LONDON — Janet McTeer has done a lot in her Tony-winning career to date, but the star of the National Theater’s soon-to-close “Duchess of Malfi” has a fresh task in store: playing Petruchio in an all-female staging of “The Taming of the Shrew,” opening Aug. 10 at Shakespeare’s Globe. Kathryn Hunter will play Kate, and Barry Kyle directs.
McTeer recalls her reaction when the offer came from Globe a.d. Mark Rylance, to whose Benedick McTeer played Beatrice on the West End some years ago. “Mark said, ‘It’s all female, and we want you to play Petruchio,’ and I burst out laughing. I can’t possibly turn that down. I go from playing an archetypal martyr (in ‘Malfi’) to a drunken male and finally get paid to scratch my balls. I just think that’s hysterical.”
Almost as cheering is the continued success story the Globe has become as it embarks upon its longest season yet — seven months in all, starting with several weeks at Middle Temple Hall in the Inns of Court, where the Globe’s current al fresco (and all-male) “Richard II,” with Rylance in the title role, was first broken in.
The last two years have both seen a profit (the 2002 season generated a surplus in excess of $220,000) and played to 89% — comfortably above the 85% breakeven, which is high to begin with. This summer, says Globe general director Peter Kyle (no relation to Barry), the theater is presenting plays on Monday for the first time, as well as a first-ever five-play season: Those in London the week of Aug. 18 will be able to see all five.
And while last year’s lineup, Peter Kyle adds, “had two of the most popular plays in the repertory (“Twelfth Night” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”), balanced by a wonderfully comedic production of ‘The Golden Ass’,” this year’s “regime change” theme has shifted the rep toward Shakespeare histories and two rarely seen Marlowe texts in “Edward II” and “Dido, Queen of Carthage.”
The seasonal lineup is “challenging, deliberately challenging,” Kyle says. One trusts McTeer in male garb can, uh, rise to it.
- Quote of the week goes to Jon Thoday, co-producer of “Jerry Springer — The Opera,” who heads back to New York in June to firm up plans for his smash hit there. “I went to New York before we did (the show) at the National, and everyone was telling me how hard it is to get theaters.” He pauses. “Now, it doesn’t seem to be.”
- “Golden Boy” is back, and the newly launched Greenwich Theater has it — namely, the first London revival of the 1964 Broadway musical since it played London, with Sammy Davis Jr., in 1968. “God, how time flies,” says composer Charles Strouse, who has written two new songs for this London version, to be directed by U.K.-based American Rick Jacobs (who, I am told, wrote his dissertation on Strouse).
That the fresh songs are called “Winners” (written with lyricist Lee Adams) and “I’m a Success” at least hint at Strouse’s own feelings toward the piece. “I’m very proud of the show,” says Strouse, who turns 75 on June 7. And if it has been too long between British stagings? Strouse’s reply: “We have to make up for lost time.”
“Mamma” has birthed a “Baby.” That’s one way of looking at the Bush Theater preem of “Little Baby Nothing,” the first play from Bristol-based scribe Catherine Johnson since the musical “Mamma Mia!” — for which she wrote the book — provided the 45-year-old mother of two with the pension of anyone’s dreams.
“I got to a point where I definitely had to do a stage piece again,” Johnson says of the play, her fourth in 14 years for the 100-seat Bush. “As soon as I had another idea, I only thought of the Bush; it’s definitely for me the best new-writing venue.”
Early reviews for the family drama have been sharply mixed, but Johnson, speaking prior to the May 23 opening (the play runs through June 21), seemed happy to have returned to her artistic home. No offers for any new musicals? She laughs: “I think people still don’t actually realize ‘Mamma Mia!’ has a book. Or maybe they do,” she laughs again, “and they just don’t like the book, and I have to accept that’s why I’m not getting all these calls.”