One of the most troubled productions in recent West End history has now become one of the fastest-closing. Less than a week after it opened to largely damning reviews last Thursday night (7 October 2004), the £2 million salsa-inspired musical Murderous Instincts has announced its premature closure at the Savoy Theatre, where its final performance will now be this Saturday, 16 October.

The farcical lead-up to the show’s West End run has already generated acres of media coverage, starting with leading lady Nichola McAuliffe’s own Daily Mail account of backstage affairs, lechery, ever-changing rewrites and the American producer Manny Fox’s “habit of sacking everyone” (See News, 10 Sep 2004).

A constantly changing roll call of directors during the show’s development first saw Gregory Thompson replaced by Bob Carlton (Return to the Forbidden Planet), who was fired after Fox publicly berated him at a performance during the musical’s pre-London engagement at the Theatre Royal Norwich.

Cancelling two weeks of London previews to accommodate last-minute re-rehearsals, Carlton was followed by Michael Rooney, the American choreographer and son of Mickey Rooney, who resorted to phoning in his direction from France when he was forced to leave the country because he didn’t have the proper work visa (See The Goss, 24 Sep 2004). When the Home Office denied Rooney’s appeal, the search for a director was finally abandoned in favour of two ‘artistic advisors’, Murray Melvin and Syd Ralph.

Murderous Instincts is written by producer Manny Fox’s wife Cinda, who based it on her own family, heirs to the Firestone tyre fortune. The trials of the production reportedly led to marital discord between the Foxes, who have now left the country for their home in Puerto Rico, where the musical is set.

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.

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). The musical features a score by Alberto Carrión and choreography by salsa champion Jhesus Aponte, who also leads the ensemble.

Prior to London, Murderous Instincts played at Norwich’s Theatre Royal from 27 August to 4 September 2004. It opened at the Savoy on 7 October 2004, with previews from 27 September (originally scheduled from 10 September).

- by Terri Paddock