News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 31st December 2010

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.

Twelfth Night, with Simon Callow, Simon Paisley Day, Rebecca Hall, Marton Csokas, Amanda Drew, Charles Edwards, Cornelius Booth, James Clyde, Samuel James, Richard Keightley, Ben Mansfield, David Ryall, Jeffry Wickham and Finty Williams, will open at the National Theatre . . . and Gina Gionfriddo's Becky Shaw, a contemporary tale of tangled love lives, with Daisy Haggard, Haydn Gwynne, Anna Madeley, Vincent Montuel and David Wilson Barnes, will open at the Almeida Theatre - both in January . . .

Moira Buffini and Matt Charman's Greenland, a documentary about the environment, with Lyndsey Marshal, Michael Gould, Peter McDonald and Amanda Lawrence, will open at the National Theatre . . . Leslie Jordan will perform his solo Off Broadway show My Trip Down The Pink Carpet, a collection of true life stories charting his journey from small-town USA to Hollywood, will open at the Apollo Theatre . . . Vernon God Little, adapted by Tanya Ronder from the novel by DBC Pierre, will open at the Young Vic Theatre . . . the Royal Court Theatre production of Bruce Norris's black comedy Clybourne Park, charting how change overtakes an American neighbourhood, along with attitudes, inhabitants and property values, between 1958 and 2008, with Lucian Msamati, Sophie Thompson, Michael Goldsmith, Lorna Brown and Sarah Goldberg, will open at Wyndham's Theatre . . . Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour, in which a disgruntled student in a girl's school in the 1930s claims that the two headmistresses are lovers, with Keira Knightley, Elizabeth Moss, Ellen Burstyn, Tobias Menzies, Carol Kane, Bryony Hannah, Nancy Crane, Amy Dawson and Isabel Ellison, will open at the Comedy Theatre . . . Richard Bean's The Heretic, a black comedy about climate change, questioning whether the science on the subject is really proven, with Juliet Stevenson, James Fleet, Lydia Wilson, Leah Whittaker and Adrian Hood, will open at the Royal Court Theatre . . . The Blue Dragon, written, directed by and featuring Robert Lepage, revisiting a character from his The Dragons' Trilogy, will open at the Barbican Theatre . . . the Rebecca Feldman-Rachel Sheinkin-William Finn musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, telling the stories of six teenagers through the course of a spelling contest, with Steve Pemberton, Katherine Kingsley, Chris Carswell, David Fynn, Hayley Gallivan, Harry Hepple, Maria Lawson, Ako Mitchell and Iris Roberts, will open at the Donmar Warehouse . . . Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, adapted by Nick Dear, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, will open at the National Theatre . . . and the Colin Escott-Floyd Mutrux back catalogue musical Million Dollar Quartet, set on the night in 1956 when Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis came together at Sun Records in Memphis, will open at the Noel Coward Theatre - all in February . . .

the John Kane-Harold Arlen-E Y Harburg-Andrew Lloyd Webber-Glenn Slater musical The Wizard Of Oz, adapted from L Frank Baum's Oz stories, with Danielle Hope, Michael Crawford, Hannah Waddingham, Emily Tierney, Paul Keating, Edward Baker-Duly and David Ganly, will open at the London Palladium . . . Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit, in which a seance summons up the ghost of a novelist's first wife, who is determined to cause trouble for him and her replacement, with Alison Steadman, Robert Bathurst, Hermione Norris and Ruthie Henshall, will open at the Apollo Theatre . . . The Hurly Burly Show, a burlesque review featuring Polly Rae, will open at the Garrick Theatre . . . In A Forest, Dark And Deep, written and directed by Neil LaBute, a mix of family drama, mystery and thriller, as a brother and sister meet to clear out a cabin in the woods, with Matthew Fox and Olivia Williams, will open at the Vaudeville Theatre . . . Ryan Craig's The Holy Rosenbergs, about members of a contemporary London family trying to reconcile their individual identities with the expectations of their community, with Henry Goodman, will open at the National Theatre . . . David Eldridge's The Knot Of The Heart, which charts the growth of a social drug habit into a serious addiction, with Lisa Dillon, Abigail Cruttenden and Margot Leicester, will open at the Almeida Theatre . . . Monteverdi's The Return Of Ulysses, with Tom Randle and Pamela Helen Stephen, will play at the Young Vic Theatre . . . Terence Rattigan's Cause Celebre, based on the true story of the trial of a woman and her young lover for the murder of her older husband, with Anne-Marie Duff, will open at the Old Vic Theatre . . . and Clifford Odets's Rocket To The Moon, in which a man's humdrum world is turned upside down by the arrival of a woman discovering life and hungry for love, will open at the National Theatre - all in March . . .

