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.