It’s all change in the West End over the next few weeks as a number of high-profile West End shows bring down their curtains for the final time, including Tracie Bennett in End of the RainbowThe Umbrellas of CherbourgIn A Forest, Dark And DeepFlare Path and Dirty Dancing.

Tracie Bennett in End of the Rainbow

Tracie Bennett in End of the Rainbow

Tracie Bennett may have missed out on an Olivier award this year for her stellar performance as Judy Garland in Peter Quilter’s End of the Rainbow at the Trafalgar Studios, but audiences and critics have hailed the show a massive hit. With a UK tour planned and rumours that the show may now go on to Broadway, Bennett won’t be putting down the whiskey bottle just yet. But her bravura performance in London will come to an end on 21 May.

Also on the 21 May, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg will depart the Gielgud Theatre starring Joanna Riding and Meow Meow. There was much anticipation for Kneehigh’s return to the West End following its smash-hit production of Brief Encounter, but the show didn’t click with critics and swiftly announced its closing notices. However, Joanna Riding will be spared having to pack up her knick-knacks from her dressing room as she is remaining at the Gielgud to star in Lend Me A Tenor, from 2 June.

Trevor Nunn’s bullet-proof production of Terence Rattigan’s Flare Path closes on 11 June at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. The play, which stars Sienna Miller, Sheridan Smith and James Purefoy, will make way for another Nunn production, this time his Chichester Festival Theatre revival of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead from 16 June featuring Tim Curry, Samuel Barnett and Jamie Parker.

Sienna Miller and James Purefoy in Flare Path

Sienna Miller and James Purefoy in Flare Path

The West End has been doubly terrified over the past year with both The Woman in Black and Ghost Stories scaring audiences senseless. The Woman in Black is still going strong, and is promised a boost from a forthcoming movie adaptation of the classic ghost story starring Daniel Radcliffe. But the Lyric Hammersmith transfer of Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson’s spine-tingling Ghost Stories is ending its run, finishing up at the Duke of York’s Theatre on 19 June.

Director-of-the-moment Thea Sharrock’s current West End productions, running at the Apollo Theatre and Old Vic, both come to an end in June. Her revival of Rattigan’s Cause Celebre starring Anne-Marie Duff ends at the Old Vic on 11 June, swiftly followed on 18 June by her production of Noel Coward’s comedy Blithe Spirit at the Apollo Theatre starring Alison Steadman and Ruthie Henshall.

The show that has done more than any other to shift the audience profile of the West End is leaving the Aldwych Theatre on 9 July after an impressive run of just under 4 years. Dirty Dancing, based on the hit 80’s movie, is off on a UK tour but the original London production, which has inspired a myriad of also-rans and shown them how its done, is still the one to see.

Also closing in the next few weeks are two high-profile plays: Mike Leigh’s Ecstasy at the Duchess Theatre, closing on 28 May, and Neil LaBute’s play In A Forest, Dark And Deep, which ends its run at the Vaudeville Theatre on 4 June, starring Matthew Fox and Olivia Williams as dysfunctional siblings in this dark comedy come psychological thriller.

AND OPENING SOON…

Shows closing in the West End means a raft of new productions opening in London this summer.

Douglas Henshall, Kristin Scott Thomas and Ben Miles in Betrayal

Douglas Henshall, Kristin Scott Thomas and Ben Miles in Betrayal

Plays and musicals opening shortly in London include soon-to-be artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse Josie Rourke’s new production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing at the Wyndham’s Theatre, starring David Tennant and Catherine Tate as the sparring Beatrice and Benedick (from 16 May); a new production of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, which kicks off the 2011 season at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park (from 19 May); Eve Best in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare’s Globe (from 21 May); Kristin Scott Thomas in Harold Pinter’s Betrayal at the Comedy Theatre (from 27 May); Dominic West in Simon Gray’s Butley at the Duchess Theatre (from 1 June); Broadway musical Lend Me A Tenor at the Gielgud Theatre starring Joanna Riding (from 2 June);  The Flying Karamazov Brothers come crashing into the Vaudeville Theatre with much kilt wearing, flame throwing and general madcap hysteria (from 9 June); Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead starring featuring Tim Curry, Samuel Barnett and Jamie Parker at the Theatre Royal Haymarket (from 16 June); Kevin Spacey as Richard III in Sam Mendes’s new production of Shakespeare’s play at the Old Vic (from 18 June); a big-budget new movie-to-stage musical comes to town as Ghost The Musical opens at the Piccadilly Theatre starring Caissie Levy, Richard Fleeshman and Sharon D Clarke, with music by Dave Stewart (from 22 June); and early July sees the return of classic TV comedy Yes, Prime Minister, at the Apollo Theatre (from 6 July).

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