West End Theatre Watch

London Theatre Watch: What shows are moving in to the West End?

A number of shows have posted closing notices in the last few weeks, meaning that some high-profile West End theatres will be available for new shows.

Following the Covid shutdowns, so many shows were postponed that there’s been a huge backlog trying to get into the West End, and theatre owners have been putting the pressure on producers with under-performing shows to shape up or ship out to accommodate this new wave of shows coming down the line.

What West End theatres will be empty?

At various points over the next few months and into February, the following theatres will open up: the Noel Coward Theatre, where Dear Evan Hansen closes on 22 October 2022; the Phoenix Theatre, that sees Come From Away shutter on 7 January 2023; the Lyric Theatre, which says farewell to Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical on 8 January 2023; the Prince Edward Theatre, where Mary Poppins also closes on 8 January 2023; the Wyndham’s Theatre, in which Life of Pi closes on 15 January 2023; and the Garrick Theatre, where The Drifters Girl shuts on 12 February 2023.

The Company of Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical - photo by Craig Sugden
Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical to close in January

They are all long-running shows, so it’s a positive end to their West End runs. But what comes next?

There are also some theatres that will be empty soon following limited runs of shows – namely the Ambassadors Theatre, where Mad House starring David Harbour & Bill Pullman ends on 4 September 2022; the Harold Pinter Theatre, where GOOD starring David Tennent closes on 24 December 2022; the Arts Theatre, where The Choir of Man is slated to end on 5 January 2023 (although could extend); and the London Palladium, where annual panto Jack and the Beanstalk finishes up on 15 January 2023.

There’s also new venue @sohoplace, run by Nimax, to program, and it’s yet to announce its opening slate of shows.

What shows might come in to the West End?

One thing is certain: there is no shortage of shows wanting to come into town, with a number of big tours, out-of-town try-outs and Broadway transfers circling for West End theatres.

Broadway Transfers

Mrs Doubtfire: The UK transfer of Broadway’s Mrs Doubtfire is slated to open at the Manchester Opera House on 2 September 2022 starring Gabriel Vick; the producers have said they want it to come to London, so this is a high-priority target for a West End venue. Where could it go? Maybe the Garrick or the Prince Edward, although can they hold on til the New Year? Or the Noel Coward will available from November.

The Mrs Doubtfire cast in rehearsals
The Mrs Doubtfire cast in rehearsals

Oklahoma!: Another Young Vic hit, which got great reviews for co-directors Daniel Fish and Jordan Fein’s Broadway production. With Broadway’s Eva Price, and West End producers Sonia Friedman Productions and Michael Harrison as backers, this is a dead-cert West End transfer. Where could it go? Given it’s set in the round in a paired back setting, could the new @sohoplace be a great home for this?

Sunday in the Park with George: Another Covid casualty, the Broadway transfer of Sondheim’s classic starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford didn’t ever make it to the Savoy. But judging by the producer’s website, they still hold out hope. Where could it go? Pretty Woman is in the Savoy now, booking til April 2023, but maybe later in 2023 is realistic anyway?

Oklahoma Young Vic London
Oklahoma! at the Young Vic London

Everything else on the Broadway transfer list is pretty speculative in terms of timing, but seems very definite in terms of New York producers being vocal about their West End ambitions. High up on the list must be MJ The Musical, with British director and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon behind this, and winner of four Tony Awards this year; Beetlejuice The Musical must surely also be sooo close to a West End announcement, especially if the feedback we get from UK theatregoers has anything to do with it; plus Mean Girls The Musical and Jagged Little Pill seem like very hot West End targets for 2023 or 2024.

UK Regional & Tours

Crazy For You: To say this show, currently playing at the Chichester Festival Theatre, is a hit seems an understatement… lashings of five-stars reviews, and a career-defining turn by Charlie Stemp, sets this up as the “most likely to succeed” show of the year in terms of a West End transfer. Where could it go? Cameron Mackintosh’s Noel Coward Theatre will be free… also if they can wait, then his Prince Edward would be nice symmetry as its 30 years since the original Broadway production opened there.

