It was at the Donmar that the current renaissance of Nichols' work began. Last year's production of Nichols' Passion Play, also directed by Grandage and starring Cherie Lunghi, was a hit that transferred to the West End's Comedy Theatre and went on to win Grandage the Evening Standard and Critics Circle Awards for Best Director.
A major revival of Nichols' A Day in the Death of Joe Egg - now transferred from the New Ambassadors to the Comedy Theatre, starring Eddie Izzard, Victoria Hamilton and Prunella Scales - and a UK tour for his new play So Long Life followed. Nichols "all-singing, all-dancing" comedy, Privates on Parade, premiered in 1978 and was subsequently made into a film.
A semi-autobiographical account of British Army Life in the Far East, Privates on Parade follows the antics of the Song and Dance Unit South East Asia, deep in the Malayan jungle in 1948. When Private Steven Flowers arrives fresh off the boat from Blighty, he must earn his rite of passage evoking the likes of Fred Astaire and Carmen Miranda, with the help of the outrageous Captain Terri Dennis.
The cast is led by Roger Allam (pictured), who makes his Donmar debut, following his award-winning performances at the National in Summerfolk, Money and Troilus and Cressida. He's joined by Malcolm Sinclair, whose credits include Luther, Alan Ayckbourn's House and Garden (all at the National) and Grandage's Twelfth Night at the Sheffield Crucible.
Also in the cast are Nigel Harman, David Hounslow, Wai-Keat Lau, James McAvoy (as Flowers), Hugh Sachs, Justin Salinger, Daniel Tuite, Indira Varma and Carl Wu. Privates on Parade is designed by Christopher Oram, with musical direction by Chris Walker and choreography by Scarlett Mackin.
Michael Grandage's other recent credits include the multi award-winning premiere of Merrily We Roll Along and Good, both at the Donmar, and for Sheffield Crucible, Don Juan (with Tom Hollander) and Edward II (with Joseph Fiennes). Grandage is hotly tipped as a potential Donmar success to Sam Mendes, who leaves as the theatre's artistic director at the end of next year.
Privates on Parade continues until 2 March 2002.
- by Terri Paddock