In the newest twist in the tale of one of the most troubled productions in recent West End history (See News, 15 Sep 2004), the American director brought in as a last-minute replacement for the London premiere of Murderous Instincts has had to leave the country due to work permit woes.

Michael Rooney, the American choreographer and son of Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney, was brought in to take over from Bob Carlton, who producer Manny Fox (pictured) sacked last week after the £2 million salsa-inspired show’s pre-London engagement at Norwich’s Theatre Royal. Carlton had already replaced director Gregory Thompson who took part in the planning stages for the production.

Show spokesperson Kevin Wilson confirmed that, soon after arriving, Rooney had to leave the UK because he did not have the proper paperwork for the job. Since last Friday (10 September), he has been in Paris where he awaits a decision from the Home Office as to whether or not he will be allowed to return. Re-rehearsals continue without the director in London, where more than two weeks’ of preview performances have now been cancelled. The show is still due to open to the press on 7 October 2004, with previews from 27 September.

Wilson explained to "When Mr Rooney was asked to take over the production, he jumped on the first available plane from the US and entered the country on a tourist visa. He saw the production and came up with some fantastic ideas. He met with the cast and told them where he saw the show going, including stunning new choreography. He then left for Paris, as you can only apply for a UK work visa from outside of the country. His changes are now being implemented and he is in constant touch with the rest of the creative team.”

Wilson continued: "There have been many comings and goings on this show and lots of dirty linen aired in public in a way not seen as a rule in the West End. Producer Manny Fox is undoubtedly a maverick one-off, whose style of producing has obviously rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way, but he cares passionately about this show, which is based on his wife Cinda's own family, the Firestone tyre dynasty. He is thrilled with Michael's plans for the show and will do whatever is necessary to ensure that when the curtain rises at 7.00pm on press night, 7 October, Murderous Instincts will be an unforgettable experience."

Last week, the show’s star Nichola McAuliffe published a backstage exposé, entitled “The Show Must Go Wrong”, in the Daily Mail (See News, 10 Sep 2004), in which in addition to affairs, lechery, ever-changing rewrites, she revealed the producer’s “habit of sacking everyone”.

This was followed earlier this week by further revelations concerning marital strain between the Foxes and the on-again, off-again sacking of director Carlton, who was given a public dressing down during a performance in Norwich. Carlton is reportedly now considering legal action with the assistance of Equity. Other members of the company to have left the production in the lead-up to its London opening include actor Nick Lashbrook and associate musical director Carol Sloman.

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.

McAuliffe is joined in the cast by Kevin Colson 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 from 27 August to 4 September 2004.

- by Terri Paddock