Simon Stephens's Wastwater, about how the choices made by 3 couples living on edge of Heathrow Airport define their futures, will open at the Royal Court Theatre . . . Harold Pinter's Moonlight, in which a dying man rehashes his life and the betrayal of his wife, while simultaneously (and separately) his sons talk about their estrangement from him, with David Bradley, Deborah Findlay and Daniel Mays, will open at the Donmar Warehouse . . . the Ron Cowen-Dan Lipman-George Stiles-Anthony Drewe musical Betty Blue Eyes, adapted from Alan Bennett's film A Private Function, set in a post Second World War Yorkshire village suffering under rationing, where the locals want to celebrate the Royal wedding in style by slaughtering an illegally raised pig, with Sarah Lancashire, Reece Shearsmith, David Bamber, Jack Edward, Adrian Scarborough, Ann Emery and an animatronic pig, will open at the Novello Theatre . . . and Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well will open at Shakespeare's Globe - all in April . . .

Joon Fosse's I Am The Wind, in a new version by Simon Stephens, 'a light, beautiful, poetic, ironic, charming, funny exploration of suicide by drowning', will open at the Young Vic Theatre . . . Richard Brinsley Sheridan's The School For Scandal, a comedy exploiting the rumour, conspiracy and fraudsters of 18th century life, will open at the Barbican Theatre . . . Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance, about a couple whose relationship becomes increasingly strained thanks to the pressures of their family and friends, with Penelope Wilton, will open at the Almeida Theatre . . . Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing will open at Shakespeare's Globe . . . and Nigel Williams's adaptation of William Golding's Lord Of The Flies, the story of a group of schoolboys who are marooned on a desert island and soon fall into anarchy, will open at the Open Air Theatre - all in May . . .

Friedrich Schiller's Luise Miller, in a new version by Mike Poulton, about a bourgeois young woman in love with a prince and the powerful forces that keep them apart, with Felicity Jones, will open at the Donmar Warehouse . . . the David Lindsay-Abaire-Jeanine Tesori musical Shrek: The Musical, adapted from the story and characters in William Steig's children's book and the first animated film, in which a swamp-dwelling ogre embarks on a mission to reclaim the deed to his land, involving various fairytale characters, with Nigel Lindsay, Amanda Holden, Richard Blackwood and Nigel Harman, will open at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane . . . Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus will open at Shakespeare's Globe . . . John Gay's The Beggar's Opera, the satirical 18th century play with music of the time about a highwayman and the London criminal class, will open at the Open Air Theatre . . . and Shakespeare's Richard III, with Kevin Spacey, will open at the Old Vic Theatre - all in June . . .

Howard Brenton's Anne Boleyn will open at Shakespeare's Globe . . . Shakespeare's Pericles, reimagined for young audiences, will open at the Open Air Theatre . . . the Bruce Joel Rubin-Dave Stewart-Glen Ballard musical Ghost The Musical, adapted from the 1990 film about a man trapped as a ghost between this world and the next trying to communicate with his girlfriend through a phoney psychic in the hope of saving her from his murderer, with Caissie Levy, Richard Fleeshman and Sharon D Clarke, will open at the Piccadilly Theatre . . . and the Ken Ludwig-George/Ira Gershwin musical Crazy For You, in which an aspiring actor sent to close down a failing theatre falls for the manager's daughter and together they revive its fortunes, will open at the Open Air Theatre - all in July . . .

