Andrew Lloyd Webber may have two of his musicals — By Jeeves and The Beautiful Game — on North American stages in 2002, if all the production details work out and audiences are enthusiastic.
A spokesperson for Lloyd Webber in the U.S. confirmed a Broadway berth for By Jeeves is being explored for fall 2001. The intimate period musical comedy using P.G. Wodehouse's comic characters, with book, lyrics and direction by Alan Ayckbourn, got its U.S. debut by Goodspeed Musicals in 1996 at The Norma Terris Theatre in Connecticut. Bookings in 1997 in Los Angeles and Washington, DC, followed. Pittsburgh Public Theater premiered a further revised version in February 2001. It's that last staging and physical production that would move to Broadway, with Goodspeed as producer. (The show has its roots in an early ALW-Ayckbourn collaboration, called Jeeves, from 1975.)
Lloyd Webber and lead producer Goodspeed Musicals sought the 597-seat Helen Hayes Theatre earlier this year, but a booking of George Gershwin Alone there shut out that possibility.
A spokesperson for Goodspeed Musicals told Playbill On-Line June 13 the Hayes is still the desired venue for the fall, and that negotiations are underway for a Broadway bow of the show there. The New York Post reported June 13 that November would be the start date.
The Toronto Star, meanwhile, quoted Toronto-born Robert Carsen, director of The Beautiful Game in London, saying the ALW-Ben Elton tuner about soccer and Irish political tensions will land at the Canon Theatre — formerly, the Pantages Theatre — in Toronto in fall 2002, produced by the Mirvishes, who have not announced the show. Carsen will direct in Toronto, with scenic designer Michael Levine also repeating his London duties. It's speculated that the Ontario staging would be a testing of the waters for a wider North American exposure of the tuner. The London staging of The Beautiful Game will close Sept. 1 after a little less than a year at the Cambridge Theatre in the West End.
The Toronto contracts have yet to be signed, Carsen told The Star, but he expects it to work out. The Pantages on Yonge Street was the longtime home of Toronto's 10-year sitdown of Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera.
The Beautiful Game features music by Lloyd Webber and book and lyrics by actor-comedian-comic writer Elton. In London, Meryl Tankard choreographed and Joan Bergin designed costumes , Jean Kalman designed lighting and Martin Levan designed sound. Orchestrations were by Lloyd Webber and David Cullen.
Cast albums of both By Jeeves and The Beautiful Game are available.
Lloyd Webber is one of the most successful theatre composers in history, having composed Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, Jeeves (later reworked as By Jeeves), Evita, Variations and Tell Me on a Sunday (later combined as Song & Dance), Cats, Starlight Express, The Phantom of the Opera, Aspects of Love, Sunset Boulevard and Whistle Down the Wind.
The composer is working on the film version of The Phantom of the Opera and, according to The Toronto Star, has enlisted director Carsen, who has a background almost exclusively in opera, to stage a revised version of Sunset Boulevard.
— By Kenneth Jones