LONDON TICKET -- June, 1996
COMING UP: They may have had to postpone both the Tyne Daly Gypsy and the new Jekyll & Hyde musical for at least a year, due to a combination of cash troubles and the usual space problem. Virtually all the West End's big musical houses are currently occupied by long-running Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh hits, save the few that are housing such equally triumphant big songbook shows as Jolson, Buddy and now Elvis (not to mention such Hollywood movie transfers as Grease and Fame).
On the other hand Cliff Richard's forthcoming Heathcliff took five million pounds on its first box-office booking day; there is the new Boublil/Schönberg Martin Guerre to come in June; we are (at last) promised Beauty and the Beast for February; Lloyd Webber and Rice are to put their Jesus Christ Superstar into the happily restored prewar Lyceum; By Jeeves (also Lloyd Webber but this time with Alan Ayckbourn) is due to reappear in the West End from Scarborough; Dames at Sea is due back at the Ambassadors; and the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park has a summer season of Paint Your Wagon, while Richard Eyre's parting gift to the National he soon hands over to Trevor Nunn is a revival of his first great hit there a decade or more ago, Guys and Dolls, so we are not exactly starved for musicals.
ALBERT AND TOM: One of the great double-acts of the British theatre is back. Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay (still best remembered from Ronald Harwood's The Dresser, though, in fact, their alliance goes back another 30 years, since Courtenay got his stage break in Billy Liar, while Finney got his in the movie of the same name) will be reunited in the French hit of this season, Yasmina Roza's new play Art. Its London co-producer will be yet another major British film star: Sean Connery.
SEND OUT THE CLOWNS: A major row has developed at London's National Theatre over the current production of Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music, starring Dame Judi Dench, Patricia Hodge and Sian Phillips. The production has been such a huge critical and commercial success that, breaking all the usual repertoire systems, it is to play an unbroken eight-week season at the Olivier through the summer. But just as the cast was about to go into the studio to make the long-awaited cast recording, a fax from Sondheim's lawyers announced "unspecified legal difficulties," which forced the cancellation of the recording. OVER HERE: With Denzel Washington rumored to be the next National Theatre Othello, Kevin Kline joining the board of Shakespeare's Globe (which will now open in August with artistic director Mark Rylance in Two Gentlemen of Verona), The Heiress and Master Class in from Broadway, an Albee revival of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Diana Rigg, due for October) and Peter Hall directing Jessica Lange in A Streetcar Named Desire, the traffic from N.Y. is intense.
Maria Aitken and Zoe Wanamaker and Robin Ellis have been announced for A.R. Gurney's Off-Broadway hit Sylvia. But still no news as yet who (if anyone) will give us the Pulitzer Prize-winning Rent over here.