Get tickets to Regent's Park Open Air Theatre summer 2023 shows

Check out all the shows opening at London's leading outdoor theatre this summer, including Once On This Island, Robin Hood, and La Cage Aux Folles.

Marianka Swain
Marianka Swain

One of the glories of English summer is the return of outdoor theatre — and there’s no al-fresco venue more spellbinding than Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. Situated in the Inner Circle of north London’s verdant royal park, it’s actually one of the capital’s largest theatre spaces, seating 1,240. But as the light falls, both performances and audiences are bound together in an intimate communion.

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is incredibly versatile, too, programming everything from Shakespeare and contemporary plays to musicals and family-friendly fare. The venue has become particularly renowned for its groundbreaking revivals of familiar musicals in recent years: Legally Blonde, Carousel, Evita, Little Shop of Horrors, Jesus Christ Superstar. You can take risks in the open air.

The 2023 season looks just as dynamic and varied, with something for everybody – whether you’re a musical theatre fan, eager to see which classic shows are given a new lease of life here, or whether you’re looking for inventively staged Shakespeare or the perfect outing for young audiences and families. Read on for our guide to what’s on at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre this summer and what shows you can book for now.

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Once on This Island

This gorgeous Caribbean-set musical by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (Ragtime, Anastasia) was hugely acclaimed upon its Tony-winning Broadway revival in 2017 — unearthing a forgotten gem. The show is based on Rosa Guy’s 1985 novel, which transports elements of the Little Mermaid fairy tale to an island in the French Antilles.

As a child, peasant girl Ti Moune is saved by the gods during a terrible flood. Years later, those same gods place a bet about whether love or death is stronger. They arrange for French planter Daniel Beauxhomme to crash his car, leading to him meeting Ti Moune — who then falls in love with him, and offers the gods her life in exchange for his. However, Daniel is already engaged to someone else. Will love win? And what messages do we draw from the stories passed down to us?

This beautiful coming-of-age musical premiered on Broadway in 1990, and later opened in the West End in 1994, going on to win the Olivier Award for Best New Musical. Following its recent Broadway success, a Disney+ movie adaptation is now in the works.

So, what can we expect from the Regent’s Park version? Gabrielle Brooks (Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical in the West End) will play Ti Moune, and Stephenson Ardern-Sodje (Simba in The Lion King) is Daniel; Ola Ince directs.

The park surely offers exciting opportunities to illustrate how the islanders commune with nature, while its colonialism and racial politics can be thoughtfully addressed for modern audiences. But, above all, expect the joyful spirit of this musical to come blazing through in this unique setting.

Book Once on This Island tickets on London Theatre.

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Robin Hood: The Legend. Re-written.

Arrows, Merry Men, Maid Marian, Sherwood Forest… We all know about the legend of Robin Hood. But prepare for an exciting new twist on that familiar story — with added songs.

Carl Grose, the innovative writer behind shows like Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs), Grand Guignol, and the ingenious West End musical The Grinning Man, puts his distinctive stamp on the Robin Hood story. He’s promising a “desperate, divided kingdom where only the truly cunning can outwit the sheriff’s terrifying wrath.”

This new show will also feature humour, original songs, romance, and a glimpse into the dark secrets of the forest (the latter element ideally suited, of course, to Regent’s Park). At the helm is the acclaimed director Melly Still, whose varied work includes My Brilliant Friend at the National Theatre, Rusalka at Glyndebourne, and Grimm Tales for the Young Vic. Don’t miss this folk tale for the 21st century.

Book Robin Hood: The Legend. Rewritten. tickets on London Theatre.

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The Tempest re-imagined for everyone aged six and over

Another enticing family theatre offering from Regent’s Park this summer is this accessible take on Shakespeare’s play. In a co-production with the Unicorn Theatre, Jennifer Tang will revise and direct a 75-minute version that brings the text to life in a new, easily comprehensible way that translates the magic of Shakespeare for younger audiences.

