Andrew Lloyd Webber has today announced plans for The Other Palace, the newest addition to The Really Useful Theatres Group. The Other Palace is situated less than 100 yards from Buckingham Palace and close to the Victoria Palace, hence its name.
Formerly the St James Theatre, The Other Palace will officially open its doors in February 2017 and will be a home and breeding ground for musicals at various stages of development. The Other Palace will focus on four key areas: programming, creative use of spaces, musical theatre development and audience engagement.
Lloyd Webber said: “I very much hope that writers and producers will use The Other Palace as a space in the heart of London where they can try out and refine new material without the distraction of complicated sets and automation. I had a great experience trying out School of Rock at the Gramercy Theatre in New York in this way. It was a joy to work on the material without computers getting in the way. I hope my experience will be repeated by others in these exciting spaces.
“We hope to offer audiences the opportunity to observe early developmental work through to finished productions and look forward to welcoming both artists and audiences to our new home in SW1. I am also incredibly excited that Paul Taylor Mills, one of the most dynamic young producers working in musicals, is to become artistic director.”
Paul Taylor Mills commented: “I am absolutely honoured to have been appointed artistic director of the newly named The Other Palace. It’s a huge responsibility and one which I intend to embrace with fearlessness and openness. We are going to be flinging open the theatre’s doors and we want to hear from musical theatre makers from all backgrounds, whether they are established or new voices.
“It’s going to be a thrilling journey and one where we plan to take risks and make bold choices. I’m thrilled to be opening The Other Palace with Grammy and seven-time Tony Award-nominated The Wild Party, directed by the unstoppable Drew McOnie in our first collaboration since In The Heights, and I couldn’t be more excited to have the honour of cutting the welcome ribbon to Andrew’s new theatre.”
The main theatre will be the heart of The Other Palace, where the programme will consist of full productions, work in progress productions and festivals of new work. By day the studio will be available for composers, librettists, lyricists, directors and choreographers to discover and create new material.
By night the space will build on the current St. James Studio model to offer a diverse programme including cabaret, music, musical theatre and crossover acts. A series of unique platforming opportunities for musical theatre in development will also be introduced in the studio; further details will be announced in due course. The theatre will feature an open mic bar in the hope that it becomes a genuine hub for anyone interested in the musical.
The Wild Party has music and lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa and book by George C. Wolfe and Michael John LaChiusa. It will be directed and choreographed by Drew McOnie, with musical direction by Theo Jamieson, set and costume design by Soutra Gilmour and lighting design by Richard Howell.
The cast will include Tony Award winner Frances Ruffelle (Eponine in Les Misérables, Starlight Express, Roxie Hart in Chicago, Piaf) as Queenie.
Michael John LaChiusa’s The Wild Party will be followed by the UK premiere of Whisper House in April 2017, a dark musical ghost story from Duncan Sheik, the Tony Award-winning composer of Spring Awakening and American Psycho. The world premiere production of Olivier Award nominee Sally Cookson’s adaptation of the Fellini classic La Strada will then take place from May to July.
The first work-in-progress production will be Bateman and Conley’s cautionary fairy-tale The Little Beasts produced by Perfect Pitch, the not-for-profit theatre company dedicated to creating new British musicals.
With full cast and band but a less developed set, work-in-progress productions will offer the very first look at a new musical. Audiences will have the opportunity to contribute feedback, placing them at the heart of the development process.
Following The Little Beasts, National Youth Music Theatre will present two productions, a new musical about the wonder of childhood, Imaginary, and Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s ten-time Tony Award nominated musical, Sunday in the Park With George, during August 2017.
Completing the first season at The Other Palace is a three-week summer festival: the acclaimed From Page to Stage Festival of New Musicals, produced and curated by Katy Lipson of Aria Entertainment. Over 20 professionally produced new musicals will be performed at all stages of development, in every corner of The Other Palace: from talks and extracts of shows in the bar to semi-staged readings in the studio and one fully produced musical in the theatre.
The theatre will continue as the St. James Theatre until 28 January 2017, when RENT the musical completes its run.
Tickets for The Wild Party, Whisper House and La Strada go on sale on Friday 7 October. Other shows in the season will go on sale in 2017.
Lloyd Webber has also united with Joe and Margaux Sharratt, the husband and wife team who shot to fame in the restaurant world in 2015 with their Brixton hotspot, Naughty Piglets, which was awarded four star reviews from the Evening Standard and Time Out. The Other Palace will house The Other Naughty Piglet, a fun modern restaurant serving fresh, seasonal and creative small plates, combined with an extensive choice of natural wines.