LONDON — So nice they cast him twice: That’s the thinking behind a project currently being hatched for the West End in the spring that would find Joseph Fiennes starring in repertory as Iago in “Othello” and in the title role of Christopher Marlowe’s “Edward II.”
The director of both plays looks likely to be the ever-ascendant Michael Grandage (“Passion Play,” “Merrily We Roll Along”), who directed Fiennes to considerable acclaim last season in the Marlowe classic at Sheffield’s Crucible Theater, where Grandage is a.d.
Lead producer Duncan Weldon would be partnered on the venture with Paul Elliott and others and is in Los Angeles for several weeks firming up an Othello to play opposite Fiennes. (Think someone starry, in the best Weldon tradition.) While on the West Coast, Weldon hopes to secure Calista Flockhart to come to London next summer in “The Philadelphia Story,” a venture that, you will recall, was first mooted for last summer.
If Flockhart won’t commit, says Weldon, speaking from California, director Arvin Brown’s revival of the 1939 Phillip Barry comedy will happen anyway: an alternative Tracy Lord, adds the producer, is already being wooed.
A warm ‘Private’ reception
Back home, Weldon is reporting boffo biz for his rousingly acclaimed reclamation of “Private Lives,” which received pretty much near-unanimous raves earlier this month at the Albery Theater, with the exception of an uncharacteristically sour notice from the Times’ Benedict Nightingale.
Budgeted in the vicinity of £400,000 ($570,000), Howard Davies’ production should pay back by Christmas and looks likely to extend into January — and beyond, if leads Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan can be satisfactorily replaced. They, in turn, will lead the five-strong company to Broadway either late-spring or in the fall, the only apparent stumbling block being Rickman’s extant commitment to the next “Harry Potter” film, which wraps in May.
Facilitating the transfer is a hoped-for Equity swap that would enable an all-American line-up to come to London, probably in June, in Neil Simon’s “The Dinner Party.” Henry Winkler will head that cast, as he did on Broadway.
In the meantime, from pre-opening sales of some $360,000 prior to Oct. 4, Weldon is basking in an advance for “Private Lives” that now exceeds $1 million — a figure unmatched by any production of his since Dustin Hoffman played Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice” over a decade ago.
“This is what I would call a reasonable advance for a big musical,” says Weldon. “For a play in England, it’s just enormous.”
A Hytner hit takes to the road
“Mother Clap’s Molly House” is on the move. The Mark Ravenhill play-with-music is being prepped for an American tour next fall, pending Equity approval, that would take the Royal National Theater entry to four or five cities — San Francisco and New York look likely to be among them — for a maximum of 10 weeks.
The hope is to reassemble as much of the company as possible who have been with the show since it opened at the Lyttelton early last month. “Believe me,” says the play’s director Nicholas Hytner, as regards his cast, “they will all be invited back.”
A felicitous change afoot at ‘Boy’
Felicity Kendal will replace Diana Rigg as the mother from hell (always a heavenly assignment) when Charlotte Jones’ “Humble Boy” transfers to the West End mid-January for what is planned initially as a 15-week run. The show’s commercial producer Matthew Byam Shaw expects the rest of director John Caird’s widely acclaimed National Theater company to transfer intact, co-stars Simon Russell Beale and Denis Quilley included.
Kendal’s inclusion in the transfer presumably puts paid to her re-emergence anytime soon on the West End in Noel Coward’s “Fallen Angels,” which she had been expected to revive at the end of the year — sans previous co-star Frances de la Tour — prior to a hoped-for New York run.
And how will “Humble Boy” fare without the deliciously monstrous Rigg? Says Byam Shaw succinctly: “It’s quite a rich part.”