This week’s West End openings include romantic new show Love Story, Christmas treats with Potted Panto, The Night Before Christmas and The Nutcracker, plus Derek Jacobi in King Lear.
Love Story gets its official opening night at the Duchess starring Emma Williams and Michael Xavier on 6 December. Erich Segal’s best-selling novel Love Story, which was famously turned into a film starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal, has been given the musicals treatment by Howard Goodall and Stephen Clark.
The show had its premiere earlier this year at the Chichester Festival Theatre and was well received by critics, with The Stage calling it a “gorgeous new chamber musical”. The producers of the show include West End star Michael Ball, Adam Spiegel and Stephen Waley-Cohen and it is directed by Rachel Kavanaugh, with design by Peter McKintosh and musical direction by Stephen Ridley. Read our interview with Michael Ball. Book tickets to Love Story at the Duchess Theatre.
King Lear at the Donmar
Derek Jacobi gives his King Lear at the Donmar Warehouse, opening on 7 December in a new production by Michael Grandage. Also starring Gina McKee. Book tickets.
The Night Before Christmas
Magical family show The Night Before Christmas opens at the Ambassadors Theatre on 8 December. Meet Father Christmas and see a wonderful story come to life in this brand new show, full of songs, poems and stories. Book tickets.
Those CBBC rascals Dan and Jeff bring Pantomime mayhem to the Vaudeville with Edinburgh family hit Potted Panto on 10 December. CBBC’s Dan and Jeff, the masterminds behind Potted Potter and Potted Pirates, turn their attentions to that much loved British institution, the pantomime. Potted Panto crams seven much-loved pantomimes into one show. Dan and Jeff career through Cinderella in 3D, dazzle with a Dick Whittington featuring Jeff as the Mayor of London and struggle to work out how two people can play seven dwarves and which of them will make the prettiest princess. From conventions and costume to heroes and villains, the dastardly double act explores all the elements of the art form we both love and loathe as a nation. Book tickets to Potted Panto at the Vaudeville Theatre.
English National Ballet’s The Nutcracker
On the same night English National Ballet open their seasonal production of The Nutcracker at the London Coliseum in a sumptuous new production by Artistic Director Wayne Eagling to celebrate the Company’s 60th birthday. Book tickets.
And next week… A Flear in her Ear opens on 14 December at the Old Vic starring Tom Hollander, Lisa Dillon and Jonathan Cake.
Booking has opened for new Cameron Mackintosh musical Betty Blue Eyes, coming into the West End this Spring.
The new show, which is based on Alan Bennett and Malcolm Mowbray’s acclaimed screenplay A Private Function, has been penned by Mackintosh protégées George Stiles (music) and Anthony Drewe (lyrics), with a book by Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman.
Richard Eyre will direct the show, which previews from 19 March 2011 at the Novello Theatre.
The musical is a move back to new work for the Les Miserables producer, whose recent projects have been revivals of hit shows such as Mary Poppins and Oliver!, or transfers of Broadway shows Avenue Q and Hair. “Betty Blue Eyes is my first original musical in over ten years”, said Mackintosh. “As a long-time admirer of Alan Bennett’s wickedly funny screenplay for the film A Private Function, I immediately fell in love with this infectious and delicious musical treatment which has expanded on the original”.
The show will see Sarah Lancashire (Coronation Street, Seeing Red) as Joyce Chilvers, played in the 1984 movie by Maggie Smith. Lancashire will be returning to the West End after her brief appearance in Guys & Dolls in 2005. Her hen-pecked husband in the show, Gilbert, will be played by Reece Shearsmith (The League of Gentlemen).
The story is set in a small Yorkshire village just after the Second World War. When the locals want to celebrate the forthcoming Royal wedding of Elizabeth and Philip, post-war rationing prompts them to illegally raise a pig for the event. But social climber Joyce (Lancashire) and her down-trodden husband Gilbert (Shearsmith) plot a scheme of their own that throws the village into chaos.
