Casting news of Robert Pattinson proved false

“Knowing when to leave may be the smartest thing that anyone can learn” — so wrote lyricist Hal David in the Burt Bacharach tuner “Promises, Promises.” It’s a lesson producers certainly have to learn. What’s the point in recouping if you then throw your profit away by running a show into the ground?

That’s definitely not what David Pugh did with “Equus” in London. Before Daniel Radcliffe and Richard Griffiths finished their contracts, the decision was made not to recast with less-newsworthy actors. The same has happened with the Gotham transfer, which finished its scheduled run last week.

That didn’t stop the Internet rumors that new screen heartthrob Robert Pattinson (“Twilight”) would follow Radcliffe in the role.

It wasn’t the most preposterous of ideas — Pattinson appeared alongside Radcliffe in two of the “Harry Potter” movies. But Pugh told Variety that won’t happen. He has, however, confirmed that he and Pattinson will be working together on a theater project in 2010. More than that he won’t say.

Meanwhile, back in London, amid a slew of openings, one West End show has just called it quits. After eight months, the Gipsy Kings’ tuner “Zorro” — probably the world’s only flamenco swashbuckler — will shutter March 14, six days after the Olivier Awards, for which it has received five nominations.

With no official London figures published, it’s impossible to say how the numbers will finally stack up, but a show with a cast of 24, plus band, crew, etc., cannot have been making money hand over fist in a house that seats just 701.

The likeliest scenario is that the producers considered taking a financial hit worthwhile in order to run the show as a shop window. Selling a production worldwide is an easier proposition if it’s seen to be enjoying a “successful” West End run. The idea is supported by the news that “Zorro” will open in Paris at the Folies Bergeres in October, with future productions already set for Germany, Holland, Italy, Japan, Korea and Russia.

British song is, of course, a saleable commodity — check out Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s back catalog. Yet even the most cursory glance at London’s cabaret circuit reveals not so much a bias toward Sondheim, Arlen, Porter and other masters of the American song as almost total domination. So it was immensely refreshing to discover Maria Friedman ditching almost everything she’d sung hitherto to launch the Great British Songbook series at the Shaw Theater.

Her excitingly diverse new program ran from Lionel Bart and Leslie Bricusse to innocent 1950s musical-comedy items from Julian Slade’s “Salad Days” and Gilbert O’Sullivan‘s ’70s pop hit “Alone Again, Naturally.” Friedman even pulled off a nostalgic medley of songs from two world wars and a deft yoking of a Gilbert & Sullivan number from “Ruddigore” to Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” complete with audience whistling.

 The high point was a pairing of John Lennon and Paul McCartney‘s “Norwegian Wood” with “Eleanor Rigby” in a spellbinding arrangement by pianist Jason Carr. This endlessly surprising evening richly deserves trans-Atlantic life.

An even bigger surprise is currently on display at London’s longest-running cabaret venue, Pizza on the Park. Combining the flair of two legends — Annie Ross for insouciant jazz swing and Millicent Martin for gleeful wit — the considerably younger Clare Burt delivered a dazzling set in her cabaret debut.

 There are plenty of singers around who can belt showtunes. But in addition to knowing how to control her instrument, Burt is an experienced, thoughtful actress who understands underplaying. She and musical director Nigel Lilley recognize that it’s far better to stay relaxed and let audiences in rather than show off climactic vibrato. They’re back for two additional dates Feb. 15 and 22.

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