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UK Roundup - Evita casting, Jason Robert Brown, Last Five Years

Casting has begun for the first West End revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita, which will open in June 2006 with the same team behind current smash hit Guys and Dolls. Director Michael Grandage, designer Christopher Oram and choreographer Rob Ashford – who managed to attract Ewan McGregor to the lead in Guys and Dolls - have begun working on the show, which will be produced by the Really Useful Group, not Cameron Mackintosh as was once proposed. Front runners for Eva are being rumoured all over the shot – from Madonna and Denise Van Outen to musical stars Jenna Russell and Idina Menzel. No venue has been announced, but Lloyd Webber owns two houses likely to be contenders – the LondonPalladium and Adelphi, currently housing Chicago. Incredibly, the musical hasn't been seen in the West End since the original in 1978.

The Far Pavilions, a musical based on the book by based on MM Kaye, will close on September 17th after a run of only five months. The adaptation of the 1978 book, about a British officer who falls for an Indian princess, had been in workshops and development for many years, but after a panning from critics early closure was inevitable. The writer – who died in January - gave her blessings for the stage production, saying she was 'thrilled to bits' with Phillip Henderson's music and Stephen Clark's lyrics. The Shaftesbury Theatre is a notoriously difficult theatre due to its lack of passing trade and awkward size - 1404 seats but a comparatively small stage for musicals. Over the past few years it has housed Rent (13 months), Thoroughly Modern Millie (8 months) and Bat Boy (4 months). Following The Far Pavilions will be the Open Air Theatre's High Society with Jerry Hall making her musical debut as Mother Lord.

Musical theatre star Joanna Riding will once again return to performing in plays, albeit this time with a slight musical twist. Her latest role, as a musician imprisoned in Auschwitz, requires her to play the piano and sing onstage, though surely not quite as demanding as the vocal abilities required of her in My Fair Lady, Carousel, Witches of Eastwick, etc, for which she received numerous Olivier nods. Playing For Time, the British premiere of Arthur Miller's 1985 play (based on a 1980 TV film with Vanessa Redgrave), will be her fourth role in straight theatre in two years, her last being in the West End's Blithe Spirit. Joanna Read directs a cast of 25 at the Salisbury Playhouse in November before a transfer to the Yvonne Arnaud, Guildford in December.

Speaking of Joanna Riding, composer Jason Robert Brown is coming back to London to do more concerts. At the New Player's Theatre, where he appeared in late night cabaret last year, Brown will do five gigs, with Riding attached to star alongside him. His band - the Caucasian Rhythm Kings - will also come over for the concerts, scheduled for 7-11th December. And, if all goes to plan, London will finally get the chance to see the UK premiere of The Last Five Years and a concert version of Parade. At the Menier Chocolate Factory early next year, The Last Five Years may star Lauren Kennedy, who apparently has first option on the role of Cathy, and Trevor Nunn is supposedly interested in directing. The venue recently housed Tick Tick Boom, and this autumn will present Sunday in the Park with George with Daniel Evans. Parade concert details are expected to be announced soon.

And finally, Friedrich Schiller is making a West End comeback – 200 years after his death. Following the surprise sell-out success of Don Carlos at the Gielgud Theatre earlier this year, the Donmar Warehouse's production of Mary Stuart will transfer to the Apollo Theatre in October. Starring Harriet Walter and Janet McTeer, the production received unanimous rave reviews – 'exhilarating' (Guardian), 'visually austere yet beautiful' (Independent), 'terrific acting, terrific theatre, terrific Schiller' (Times). It is the first production under Michael Grandage's artistic directorship of the Donmar to transfer after its run at the 250 seater venue. Directed by Phyllida Lloyd, director of Mamma Mia, it is designed by Anthony Ward, designer of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The only bad news is that Mary Stuart replaces ska musical The Big Life, ending two months short of its planned dates.

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From This Author Jake Brunger

Jake is currently studying at Bristol University and hopes to eventually pursue a career in the theatre industry as a writer/director. His favourite writers include (read more...)