LONDON TICKET -- March
NEXT: BY JEEVES: Now that the London production of Cats has the distinction of being the longest-ever running musical in both London's West End and New York's Broadway (where it overtook A Chorus Line at the end of January with 6,137 performances, having already outrun the leading London contender, Jesus Christ Superstar way back in 1989), Andrew Lloyd Webber is not exactly resting on his laurels. This summer at Alan Ayckbourn's theatre in Scarborough, and then hopefully in London, we'll see the return of Jeeves (lyrics by Ayckbourn, music by Lloyd Webber) -- newly retitled By Jeeves, which uniquely for both writers had the unenviable honor of lasting only 12 performances on its original London outing in 1975. Since then, much has changed in both book and score, and the reckoning this time is that By Jeeves may at last prove the perfect butler for P.G. Wodehouse enthusiasts.
And that's not all. Other Lloyd Webber projects include the musical of Whistle Down the Wind, a staging of Evita to follow the current Madonna filming, a stage version of Harold Arlen's A Star Is Born, written with Larry Gelbart ("M*A*S*H"), and a new production of Superstar that will reopen the Lyceum in September.
LYCEUM LIGHTS UP: In Covent Garden, Britain's oldest surviving theatre district, there was once a golden triangle of three great theatres The Royal Opera House, The Theatre Royal Drury Lane and the Lyceum. Now, while Covent Garden struggles with its usual cash crisis and a rather too revealing backstage documentary series (which many believe contains far more drama in the hiring and firing of staff than could ever be found onstage) and Drury Lane heads happily towards the millennium with Miss Saigon, the third pillar of that triangle is at last being restored.
Although there have been occasional bursts of post-war theatrical activity for very short seasons, the Lyceum effectively closed at the outbreak of World War II when, following a performance of his classic and definitive Hamlet, Sir John Gielgud uttered the last words: "Long live the Lyceum, long live Henry Irving, long live Ellen Terry." Despite those illustrious greenroom ghosts, the Lyceum has been dark more or less ever since, and it has been derelict since 1985. Plans to convert it into a night club and restaurant were defeated by the Theatres Trust, and under its new owners, Apollo Leisure, the Lyceum now comes back to theatrical life with Jesus Christ Superstar. It might not have been Irving's or even Gielgud's first choice, but at least it guarantees that one of London's most historic and, when they have finished cleaning it up, beautiful theatres will return to its rightful place at one corner of that great triangle.
OVER HERE: Another good new year for Americans in London: Mandy Patinkin will be in concert at the Almeida for a week in April performing his Oscar and Steve anthology of Hammerstein and Sondheim . . . F. Murray Abraham will be over in May to play Leo Tolstoy in a new dramatization of the great Russian writer's troubled marital life. Gemma Jones co-stars as the wife who gave him 13 children and considerable editorial assistance. . . Sondheim will, all being well, have both Passion and the transfer of Company side by side in the West End, both shows now under the management of Bill Kenwright who, crossing the Atlantic in the other direction, sends Broadway a triumphant staging by Peter Hall of An Ideal Husband, Oscar Wilde's ever-topical account of sexual and social treachery against a political background.
Other transatlantic travelers include Mike Nichols, coming to make his British stage debut at the National in Wallace Shawn's The Designated Mourner, and Sharon Gless, currently starring opposite Tom Conti at the Gielgud in a revival of Neil Simon's Chapter Two.
-- By Sheridan Morley