The show’s opening will coincide with the forthcoming April marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
Other casting includes Adrian Scarborough (After the Dance, Gavin & Stacey) as Wormold, David Bamber (My Night With Reg) as Swaby, Ann Emery (Billy Elliot) as Mother Dear, Jack Edwards as Allardyce and Mark Meadows as Lockwood.
The story is set in a small Yorkshire village just after the Second World War. When the locals want to celebrate the forthcoming Royal wedding, post-war rationing prompts them to illegally raise a pig for the event. But social climber Joyce (Lancashire) and her down-trodden husband Gilbert (Shearsmith) plot a scheme of their own that throws the village into chaos.
The show’s musical director is Richard Beadle, with musical staging by Stephen Mear, design by Tim Hatley, lighting by Neil Austin, sound by Mick Potter, musical supervision by Stephen Brooker and orchestrations by William David Brohn.
Ahead of Betty Blue Eyes, director Richard Eyre will direct Tom Hollander in a new production of Feydeau’s farce A Flea in her Ear at the Old Vic Theatre from 4 December.
Onassis is currently playing at the Novello Theatre starring Robert Lindsay, and is currently booking until 8 January 2011.
This week’s new West End shows include Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella, the RSC’s winter season at the Roundhouse and Tom Hollander in A Flea in her Ear at the Old Vic.
RSC at the Roundhouse
The RSC takes residence at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm for its Winter season, from 30 Noevmber. The ten-week repertoire of eight plays by Shakespeare – six full-scale productions and two specially adapted for children and families, will feature the RSC’s current 44-strong ensemble. The season opens on 30 November with Rupert Goold’s production of Romeo and Juliet and runs in repertoire to 5 February next year, with Michael Boyd’s production of Antony and Cleopatra; The Winter’s Tale directed by David Farr; Julius Caesar directed by Lucy Bailey; As You Like It directed by Michael Boyd; and David Farr’s King Lear. Book tickets to the RSC at the Roundhouse.
Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella
Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella makes a glamorous return to Sadler’s Wells on 30 November, featuring a brand new production of his dazzling ballet set in London during the Second World War and played against Prokofiev’s haunting score. First seen in the West End in 1997, but now completely revised, this new production is created to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Blitz. It features design by Lez Brotherston who won an Olivier Award for his original designs, and new lighting by Neil Austin. Cinderella will be performed in Surround Sound, designed by Paul Groothius. Featuring a specially commissioned new recording of the score, New Adventures will create a cinematic experience, taking the audience into the heart of Prokofiev’s magnificent music and the sound world of war-torn London. Book tickets to Cinderella.
King Lear at the Donmar
Derek Jacobi gives his King Lear at the Donmar Warehouse from 3 December, in a new production by Michael Grandage. Also starring Gina McKee. Book tickets.
A Flea in her Ear
Tom Hollander starts previews of A Flea in Her Ear at the Old Vic from 4 December. Written by Georges Feydeau in 1907, A Flea In Her Ear is a classic French farce set against a backdrop of jealousy, misunderstandings and confrontation. Richard Eyre directs an all-star cast including Tom Hollander (Rev), Lisa Dillon (Design for Living) and Jonathan Cake (Mosely). This adaptation of A Flea in her Ear by John Mortimer is returning home to the Old Vic, where it was originally performed by the National Theatre in 1966 starring Albert Finney. It was later revived in 1989 starring Jim Broadbent. Other cast include Di Botcher, Oliver Cotton, Freddie Fox, Fiona Glascott, Lloyd Hutchinson, Tim McMullan, John Marquez, William Maxwell, Rebecca Night, Maggie Service and Walter van Dyk.