Crazy For You - Chichester Festival Theatre
Charlie Stemp and cast in Crazy For You at Chichester Festival Theatre

Into The Woods: Sondheim’s Into the Woods is enjoying an extended, critically acclaimed run on Broadway at the moment, and if this Theatre Royal Bath production comes to town it would be the first big Sondheim show in London since his death. That said, it hasn’t opened yet in Bath (opens on 17 August), so it’s hard to judge if Terry Gilliam and Leah Hausman’s production will swing. Producers Scenario Two have said they’d like it to run in the West End. Where could it go? What about the Phoenix or the Lyric?

Identical: This new Stiles and Drewe musical based on the Parent Trap has opened this week at the Nottingham Playhouse to good reviews. It’s also off to the Lowry til 3 September and then what? Producer Kenny Wax (of Six The Musical fame) always has his eye on the West End, and the director is heavy-hitter Sir Trevor Nunn, but in the current climate is a new musical too risky, even if its based on known IP? Where could it go? Again, the Phoenix, Lyric or Garrick could be the right size, if not timing.

Identical
The kids of Identical

Other shows on our radar include: The Cher Show UK tour, which is going great guns and must be of big interest to West End theatres; Billy Elliot The Musical at the Curve Leicester, which has opened to rave reviews. The Curve currently has Grease playing at the Dominion, so has form in transfers into town; Great British Bake Off – The Musical, which opened this week in Cheltenham to mild reviews. The producer is Mark Goucher, who may well have his eye on the West End; Blood Brothers, which is on a big UK tour, is also another target to come in. Its producer Bill Kenwright now owns the Other Palace, which could be a target venue; The Time Traveller’s Wife The Musical is another possible candidate, opening in Chester at the end of September; and finally, Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks has completed its great UK tour. Will Disney follow the precedent set with Beauty and the Beast at the London Palladium, taking a UK tour and bringing it in to London for a limited season.

New productions

Hello Dolly! This new revival of classic Broadway musical Hello Dolly! was to star Imelda Staunton, and had sold tickets before Covid hit. It definitely hasn’t gone away – with Imelda pushing hard for a 2023 opening. But her shooting The Crown for Netflix means there’s limited availability options: season six has started filming, so maybe she’ll be clear by the end of February… Where could it go? It was originally set for the Adelphi, but it doesn’t seem that Back to the Future is going anywhere soon. The Palladium may be available?

Sheridan Smith’s one-woman play: It feels like Sheridan is a national treasure way before her time, and her announcement this month that she’s doing a one-woman play in the West End in early 2023 has caused much excitement. Where could it go? The better question would be what is the play, but based on the fact that it’s going to sell regardless, what about the Lyric Theatre or the Harold Pinter?

Orlando: Announcements of Michael Grandage productions usually cause a lot of interest, and this has been no exception – especially as Emma Corrin is to star in Virginia Woolf’s tale, adapted by Neil Bartlett. Where could it go? It’s coming this Autumn, and is going on sale soon. Timing seems off for the Wyndhams but it seems a perfect venue? Or the Noel Coward, where Michael Grandage has resided before.

Best of Enemies: The Young Vic’s hit production of James Graham’s latest play is transferring to the West End this November. It has just won Best New Theatre Production at the South Bank Sky Arts Awards. Where could it go? The Ambassadors Theatre seems a top bet or the Harold Pinter.

Best of Enemies - London
Best of Enemies at the Young Vic

Other possibilities include the National Theatre’s Jack Absolute Flies Again. Whilst it hasn’t had the same incredible notices as Richard Bean’s One Man, Two Guvnors, it is a feel-good comedy with a pedigree cast and could well transfer; we are still waiting for more news about The Shining starring Ben Stiller, directed by Ivo van Hove, and what its timing is; plus Saving Grace The Musical, with music by KT Tunstall is rumoured to be in heavy pre production, directed by Laurence Connor; finally, even though Hadestown doesn’t feel like a new production, it actually is. The show was a hit for the National Theatre in 2019, and then Covid hit. It definitely feels like it has unfinished business in London.


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