The arts in 1999: Theatre

The magazine Theatre Record which reprints the theatre reviews of the national papers, carries a four-page supplement that lists which productions are in the pipeline. Month after month (year after year, in fact) it lists an entry saying Emma Thompson is down to play Rosalind in As You Like It at the Donmar. We're still waiting.

One film star making her stage debut in Britain this spring is Cate Blanchett. She takes the lead - or the Meryl Streep role if you've seen the movie - in a revival of David Hare's 1978 play Plenty (opens 27 April). Rufus Sewell plays Macbeth in the West End, with Sally Dexter as his wife (opens 3 March), while at the National Theatre Trevor Nunn directs the play of the moment, Troilus and Cressida (opens 15 March), with the same company also doing Leonard Bernstein's Candide (opens April 13). Still on Shakespeare, at the West Yorkshire Playhouse Ian McKellen plays Prospero in The Tempest (opens 2 February), while Northern Broadsides take Twelfth Night on tour starting this month at the Viaduct, Halifax. At the end of the year, in a millennial event that will be worth waiting for, Yukio Ninagawa directs Nigel Hawthorne in King Lear.

After Shang-a-lang, her highly praised comedy at the Bush about three women on a Bay City Rollers nostagia weekend, playwright Catherine Johnson looks well placed to create a musical with Abba songwriters Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus. Mamma Mia! opens on 6 April at the Prince Edward. In Birmingham Simon Callow directs the Richard Adler/Jerry Ross musical Pajama Game with choreography by David Bintley, artistic director of the Birmingham Royal Ballet (previews from 23 April). In the autumn the Disney musical The Lion King arrives from the States, boasting three new songs by Elton John and Tim Rice.

Bing Bong is a new comedy by Keith Waterhouse with Dennis Waterman and Patrick Mower (touring from March). Certain Young Men is Peter Gill's latest with Jeremy Northam about gay men living together and faking straight relationships. It opens at the Almeida on 27 January. Hanif Kureishi has a new play at the Cottesloe titled Sleep With Me. Jonathan Harvey has a new play, Hushabye Mountain, for the English Touring Company.

Theatre de Complicite return with The Street of Crocodiles (opens 19 January at the Queen's). Robert Lepage stages Geometry of Miracles, a devised ensemble work, about Frank Lloyd Wright at the Tramway in Glasgow (30 March-3 April) and at the National (14-24 April). Meanwhile, every where you look you'll find a Noel Coward play. The master was born in 1899.

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