And next week… Love Story gets its official opening night at the Duchess starring Emma Williams and Michael Xavier on 6 December; those CBBC rascals Dan and Jeff bring Pantomime mayhem to the Vaudeville with Edinburgh family hit Potted Panto on 10 December; and on the same night English National Ballet open their seasonal production of The Nutcracker at the London Coliseum in a sumptuous new production by Artistic Director Wayne Eagling to celebrate the Company’s 60th birthday.
Following sell-out US concerts, the smash-hit TV series Glee will come to the UK this Summer featuring the cast of Glee performing in Europe for the first time.
Beginning Wednesday 22 June 2011 at Manchester MEN Arena and then 25 and 26 June 2011 at the O2 Arena in London, GLEE LIVE will feature the stars of the TV series performing in an all-new singing and dancing celebration of the Emmy and Golden Globe Award winning show.
The talented young cast will include Lea Michele (Rachel), Cory Monteith (Finn), Amber Riley (Mercedes), Chris Colfer (Kurt), Kevin McHale (Artie), Jenna Ushkowitz (Tina), Mark Salling (Puck), Dianna Agron (Quinn), Naya Rivera (Santana), Heather Morris (Brittany), Harry Shum, Jr. (Mike), Chord Overstreet (Sam) and Darren Criss (Blaine).
The exclusive European tour of Glee! In Concert! sees the show’s creator Ryan Murphy stage live performances of some of the show’s most memorable musical numbers from seasons one and two, including Empire State of Mind, Toxic, My Life Would Suck Without You, It’s My Life, and of course, the show’s anthem, Don’t Stop Believin’.
The show enjoyed rave reviews on its original US tour, with the LA Times describing it as “triumphant,” and USA Today calling it “equal parts musical theater, giddy pop culture phenomenon and Journey-loving rock show.”
Glee Live is presented by Twentieth Century Fox Television and Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy.
A new play about the last months of screen and music legend Judy Garland has received rave reviews in the West End
Award-winning actress Tracie Bennett stars as Judy Garland in End of the Rainbow, which has transferred to London following a successful run at the Royal & Derngate in Northampton earlier this year.
The show opened at the Trafalgar Studios on Monday, directed by Terry Johnson, who directed Bennett in La Cage Aux Folles at the Playhouse Theatre and recently directed a new production of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice at the Vaudeville.
Peter Quilter’s touching play is set in London in 1968 and features some of Garland’s most memorable songs including The Man That Got Away, Come Rain or Come Shine, The Trolley Song and Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Tracie Bennett stars alongside Hilton McRae as Anthony, Garland’s devoted pianist and musical director and Stephen Hagan as soon-to-be husband number five Mickey Deanes.
Tracie Bennett gives a career-defining performance in the show, and is tipped to win a number of high profile awards with her sensitive and powerful portrayal of Garland, in a role that showcases her acting and singing ability with an uncanny physical and vocal resemblance to the star.
Charles Spencer in the Telegraph and Libby Purves in the Times awarded the show five stars, with Spencer saying that, “there are moments in the theatre when you lean forward in your seat with shivers racing down the spine, and realise there is nowhere on God’s earth you’d rather be. End of the Rainbow is one such occasion”. Henry Hitchings gave it four stars in the Evening Standard, praising Bennett’s performance as, “courageous — raw, emotional and astonishingly energetic. It’s much more than a skilful impersonation; it feels as if she has assimilated the essence of Garland’s personality”. Paul Vale in the stage hailed Terry Johnson’s direction as “practically flawless”.
This week’s West End openings include End of the Rainbow, FELA! and The Master Builder.
End of the Rainbow
Today, Monday 15 November, sees the start of previews for End of the Rainbow at the Trafalgar Studios. Tracie Bennett gives an outstanding performance as Judy Garland in Peter Quilter’s touching play about the drama of Garland’s final performances in London and her controversial life off stage.
Set in London in 1968, the play features some of Garland’s most memorable songs including The Man That Got Away, Come Rain or Come Shine, The Trolley Song and Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Olivier award-winner Tracie Bennett gives a career-defining performance as Garland, alongside Hilton McRae as Anthony, Garland’s devoted pianist and musical director and Stephen Hagan as soon-to-be husband number five, Mickey Deanes.
