Actress Nichola McAuliffe (pictured in costume), star of the new West End musical Murderous Instincts, has launched an astonishing public attack on her producer and predicted that the show, which opens shortly at the Savoy Theatre, will close before the end of the year.

In a double-page spread in the Daily Mail - under the title “The Show Must Go Wrong!” with the teaser that the account is “cattier than Cats, more miserable than Les Mis" - McAuliffe lifts the lid on the troubled production that has now cancelled more than a week of previews.

Following a try-out last month in Norwich and a change of director (see below), the company are now back in rehearsals. Originally due to begin tonight (10 September) at the Savoy, performances are now scheduled from 20 September 2004 ahead of the press night, still set for 7 October (See News, 28 Jul 2004).

In her Daily Mail diary, McAuliffe recalled that, though the musical, “written by an heiress to the Firestone Tyre fortune and produced by her husband, promised to be like a motorway pile up”, she accepted the offer because “I needed the money” and they wanted her because “Joanna Lumley wasn’t available and isn’t as cheap anyway”.

In addition to affairs, lechery and ever-changing rewrites, McAuliffe hit out at the unnamed American producer, the Puerto Rico-based Manny Fox, and in particular “his habit of sacking everyone”. “This show has had, to date, eight directors, four PR companies and innumerable general managers. But for the past week we’ve had the same team, and if they last another couple of days, I might even start to learn their names.”

According to McAuliffe, many in the international cast couldn’t master salsa, and the show is now being reworked – yet again. “We’re back in the rehearsal room. The producer calls us ‘Brits’, an expression I dislike intensely. Well, let’s hope the plucky Brits and our allies can survive this American-led assault on the West End. What did they say in 1914? It’ll be over by Christmas.”

McAuliffe, who was most recently seen on the London stage in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, caused a furore earlier this year when she campaigned in the House of Lords, followed by another stinging article in the Independent newspaper, to have decrepit West End theatres demolished. The Palladium, she said, was a “rat-infested pit”.

Speaking to, one Murderous Instincts show insider described McAuliffe’s highly public outburst as “unheard of” and “totally unprofessional”, adding “she’s the one who should be sacked.”

As for the state of Murderous Instincts, a spokesperson confirmed that the start of previews have been delayed and that Bob Carlton has been replaced as director by Michael Rooney, the award-winning American choreographer and son of Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney.

Producer Manny Fox explained in a statement issued today: “Bob Carlton did it (the show) for Norwich. We brought Michael Rooney in for the London transfer and we are very excited to have him and his ideas.”

The spokesperson also confirmed that the musical’s salsa element is being de-emphasised. The strapline for the show, billed as a comedy murder mystery, has officially been changed from “the salsa musical” to “the musical to die for”.

In Murderous Instincts, McAuliffe plays a rum tycoon’s glamorous widow whose grown children and their spouses return to visit the family estate and fight over inherited fortunes in the wake of their father's death. It features a score by Alberto Carrión, with book and lyrics by Cinda Fox.

McAuliffe is joined in the cast by Kevin Colson (Rat Pack Confidential, Chess, Aspects of Love) as Adolfo, Ben Goddard (Juan), John Capes (Reed), Simon Clark (Tweedman), Jonathan D Ellis (Miguel), Christopher Frampton (Christopher), Sarah Ingram (Felicia), Arvid Larsen (Colin) and Natalie O’Donnell (Lauren). Prior to its London transfer, Murderous Instincts played at Norwich’s Theatre Royal, where it ran from 27 August to 4 September 2004.

- by Terri Paddock