David Benedict on theatre

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The Independent Online
How to be a literary manager: Go to the movies. Theatres don't programme plays any more, they just put on stage versions of classic films. Find a masterpiece and massacre it appears to be the idea. Tommy Steele did it twice. Not content with tampering with the sublime Singin' in the Rain, he then insisted on touring Some Like It Hot (and nearly bankrupted his producers into the bargain) while Simon Callow came a cropper with Les Enfants du Paradis. That debacle was a molehill when compared with the towering horrors of Carrie the musical which lost its leading lady, Barbara Cook, when she walked out after having nearly been decapitated by the set.

For absolutely no good reason, no-one has staged The Poseidon Adventure, Planet of the Apes, anything by Tarkovsky, Lawrence of Arabia, Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines or Tarka the Otter. That's the trouble with theatre folk these days: shrivelled imaginations.

The reverse position is the spectacle of producers sniffing around theatre foyers for product to turn into movies. Face it, it worked for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and A Man for All Seasons, cleaned up on Oscar night. As for The Philadelphia Story, it's such a screen classic that no-one remembers it was a successful stage play to begin with. Katherine Hepburn played wealthy, wilful heiress Tracy Lord on Broadway, before Hollywood beckoned in the illustrious form of George Cukor, with Cary Grant (below) and James Stewart in tow. (And will someone explain to me why Stewart and not Cary Grant ended up with the Oscar?)

Among the devastation caused by the recent IRA explosion in Manchester came the news of extensive damage to the Royal Exchange Theatre. Undeterred, the company will open The Philadelphia Story on schedule 11 July in the Mobile Theatre. For details, ring 0161-833 9833.

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