End of the Rainbow is directed by Terry Johnson, who directed Bennett in La Cage Aux Folles at the Playhouse Theatre and recently directed a new production of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice at the Vaudeville. Read an interview with Tracie Bennett.
Opening this week, on Tuesday 16 November, is the Broadway production of FELA!, which comes to the National Theatre for a limited run. In New York Fela! started off-Broadway before raves reviews propelled it on to the Great White Way where it continues to pack in audiences.
A unique hybrid of dance, theatre and music, the show explores the extravagant, decadent and rebellious world of Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. Co-written, directed and choreographed by Bill T Jones (Spring Awakening), Fela! exposes Kuti’s controversial life as an artist, commune founder, polygamist and political activist, set against the backdrop of his pioneering music, which fuses jazz, funk and African rhythm and harmonies.
The stars of the Broadway production, Sahr Ngaujah and Kevin Mambo, have come to London for the show, and will alternate in the roles of Fela, alongside a brand new British cast including UK stage star Paulette Ivory (The Lion King, Aida) who plays American political activist Sandra Izsadore.
LINK: National Theatre
The Master Builder
On Wednesday, Gemma Arterton and Stephen Dillane open in the Almeida’s new production of Ibsen classic The Master Builder. The play is directed by Travis Preston, an internationally celebrated theatre and opera director who is also Artistic Director of the Center for New Performance at the California Institute of the Arts.
LINK: Almeida Theatre
And coming soon
Opening next week… End of the Rainbow gets its official first night on 22 November. Also on Monday Maureen Nolan takes over from Lyn Paul as Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers, and happy 80th birthday Sir Peter Hall. Tuesday 23rd see Penelope Keith and Peter Bowles open in The Rivals at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, and on Wednesday kid’s show The Gruffalo returns to the West End for Christmas. Previewing from 27 November is Chichester’s movie-to-musical Love Story at the Duchess Theatre, produced by Michael Ball.
In two weeks… Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella makes a glamorous return to Sadler’s Wells on 30 November. Also on the 30th, the RSC takes residence at the Roundhouse for the Winter season with Romeo & Juliet, Anthony & Cleopatra, The Winter’s Tale, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, King Lear, Hamlet and The Comedy of Errors; plus Derek Jacobi gives his King Lear at the Donmar (3 December) and Tom Hollander starts previews of A Flea in Her Ear at the Old Vic (4 December).
In three weeks… Love Story gets its official opening night at the Duchess starring Emma Williams and Michael Xavier on 6 December; those CBBC rascals Dan and Jeff bring Pantomime mayhem to the Vaudeville with Edinburgh family hit Potted Panto on 10 December; and on the same night English National Ballet open their seasonal production of The Nutcracker at the London Coliseum in a sumptuous new production by Artistic Director Wayne Eagling to celebrate the Company’s 60th birthday.
The Autumn season in the West End is in full swing with some major new shows opening this week including An Ideal Husband and The Rivals.
This week sees Samantha Bond return to the London stage in Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband, which opens on 10 November at the Vaudeville Theatre.
This glittering new production of Oscar Wilde’s witty and stylish critique of social morality sees Bond (Outnumbered) play Mrs Cheveley, pitted against her real-life husband Alexander Hanson (A Little Night Music, The Sound Of Music) as Sir Robert. The play also stars Elliott Cowan and Rachael Stirling.
Wilde’s 1895 play was last produced in London by Peter Hall in 1996, and this time the directing honours go to Lindsay Posner.
Talking of Peter Hall, his new Theatre Royal Bath production of Sheridan’s The Rivals comes to town on the same day as An Ideal Husband, starting previews on 10 November for a 23 November opening at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.
