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Photo credit: Ian McKellen in Hamlet (Photo courtesy of Theatre Royal Windsor)

All the performers returning to iconic roles in the West End and beyond

Marianka Swain
Marianka Swain

This is a great time to see the definitive portrayals of some of the best roles in theatre. Not only are there numerous fantastic revivals and returning productions in town, but the lead actors who previously starred in those shows are heading back to the West End too. From Michael Ball and Sutton Foster to Jason Donovan and Ian McKellen, here are some of the West End actors you can see reprising roles right now. 

Jason Donovan and Jac Yarrow in Joseph (Photo courtesy of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat)

Jason Donovan and Linzi Hateley in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

There's a dreamy reunion in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's Biblical musical. Laurence Connor's exciting revival is back at the Palladium, with Jac Yarrow - the drama school graduate who wowed in the title role in 2019 - donning the coat of many colours once again, and Jason Donovan also back as Pharaoh, this time starring alongside Alexandra Burke as the Narrator. But that's not all: at select performances, Linzi Hateley takes on the Narrator role, which she last played 30 years ago - opposite Donovan's Joseph.

Book Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat tickets at the London Palladium.

Sutton Foster in Anything Goes (Photo courtesy of Anything Goes)

Sutton Foster as Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes

One silver lining of the pandemic-scrambled theatre scheduling is that London finally gets to see the phenomenal Broadway leading lady Sutton Foster reprising her Tony Award-winning Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes. Foster nabbed her second Tony back in 2011, and she and director Kathleen Marshall were eager to bring the show over here at the time, but couldn't make it work. Well, now they have, so prepare to sail away in Cole Porter's sublimely silly musical, starring Robert Lindsay, Felicity Kendal, Gary Wilmot, and of course the mega-talented, true triple-threat Foster.

Book Anything Goes tickets at the Barbican.

Michael Ball in Hairspray (Photo by Tristram Kenton)

Michael Ball as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray

It's the mother of all homecomings for Michael Ball, who is back in drag to give us his Olivier Award-winning Edna Turnblad - mother of the heroic, plus-sized Tracy, who longs to dance on her local TV show, and winds up challenging its segregation policy. Edna undergoes a Swinging Sixties liberation, too, fabulously played by Ball, who last inhabited the role in 2010. You definitely can't stop the beat in this joyful revival of Hairspray at the Coliseum, which also features Lizzie Bea, Marisha Wallace, Rita Simons, Ashley Samuels, and Les Dennis.

Book Hairspray tickets at the London Coliseum.

Jodie Steele in Heathers (Photo by Pamela Raith)

Jodie Steele as Heather Chandler in Heathers

What is your damage? Heathers is nothing without its eponymous clique, led by the formidable Heather Chandler. Jodie Steele played her to icy perfection in the show's UK premiere at The Other Palace and subsequent West End run, both in 2018, and she's back in the plaid skirt for this latest incarnation of the pitch-black musical - based on the cult 1980s film starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater. Steele is joined by a new cast featuring Christina Bennington, Jordan Luke Gage, Bobbie Little, Frances Mayli McCann, and Lauren Ward. How very!

Book Heathers tickets at Theatre Royal Haymarket.

Ben Miles in The Mirror and the Light (Photo by Keith Pattison)

Ben Miles and Nathaniel Parker as Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII in The Mirror and the Light

Finding an actor who could convey the complex psychology of Henry VIII's razor-sharp, social-climbing advisor Thomas Cromwell was key to the success of translating Hilary Mantel's Booker Prize-winning novels to stage. Thankfully, Ben Miles was more than able, and he returns to the role in the concluding chapter of the story, The Mirror and the Light - and co-adapts with Mantel. Additionally, Nathaniel Parker is back as Henry VIII, and Jeremy Herrin directs, while Christopher Oram - who previously won Tony and Olivier Awards for his work - conjures the Tudor court with his sumptuous designs.

Book ​The Mirror and the Light tickets at the Gielgud Theatre.

Adam Cooper in Singin' in the Rain

A show that's always a match for British summer weather, it's a welcome return for this spectacular staging of Singin' in the Rain, the beloved musical, based on the MGM Golden Age movie. Even better, Jonathan Church's original leading man is back in the Gene Kelly role. Adam Cooper, a former Royal Ballet principal and Matthew Bourne's first Swan, firmly established his musical theatre credentials with this show a decade ago. He's now joined by Strictly's Kevin Clifton, Steps star Faye Tozer, Charlotte Gooch and Cavin Cornwall - plus 14,000 litres of water on stage every night. Singin' in the Rain is at Sadler's Wells.

Ian McKellen in Hamlet

To be or not to be? Sir Ian McKellen has chosen to be Hamlet once again, at the impressive age of 82. It's a redemptive performance from the theatrical knight, who played the Prince of Denmark 50 years ago to mixed reviews. Now, he's getting another crack at it, directed by Sean Mathias, and in a company that includes Jenny Seagrove, Frances Barber, Alis Wyn Davies and Francesca Annis. That company is also tackling Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, with McKellen as Firs; he previously played Lopakhin at the National Theatre in 1985. Hamlet is at Theatre Royal Windsor.

Lucie Jones as Jenna in Waitress

Lucie Jones proved to be the perfect ingredient in Sara Bareilles and Jessie Nelson's mouth-watering musical when she took over the role of Jenna in Waitress the West End in 2019. The run finished earlier than planned in March 2020 due to Covid, but Jones is now serving up a second batch: she's starring in the touring production, which begins at London's New Wimbledon Theatre in September. Sandra Marvin and Evelyn Hoskins are also reprising their roles as, respectively, Becky and Dawn, while Matt Willis joins the cast as Dr Pomatter. Waitress begins a UK and Ireland tour in the autumn.

Photo credit: Ian McKellen in Hamlet (Photo courtesy of Theatre Royal Windsor)

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