B'way 'Swan Lake' also veteran producer's slate
LONDON – Cameron Mackintosh could be forgiven this week for dwelling on the past, as his massively successful co-production (with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group) of “The Phantom of the Opera” celebrated 10 years on Broadway Jan. 26. “That’s an example of a show which has needed the least selling of any show since ‘My Fair Lady,’ ” he says. “It’s a wonderful mix of a wonderful idea done by the right people.”
But instead of dwelling, the impresario who put the British musical on the global map is looking ahead, preparing a busy slate of productions, particularly in the United States, and continuing to work passionately on behalf of “Martin Guerre,” his latest West End musical which will close Feb. 28 at the Prince Edward at a sizable loss, despite a 20-month run and last season’s top Olivier Award.
On June 8, his very much ongoing career will be celebrated with a charity concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall in the presence of the queen. The name of the event? What else: “Hey Mr. Producer.”
“I’ve been in the business 30 years; I intend to be in the business another 20,” Mackintosh was saying one recent afternoon in an expansive interview at his Bedford Square offices between trips to Antwerp and Stockholm, and with New York just days away (for “The Lion King” and “Ragtime,” neither of which he had yet seen).
To be sure, the Broadway landscape may have changed irrevocably from the Brit-dominated 1980s in which Mackintosh played such a defining part. “The world is celebrating the world of corporate theater at the moment,” he says, reflectively. “It remains to be seen how financially successful these shows are going to be in five years’ time.”
But lest he be thought to be resting on his own laurels, Mackintosh says, “I feel I’m absolutely at my prime as a producer at the moment, even if that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll always be the right person for the generation I’m with or the generations I work with. I have my own particular styles and tastes, as does everybody who is an individual in the theater.”
For the moment, those tastes run very much towards Matthew Bourne, the gifted English director-choreographer whose “Swan Lake,” with its all-male corps de ballet, finally appears to be headed to Broadway for previews in September, with the Neil Simon Theater all but inked.
Mackintosh will co-produce the $2.5 million venture with Bourne and London producer Katharine Dore’s Adventures in Motion Pictures Ltd., the dance troupe which caused a sensation with the same show in Los Angeles last spring. Indeed, there are hopes of bringing AMP’s subsequent West End entry, “Cinderella,” for a visit to that city’s Ahmanson Theater in spring 1999.
On Broadway, the 12-week “Swan” stand will feature two rotating casts of dancers from the London original, headed by Scott Ambler as the prince and Adam Cooper as his louche, mysterious swan. Although Mackintosh had no hand in originating the production, he was an early champion of Bourne, hiring the choreographer to work on his current West End revival of “Oliver!,” which finishes its lucrative, three-year-plus run at the Palladium Feb. 21. “Swan Lake” will mark Mackintosh’s return to Broadway for the first time since “Five Guys Named Moe” six years ago.
Away from Broadway, Mackintosh will be busy throughout the United States, largely with small to midsize musicals already presented in England. The first of these, “The Fix,” opens March 30 in Washington, D.C., directed by the Signature Theater’s Eric Schaeffer, who has won acclaim for such diverse musical projects as “Passion” and the rescaled national tour of “Big.” After a May premiere at London’s Donmar Warehouse, “The Fix” received iffy reviews but four Olivier nominations, including best musical.
Putting ‘Together’ together
Mackintosh has Schaeffer on board as director again in the fall (with Bob Avian as choreographer) to relaunch the Stephen Sondheim revue “Putting It Together,” which has yet to be seen outside Off Broadway’s Manhattan Theater Club (where it starred Julie Andrews) and the Fire Station in Oxford (where the lead was Diana Rigg). The show’s new lead, Carol Burnett, was announced several years back for a West End run that never materialized; this time, expect an Oct. 4 opening in a city to be announced.
Nov. 5 sees the start of previews at the Goodspeed Opera House’s Chester Theater of “Just So,” the George Stiles-Anthony Drewe musicalization of Rudyard Kipling that Mackintosh first saw more than a decade ago in a production in Plymouth in southwest England. He later shepherded the show through two further productions, the most recent one directed by Mike Ockrent at North London’s Tricycle Theater. The Goodspeed stand will boast a fresh team.
Elsewhere, Mackintosh continues the international rollouts of his ’80s behemoths (“Miss Saigon,” which opened Jan. 22 in Stockholm, and “Les Miz,” opening May 24 in Antwerp) and talks animatedly of productions in places like Scheveningen that sound like answers to geography questions in Trivial Pursuit.
As for “Martin Guerre,” the book is far from closed on a $7 million West End misfire that Mackintosh is revamping and paring — with a new director and design team still to be named — for a Nov. 25 reopening outside London, followed by a national tour. (That version will then open in Karlstad, Sweden, and Odense, Denmark, in April 1999.)
“The future of ‘Martin Guerre’ is not a show with a company of 60 but with 25 to 30. That means a lot of places will be very interested in doing it, and it makes it easier for them to do a much more accessible show.”
Adds Mackintosh, “It makes ‘Martin Guerre’ something which is hopefully going to be done ad infinitum.”