November proves to be a special month for Sir Peter, as he celebrates his 80th birthday on 22 November. His new production of this classic comedy stars To The Manor Born’s Penelope Keith and Peter Bowles, reunited on stage for the first time.
Also opening this week is comic and musician Bill Bailey, who brings his brand new live show, Dandelion Mind, to the West End from 9 November to 7 December. Also on 9 November, the Rambert Dance Company open with a triple bill at Sadler’s Wells.
COMING UP IN NOVEMBER
A number of high-profile plays and musicals are launching in London this month, to run over the festive season.
Coming up, big Broadway musical Fela! opens at the National Theatre on 16 November, the Almeida’s new production of Ibsen’s classic The Master Builder opens on 18 November starring Gemma Arterton and Stephen Dillane, kids show The Gruffalo returns to the West End on 24 November and Chichester’s movie-to-musical Love Story starts previews at the Duchess Theatre, produced by Michael Ball, from 27 November. Finally on 30 November Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella makes a glamorous return to Sadler’s Wells.
Shakespeare’s Globe announces new 2011 theatre season
There is a religious theme to the Shakespeare Globe’s forthcoming 2011 season, subtitled ‘The Word is God’.
The South Bank venue kicks off its new season with an Easter weekend reading of the Bible to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, which was completed in 1611. This is followed by a new production of All’s Well That Ends Well from 27 April, and one of Shakespeare’s brightest and wittiest of comedies, Much Ado About Nothing, from 21 May.
Next up, starting 18 June, is the Globe’s first production of Christopher Marlowe’s classic tragedy Doctor Faustus, followed by the return Howard Brenton’s acclaimed drama about the life of Anne Boleyn, from 8 July.
In August The Mystery Plays, which retell the story of the bible using street theatre and processional performance, will be rebooted on the famous Globe stage in a fresh retelling called The Globe Mysteries.
Finally from 27 August, a contemporary satire set in suburban England comes to the theatre in The God of Soho by playwright Chris Hannan (The Evil Doers, Shining Souls).
The Globe will also be out on tour across the UK in 2011, with new small-scale productions of As You Like It and Hamlet. Also the theatre’s revival of The Merry Wives of Windsor is about to head out on tour following successful runs in LA and New York, kicking off on 16 November in Milton Keynes.
This year’s 2010 season proved a record for the venue, which does not receive any government subsidy, playing to 91% capacity and with audiences up 4% from 2009.
When We Are Married and The Go! Go! Go! Show start previews this week in the West End. Plus special anniversaries for The Lion King and Dirty Dancing.
WHEN WE ARE MARRIED
Classic playwright J B Priestley is back in the West End and on fine comic form in When We Are Married, starting previews on Tuesday 19 October at the Garrick Theatre.
An all-star cast feature in his beautifully witty play about three highly respectable couples who were all married in the same Yorkshire church on the same day – and are celebrating 25 years of wedded bliss. Then out of the blue, disaster strikes: the vicar was never licensed – they’ve been living in sin all these years!
Directed by Christopher Luscombe, the play stars a who’s who of British comic acting talent including Lynda Baron, Roy Hudd, Sam Kelly, Maureen Lipman, Susie Blake, Michele Dotrice, David Horovitch, Rosemary Ashe and Simon Rouse. Not to be missed.
THE GO! GO! GO! SHOW
This Saturday, 23 October, sees the return of The Go! Go! Go! Show to the West End. This fun family show features a clever story woven around five young pop stars, and includes brand new pop songs specially written for the show. The production has impressive credentials, including direction by Carole Todd (Dreamboats & Petticoats), choreography by Paul Domaine (The Saturdays, Sugababes, Dannii Minogue), an original story by Dean Wilkinson (Cbeebies, CBBC, Ant & Dec) and music by Mike Stock (one third of the legendary Stock, Aitken & Waterman) and Steve Crosby (who masterminded Steps). With plenty of audience interaction for kids of all ages it promises to be a big winter hit.
