London theatre reviews from US newspaper The New York Times.
A round-up of reviews of London shows from the theatre and arts critics at The New York Times newspaper.
We have also included a number of Broadway reviews for shows of special interest to UK audiences.
Tammy Faye – A New Musical at the Almeida Theatre (2022)
"Praise the Lord for ‘Tammy Faye’"
"A new musical about the life of the televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker, composed by Elton John, makes spectacular entertainment from a righteous subject."
"... the show has a heart as big as the title character’s bouffant hairdo"
"Rupert Goold’s vigorous production is also an increasing London rarity: a musical with an original score at a time when most repackage existing hits... it’s a relief to report that “Tammy Faye” is, for the most part, spectacularly entertaining, even if it could do with some trims and the toning down of a few tasteless sections."
"ohn’s score throughout is a savvy amalgam of country twang and rousing pop-rock ensemble numbers. The musical, as expected, has campy fun with its subject, but doesn’t condescend, and Graham’s canny script always places the Bakkers in the historical context of a larger conservative movement whose presence is felt to this day."
"Through it all, Brayben displays such fervor and commitment in the title role that you fall under the sway not just of Tammy Faye, but of a performer giving her career-enhancing all to a part that Brayben was born — Tammy Faye would surely say destined — to play."
Funny Girl at the August Wilson Theatre, New York (2022)
"In Lea Michele, ‘Funny Girl’ Has Finally Found Its Fanny"
"The “Glee” star is stupendous in the role Barbra Streisand made famous, turning the 1964 musical into something better than we know it to be."
"Lea Michele, who took over the role on Sept. 6, turns out to be that stupendous Fanny. Yes, she even lights up like a light. Both vulnerable and invulnerable, kooky and ardent, she makes the show worth watching again."
"She can’t make it good, though. Michael Mayer’s production is still garish and pushy, pandering for audience overreaction... But at least “Funny Girl” now has a missile: a performer who from her first words (“Hello, Gorgeous”) shoots straight to her target and hits it."
All of Us at the National Theatre (2022)
"“All of Us,” the first play from the performer Francesca Martinez, opens our eyes to the hardships of disabled people in Britain."
"The play’s director, Ian Rickson, brings his characteristic compassion to a deeply intimate scene in which Poppy is put to bed."
"It might seem a contrivance too far when Aidan is revealed to be the son of the Conservative minister responsible for the disability services cuts from which Jess and Poppy are reeling. But that coincidence allows a play rooted in individual circumstances to broaden into a politically charged cry for help."
The Devil Wears Prada at the James M. Nederlander Theatre, Chicago (2022)
"An Adaptation That Needs Tailoring"
"The new Elton John-Shaina Taub musical, based on the popular film about a fashion-world ingénue and her demanding boss, isn’t yet ready-to-wear."
"In the film, Meryl Streep played Miranda with sleek silver hair and a voice like liquid nitrogen — an ice queen to sink the Titanic. But Leavel is an actress of humor and warmth with a gift, demonstrated in “The Drowsy Chaperone” and “The Prom,” for arch self-parody. Miranda should have her underlings shaking in their Louboutin boots. Here, everyone stands pretty tall."
"The musical’s first act closes with its title song, a suggestion that the fashion world is a kind of inferno. “Hell is a runway,” the chorus sings (with a sound mix so muddy that I had to look up the lyrics later), “where the devil wears Prada.” But nothing in the show confirms this. The worst anguish Andy suffers? Her boss calls too often. “The Devil Wears Prada” isn’t as sumptuous as it should be or as bitingly incisive. If it wants a life beyond Chicago, it could use some alterations."
Much Ado About Nothing at the National Theatre (2022)
"Simon Godwin’s production relocates the action to the Italian Riviera in the 1930s, which allows for an onstage band to ramp up the party mood as well as some audience-pleasing comic business involving a gelato trolley and a wayward hammock."
Patriots at the Almeida Theatre (2022)
"In one of the performances of the year, Will Keen, as the Russian leader, astonishes throughout, bringing his character to agitated, unpredictable life."
"There’s an aspect of bravery, you feel, in writing “Patriots” at all while Putin is on the march"
The Seagull at the Harold Pinter Theatre (2022)
"Performed barefoot and in modern dress, Jamie Lloyd’s enthralling production, at the Harold Pinter Theater through Sept. 10, furthers the stripped-back approach to the classics he brought to a recent “Cyrano de Bergerac” that was acclaimed in New York and London."