The Globe Mysteries, lending a fresh perspective to the Bible stories told in the medieval Mystery Plays, will open at Shakespeare's Globe . . . and Chris Hannan's The God Of Soho, a satire on contemporary life, will open at Shakespeare's Globe - both in September . . .

the George Furth-Stephen Sondheim musical Merrily We Roll Along, charting the lives of a Broadway show writing partnership and their best friend over a 25 year period, running backwards in time from their disenchanted middle age to optimistic youth, will open at the Menier Chocolate Factory - in December.

On the way from Broadway:

[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 musical Road Show, book by John Weidman, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, the story of two brothers and their attempts to grab a piece of the American dream, inspired by the colourful lives of the Mizner brothers, directed by John Doyle, heading for the Menier Chocolate Factory in the summer . . . the Lincoln Center production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical South Pacific, directed by Bartlett Sher, possibly at the Barbican . . . 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 Royal Shakespeare Company production of the Dennis Kelly-Tim Minchin musical adaptation of Roald Dahl's Matilda, about a little girl with astonishing wit, intelligence and psychokinetic powers . . . and the Rose Theatre Kingston production of the Peter Raby-George Stiles-Paul Leigh musical The Three Musketeers, adapted from Alexandre Dumas's 17th century swashbuckling tale of the court of King Louis XIII . . .

In the pipeline:

Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, with Zoe Wanamaker, directed by Howard Davies, Shakespeare's A Comedy Of Errors, directed by Dominic Cooke; Arnold Wesker's The Kitchen, directed by Bijan Sheibani; the English language premiere of Henrik Ibsen's Emperor And Galilean, about the Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate wrestling with his faith, in a version by Ben Power and Mike Bartlett, directed by Jonathan Kent; Carlo Goldini's The Servant Of Two Masters, adapted by Richard Bean, with James Corden, directed by Nicholas Hytner; Bach's St Matthew Passion, written and directed by Jonathan Miller, a new play by writer/director Mike Leigh, featuring Lesley Manville, and possibly Shakespeare's King Lear with Simon Russell Beale, directed by Sam Mendes, all at the National Theatre . . . Neil LaBute's reasons to be pretty, which examines how people are drawn to superficial outer beauty rather than real inner qualities, with America Fererra and possibly Julia Stiles in March . . . the musical Rebecca, original book and lyrics by Michael Kunze, English book and lyrics by Christopher Hampton, music by Sylvester Levay, adapted from Daphne Du Maurier's novel in which a man brings his new young wife to his country estate, where his first wife still has a strong hold, directed by Michael Blakemore, possibly opening at the Shaftesbury Theatre in the spring . . . Baz Lurman's stage adaptation of his 1992 film Strictly Ballroom, featuring an original score . . . Simon Gray's Butley, with Dominic West as a professor trying to cope with the strains of divorce and academia . . . Lee Hall and Elton John's musical adaptation of George Orwell's allegorical novel Animal Farm . . . a musical adaptation of Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory, book by David Greig, music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, directed by Sam Mendes . . . James Dearden's stage adaptation of his screenplay for the 1987 film Fatal Attraction, which Robert Fox may produce . . . and Michael Sheen may play Hamlet, directed by Ian Rickson, at the Young Vic Theatre . . .

Still possibly alive, and may yet start kicking, these were predicted for the West End in '10 (some in earlier years - even the last century) and could make it in '11:

Chris D'Arienzo's musical Rock Of Ages, set in a Hollywood rock club in 1987, featuring back catalogue of 1980s pop songs . . . 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 . . . Matthew Warchus may direct Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, with Ralph Fiennes, Ken Stott and Carey Mulligan . . . 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, possibly with Hugh Jackman in the title role . . . 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 . . . 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 . . . 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 . . . 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 . . .