It’s a busy Monday for premature play closures. Following this morning’s announcement that Bent, starring Alan Cumming, will finish five weeks early, on 9 December (See Today’s Other News), comes word that Adrian Noble’s revival of Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke, starring Rosamund Pike, will close in less than a fortnight.
After initial dates in Nottingham, Summer and Smoke transferred last month to the West End’s Apollo Theatre. It opened to rave reviews, particularly for Pike’s performance, on 18 October 2006 (previews from 11 October) for what was meant to be a 16-week season until 7 February 2007. It will now close on Saturday 25 November 2006 after just six weeks.
The production opened the same week as Monty Python’s Spamalot in an autumn season dominated by an unprecedented number of big-budget musicals. Producer Kim Poster commented today: “Despite very positive reviews, ticket sales have not been sufficient, and therefore I have made the very difficult decision to close the show. I would like to thank the very talented creative team, cast and crew for their dedication to this production.”
Speaking to Whatsonstage.com today, Bent’s producer Sonia Friedman reiterated the point that “we have to prove ourselves big time before people will take a risk on us”. She noted that, currently, “plays that don’t have mega-stars attached to them or that haven’t come in on a wave of reviews like Frost/Nixon or The History Boys are going to struggle in an environment where there’s a huge influx of new and imported musicals with American-style marketing thrown at them. We’ve got huge competition just to be noticed. Alongside that, I think where we are as a culture at the moment is that the West End is perceived to be for big entertainment and ‘event’ plays. The more hard-hitting serious drama, call it bleak even, is better suited to Off-West End or subsidised scenarios.”
Though disappointed at Bent’s early closure, however, Friedman - one of the West End’s most prolific play producers, whose other current productions, classic Michael Frayn comedy Donkeys’ Years and the premiere of Tom Stoppard’s Rock ‘n’ Roll (mounted first at the Royal Court), have both extended – says she is not feeling “doom-stricken”. “It will change,” she says, “it’s cyclical.” Her next new production, the European premiere of John Kolvenbach’s Love Song, with a cast including Neve Campbell and Cillian Murphy, opens at the New Ambassadors next month (See News, 13 Oct 2006).
In Summer and Smoke, set in 1916 Mississippi, Alma Winemiller, the grown daughter of a minister, finds her youthful passions rekindled when the neighbour’s hard-living prodigal son John Buchanan returns home and soon resumes his sinful ways.
Summer and Smoke was first mounted on Broadway in 1947, a year after A Streetcar Named Desire, and made into a 1961 film starring Geraldine Page, who created the role of Miss Alma on stage. It hasn’t been seen in London since the original 1951 production, starring Margaret Johnston, which transferred to the West End from the Lyric Hammersmith. Williams penned a major rewrite, titled Eccentricities of a Nightingale, which was staged in 1964.
On screen, Rosamund Pike’s credits include Pride and Prejudice, The Libertine, Love in a Cold Climate and Die Another Day. On stage, she played the title role in Terry Johnson’s 2003 play Hitchcock Blonde, which transferred to the West End after its premiere at the Royal Court, and was seen earlier this summer starring opposite Henry Goodman in the London premiere of Brian Friel’s Performances at Wilton’s Music Hall (See News, 9 Jun 2006).
In Summer and Smoke, Pike stars opposite American screen star and model Chris Carmack as John Buchanan (from TV’s The OC). Also in the cast are Sebastian Abineri, Michael Brown, David Killick, Tom Lawrence, Kate O’Toole, Chris Ravenscroft, Hanne Steen and Hannah Stokely. Noble’s production is designed by Peter McKintosh, with costumes by Deirdre Clancy, lighting by Peter Mumford and sound by John Leonard.
- by Terri Paddock