"Doing without props of any kind, the cast members, headed by the “Game of Thrones” alumna Emilia Clarke in a terrific West End debut, deliver the play seated on green plastic chairs and boxed in by chipboard; they speak with a quiet intensity, as though we were eavesdropping on the characters’ innermost thoughts. Some will be exasperated by the approach, but I was riveted from the first hushed utterance to the last."
Mad House at the The Ambassadors Theatre (2022)
"... what can I say beyond noting that I didn’t believe a single word of the fractiousness on view?"
"The synthetic feeling of Moritz von Stuelpnagel’s production is especially surprising following reports that Rebeck, the American author of such accomplished Broadway plays as “Seminar” and “Bernhardt/Hamlet,” wrote the play very much with its leading man, the TV star and stage actor David Harbour, in mind — specifically drawing upon mental health issues that Harbour has confronted in the past."
The Southbury Child at the Chichester Festival Theatre (2022)
"... a lively if uneven new play from Stephen Beresford"
"Nicholas Hytner’s characteristically adroit production is on firmest footing when the play is at its most serious, and when Jennings’s bespectacled David puts his flippancy to one side to make way for genuine anguish."
"Elsewhere, you slightly tire of the script’s more glib moments..."
The Glass Menagerie at the Duke of York's Theatre (2022)
"Amy Adams in a Too-Fragile ‘Glass Menagerie’"
"In a rare stage outing for the actor, in London, she plays the central character in Tennessee Williams’s play as more of a fusspot than a harridan"
"This production’s quieter, less urgent approach comes into its own in the second act, but elsewhere, it is too removed from the play’s intensifying sadness."
"What’s lacking is the gathering sense of fury from Amanda at a lifetime of betrayal and disappointment"
ABBA Voyage at the ABBA Arena (2022)
"No Ordinary Abba Night at the Club"
"With a concert spectacle mixing wizardry and technical skill, the band makes a case for its continued relevance."
"It’s a mix of wizardry and technical skill that, decades later, after movies and musicals and greatest hits compilations, is still at the pinnacle of pop maximalism. To hear the closing piano riffs on “Chiquitita” in a crowded arena is an exalting experience, and despite its eyebrow-raising premise, Abba Voyage miraculously takes flight."
Legally Blonde The Musical at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre (2022)
"The updated musical version of the popular film challenges preconceived notions about the protagonist’s appearance"
"Bowman, as might be expected, has embraced Moss’s willingness to break with preconceived notions of Elle and has responded to the challenge with a sweet and stirring performance that asks the audience to question what it means to be blonde."
"Bowman charms throughout in a casting gamble that pays off. “I had to find my way,” Elle says at the end, and you have to commend a theater culture that has led this performer to this role, even if Bowman, too, has probably had to navigate unpleasantness in the process. As Elle could have told her, determination and talent, happily, can win the day."
Oklahoma! at the Young Vic Theatre (2022)
"The London iteration is even more impressive than the performance I saw at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn."
"A particular revelation is the English actress-singer Anoushka Lucas as Laurey... Lucas brings a palpable anxiety to the role that emphasizes an underlying darkness to material we may first think of as buoyant."
Macbeth at the Longacre Theatre (2022)
"In a New ‘Macbeth,’ Something Wonky This Way Comes"
"Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga star in Sam Gold’s oddly uneasy take on the Scottish play."
"Though the production too often feels as if it were designed for the company’s own edification — an endless rehearsal rather than a Broadway revival — it is not without its outward-facing qualities, especially after the initial throat-clearing. There are beautiful, quietly observed moments: a glance between Craig and Negga, for instance, that says more about marriage than some entire plays on the subject. There are smaller characters crystallized in a flash: Lazar’s Duncan dainty and handsy, Maria Dizzia’s Lady Macduff heartbreakingly resolute."
Jerusalem at the Apollo Theatre (2022)
"In ‘Jerusalem,’ a Once-in-a-Lifetime Performance, Again"
"Mark Rylance is back in a role that won him a Tony more than a decade ago. But this London production isn’t just coasting on past kudos."
"There’s mighty, and then there’s Mark Rylance in “Jerusalem,” a performance so powerfully connected to its part that it feels almost superhuman. That’s as it should be for a play about a larger-than-life character named Johnny Byron, who demands an entirely fearless actor, and has one in Rylance."
