From Cabaret to Chicago, Kander and Ebb made some of the finest musicals ever to hit the stage. Now John Kander has returned to the theatre for the first time since the death of his writing partner Fred Ebb in 2004.
The Landing, a triptych of one-act musicals by Kander, 86, with book and lyrics by Greg Pierce, 35, opened at the Vineyard Theatre off-Broadway last week. The show has been in development for four years. “The idea was to have four actors, four instruments, and have it be very, very, very, very, very small,” Kander told National Public Radio.
The New York Times said: “Fans of Mr Kander will certainly appreciate hearing this old master elicit increasingly complex feelings from what at first feel like basic melodies.” Each act tells a grown-up, whimsical, bedtime story: in the first a carpenter teaches a child the secrets of the stars, in the second a housewife acts out a gangster fantasy and in the third a gay couple adopt a boy who seems to be too good to be true. There are no chorus lines or showgirls. Star power comes in the shape of David Hyde Pierce, aka Niles Crane of Frasier, who appears in two of the three mini-musicals - and also happens to be the librettist’s uncle.
Having scored a major hit with This House, James Graham is letting the public finish his latest script. He has written the first five minutes of a play, about young people’s addiction to online sex, for WikiTheatre, a new project from Nabokov. The theatre company then invited submissions to complete the piece. Two further acts, by two different writers, were published online this week, and the whole script will be given a reading at Soho Theatre in London on Sunday. “It’s using the technology of the internet and the online community to co-author a piece”, says Graham. “Writing can be such an agonised, lonely process”.
Graham has just submitted his next script to the National Theatre and is currently working with Gary Barlow on a big-budget musical of the film, Finding Neverland, produced by Harvey Weinstein. A £7million version of the show, with a book and lyrics by Allan Knee, Michael Korie and composer Scott Frankel, had a run at the Leicester Curve last year but, despite Weinstein jetting into town for opening, reviews were lukewarm.
“This is a complete overhaul. We’re starting from page one. I’ve had to learn about writing a musical very quickly. It’s so forensic”, says Graham. Is he a Take That fan? “I liked a lot of their songs and I’ve always respected Gary as a songwriter. My mum and my sister are huge fans. They’re way more excited about this than they were about me having a play at the National.”
As the drummer with Metallica Lars Ulrich is known for his heavy metal beats. He is also, apparently, a man of refined tastes. The musician has written the foreword to a new cookbook by Rene Redzepi, the Michelin-starred head chef at Noma in Copenhagen, which was voted Best Restaurant in the World for three years in a row. Ulrich’s essay tackles the question, ‘What is creativity?’ “I’ve been invited to partake in many creative shenanigans over the years, but never to write an essay about a single word”, he writes before comparing Redzepi to other “unafraid” creators like Picasso, Beethoven, the Beatles, James Joyce, Steve Jobs, Stephen Hawking etc. “The list goes on depending who's composing it… but no matter how long it is, René Redzepi BELONGS on that list.” And Ulrich will never have to pay for another pot of edible soil again, probably.
Miranda Hart never met her comedy idol Eric Morecambe but she did meet his main writer, Eddie Braben, just before he died earlier this year. “He was such a lovely man. He sent me an email after saying ‘Happy Christmas. Here are 10 new Eddie Braben jokes’, Hart told Richard Herring on his Leicester Square Theatre Podcast. “You could just hear Eric Morecambe saying them. They were so old. Things like, ‘I must take the dog out. It’s been in the oven for two hours.’ But Eric would make them funny.”