News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 31st December 2009

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.

Dreamboats And Petticoats: The Musical, the stage show based on the compilation album of late '50s and early '60s pop classics, will return to the West End at the Playhouse Theatre . . . the Broadway musical Legally Blonde, based on the novel by Amanda Brown and the 2001 film, the story of a cosmetics friendly sorority girl who follows her boyfriend to law school, and when he dumps her for someone more serious, sets out to become a swat, with Sheridan Smith, Duncan James, Alex Gaumond, Jill Halfpenny and Peter Davison, will receive its British premiere at the Savoy Theatre . . . Tom Stoppard and Andre Previn's play for actors and orchestra Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, in which a dissident is locked up in an asylum with a real lunatic who thinks he is surrounded by an orchestra, will open at the National Theatre . . . the Everyman Theatre Liverpool's production of Harold Pinter's The Caretaker, which explores the relationship between two brothers when a tramp enters their lives, with Jonathan Pryce and Peter McDonald, will transfer to the Trafalgar Studios 1 . . . John Guare's Six Degrees Of Separation, inspired by the true story of a con artist who convinced wealthy Upper East Side Manhattan residents that he was the son of Sidney Poitier, with Anthony Head, Lesley Manville and Obi Abili, will open at the Old Vic Theatre . . . Douglas Carter Beane's Tony Award winning comedy The Little Dog Laughed, about a heartthrob actor whose agent sets up a fake marriage to hide the fact that he is actually gay, with Rupert Friend, Tamsin Grieg, Gemma Arterton and Harry Lloyd, will open at the Garrick Theatre . . . Amir Nizar Zuabi's I Am Yusuf And This Is My Brother, a poetic exploration of history, memory and different forms of love, set in Palestine in 1948, will open at the Young Vic . . . the Chichester Festival Theatre/Royal Court Theatre/Headlong Theatre Company production of Lucy Prebble's Enron, based on the scandal surrounding the fraudulent activities of the U.S. energy company, with Amanda Drew, Tom Goodman-Hill, Tim Pigott-Smith and Samuel West, will transfer to the Noel Coward Theatre . . . and the recent production of Samuel Beckett's Waiting For Godot, in which, famously nothing happens - twice, with Ian McKellen, Roger Rees, Matthew Kelly and Ronald Pickup, will return to the Haymarket Theatre - all in January . . .

Tamsin Oglesby's Really Old, Like Forty Five, a comedy about the fear of old age, with Lucy May Barker, Paul Bazely, Amelia Bullmore, Tanya Franks, Gawn Grainger, Thomas Jordan, Michela Meazza, Judy Parfit, Paul Ritter and Marcia Warren, will receive its premiere at the National Theatre . . . Marcus Brigstocke will bring his show God Collar to the Vaudeville Theatre for a short season . . . the recent Royal Court Theatre production of Jez Butterworth's Jerusalem, a comic picture of contemporary rural England, featuring Mark Rylance and Mackenzie Crook, will be remounted at the Apollo Theatre . . . The 14th Tale, an autobiographical one man play written and performed by Inua Ellams, about a born mischief maker's journey from the streets of Nigeria to London will open at the National Theatre . . . David Greig's Dunsinane, set in 11th century Scotland at the height of a battle for the succession to the throne, will open at Hampstead Theatre . . . Bola Agbaje's Off The Endz, about three young people from a London estate struggling to find the right path in life amid debts and temptations, will open at the Royal Court Theatre . . . Lanford Wilson's Serenading Louie, about two thirtysomething couples who marry and settle down, and then begin to wonder what has happened to their lives, with Jason Butler Harner, Jason O'Mara, Charlotte Emmerson and Geraldine Somerville, will open at the Donmar Warehouse . . . Broadway and television performer Megan Mullally will make her West End debut with her band Supreme Music Program, at the Vaudeville Theatre . . . Shakespeare's Measure For Measure, with Rory Kinnear, Anna Maxwell Martin, Ben Miles and Trevor Cooper, will open at the Almeida Theatre . . . and Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts, examining family, morality and guilt in a mother-son relationship, with Lesley Sharp, Iain Glen, Jessica Raine, Harry Treadaway and Malcolm Storry, will open at the Duchess Theatre - all in February . . .