The Lion King celebrates its 11th birthday tomorrow, 19 October, at the Lyceum Theatre in London. Disney’s award-winning show goes into its 12th year continuing to attract full houses. Its director Julie Taymor, who won a wealth of awards for the imaginative production, will open her new production of Spider-Man: Turn off the dark next month in New York.
Also celebrating a birthday this week is Dirty Dancing at the Aldwych Theatre, which turns 4 on Sunday 24 October. The show currently stars Dancing on Ice winner Ray Quinn as Billy Kostecki, Hannah Vassallo as Baby and Johnny Wright as Johnny Castle.
This week’s West End openings range from classic American drama to modern Greek tragedy, with Pittsburgh flashdancing and West End blues thrown in. Plus the 80th birthday of a Wicked West End theatre.
THE COUNTRY GIRL
Opening tonight, Monday 11 October, at the Apollo Theatre is Clifford Odets’s classic drama The Country Girl, about a once-great theatre star who is given the chance to make a major comeback.
Jenny Seagrove and Martin Shaw reunite on stage after their onscreen appearance in Judge John Deed to star in the show.
On Tuesday 12 October at the Novello Theatre Robert Lindsay opens in Onassis, playing controversial Greek tycoon Aristotle in Martin Sherman’s new play. Based on the last years of this life, this powerful drama reveals his passionate and interwoven relationships with Jackie Kennedy and Maria Callas, and his son Alexandros. Stand-out supporting performances come from Anna Francolini as Callas and Lydia Leonard as Jackie.
FLASHDANCE THE MUSICAL
Despite technical problems with the rain machine that postponed the start of previews, Flashdance the Musical is set for a trouble-free first night on Thursday 14 October at the Shaftesbury Theatre.
Based on the 80s movie about an 18 year old girl from Pittsburgh who is a welder by day and a ‘flashdancer” by night, the musical features the star of the UK tour, Victoria Hamilton Barritt, and former Busted boyband member Matt Willis. Grease producer David Ian is the man behind the show, with direction by Nikolai Foster and choreography by the ubiquitous Arlene Phillips. The show’s well-known score includes Maniac, Manhunt, Gloria and the Academy Award winning title song Flashdance – What a Feeling. Ten original songs have also been created for the musical.
THE BARBER OF SEVILLE
Thursday also sees the opening night for the new venture at the King’s Head pub theatre in Islington: London’s Little Opera House opens with a new version of The Barber of Seville, directed by Robin Norton-Hale. Artistic director Adam Spreadbury-Maher is promising an exciting season of opera on a small scale including Madame Butterfly as a Bangkok lady-boy.
THE MUSIC OF THE BLUES BROTHERS – A TRIBUTE
Finally, on Friday 15 October Hartshorn – Hook Productions presents ‘The Music of the Blues Brothers – a Tribute’, the most electric rock’n'roll party of the year. Following spectacular success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this summer with a month of sell-out shows and 5-star reviews, this raucous live tribute show is now rolling into London. This Tribute is directed by the award-winning Patrick Wilde and is backed by the tightest rhythm and blues band in the city. We tear through the best in American Blues, Soul and Rock’n'Roll classics including Gimme Some Lovin, Think, Minnie The Moocher, Sweet Home Chicago, and Jailhouse Rock. So dig out your sunglasses and get ready to shake your tail feather because this supercharged high-octane Tribute is about to take London by storm.
APOLLO VICTORIA THEATRE
Friday also sees the 80th birthday of the Apollo Victoria Theatre in London. Celebrations have included an all-star charity gala yesterday, Sunday 10 October, featuring the cast of the venue’s current show, Wicked, and past productions including Starlight Express. The Apollo Victoria forms part of a historic year for West End theatres, with a number of venues celebrating their 80th anniversaries this year.
Designed by E. Wamsley Lewis and W E Trent, the Apollo Victoria originally opened as a cinema on 15 October 1930 showing George Arlis movie “Old English”.