McShane, Not Crawford, Plays Updike DevilDate: 25 January 2000
Contrary to the story leaked two weeks ago that Phantom of the Opera star Michael Crawford would be starring in Cameron Mackintosh's stage adaptation of The Witches of Eastwick - based on the John Updike novel and the 1987 Hollywood film starring Jack Nicholson, Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer - news today is that the lead in the musical, which opens at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane later this year, will actually be played by Lovejoy-star Ian McShane.
McShane will be joined by American actress Lucie Arnaz, daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, making her London stage debut, along with Olivier Award-winning British actresses Maria Friedman (currently in Chicago) and Joanna Riding (who starred in the National's Carousel and Guys and Dolls) as, respectively, Alexandra, Sukie and Jane, the three bored New England women who conjure up McShane's devil incarnate Darryl Van Horne.
As part of today's casting announcement, it was also revealed that the show's opening would be slightly delayed. Originally scheduled for a 13 June 2000 opening, following previews from 26 May, the musical will now open at Drury Lane on 18 July, previews from 24 June.
McShane won the role of Van Horne - which a spokesperson refers to as 'the most sought after role in a musical in years' - after a year-long search and against international opposition. Though Mackintosh isn't revealing much about what removed Crawford from the running, he says he was attracted to McShane because of his sex appeal and his comic acting experience. With Witches, McShane will be making his musical debut and his first return to the West End stage after a 30-year absence.
Trained at RADA, McShane first came to stage prominence in the 1960s in the original production of Joe Orton's Loot and Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie. He later co-starred with Judi Dench and Ian McKellen in The Promise which he also took to Broadway. His career then moved primarily to television, in the US and UK, with appearances in Roots, Magnum PI, Miami Vice, Dallas and War and Remembrance. But it was his creation as the mischievous, antique-loving sleuth Lovejoy, for the TV series he both produced and starred in, which earned him an international audience.
McShane and his witches are joined in the cast by Rosemary Ashe, Peter Joback, Caroline Sheen and Stephen Tate. The Witches of Eastwick has book and lyrics by John Dempsey and Dana Rowe, whose musical The Fix premiered at the Donmar Warehouse in 1997. The show will be directed by Eric Schaeffer, designed by Bob Crowley and choreographed by Bob Avian with orchestrations by William D Brohn, sound design by Andrew Bruce and lighting design by Howard Harrison.
Prior to the opening of the new production, the auditorium of the Theatre Royal will be architecturally remodelled, giving it a new seating configuration. The current capacity of 2,240 seats will be reduced to 1,650 to maximise intimacy.