Winter in the West End is always a vibrant time, with countless new shows opening throughout London. This year is no exception with a bewildering array of new and classic plays, hefty revivals, Broadway musicals and a high star count.
Stars are out in force as producers pull out all of the stops to ensure that theatregoers are getting their money’s worth. Keira Knightley continues her successful run in Molière’s classic play The Misanthrope, Rupert Friend plays gay in Broadway satire The Little Dog Laughed, Kim Cattrall of Sex and the City fame gives us her Amanda in Richard Eyre’s new production of Noel Coward’s Private Lives, Jonathan Pyrce brings his acclaimed performance in Pinter’s The Caretaker to the West End, and David Suchet and Zoe Wanamaker promise to give award-winning performances in Arthur Miller’s powerful play All My Sons. Plus Waiting for Godot returns to the Haymarket Theatre Royal with Ian McKellen reprising his role as Estragon.
Brits are doing rather well on Broadway at the moment, but the traffic is not all one way as the Broadway productions of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof and Legally Blonde have opened in London to great success. Cat On A Hot Tin Roof sees James Earl Jones revive his original role as Big Daddy, joined by our very own Adrian Lester, and directed by Debbie Allen. A complete contrast is the pink and fluffy musical Legally Blonde, a success in New York, and now given a lavish new production at the Savoy Theatre starring Sheridan Smith and Duncan James. Also on its way from a sell-out, Tony-award winning success on Broadway is Hair, for which Cameron Mackintosh is bringing over the entire Broadway company.
Other musical openings range from the small-scale to the gigantic – with everything in between. At one end the intimate Arts Theatre hosts comedy musical Nunsense A-Men from 25 January, clearly cashing in on the current trend for nuns (see Sister Act) but spicing it up with men playing the sisters! And at the other, Andrew Lloyd Webber aims for world domination with the sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies, this time set on Coney Island in New York. Also David Essex brings his fairground-set musical All The Fun Of The Fair to the Garrick Theatre featuring all of his hit songs.
In terms of new plays, the Royal Court is dominating the drama landscape at the moment, transferring two wild successes into town: Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem starring Mark Rylance, and Lucy Prebble’s Enron, directed by man of the moment Rupert Goold.
Revivals are also key to this winter’s schedule, with the RSC bringing in its production of Twelfth Night from Stratford starring Richard Wilson as Malvolio, the Old Vic resurrecting John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation starring Anthony Head and Lesley Manville, andIbsen’s Ghosts coming to the Duchess Theatre starring Lesley Sharp and Iain Glen.
At the National they follow their War Horse and His Dark Materials successes with Mark Ravenhill’s new adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s fantasy novel Nation.