact will open at the Queen's Theatre on 23rd October, shortly after it ends its Broadway run. The show is made up of three stories about sex and power, co-conceived (with John Weidman), directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman. "Swinging" features three 18th-century French figures in a romantic intrigue mainly played out on a large swing suspended from the rafters. "Did You Move?" sees a woman trapped in a brutal marriage whose romantic fantasies are enacted in a neighbourhood Italian restaurant by patrons and waiters. "Contact", based on an actual experience of Stroman, follows a suicidal advertising executive who, stumbling into an after-hours Manhattan swing-dancing club, encounters a mysterious, beautiful woman in a yellow dress, but is constantly thwarted by rivals more skilled on the dance floor. The show caused controversy when it won Best Musical, as none of the performers sing, and it uses recorded music instead of live musicians. The London producer is Michael White.

This year's Almeida Opera season runs from 27th June 14th July, and includes the premieres of: Gerald Barry and Meredith Oakes The Triumph Of Beauty And Deceit, which turns Handel's The Triumph Of Time And Truth on its head, directed by Nigel Lowery; Giorgio Battistelli and Renzo Rosso's The Embalmer, with Ian McDiarmid as 'the immortalist' in charge of preserving Lenin's body, directed by William Kerley; and Edward Rushton and Tom Smith's The Young Man With The Carnation, based on Isac Dineston's short story, directed by John Fulljames. Further information can be found on the Almeida Theatre web site via the link from the London Theatres section of TheatreNet.

The next stage of the Royal Shakespeare Company's 'Year Zero' plan, the RSC Academy, will be launched with a production of King Lear at the Swan Theatre in Stratford on 23rd September. Declan Donnellan will direct a company of 16 actors, who have just graduated from drama school, for an intensive 10 week rehearsal period. Following performances in Stratford the production will play at Newcastle Playhouse from 15th to 19th October, at the Young Vic from 23rd October to 9th November, and then a short international tour.

The autumn season at the Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester will include Othello, with Paterson Joseph and Andy Serkis, directed by Braham Murray, from 11th September to 2nd November; the world premiere of Port by Simon Stephens, telling the story of 14 years in the life of a girl growing up in Stockport, directed by Marianne Elliott, from 6th to 30th November; the world premiere stage adaptation of David Almond's children's novel Secret Heart, by Amanda Dalton, about how a travelling circus and its tiger affect a shy introverted boy, directed by Wils Wilson, from 4th December to 18th January; and Lorca's Yerma, in a new translation by Pam Gems, with Denise Black as an infertile woman and her quest for a child, directed by Helena Kaut-Howson, from 22nd January to 22nd February.

This year's Greenwich and Docklands Festival, which runs from 5th to 13th July, has a theme of Looking Up, with projects involving climbing, flying, sailing and pyrotechnics. Highlights include: Crossing Seas/Building Bridges, an aerial spectacular on a gigantic bamboo tower in Cutty Sark Gardens; Arka, a sculptural ark with huge metal sails and fire effects moving thorough the audience on Three Mills Green; Lo Sposalizio, a re-enactment of a lavish 16th century Venetian ceremony symbolising the marriage of the city and the sea at the Royal Naval College Chapel; Kayassine, an aerial ballet in a gargantuan bubble inflated in Victoria Park; and Dancing City, an explosion of dance across the fountains, escalators, stations and squares of Canary Wharf. Further information can be found on the G&DF web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

Following the lead of London theatre owner and producer Really Useful Theatres with its monthly magazine Theatregoer, comes a similar move in New York. Clear Channel Entertainment, the world's largest theatre and arena operator (taking in the former Apollo venues in Britain) is to launch a quarterly magazine called Show People in September. It will be edited by New York Newsday's Patrick Pacheco, and if successful, aims to build to six and then ten issues a year. The content will be personality and feature based, rather than reviews. It will be available on subscription only, and will initially be marketed to Clear Channel's subscriber base, and via a web site. However, it will not be a 'house magazine', just featuring Clear Channel shows, something of which RUT's Theatregoer has been accused. Glossy theatre magazines in America don't have a very good track record. Theater Week ceased publication in 1996, and was succeeded by the similar InTheater, the following year, but this also folded in 1999. Neither was able to find a large enough public or sufficient advertising.

Angela Richards and Robert Meadmore star in Dorothy Fields Forever, a showcase of the songs of lyricist Dorothy Fields, at the King's Head Theatre from 11th June to 20th July. Fields worked with most of the great show composers from Jerome Kern to Cy Coleman. The show is devised and directed by David Kernan, doyen of the genre since he created Side By Side By Sondheim.

The London Bubble will be performing Shakespeare's Pericles as an outdoor promenade production around London from 16th July to 24th August. The locations are the previous haunts of Valentines Park Ilford, Chiswick House Grounds, Oxleas Woods, Dulwich Park, and for the first time, Three Mills Island and The Old Royal Naval College Greenwich. Jonathan Petherbridge directs. Further information can be found on the London Bubble web site via the link from the UK Theatre Companies section of TheatreNet.

The Rumour Machine says: that Minnie Driver will take to the stage in William Gibson's The Miracle Worker in New York in the autumn, and London next spring; that David Wood's stage adaptation of Roald Dahl's The BFG, currently on its 20th anniversary tour, starring Anthony Pedley (the original BFG), will come to the West End for a Christmas season; and that Jenna Elfman will star in a Broadway production of the Neil Simon-Cy Coleman musical Sweet Charity, directed by Walter Bobbie, in February, with London pencilled for 2004. The Rumour Machine grinds on.