The big names include Simon Russell Beale, Richard Eyre, Eve Best —and Don Black and John Barry, who will supply the big notes in a new musical version of Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock, with a book by Giles Havergal.
The musical, decades in gestation (when Barry first had the idea, Greene himself wanted to write the lyrics – but according to Barry his efforts were unusable), will preview from Sept. 20, opening on Oct. 5. Depicting the gang wars in 1930s Brighton, and the 17-year-old gangster who must battle older rivals, and his own conscience, the show runs until Nov. 13.
Michael Attenborough, whose father Richard Attenborough starred in the famous 1947 movie version, will direct, with designs by Lez Brotherston, lighting by Tim Mitchell, musical direction and arrangements by Steven Edis, choreography by Karen Bruce, sound by John Leonard and fights by Terry King.
Barry and Black (who also penned the lyrics to Bombay Dreams, currently running on Broadway) are a long-standing songwriting partnership. In 1967 they were the first British songwriters to win an Oscar, for the song “Born Free.” (Barry subsequently won a further three Oscars.) Their other stage musicals include the 1974 West End hit Billy, which gave a first big theatre success to Michael Crawford and an early break to Elaine Paige. Barry and Black also wrote James Bond songs together including “Thunderball” and “Diamonds Are Forever”. The show is presented in association with Bill Kenwright, so if it’s a success a West End transfer is assured.
Following Brighton Rock, Peter Whelan’s new play The Earthly Paradise will preview from Nov. 19, opening on Nov. 24. It’s about poet and designer William Morris and the affair between his wife and his friend Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Robert Delamere, whose production of Sebastian Barry’s Whistling Psyche opens at the Islington venue on May 12, directs. Whelan is an Honourary Associate Artist for the Royal Shakespeare Company. His other plays include The Herbal Bed, A Russian in the Woods, The Accrington Pals and The School Of Night.
Simon Russell Beale will make his first return to Shakespeare since winning the Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle awards for his 2000 National Theatre Hamlet, when he stars in Macbeth from Jan. 13, opening on Jan. 20. He reunites with his Hamlet director, John Caird.
Ex-NT boss Richard Eyre – currently hard at work on the Disney and Cameron Mackintosh production of Mary Poppins - will then direct his own new version of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, to star Eve Best. The show previews from March 10 with opening night on March 16.
Other news includes the expected West End transfer of David Eldridge’s Festen, an adaptation of the Dogme movie which bagged ecstatic reviews and played to full houses throughout its run. Venue details will be announced soon, but this will now join Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? as the second West End transfer of Michael Attenborough’s Almeida regime. Whether Brighton Rock makes it three will depend on its reception.
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