News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 31st December 2004

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 will bring its Stratford Spanish Golden Age Season of plays to the Playhouse Theatre . . . meanwhile Corin Redgrave will play King Lear, directed by Bill Alexander, in the RSC transfer at the Albery Theatre . . . Kim Cattrall, Ann Mitchell, Janet Suzman, William Chubb, Amita Dhiri, Alexander Sidding, Jotham Annan, Rachel Bavidge and Emma Lowndes will star in a new version of Brian Clark's Whose Life Is It Anyway?, about the right to choose how we live and when we die, directed by Peter Hall, opening at the Comedy Theatre . . . the Liverpool Playhouse production of Bill McIllwarith's The Anniversary, a South London family celebration from hell, with Sheila Hancock, Rosie Cavaliero, Liam Garrigan, Tony Maudsley and Madeleine Worral, directed by Denis Lawson, will transfer to the Garrick Theatre . . . Simon Russell Beale and Emma Fielding will star in Macbeth, directed by John Caird, at the Almeida Theatre . . . Julie Walters, Celia Imrie, Duncan Preston, Josie Lawrence, Neil Morrissey and Sally Ann Triplett will star in Victoria Wood's musical adaptation of her TV spoof Acorn Antiques, directed by Trevor Nunn, breaking the West End ticket price barrier with seats at 65, at the Haymarket Theatre - all in January . . . Patrick Stewart and Joshua Jackson will star in David Mamet's A Life In The Theatre, a two hander tracing the relationship of a veteran actor and an aspiring newcomer who share a dressing room in a tatty provincial repertory theatre, directed by Lindsay Posner, opening at the Apollo Theatre . . . the Crucible Theatre Sheffield production of Friedrich Schiller's Don Carlos, in a new adaptation by Mike Poulton, starring Derek Jacobi, Richard Coyle, Claire Price and Una Stubbs, the story of the tyrannical King of Spain who marries his son's lover, provoking a rebellion against his oppressive regime, directed by Michael Grandage, will transfer to the Gielgud Theatre . . . Greg Hicks and Sian Thomas will star in Macbeth, directed by Dominic Cooke, in the RSC transfer at the Albery Theatre . . . Kevin Spacey, Mary Stuart Masterson and Steven Weber will star in the British premiere of Dennis McIntyre's National Anthems, the story of a class clash between an affluent couple with social aspirations and the neighbour they grudgingly invite into their home, directed by Briton David Grindley, at the Old Vic Theatre . . . Wild East, by April de Angelis, with Tom Brooke, Sylvestra Le Touzel and Helen Schlesinger, about a man interviewing for a job that will allow him to return to Russia, directed by Phyllida Lloyd, will premiere at the Royal Court Theatre . . . the West Yorkshire Playhouse production of Ying Tong - A Walk With The Goons, by Roy Smiles, an exploration of the mind and comic logic of Spike Milligan, with Jeremy Child, James Clyde, Christian Patterson and Peter Temple, directed by Michael Kingsbury, will transfer to the New Ambassadors Theatre . . . the world premiere of Owen McCafferty's new version of Days Of Wine And Roses, by J P Miller, the story of a couple who make a new start in 1960s London, but descend into alcoholism, directed by Peter Gill, will open at the Donmar Warehouse . . . Caryl Churchill's new version of A Dream Play by August Strindberg, a surrealist dream about a girl from another world who comes to find out why people complain so much, with Sean Jackson, Charlotte Roach, Dominic Rowan, Justin Sallinger, Susie Trayling and Augus Wright, directed by Katie Mitchell, with choreography by Kate Flatt, will premiere at the National Theatre . . . Julian Glover and Nicholas Lyndhurst star in the Theatre Royal Bath production of Ronald Harwood's The Dresser, portraying the relationship of an aging actor manager and his dresser, touring King Lear during the Second World War, based on Harwood's personal experiences working with Donald Wolfit, directed by Peter Hall, which will transfer to the Duke of York's Theatre - all in February . . . the English National Opera production of On The Town, the musical evocation of 1940s New York, with book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and music by Leonard Bernstein, with Helen Anker, Philip Ball, Adam Garcia, Caroline O'Connor, Lucy Schaufer, Willard White and Greg Winter, directed by Jude Kelly, and choreographed by Stephen Mear, will open at the Coliseum . . . Ruby Wax will join the Birmingham Repertory Theatre's touring production of David Wood's adaptation of Roald Dahl's The Witches, about a plan to get rid of all the children in Britain, directed by Jonathan Church, when it plays a six week season at the Wyndham's Theatre . . . Eve Best, Iain Glen, Lisa Dillon, Benedict Cumerbatch, Gillian Raine and Jamie Sives will star in Heinrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler at the Almeida Theatre . . . David Hare's new version of The House Of Bernarda Alba, by Frederico Garcia Lorca, with Penelope Wilton, about sibling rivalry and a clandestine affair in a household of sexually repressed women, directed by Howard Davies, will premiere at the National Theatre - all in March . . . Vanessa Redgrave will play Hecuba in an RSC production directed by Laurence Boswell at the Albery Theatre . . . Ralph Fiennes will lead a cast of over 100 in Julius Caesar, directed by Deborah Warner, at the Barbican . . . Debbie Tucker Green's Stoning Mary, with Claire-Louise Cordwell, a tale of child soldiers in the third world, directed by Marianne Elliott, and My Name Is Rachel Corrie, a one woman show with Megan Dodds as the American protester who perished beneath a bulldozer as she protected a Palestinian home, directed by Alan Rickman, will play at the Royal Court Theatre . . . The Far Pavilions, a musical adaptation of M M Kaye's saga of forbidden romance between British army officer and an Indian princess, whose marriage has been arranged to a tyrannical ruler, with book and lyrics by Stephen Clark, and music by Philip Henderson, starring Hadley Fraser and Karir Bedi, directed by Gale Edwards, will premiere at the Shaftesbury Theatre . . . David Greig's The Cosmonaut's Last Message To The Woman He Once Loved In The Former Soviet Union, about two forgotten cosmonauts orbiting a world that cannot hear them, will open at the Donmar Warehouse - all in April . . . Mark Rylance will play Prospero in The Tempest, with a cast of just three actors, directed by Tim Carrol, as part of his final season as artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe . . . Haydn Gwynn, Tim Healey, Anne Rogers, Joe Caffrey, Steve Elias and Stephanie Putson will lead the cast in the premiere of Billy Elliot The Musical, with book and lyrics by Lee Hall, and music by Elton John, directed by Stephen Daldry, choreographed by Peter Darling, opening at the Victoria Palace Theatre . . . the British premiere of Neil LaBute's This Is How It Goes, looking at issues of race and infidelity in small town America, directed by Moises Kaufman, will open at the Donmar Warehouse - all in May . . . Ewan McGregor and Jane Krakowski will star in Guys And Dolls, the 'musical fable of Broadway' based on Damon Runyan's short stories of colourful New York characters, with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, and book by Abe Burrows and Jo Swerlin, directed by Michael Grandage, choreographed by Rob Ashford at the Piccadilly Theatre in June . . . and the world premiere of Peter Oswald's new version of Mary Stuart, by Friedrich Schiller, about the relationship between Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots, directed by Phyllida Lloyd, will open the Donmar Warehouse in July.

