LONDON — Clarke Peters will be the next Darryl van Horne in the Cameron Mackintosh production of “The Witches of Eastwick,” starting July 1 at the Prince of Wales Theater, with a new opening night skedded for July 17. That means a show set in Rhode Island will have its first American male lead, even if the Manhattan-born Peters, 49, has been based in the U.K. since 1973.“I’m looking at it as a piece in development that I’d like to be able to put my stamp on,” Peters says of “Witches,” speaking April 25 backstage at the Adelphi Theater, where he is again playing Billy Flynn in “Chicago.” The actor also played Billy on Broadway, winning further applause on both sides of the Atlantic for his perf alongside Kevin Spacey in “The Iceman Cometh.” Technically, Peters is succeeding Ian McShane in the starring role as “Witches’ ” devilish seducer, though the reality is that McShane — whose initial reviews were decidedly mixed –effectively ceased performing in February at the end of the show’s Drury Lane stand. (His name has lingered on in some listings for the musical even as it has been scrupulously removed from others.) During the gap between closing at Drury Lane and reopening at the smaller (and Mackintosh-owned) Prince of Wales, McShane is said to have contracted shingles. That, in turn, necessitated his departure from the show: McShane came back to rehearsals, reports Nick Allott, managing director of Cameron Mackintosh Ltd., and obviously was struggling. The result has been the promotion to the leading role from within the company of second understudy Earl Carpenter until Peters starts his eight-month stand in the summer. Joining the cast at the same time will be Josefina Gabrielle (an Olivier nominee two years ago for “Oklahoma!”) in Lucie Arnaz’s part as sculptress Alexandra and Rebecca Thornhill (an Olivier nominee this year for “Singin’ in the Rain”) in the Maria Friedman part of wordsmith Sukie. Olivier nominee Joanna Riding is staying on. Repeat visitors to “Witches” will find various changes and nips and tucks in place, including a new gospel number in the second act — “The Glory of Me” — replacing “Who’s the Man?” (That earlier number marked a McShane low point.) Sukie’s second-act solo, “Loose Ends,” is getting an entirely fresh set of lyrics. Like virtually every Mackintosh show, “Witches” remains a show in evolution. Allott says it’s the usual Cameron thing. The Riches of Eastwick “Witches of Eastwick” may not yet have made a dent in a capitalization rising upwards of $8 million, but that’s no reason to fret over its producer — or, for that matter, his erstwhile colleague-turned-rival, Andrew Lloyd Webber. (Both men competed in February for the Olivier for best musical, only to lose to “Merrily We Roll Along,” a Stephen Sondheim show that’s 20 years old.) The latest edition of the Sunday Times of London’s annual Rich List appeared on newsstands April 22, and interesting reading it continues to make, too. Per the paper, Lloyd Webber’s assets are pegged at £420 million ($630 million), which places him 69th on the list, down from No. 58 last year. That figure could skyrocket next year, muses the Sunday Times, if Lloyd Webber’s intended forays into the lucrative Asian market prove profitable. Mackintosh isn’t far behind, ranking 73rd — down from 64 last year — with a worth gauged by the paper at some $600 million. That’s a considerably better showing than was made by, among others, the Queen (105th), the Duke of Northumberland and the Marquess of Salisbury (tied at 134th) or Madonna and Guy Ritchie (a lowly 183rd). All of which suggests the theater — on occasion — does allow for a truly royal flush. Rock the House Makhoba and Thembi: Sound familiar? The names should by this time next year if South African director Welcome Msomi makes good on plans to preem next spring at Shakespeare’s Globe his new adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet” — aka Makhoba and Thembi, with separate South African and Anglo-Caribbean companies on hand to play the warring Montagues and Capulets. It’s another one of those universal stories, says Thuli Dumakude, the staging’s assistant director, co-choreographer and vocal arranger, as well as Msomi’s wife of some 30 years. (Across the Atlantic, she spent two years on Broadway as Rafiki in “The Lion King.”) Husband and wife were in town for a rousing weeklong run at the Globe of “Umabatha: The Zulu Macbeth,” a cultural transcription of the Bard conceived in 1969 at the University of Natal but no less fresh and immediate today. The first performance April 18 found the audience huddled against London’s traditional Arctic weather come April (and May and June … ) while a fiercely energized company wore so little that one began to worry about mass outbreaks of pneumonia. Reassuringly, blankets and heaters were on offer in abundance backstage. It’s London, sighs an ever-philosophical Dumakude. But since the British — even chilled to the marrow — do love a party, the place rocked nonetheless.
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