Landis wings to ‘Bat Boy’

“BAT BOY — THE MUSICAL” looks set to fly toward the bigscreen, in a $35 million-$40 million movie version to be directed by John Landis. From “Animal House” to “Bat Boy”? Landis laughs. “I’ve made quite a bit of musical film, but people don’t recognize it as such,” says Landis, whose credits include such music-heavy fare as “The Blues Brothers.”

It was nearly two months ago that Landis caught three consecutive perfs of the West End “Bat Boy,” subsequently signing on to do a film. “It’s an opportunity to do something insane,” says Landis of a venture for which no script yet exists. “I’m delighted.”

Pic’s lead producer will be Michael Alden, the same American impresario who has been keeping the faltering West End production going since August despite so-so (and worse) reviews, not to mention so-so (and worse) attendance.

But talk of the film, Alden tells Variety, shows signs already of boosting biz at the Shaftesbury Theater. “I’m not above believing in magic and miracles,” he says. We’ll flap our wings to that.


The collectibles of the title better be very valuable indeed to justify the top ticket for weekend perfs of “Acorn Antiques,” the new Victoria Wood musical that starts perfs Jan. 31 at the Theater Royal, Haymarket. Producer Phil McIntyre has pegged the top price on Friday and Saturday nights and Saturday matinees at £65$125), well above the Broadway norm.

On the other hand, one could question whether a Broadway “norm” exists anymore when virtually every New York hit offers premium seats several times the nominal face value of the ticket. And presumably the talent involved in “Acorn Antiques” doesn’t come cheap, starting with local TV icon Wood and including Julie Walters, in a rare return to the commercial theater; co-stars Neil Morrissey, Celia Imrie and Josie Lawrence; and director Trevor Nunn.


While Americans back home were tucking into their turkeys, a particular American musical in London was giving thanks for the major PR boost afforded it for one night only Nov. 25: That’s when the West End production of “Chicago” hosted in starring roles the five winners of U.K. Channel 4’s vastly entertaining Musicality series, one of whom — Lancashire lass Rebecca Dent — on the evidence of this single appearance as Roxie Hart has that indefinable “it” factor that could take her far.

The other winners had their moments, though primary schoolteacher Matthew Goodgame had nowhere near the sleazy charm necessary to play Billy Flynn any more than physiotherapist Caroline Graham possessed the “wow” factor to stay the course as Velma Kelly. (Her “hello suckers” at the top of the second act was notably short on sass.)

Still, it’s hardly fair to judge newcomers by professional standards, which is where Dent’s Roxie again set her apart, and set the sellout crowd cheering. Endearing and (when necessary) edgy, alternately sweet-natured and sharp-tongued, Dent’s merry murderess got the full value of lines like “screwin’ around is foolin’ around — with dinner,” while her American accent never wavered.

What next for the 22-year-old one-time waitress? Dent is planning to move to London in the New Year to give showbiz a shot and cites Sally Bowles as another leading Broadway role she would one day like to brave. At the same time, Dent says none of the Musicality winners is expecting what theater careers they may go on to will rival a matchless night.

“We’re not so deluded as to think every performance will be like that,” she says. “That was very special; we’ll never experience anything like that again in our lives.”

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