On the way from Broadway:

The musical Footloose, based on the 1984 film, about a big city boy who finds himself relocated in 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 by Paul Kerryson, choreographed by Karen Bruce . . . Paul Nicholas in Jekyll And Hyde, based on the Robert Louis Stevenson story of the man with a personality changing potion, with book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, and music by Frank Wildhorn . . . the 1999 Tony Award winning Broadway production of Arthur Miller's Death Of A Salesman with Brian Dennehy, directed by Robert Falls . . . 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 . . . 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, possibly with Desmond Barrit in the drag role of the mother . . . and the musical Dracula, with book and lyrics by Christopher Hampton and Don Black, and music by Frank Wildhorn, directed Des McAnuff, based on the Bram Stoker character, about the vampire count who ages backwards from a 70 year old Translyvanian in his castle, into a handsome thirtysomething seducing the young women of Victorian London.

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

David Suchet in Terence Rattigan's Man And Boy, set in New York in the 1930s, about a confrontation between a father and his estranged son, against a backdrop of love, betrayal and high finance, with David Yelland, Ben Silverstone, Colin Stinton, Will Higgins and Jennifer Jellicorse, directed by Maria Aitken . . . the Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh production of John Osborne's Look Back In Anger, the original 'angry young man' play, which launched the kitchen sink school of drama in 1956, with David Tennant and Kelly Reilly, directed by Richard Baron . . . the ska musical The Big Life, which relocates Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost to a Caribbean community in 1950s London, with book by Paul Sirett, music and lyrics by Paul Joseph, directed by Clint Dyer, from the Theatre Royal Stratford East . . . Henry Goodman and Eileen Atkins in a Birmingham Repertory Theatre production of Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party, in which the mundane life of a musician is interrupted by the arrival of two sinister strangers, directed by Lindsay Posner . . . Nigel Havers, Elisabeth Dermot Walsh and Maureen Beattie in Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca, in a new adaptation by Frank McGuiness, about a man returning home with a new, young and naive wife, who struggles to find her place in a house that is haunted by the memories of her seemingly perfect predecessor, directed by Patrick Mason . . . and the AandBC company's The Tale That Wags The Dog, in which Sarah Sutcliffe and Danny Scheinmann play more than 50 characters while examining man's eternal quest for love.

In the pipeline:

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 . . . Jonathan Kent may direct Luigi Pirandello's As You Desire Me, in a new version by Hugh Whitemore . . . Martin Shaw may play Thomas More in Robert Bolt's A Man For All Seasons, about the clash between Henry VIII and his chancellor . . . Helena Bonham Carter may return to the stage in a new play Rubenstein's Kiss, joined by Gary Kemp making his West End debut . . . Ralph Fiennes may play Hamlet again, directed by Adrian Noble, at an off West End venue . . . Aaron Sorkin's courtroom drama A Few Good Men may receive its West End premiere . . . and Peter Hall may direct an all star cast in Sheridan's comedy of manners The Rivals, opening at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

On the plane from Hollywood:

Dianne Wiest may star in Kathleen Tolan's The Memory House, about the relationship of a mother and a daughter, directed by Peter Gill . . . Christian Slater may return to the West End in Tennessee Williams's Sweet Bird Of Youth . . . Melanie Griffith, who starred in Chicago on Broadway, may join the London cast . . . and both Annette Bening and Joshua Jackson say they want to be the next Hollywood name to grace the West End stage.

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

Bob Carlton's idiosyncratic production of John Buchan's The Thirty Nine Steps, which has toured twice 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 . . . Susan Stroman's Broadway revival of Meredith Willson's The Music Man (the 76 trombones show) . . . 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?