Prima Facie at the Harold Pinter Theatre (2022)
"A Theatrical Neophyte With the Know-How of a Pro"
"Comer is cool and commanding as a defense lawyer named Tessa"
"Comer plays to all levels of the theater, often sweeping her gaze upward as if to enlist us as her jury. And though she speaks the text at breakneck speed, there’s no denying the visceral power of an evening that owes its sellout status to a theatrical neophyte who possesses the know-how of a seasoned pro."
Funny Girl at the August Wilson Theatre (2022)
"Broadway’s First ‘Funny Girl’ Revival Shows Why It Took So Long"
"To rip the bandage off quickly: Feldstein is not stupendous. She’s good. She’s funny enough in places, and immensely likable always, as was already evident from her performances in the movies “Booksmart” and “Lady Bird” and, on Broadway, in “Hello, Dolly!” You root for her to raise the roof, but she only bumps against it a little. Her voice, though solid and sweet and clear, is not well suited to the music, and you feel her working as hard as she can to power through the gap. But working hard at what should be naturally extraordinary is not in Fanny’s DNA."
"Still, you can’t blame Feldstein for the show’s problems; that would be like blaming the clown for the elephants. The main elephant is the book, written by Isobel Lennart and fiddled with for this production by Harvey Fierstein, to no avail."
"Mayer’s staging, which at times seems to aim for the ghostly nostalgia of “Follies,” feels lumbering and underfunded, with cheap-looking sets (by David Zinn), a cast of 22 in place of the original 43 and wan new orchestrations for 14 players, based on the glorious originals by Ralph Burns for 25. (You’re going to sell me “People” with two violins?) Only the aptly gaudy costumes by Susan Hilferty suggest the Ziegfeldian overabundance that shows like “Funny Girl” were designed to purvey."
The Corn is Green at the National Theatre (2022)
"Cooke enlivens a time-honored tale by involving Williams directly as his play’s narrator (played by Gareth David-Lloyd), setting the scene and monitoring events throughout. And a vigorous Walker invests the peppery spinster at its inspirational center with a fiercely beating heart"
Punchdrunk: The Burnt City at the One Cartridge Place (2022)
"The Carnage of War, in Punchdrunk’s New London Show"
"In contrast to previous Punchdrunk shows — like the company’s signature New York success, “Sleep No More” — there is little buttonholing of individual playgoers for one-on-one encounters (perhaps not so desirable in the age of social distancing), and the proceedings don’t build to the usual galvanic finale. You depart impressed by a concerted appeal to the imagination, though maybe another go-round is needed to fill in the gaps."
The 47th at the The Old Vic (2022)
"Donald J. Trump won’t surrender the spotlight easily. But few could have guessed that he would find renewed life on the London stage"
"... those expecting the sort of “Saturday Night Live”-style broadside familiar from Alec Baldwin are in for a surprise. Within minutes, the audience is aware of a character, not a caricature, and one with a lot on his mind. The opening monologue depicts a vengeful figure acutely aware of how he is regarded: “I know, I know, you hate me,” this Trump remarks at the start."
"When Carvel is center stage, “The 47th” entirely grips. The problem comes with a rambling, shapeless narrative that soon loses its way."
Straight Line Crazy at the Bridge Theatre (2022)
"Written by the English playwright David Hare, this exposition-heavy drama brings Ralph Fiennes roaring back to the stage as Moses"
"Hare chooses two decisive points in Moses’ life to tell a story of vaulting ambition that devolves into the madness hinted at in the play’s title"
"Fiennes has enough barrel-chested authority to sustain interest in what might otherwise seem arcane. You almost wish that the play, and Nicholas Hytner’s adroit production, were longer and amplified the material more"
The Music Man at the Winter Garden Theatre (2022)
"Even With Hugh Jackman, ‘The Music Man’ Goes Flat. Sutton Foster also stars in this neat, perky, overly cautious Broadway revival of a musical that needs to be more of a con."
"There comes a moment in the latest Broadway production of Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man” when high spirits, terrific dancing and big stars align in an extended marvel of showbiz salesmanship.Unfortunately, that moment is the curtain call."
"Until then, the musical, which opened on Thursday night at the Winter Garden Theater, only intermittently offers the joys we expect from a classic revival starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster — especially one so obviously patterned on the success of another classic revival, “Hello, Dolly!,” a few seasons back."
"Jackman mostly suppresses his sharky charisma here; this is not a star turn like Dolly Levi or, for that matter, Peter Allen in “The Boy From Oz.” Instead, he seems to see Hill as a character role: a cool manipulator and traveling horndog who in being unprincipled must also be unlovable."