the Theatre Royal Bath production of Noel Coward's Private Lives, about a divorced couple who, finding themselves honeymooning with new partners in adjoining suites in the south of France, also find that their relationship is actually not over, with Kim Cattral, Matthew Macfadyen, Simon Paisley Day and Lisa Dillon, will open at the Vaudeville Theatre . . . Arthur Schnitzler's Sweet Nothings, a tale of sexual longing, the cruelty of tradition, and the vulnerability of those in love, with Hayley Carmichael and Catherine Steadman, will open at the Young Vic . . . the musical Love Never Dies, the sequel to The Phantom Of The Opera, set 10 years after the original, in Coney Island in New York, where the Phantom is running a sideshow, at which Christine comes to perform, bringing her 10 year old son, with Ramin Karimloo, Sierra Boggess, Summer Strallen, Liz Robertson and Joseph Millson, will open at the Adelphi Theatre . . . Dion Boucicault's wild country house comedy of tangled love lives London Assurance, with Richard Briers, Simon Russell Beale, Fiona Shaw, Paul Ready and Michelle Terry, will open at the National Theatre . . . Dennis Kelly's The Gods Weep, about a man whose decision making ability fails him during a corporate power struggle involving national security, will open at Hampstead Theatre . . . the Theatre Royal Bath production of George Bernard Shaw's Mrs Warren's Profession, in which a prim young woman is shocked to find that her upbringing has been paid for by her mother's profits from prostitution, with Felicity Kendal, Lucy Briggs-Owen, Mark Tandy, David Yelland, Eric Carte and Max Bennett, will open at the Comedy Theatre . . . and The White Guard, Andrew Upton's new adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov's novel following the fortunes of a family as the opposing forces in the Russian civil war and the Ukrainian peasants fight over the city of Kiev, with Conleth Hill, Pip Carter, Paul Higgins and Justine Mitchell, will open at the National Theatre - all in March . . .

Mark Haddon's Polar Bears, about a man's struggle to love, support and live with a woman suffering from bi-polar disorder, with Johdi May and Richard Coyle, will receive its premiere at the Donmar Warehouse . . . Sebastian Barry's Andersen's English, which imagines a visit by Hans Christian Andersen to the home of Charles Dickens, with Niamh Cusack, Lisa Kerr, Rose Leslie, Alastair Mavor, Kathryn O'Reilly, David Rintoul and Danny Sapani, will open at Hampstead Theatre . . . the current Tony Award winning Public Theatre Shakespeare In The Park production of Hair, the 1960s American tribal love rock musical, with the Broadway cast headed by Gavin Creel, Caissie Levy and Will Swenson, will transfer to the Gielgud Theatre . . . Laura Wade's Posh, about the members of a 'Bullingdon style' club, will open at the Royal Court Theatre . . . Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing, a comedy that explores the difference between art and emotion, as a writer has an affair with the wife of an actor in one of his plays, which is about adultery, with Toby Stephens, will open at the Old Vic Theatre . . . Lynn Nottage's award winning play Ruined, about the women in a brothel in a war torn African country (inspired by Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage), with Jenny Jules and Lucian Msamati, will open at the Almeida Theatre . . . the musical All The Fun Of The Fair, set in a travelling funfair, with David Essex, will open at the Garrick Theatre . . . Debbie Reynolds will bring her show Debbie Reynolds Alive And Fabulous to the Apollo Theatre . . . and Shakespeare's Macbeth will open at Shakespeare's Globe - all in April . . .

Jonathan Harvey's Canary, exploring the changing attitudes towards homosexuality in Britain over five decades, will open at Hampstead Theatre . . . Shakespeare's Henry VIII will open at Shakespeare's Globe . . . Arthur Miller's All My Sons, about a man who sold defective airplane parts to the military, and deflected the blame to his business partner, whose complicity comes to light when his son plans to marry the partner's daughter, with David Suchet and Zoe Wannamaker, will open at the Apollo Theatre - all in May . . .

Arthur Miller's The Crucible, which equates the 17th century Salem witch trials to the activities of Senator Joseph McCarthy's investigation into communist activity in America in the 1950s, will open at the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park . . . the world's longest running musical, The Fantasticks, the coming of age fable, about a boy and girl whose romance is engineered by their fathers, but is cemented by their experience of the world outside, will open at the Duchess Theatre . . . The Bridge Project productions of Shakespeare's As You Like It and The Tempest, with Michelle Beck, Christian Camargo, Stephen Dillane, Ron Cephas Jones, Juliet Rylance and Thomas Sadoski, will open at the Old Vic Theatre . . . Andrew Upton's stage adaptation of Ingmar Bergman's 1961 film Through A Glass Darkly, about a woman on a recuperative holiday with the three most important men in her life, who decides to take control of her own destiny, will receive its premiere at the Almeida Theatre . . . Roy Williams's Sucker Punch, set in the world of boxing, examining what it was like to be young and black in the 1980s, will open at the Royal Court Theatre . . . and Shakespeare's The Comedy Of Errors will open at the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park - all in June . . .

