Broadway star set to scoop up a wicked transfer fee

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It's the sort of pay deal you'd expect to grease the palms of a Premiership footballer. In a blow for female equality, Idina Menzel is set to become the highest-paid actress in West End history.

Two years after she launched Wicked, one of the most successful musicals in Broadway history, Menzel, pictured, is to reprise her role, Elphaba, for the show's London premiere this September.

Although little known in the UK, Menzel, whose performance garnered a Tony for "best actress" in New York, will command a truly jaw-dropping fee.

Potential investors tell me her package is budgeted at $30,000 per week, plus accommodation. That dwarfs the probable record for a leading lady, held by Jerry Hall, who got an estimated £10,000 a week for The Graduate.

Theatreland sources insist that it is value for money, though. "The show's total estimated start-up cost is $6m, so paying Menzel $30k for a four-month stint is a drop in the ocean," I'm told.

"If she gets good reviews, it's a good investment: in New York, the show rakes in about $1.4m a week."

Last night, a spokesman for Wicked described the $30k figure as speculation, insisting that, although her appearance is "confirmed", Menzel has yet to finalise her salary.

Either way, she'll struggle to match the record West End fee for a man. That's held by another Broadway star, Nathan Lane, who got £38,000 a week to headline the opening run of The Producers.

Why Lynda's no fan of Ginger

Anne Robinson wouldn't be Anne Robinson if she decided to kiss and make up following a full-scale row.

Before Christmas, I revealed how Lynda la Plante had threatened to tip spaghetti bolognese over the ginger-tinged TV hostess, during a lunchtime dispute at The Ivy restaurant.

Robinson had previously accused la Plante of lying about her age in order to adopt a son, Lorcan.

Six months down the line, diplomatic relations remain strained. "Every time I turn on The Weakest Link, there's Anne Robinson, asking questions about my plays or films," la Plante tells me.

"Clearly, it's her way of tormenting me. I'm not the only one, either: she stands there being beastly to contestants, but if they answer back, their comments get cut from the final broadcast. It isn't fair."

Clearly not; over to you, Anne!

Clooney outshone

Tonight, George Clooney's manly chest will grace our TV screens in his latest turn as the official "face" of Martini. His co-star in the ad, set aboard a motor yacht somewhere off the coast of Italy, is the London-educated actress, Natissia Malthe.

Both are lavishly attired. "In addition to their fees, everyone got to take their costumes home with them," reports a friend of Malthe.

"Clooney was given two bespoke linen suits, worth £3,000 each. Natassia, for her part, got a gold bikini."

"It cost £375, and is so skimpy that she's been able to boast that - on an inch by inch basis - Clooney's outfit was cheaper."

Pig ignorant

For a man of his girth, Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party, is curiously nimble at side-stepping a PR crisis.

Last week, it emerged that two of Griffin's pet pigs, kept at his farm near Welshpool, had been christened Anne and Frank.

Following criticism from Jewish groups, who consider the names a facetious reference to the famous Holocaust victim, the BNP have now issued a "clarification".

Apparently, Mr Griffin no longer owns the controversial piggies, having recently killed and eaten them.

He will not, however, be apologising. Says a spokesman: "I've got an uncle called Frank. Do you find that offensive as well? Are you mad?"

Dubai welcomes all that jazz ...

It takes a brave man, in this day and age, to attempt to foist an American cultural export on the Middle East. Hats off, then, to BJ Holt, producer of the West End musical Chicago, who will this week take a production of his hit show to Dubai.

Despite its risqué subject matter - the musical's heroine, night-club dancer Roxie Hart, murders her lover - Holt tells me that he's confident it'll go down a treat with locals in the Gulf resort.

"As far as we know, it's the first time there has ever been this kind of show in Dubai, but we don't think there'll be a problem with it," he says.

"We're using a touring cast from the US. Will they have to cover their legs? Well, we haven't cut any dance routines, or told the actresses to wear burqas, so I hope not." Fingers crossed, eh?

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