News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 30th January 2004

The Beautiful And The Damned, a musical about the troubled life of writer F Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, which played a prospective pre West End season at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre last June, will open at the Lyric Theatre on 6th May. The book is by Kit Hesketh Harvey, and music and lyrics by Roger Cook and Les Reed, with additional material by Phil Willmott, who also directs. Casting has yet to be confirmed (it previously featured John Barrowman, Helen Anker, Patti Boulaye, David Burt, Jo Gibb, Sarah Lark and Jane Lucas). The show is produced by Laurence Myers and Charles and Mary Dobson.

On The Casting Couch: Laura Michelle Kelly is to play the title role in the mega musical Mary Poppins, which opens at the Prince Edward Theatre on 15th December; David Troughton will be joined by Maureen Beattie, Indira Varma, Jonas Armstrong, Bette Bourne, Abby Ford, Junix Inocian, Emma Kershaw, Camille Litalien, Simon Rice, Golda Rosheuvel, Jason Rowe and Tim Sutton in Thorton Wilder's The Skin Of Our Teeth, opening at the Young Vic Theatre on 4th March; Michael Gambon and Lee Evans will be joined by Liz Smith and Geoffrey Hutchings in Samuel Beckett's Endgame, opening at the Albery Theatre on 10th March; and Michael Pennington and Catherine McCormack will star in Hanif Kureishi's When The Night Begins opening at the Hampstead Theatre on 11th March.

Brand X is presenting its Edinburgh Fringe hit Die at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith until 14th February. A kind of live action Spitting Image, it is a satire on corporate America, popular culture and the current obsession with celebrity, employing the premise that Hell has been taken over by Die Incorporated, which is carrying out a quality control assessment. The show features Matty Mitford, and is written by Sarah Nield, and designed and directed by Paul Garner. The full horrors are revealed on the Die web site which can be found via the link from the Shows section of TheatreNet.

Marti Webb, Patsy Palmer and Faye Tozer will alternate in a tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black's Tell Me On A Sunday, immediately following its West End run, opening at the Theatre Royal Windsor on 16th February. The one woman musical relates the emotional entanglements of an English girl in New York. The producer is Bill Kenwright.

The Mondriaan Quartet will feature the first UK appearance of a new musical instrument in their concert at the Purcell Room on the South Bank on 28th February. They will perform a piece by John De Simone specially written for string quartet and octachord, which will be played by its inventor, Robert Pravda. The octachord has eight strings housed in tubes, each with a computer controlled moveable bridge inside, which are vibrated electrically and create "constantly changing harmonic soundscapes, rhythmic pulses and glissandi".

Scottish theatre company Suspect Culture is performing the premiere of David Grieg's 8000m in a unique staging at the Tramway Theatre in Glasgow until 7th February. The play explores why mountaineers venture to heights of 8000 metres, where their survival is in doubt, and the nine actors play the piece as they climb - and dangle on ropes from - the Tramway's Brook Wall. The play is directed by Graham Eatough, and features music by Nick Powell performed live by the Paragon Ensemble.

Ealing Studios, home of post Second World War British film comedy, is continuing in its comedy tradition. In addition to providing studio space for two current television shows, it also hosts live comedy events in Studio 5. Ealing Live! on Thursdays is a sketch and character comedy night, featuring a core team of a dozen performers, including Katherine Jakeways, Susan Earl, Dave Armand, Justin Edwards and Ben Willbond, trying out new material, plus weekly guest spots, directed by Jamie Minoprio and John Gordillo. On Friday and Saturday nights, Ha Bloody Ha presents stand up comedy in a club atmosphere. Further information can be found on the Ealing Studios web site, via the link from the London Venues section of TheatreNet.

The spring season at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond comprises: Strange Orchestra, by Rodney Ackland, a story set in bohemian London in the 1930s, directed by Sam Dowson, from 11th February to 20th March; Donna Rosita, The Spinster, by Federico Garcia Lorca, a poetic comedy combining mystery, tragedy and satire, set in Granada in 1900, directed by Auriol Smith, from 24th March to 24th April; and Love's A Luxury by Guy Paxton and Edward V Hoile, a very British farce that involves the A.B.C.I.D. - the Actor's Branch of the Criminal Investigation Department, directed by Sam Walters, from 28th April to 29th May.

Manchester City Council is planning to stage an annual Edinburgh Fringe style event, showcasing theatre, comedy and street performance, starting in 2006. Cambridge Policy Consultants are currently drawing up detailed plans and costings for the event, which the Council will fund to the tune of 2m, while seeking private sector financing of 3m. The Council have not disclosed at what time of year it will be held.

Angelica Torn stars in Edge, written and directed by Paul Alexander, which has an immediate transfer from the New End Theatre to the King's Head Theatre from 4th February to 13th March. The piece is one woman show about Sylvia Plath, adapted by Alexander from his biography of the poet and novelist specifically for Angelica Torn, who originally played in it Off Broadway last year.

This year is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Frank Matcham, the world's greatest (and most prolific) theatre architect. Sadly, out of the 120 major works that he packed into his 35 year career, only 28 now remain more or less complete, with just 17 of those in still in theatrical use. Matcham's specialities were the grand lyric theatre, and the kursall - buildings that housed circus and grand spectaculars. In central London those remaining are the London Palladium, the Victoria Palace, and the London Coliseum, about to reopen following a 41m restoration to celebrate its centenary. While the shell of the London Hippodrome still stands, so little of the interior remains that it seems unlikely anyone will be prepared to come up with the investment needed to return it to theatrical use. Outer London theatres remaining are the Hackney Empire, finally reopened after refurbishment, and Richmond Theatre, which has a permanent display of copies of some of Matcham's best surviving plans and drawings, plus the concert venue the Shepherd's Bush Empire, and the recreated auditorium in the 1970s built Lyric Theatre Hammersmith. The Frank Matcham Society supports all things Matcham and arranges regular visits to his buildings. Further information can be found on the FMS web site via the link from the Organisations section of TheatreNet.

And Finally . . . Fascinating Aida used to have a song in their repertoire from a spoof musical of Chekhov's Three Sisters, but the real thing has just ended its premiere run at Madison Rep in Wisconsin and the Majestic Theatre in Dallas. The show, which has book and lyrics by Darrah Cloud and music by Kim D. Sherman, is called Heartland, and the action is relocated to a farm in Iowa in the present day.