Palladium is the favored venue for spring '09

Whatever happened to Peter Schneider? The energetic, erstwhile Mouse House chair and prexy in charge of animation unexpectedly ankled in 2001 to return to his first love: theater. Chief among his projects since then has been helming the stage-tuner version of “Sister Act.” The latest on his show that tried out at the Pasadena Playhouse in 2006 and at Atlanta’s Alliance Theater early last year: Casting notices recently went out for its London incarnation.

The London Palladium is the favored venue for spring 2009, if rumors are true. The 2,255-seat capacity certainly makes it a highly attractive financial proposition for the production’s billionaire producer Joop van den Ende and his company Stage Entertainment. Nothing, however, has been signed, and there are a couple of downsides to this scenario.

 The Palladium was built as a variety house, so the stage has little depth. That presents serious design challenges. And then there’s the question of the venue’s current incumbent, “The Sound of Music.” Although tickets are now available at the TKTS booth, the production shows no signs of disappearing in the near future.

Schneider is not the only man in town switching roles. Alan Rickman, best known for bringing a saturnine lugubriousness to acting roles, is off- rather than onstage.

Rickman is hardly a novice when it comes to sitting in the director’s chair. Not only did he helm the controversial “My Name Is Rachel Corrie,” he also directed the stage premiere and movie of “The Winter Guest” by Sharman Macdonald (a woman whose credits include being Keira Knightley‘s mother). Now he’s helming the Donmar Warehouse production of Strindberg’s “Creditors.” His cast consists of Tom Burke, Anna Chancellor and Owen Teale, and the production opens Sept. 30.

And then there’s Lee Hall. The Oscar-nommed screenwriter of the film and bookwriter of the stage version of “Billy Elliot” is further extending his range. He has written a new version of the one-act opera favorite “I Pagliacci” for English National Opera. It premieres alongside its usual companion piece, “Cavalleria Rusticana,” Sept. 20, opening night of the company’s 2008-09 season.

 Hall’s revamp of the blood-and-guts adultery opera is, ENO insists, not just another translation for the company that always sings in English. It has been relocated to a working-class town in the North of England in the late 1970s. Not a million miles from “Billy Elliot,” then … but Leoncavallo’s famously heartwrenching score has better tunes.

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