We’ll still follow the travails of sorcerer Prospero, who — after being usurped as Duke of Milan by his brother — lives on a remote island with his daughter Miranda, aided by the spirit Ariel and the savage Caliban. When Prospero conjures a storm that shipwrecks his enemies on the island, we get a mix of revenge and comic antics, plus a love story: Ferdinand, son of the King of Naples, who aided Prospero’s treacherous brother, falls for Miranda.

The Tempest is a play with plenty to entertain, including colourful characters, slapstick comedy, powerful magic, and a vivid setting — another one that should be beautifully supported by the natural marvels of Regent’s Park. This will be the ideal way to introduce children to Shakespeare, and for grown-ups to join them in enjoying the wonder of his words.

BOok The Tempest re-imagined for everyone aged six and over tickets on London Theatre.

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La Cage aux Folles

Forty years ago, La Cage aux Folles made queer history as the first Broadway musical to openly centre on a homosexual relationship. The life-affirming show, by Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein (adapting Jean Poiret’s play), is now getting a big revival at Regent’s Park — and we can’t wait to see what fresh spin artistic director Timothy Sheader is going to put on it.

The madcap, but utterly heartfelt, story sees a gay couple — nightclub owner Georges and his star Albin, aka drag queen Zaza – trying to play it straight in order to win over the ultra-conservative parents of Georges’s son Jean-Michel’s fiancée, Anne Dindon. Naturally, chaos ensues (there’s also a political scandal engulfing the Dindons, just to add to the farcical confusion).

La Cage aux Folles opened on Broadway in 1983 and won six Tonys, including Best Musical. It then played in the West End in 1986, at the London Palladium, followed by several revivals — a 2008 Menier Chocolate Factory version transferred to the West End and Broadway, winning several Olivier and Tony Awards.

But how will this beloved show play out in 2023? Its breakout song, “I Am What I Am”, has been embraced as a gay anthem, however there’s plenty of room to explore identity in various forms in the current climate — and to do so with a brilliantly progressive company, as we saw last summer with the triumphant Legally Blonde at Regent’s Park. This is definitely a musical must-see.

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Dinosaur World Live

The roarsome Jurassic adventure is back by popular demand — and promises yet more intrepid family fun. Dinosaur World Live features astonishing puppets which bring all those impressive creatures back to life, creating an educational and fun adventure for ages 3+.

There’s a whole host of dinosaurs stomping around Regent’s Park, from the Triceratops and Giraffatitan to the Microraptor and Segnosaurus. Plus, you might even see everyone’s favourite scary predator: the Tyrannosaurus Rex. It’s a kid-friendly theatrical feast, all brought together by an engaging framing story.

Even better: it’s interactive. Young audiences don’t just have to sit back and watch – they’re invited to help feed and groom the dinosaurs. There’s also a meet-and-greet afterwards, if they want to spend more time making a dino-friend. Get booking fast, before tickets go extinct!

Book Dinosaur World Live tickets on London Theatre.

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Every Leaf a Hallelujah

In 2021, the Booker Prize-winning author Ben Okri cleverly wrapped his plea for us to take better care of the environment in this engrossing fable. Every Leaf a Hallelujah follows a little girl named Mangoshi, who ventures into the forest near her village in Africa in order to find the flower that could save her mother’s life.

In the forest, we meet characters like a wise, ancient baobab tree, who magically transports Mangoshi to other places — such as the depleted Amazon rainforest — in this vigorous call to action. It’s a children’s story with plenty for grown-ups to absorb too.

That makes it ideal material for a family theatre show. Chinonyerem Odimba (The Prince and the Pauper, Watermill Theatre) adapts Okri’s story for the stage, in a production aimed at audiences aged 4+. And where better than the lush Regent’s Park to tell a tale about the beauty of the natural world, our emotional connection to it, and why we should do everything we can to protect it?

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