LONDON — Brush up your Shakespeare, indeed: Broadway’s current hit revival of “Kiss Me, Kate” is heading to the land of the Bard for an Oct. 30 opening at the Victoria Palace Theater, with previews set to begin Oct. 16 or possibly a few days earlier. The West End trans-fer will allow director Michael Blakemore to replicate his Tony-winning staging in his home city. If present plans pan out, it could also mark a rare London stand for all four of its original principals.
“I’d love to present the original New York company (in London) to the extent that we can,” co-producer Roger Berlind, speaking from New York, tells Variety, “so that people can see the style of the piece.” To that end, the hope is certainly to bring Brian Stokes Mitchell and Marin Mazzie to London, and possibly secondary leads Michael Berresse and Amy Spanger, as well.
Mitchell and Mazzie, says Berlind, “would both like to do it, and we would like them to do it,” schedules permitting. That’s a particularly complex equation in the case of last year’s Tony-winning “Stokes,” as Mitchell is called, who segued from the tuner at the Martin Beck directly to the starring role in August Wilson’s incoming Broadway play, “King Hedley II.”
Were Mitchell to come to London, that would mean crossing the Atlantic after his imminent Virginia Theater stand with barely a pause for breath. As Berlind acknowledges, his star “needs time off somewhere along the line.”
The aim would be for the Broadway players to open “Kiss Me, Kate” and then give way — optimally after six months, per Berlind — to lo-cally hired talent schooled in the spirit of the show. As on Broadway, Berlind will co-produce with Roger Horchow, with a London pro-ducer (as yet undetermined) expected to join them; the Cole-Kitchenn partnership will general-manage.
Berlind puts the cost of the show in the £3 million ($4.4 million) vicinity — significantly lower than the $6.5 million Broadway capitali-zation, which paid back, says the producer, within nine months of its November 1999 opening. His last London producing venture was an earlier Blakemore show, “City of Angels,” which got rave reviews and won a 1994 Olivier Award for best musical and died a costly and premature West End death.
“I’d take those reviews again,” laughs Berlind. “I just hope they have a different result.”
Neil LaBute will write and direct the world preem of his latest play, “The Shape of Things,” running May 24-June 23 at the Almeida Theater’s new home at King’s Cross. His previous play, “bash,” was produced by the Almeida last year, with LaBute an ongoing American presence in England during much of 2000 as writer-director (from Laura Jones’ original screenplay) of the film of the A.S. Byatt novel “Possession.”
The new four-character play has yet to be cast; Giles Cadle, currently repped by the Young Vic’s “Six Characters Looking for an Author” (see review page TK), will design.
Londoners who never made it to Paris now won’t have to jet off to Seattle, New York and other points west to catch “The Tragedy of Hamlet,” with Adrian Lester in the title role, which caused a Continental sensation late last year.
Peter Brook’s pared-down take on the Bard will run Aug. 22-Sept. 8 at the Young Vic, site of Brook’s recent touring production of “Le Costume.” Expect tickets to be, well, tough.
The sounds of, uh, stridence
Amanda Donohoe looks great in tight-fitting midnight blue and has one helluva way with a put-down, which for many may be enough reason to check out “The Graduate” again, whether or not you saw her predecessors, Kathleen Turner and Jerry Hall.
The first Briton to take on the role — as, incidentally, her surprisingly wayward American accent suggests — Donohoe, at 38, is also the youngest and the one most reminiscent of Anne Bancroft, whose sharp-eyed, angular features Donohoe often startlingly evokes. And so there she was Feb. 21 taking her bows center-stage, the audience on its feet, at this play’s third press night in 10 months: Another 10 or 15 of these and the Gielgud Theater production will join “Art” and “An Inspector Calls” in the straight play cast-change sweepstakes.
Where Donohoe departs from her forebears is in succumbing to the mean-spiritedness of a Terry Johnson adaptation that, more than ever, humiliates almost all the women involved. (How else to explain the new Mrs. Braddock, Lolly Susi, flapping about the stage like a deranged barnyard animal?) One’s heart bleeds for Coral Beed’s decidedly plain Elaine Robinson, whose quite reasonable hysteria is played for laughs and worse: “Am I as attractive as her?” she asks with regard to her mother, a question from which most sympathetic spectators will simply recoil. (Andres Williams’ expertly inflected Benjamin, on the other hand, brings buckets of charm to an essentially odious role.)
Donohoe commandeers the stage in a way Hall simply couldn’t and Turner chose not to, with last April’s original leading lady much more a good-time-girl gone astray. By contrast, whether curtly demanding her purse or, for that matter, a sex act, Donohoe means business. And as long as “The Graduate” continues to do business, actresses will no doubt continue queuing up so that they, too, can appear nude and get called a bitch.