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Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 17th March 2008

It has now been confirmed that the British musical Billy Elliot, book and lyrics by Lee Hall, music by Elton John, adapted from the 2000 film, directed by Stephen Daldry, with choreography by Peter Darling, will preview from September 17th at the Imperial Theatre, ahead of an official opening on October 16th. It tells the story of a working class boy in the north of England who dreams of becoming a ballet dancer, against the violence of the miner's strike of the 1980s. It features scenic design by Ian MacNeil, costumes by Nicky Gillibrand, lighting by Rick Fisher and sound by Paul Arditti. The producers are Universal Pictures, Working Title, Old Vic Productions and Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Jon Finn and Sally Greene.

The Alchemy Theatre Company production of L Pontius's Umbrella, a mix of tragedy and comedy about the loneliness and despair of living in a big city, with Christa Kimlicko Jones and Judson Jones, directed by Padraic Lillis, will preview from 11th April at the Kirk Theatre at Theatre Row, opening on 15th April. Theatre Row is located at 410 West 42nd Street, between 9th and 10th Avenues.

The Negro Ensemble Company production of Webeime, written and directed by Layon Gray, with Thom Scott, Layon Gray, Lamman Rucker, David Boykins, Jay Jones, Donn Swaby, Jason McGee and Justin Biko, will play at the Harlem School of the Arts from 28th March. It tells the story of one man's coming to terms with the repercussions of the decisions that he has made in life before the inevitable happens. Harlem School of the Arts is located at 645 St Nicholas Avenue, between 141st and 145th Streets.

John Lithgow will perform his one man show John Lithgow: Stories By Heart, directed by Jack O'Brien, at Mitzi E Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center, on Sunday and Monday evenings, previewing from April 20th, opening on May 12th, and running until June 2nd. The show is a meditation on the art and essence of storytelling, culminating in a performance of PG Wodehouse's story Uncle Fred Flits By, a 40 minute comic monologue in which he portrays 9 characters.

A new indie-rock musical Hostage Song, book by Clay McLeod Chapman, score by Kyle Jarrow, with Chapman and Paul Thureen, Hanna Cheek, Hannah Bos and Abe Goldfarb, backed by a band headed by Jarrow, directed by Oliver Butler, will play at the Kraine Theater from April 4th. Two Americans, bound and blindfolded in a war torn country and facing an uncertain fate, take refuge in music and memory. The Kraine Theater is located at 85 East 4th Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues.

The Castle, conceived and directed by David Rothenberg, from personal accounts of formerly incarcerated individuals and their re-entry into society, with Vilma Ortiz Donovan, Kenneth Harrington, Angel Ramos and Casimiro Torres telling their own real life stories, will play on Sundays at New World Stages, previewing from April 19th, opening on April 27th. The producers are Eric Krebs and Chase Mishkin. It was inspired by the work of the Fortune Society, which runs programmes and a resident home to help former prisoners successfully re-enter their communities. New World Stages is located at 340 West 50th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues.

Abingdon Theatre Company's production of Bruce J. Robinson's Another Vermeer, with Austin Pendleton, Thom Christopher, Dan Cordle, Justin Grace and Christian Pedersen, directed by Kelly Morgan, will preview from March 29th at the Dorothy Strelsin Theatre, in the Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex, opening on April 6th. It is about a Dutch artist, who must prove he forged the Vermeer he sold during World War II, or face the death penalty for treason. The Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex is located at 312 West 36th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues.

A live stage version of the long running television show What's My Line?, in which a celebrity panel tries to guess the occupation of a guest, asking only yes or no questions, will be presented at the Barrow Street Theatre on Mondays from March 24th. Panelists will include Betsy Palmer (a regular on the original show), Michael Riedel, Stephanie D'Abruzzo, Barry Saltzman, Aileen Mehle, Nick Kroll and Jarrod Emick, with J Keith van Straaten as host. The 75 minute stage version will also feature live music and performances, as well as a mystery celebrity guest. The Barrow Street Theatre is located at 27 Barrow Street at 7th Avenue, south of Christopher Street.

The world premiere of Hilary Bettis's American Girls, the story of two 14 year old mid-western girls on a collision course with pop and faith cultures, with Bettis and Kira Sternbach, directed by Jeff Cohen, will preview from April 3rd at the 45th Street Theater, opening on April 6th. The producers are Dog Run Rep and Pat Blake. The 45th Street Theater is located 354 West 45th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues.

The Rumour Machine says: that Harry Connick Jr will star in a revised version of the George and Ira Gershwin musical comedy Oh, Kay!, with a new book by Joe DiPietro, after the original by P G Wodehouse and Guy Bolton, with additional Gershwin songs added, and possibly a new title, directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, which is aiming for Broadway next spring, following a fall try out in Boston; that a revised version of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's musical Brigadoon, about two Americans who discover a mystical Scottish village, with a new book by John Guare, directed and choreographed by Rob Ashford, produced by Bill Haber and Liza Lerner, is also Broadway bound; and that book writer Jeff Whitty, composer John Garden, composer and lyricist Jason Sellards, and director Jason Moore, are working on an adaptation of the first of Armistead Maupin's Tales Of The City books, about the idiosyncratic tenants of a house in San Francisco's Russian Hill in the late 1970s, with the 2009/2010 Broadway season in mind. The Rumour Machine grinds on.