Cinderella at the Gillian Lynne Theatre (2021)
"‘Cinderella’ Is Worth the Wait"
"This 1934 show is Depression-era escapism fit for post-Covid times. If you want to remove yourself from the world for a few hours, this is the place to do it."
"The long-awaited show from the 73-year-old industry veteran turns out to have been worth the wait. “Cinderella” is a big, colorful production, painted in deliberately broad brushstrokes by the director Laurence Connor, that turns a time-honored story (somewhat) on its head. The result may not be quite the theatrical equivalent of its heroine’s cut-glass slipper, but it nonetheless looks set for a sturdy West End run. Best of all: “Cinderella” is fun."
Jagged Little Pill at the Broadhurst Theatre (2019)
"With ‘Jagged Little Pill,’ They Finally Fixed the Jukebox"
"clear in its priorities, rich in character, sincere without syrup, rousing and real. It easily clears the low bar of jukebox success to stand alongside the dark original musicals that have been sustaining the best hopes of Broadway in recent years."
Sergei Polunin at the London Palladium (2019)
"A tepid hour of emoting and flailing"
"Rasputin,” a tepid hour of emoting and flailing (padded out with an intermission) that must have left even Mr. Polunin’s keenest supporters feeling something was missing. In fact, many things were missing: choreography, intelligence, taste and technique among them."
"But the choreography for Mr. Polunin is all smoke and mirrors; flailing arms and wild jumps with built-in falls that disguise his lack of technical control. Ms. Oishi displays no ability to create memorable encounters or create movement that delineates character, despite giving Mr. Kobborg an odd puppetlike jerkiness and suggesting that Yusupov enjoys cross-dressing. (The implication is that there is a homoerotic component to Yosupov’s relationship with Rasputin is an odd counterpart to Mr. Polunin’s Instagram musings."
"Mr. Polunin still has charisma and stage presence. He still seems to have an audience. But the narrow window he still has to save his technique, talent and reputation has almost closed."
All About Eve at the Noel Coward Theatre (2019)
"Has a vampire had its way with All About Eve?"
"Has a vampire had its way with “All About Eve”? The anaemic spectacle now sleepwalking across the stage of the Noël Coward Theater here shares a title, characters and much of its dialogue with Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s Oscar-winning 1950 film about the glamorous narcissists who inhabit the dark and glittering world of Broadway."
"Yet as adapted and directed by the international auteur Ivo van Hove, what was originally a crackling, high-gloss satire now feels like a horror movie without a pulse."
"His “Eve” is always on the edge of slipping into a coma, taking its audience with it."
The Cher Show at the Neil Simon Theatre (2018)
'Except for the dozens of eye-popping outfits Mr. Mackie gorgeously recreates for the occasion, it’s all gesture, no craft: dramatically threadbare and surprisingly unrevealing.'
'It’s only with Star — the “bad-ass,” mature Cher — that we get a character who rewards our attention. Not only does [Stephanie J. Block] ace Cher’s vocal inflections and physical mannerisms, including the half-mast eyes, the arm akimbo and the dancing-from-the-hair-up hauteur, but she somehow integrates them into a portrait of a woman at odds with the very dream that sustained her.'
Clueless - The Musical at the The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (2018)
'I had hopes that this screen-to-stage transfer would retain the charm of the original...Yet the perverse flattening process that too often occurs when two-dimensional films are translated into the three dimensions of live theater has befallen “Clueless” as well.'
'As the latest incarnation of Cher (and did I mention there’s a movie remake in the works, too?), Ms. Cameron has the poise and presence to anchor a show, and she sings and dances like a pro. Yet in stepping into the heightened, smiley landscape of musical comedy, Cher has perhaps inevitably acquired an extra, fatal degree of sparkle, and it pushes her from charming into cute.'
'The whole production, choreographed with a dutiful energy by Kelly Devine, suffers from a similar heightened twinkliness. It makes you appreciate how adroitly Ms. Heckerling sidestepped caricature and preciousness in her film. Like its shortsighted, matchmaking heroine — who looks for love in all the wrong places — the movie exuded a delicately balanced aura of deadpan, self-delighted innocence.'
'Clueless cultists will find many of their favorite lines have made it to the stage intact, including Cher’s immortal put-down, “As if!” But the character who registers most piquantly is one I scarcely remembered from the film: Travis the stoner.'