Shakespeare's Henry IV Parts I and II and Howard Brenton's Anne Boleyn, which explores her marriage to Henry VIII from Anne's point of view, will open at Shakespeare's Globe - all in July . . .

the musical Into The Woods, in which characters from a number of fairytales don't live happily ever after, will open at the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park . . . and Shakespeare's The Merry Wives Of Windsor will open at Shakespeare's Globe - both in August . . .

Nell Leyshon's Bedlam, a fictional portrayal of a London hospital for the insane, based on the Bethlem Royal Hospital, will open at Shakespeare's Globe - in September.

On the way from Broadway:

The musical Rock Of Ages, set in a Hollywood rock club in 1987, book by Chris D'Arienzo, featuring a back catalogue of 1980s pop songs . . . Shrek: The Musical, adapted by David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori, from the story and characters in William Steig's children's book and the first animated film . . . a revised version of 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 . . . the current Off Broadway hit Altar Boyz, which satirises the unlikely mixture of boy bands and religion, conceived by Ken Davenport and Mark Kessler, book by Kevin Del Aguila, music and lyrics by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walter . . . and the new musical Minsky's, book by Bob Martin, music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Susan Birkenhead, about the burlesque king Billy Minsky, directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, which recently played at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, and was tipped for Broadway, may open first in London

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

Theatre Royal Bath production of Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, the story of a passionate woman, who feels bored and trapped in her mundane life with a dull university professor, with Rosamund Pike . . . the Chichester Festival Theatre production of Martin Sherman's Aristo, about the final years of the Greek tycoon Aristotle Onassis, and his relationships with Jacqueline Kennedy, Maria Callas and his son, with Robert Lindsay . . . and the stage adaptation of Flashdance, the 1983 film about a welder and part time exotic dancer who dreams of winning a place at a dance school and becoming a ballet dancer.

In the pipeline:

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 . . . Matthew Warchus may direct Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, with Ralph Fiennes, Ken Stott and Carey Mulligan . . . Paradise Found, a new musical based on Joseph Roth's novel The Tale Of The 1002nd Night, about an impotent Shah with 139 wives, who travels to Vienna, where he falls in love with the empress of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, book by Richard Nelson, lyrics by Ellen Fitzhugh, music by Johann Strauss II adapted by Jonathan Tunick, co-directed by Harold Prince and Susan Stroman, with prospectively John Cullum, Mandy Patinkin, Shuler Hensley, Judy Kaye and Emily Skinner, may premiere at the Menier Chocolate Factory . . . Gwyneth Paltrow may feature in Chekhov's Three Sisters at the Theatre Royal Haymarket . . . a revised version of Ira Levin's thriller Deathtrap, about an aging writer who attempts to murder his protegee and claim the credit for his work, with Simon Russell Beale, and possibly Robert Pattinson, directed by Matthew Warchus, is aiming to open at Wyndham's Theatre in September . . . Simon Gray's The Late Middle Classes, centred on a boy in an unhappy family situation in the early 1950s, may make its West End debut, directed by Harry Burton . . . the musical Passion, book by James Lapine, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, adapted from a Victorian novella set in an Italian military town, where a woman's obsessive love threatens a soldier and his married mistress, possibly featuring Elena Roger, directed by Jamie Lloyd, may open at the Donmar Warehouse . . . Ghost, a musical adaptation of the film, with book by Bruce Joel Rubin adapted from his screenplay, and music and lyrics by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard, to be directed by Matthew Warchus . . . and Covent Garden may stage the premiere of an opera based on the life of the model Anna Nicole Smith, who married a millionaire 63 years her senior, a parable about celebrity and what it does to people, music by Mark-Anthony Turnage, libretto by Richard Thomas . . .

Still possibly alive, and may yet start kicking, these were predicted for the West End in '09 (some in earlier years - even the last century) and could make it in '10:

The Broadway musical Grey Gardens, book by Doug Wright, music by Scott Frankel, and 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 the late 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 is adapting A Prison Diary, the memoir about his time in clink, for the stage . . . the Mark Bramble-Michael Stewart-Cy Coleman circus musical Barnum, about the American showman P T Barnum, possibly with Hugh Jackman in the title role . . . Conor McPherson is working on a stage adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's short story The Birds, set in a coastal town where birds start to attack people . . . rock musician Pete Doherty is working with former band member Carl Barat on a stage musical, about the struggles of an up and coming band, which may premiere at the Donmar Warehouse . . . The Motion Group has acquired the rights to the 1973 film The Wicker Man, and director Andrew Steggall is working with the film's director Robin Hardy, on a stage adaptation of Anthony Shaffer's screenplay and David Pinner's original novel Ritual . . . 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 . . . and 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, may premiere in London, possibly starring Douglas Sills . . . 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 . . . the musical version of The Three Musketeers, book by Peter Raby, music by George Stiles and lyrics by Paul Leigh. . . 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 . . .