Cool Spots in London's Long Hot Summer

Cool Spots in London's Long Hot Summer LONDON TICKET by Sheridan Morley
In Full Gallop: Mary Louise Wilson left Broadway's Cabaret to perform her solo Diana Vreeland piece in London.
In Full Gallop: Mary Louise Wilson left Broadway's Cabaret to perform her solo Diana Vreeland piece in London. (Photo by Photo by Carol Rosegg)

LONDON TICKET by Sheridan Morley

The West End theatre has not, so far, had the easiest of summers, but things are looking up. In times like these I often think Broadway had it about right when, in the years before air-conditioning, all theatres used to close up between July and September so that the expectations for a new season were all the higher.

Still, things could be a lot worse: This month we get the legendary Broadway diva/dancer Donna McKechnie over here for No Way To Treat a Lady, a new musical at the Arts derived from the old Rod Steiger comedy thriller, while on the Open Air stage at Regent's Park, the musical treat is Anita Loos's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the (Jule Styne/Leo Robin) score that made a star of Carol Channing on Broadway in the role of the gold-digging innocent Lorelei Lee, inherited for the movie by Marilyn Monroe all of 40 years ago, and played now by Sara Crowe.

Also from Broadway, though of more recent vintage, is Full Gallop, a remarkable solo written (with Mark Hampton) and performed by Mary Louise Wilson about the life of the legendary American Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, she who once told us all to "Think Pink" and was, with the equally fashion-conscious photographer Richard Avedon, one of the models for the old Fred Astaire/Audrey Hepburn/Kay Thompson musical Funny Face.

Elsewhere, the Shakespeare Globe is offering an all-in-one-day epic made up of two Jacobean classics, The Honest Whore and It's a Mad World My Masters. Out at Chichester there's a new play about one of the many wives of Henry VIII, Katherine Howard, starring Richard Griffiths as the portly old monarch, and out at this summer's Malvern Festival there's the new Diana Rigg Phedre on its way
into town.

Back in the West End, it is still a golden time for musicals new and old, what with Oklahoma! at the National, Lloyd Webber's Whistle Down the Wind at the Aldwych and, out at Hammersmith, a first-ever staging of the Rex Harrison movie Doctor Dolittle, now for Phillip Schofield fans.

Looking ahead to the very end of August, two intriguing new shows are David Hare's Via Dolorosa, a solo which he himself takes to the boards to perform at the Royal Court Downstairs, and at the National, Terry Johnson's Cleo, Camping, Emanuelle & Dick, an account of the real-life stories of such Carry On stars as the late Kenneth Williams and Sid James. All that and a new set of short Michael Frayn comedies in from the road. Maybe it won't turn out to have been such a bad summer after all.

[Editor's Note: Sheridan Morley's Noel & Gertie is playing all August at the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, outside New York, in a new production by Leigh Lawson starring Twiggy -- in her first return to the American theatre since My One and Only in 1983 -- and James Warwick.]