PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Dec. 21-27: Numbers Are Good for "Sound of Music," Less So for Andrew Lloyd Webber

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27 Dec 2013

Nicole Scherzinger
Nicole Scherzinger

On Christmas week, when all but the actors settle down for a short winter's nap, a story like who might go into a Broadway show can constitute a major news story.

Early this past week, The Daily News ran a story that The Pussycat Dolls' Nicole Scherzinger was at the top of a short list of names to succeed Tony Award-winning actress Patina Miller as Pippin's Leading Player.

The day after, producers announced that, for the time being, Scherzinger would not be joining the Roger O. Hirson and Stephen Schwartz musical.

And that was the news cycle.

Pippin won 2013 Tony Awards for Best Revival of a Musical, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical (Miller), Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical (Andrea Martin) and Best Direction of a Musical (Paulus).



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Simon Jones, Sandra Dickinson, Jemima Rooper and Patsy Ferran will join Angela Lansbury as she repeats the role of Madame Arcati in the Coward comedy Blithe Spirit, a performance that brought her acclaim and a Tony Award in a 2009 Broadway revival of the play.

The indefatigable Lansbury is returning to the West End stage for the first time in nearly 40 years. The production will begin previews March 1, 2014, at the Gielgud Theatre prior to an official opening March 18, for a run that is booking through June 6.

Michael Blakemore will also reprise his directorial duties with a cast that will also star the previously announced Janie Dee as Ruth Condomine and Charles Edwards as Charles Condomine.

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Ambulances outside the Apollo Theatre

Nica Burns of Nimax Theatres, which owns the Apollo Theatre—the historical West End theatre whose roof collapsed Dec. 19, injuring more than 80 theatregoers—stated that collecting water was the main culprit in the disaster.

The partial roof collapse occurred just after 8:15 PM GMT, following a major thunderstorm that drenched London with 15 percent of an average December's rainfall within an hour. An expert told the Express that he believed rainwater seeped into the building, increasing stress on the ceiling.

Legal experts told the Evening Standard that damage claims for the Dec. 19 performance could exceed one million pounds.

Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, who sold the Apollo Theatre to Nimax in 2005, turns out to have been something of a civic Cassandra on this issue. He had previously commented on the theatre's deteriorating physical condition. "The Apollo in particular is a shocking place," Lloyd Webber told the London Times. "I suggested that both it and the Lyric should be knocked down and replaced by top-quality modern theaters."

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Speaking of Andrew Lloyd Webber, you know the business of theatre is getting prohibitively expensive when the millionaire composer says he can't afford to put on shows anymore.

In an interview prior to the opening of his new musical Stephen Ward, Lloyd Webber told the Evening Standard that he didn't believe he had the finances to continue to produce large-scale musicals in the West End.

The prolific composer stated, "Now we live in a different age of blockbusters. I was lucky to have a couple 25, 30 years ago. It would be very different now. The costs of doing musicals have risen absolutely hugely. I don't think I've got enough money to do very many more."

Lloyd Webber said he felt most of the subjects for his musicals were uncommercial topics, resulting in musicals that were "entirely uncommercial." "I haven't had a hit in 20 years. I've written six musicals in that time. I'm resigned now to the fact that anything I do probably nobody is going to like."

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This has been a bigger-than-usual Christmas for the perennial holiday fare The Sound of Music.

The Dec. 22 ABC television broadcast of the 1965 film version of The Sound of Music, starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, brought in its highest ratings for the network since 2007.

The broadcast was watched by 6.5 million viewers, up 25 percent from 2012, according to preliminary numbers. This is the most-watched airing of the beloved film classic in six years.

ABC's broadcast comes weeks after NBC's telecast of The Sound of Music Live!, which offered a live presentation of the original Broadway script and score of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. Carrie Underwood, Audra McDonald, Stephen Moyer, Laura Benanti and Christian Borle starred in the NBC live event, which was seen by nearly 22 million viewers (including those who viewed on DVR).