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Broadway musicals

'Broadway's hit factory': The influx of American productions in the West End

Mark Shenton
Mark Shenton

Broadway is on a roll. It just keeps churning out hit after hit, and we can hardly keep up over here. We are in the midst of a year of constant imports - just last night, Adam Guettel and Craig Lucas's 2005 musical The Light in the Piazza finally came to London, albeit for a three week run only of just 20 performances, which as I wrote here "has one of the great Broadway scores of the century so far, right up there with Next to Normal and Hamilton".

We've of course already got Hamilton in the West End, but are still - unaccountably - waiting for Next to Normal, fully a decade since it was originally premiered on Broadway in 2009.

But this year we've also already seen Waitress and Come from Away, both still running on Broadway and arriving here within weeks of each other, and hot on the heels of The Light in the Piazza another Broadway hit On Your Feet officially opens a the London Coliseum on 27th June, again for a limited season.

The autumn will also bring Big, Maltby and Shire's 1996 Broadway musical, to the Dominion for a limited season from September; but the big opening, of course, will be Dear Evan Hansen at the Noel Coward from October 29, with the current Broadway stage version of To Kill a Mockingbird said to be eyeing a London berth next spring. It was also announced this week that Jake Gyllenhaal will reprise his 2017 performance in Sunday in the Park with George at the West End's Savoy Theatre next summer, joined by his Broadway co-star Annaleigh Ashford.

As Matt Trueman recently wrote in Variety "Give or take a little tectonic shift, the distance between London and New York still stands at 3,465 miles. Arguably, though, the two theatre capitals have never been closer. It's not just the nine productions playing in duplicate in both locations - believed to be the most ever - with three more expected in the next 18 months."

He went on to say that over the last decade, "the number of transatlantic transfers has soared, with Broadway musicals landing in London almost as regularly as airplanes, and British actors routinely treading the Big Apple's boards. There's also more cooperation, and more co-productions, between the two countries than ever."

And travelling the other way to Broadway, the autumn will see the transfer of the London hit production of The Inheritance - a play set in New York, of course, and written by a young American playwright Matthew Lopez to run at the Barrymore Theatre from 27th September, while it was also announced this week that Connor McPherson's The Girl from the North Country, set to a score by Bob Dylan, originally seen at the Old Vic in July 2017, will transfer to Broadway's Belasco Theatre, beginning performances next February.

But it's not just the West End and Broadway that regularly cross-fertilise each other. Off-West End and Off-Broadway theatres, too, are in a regular dialogue with each other. Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Fleabag, originally seen at London's Soho Theatre, recently had a sell-out Off-Broadway run at SoHo Playhouse, before returning to London for an already sold-out West End run this summer. Meanwhile, another theatre in New York's SoHo - the 73-seater Soho Repertory Theatre -  is sending Jackie Sibblies Drury's Pulitzer-prize winning play Fairview to the Young Vic in November, albeit in a new production by associate director Nadia Latif.

Back in London's Soho, the Boulevard Theatre has just announced that it will re-open with Dave Molloy's song cycle Ghost Quartet in October, that was originally presented Off-Broadway at the McKittrick Hotel, and subsequently New York Theatre Workshop. London is yet to see Molloy's Tony-nominated Broadway hit Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812; perhaps an adventurous producer can bring that here, too, in due course.

Just as we are finally seeing Falsettos, William Finn's double-bill of musicals first seen Off-Broadway in the 1980s that were first bolted together on Broadway in 1992, at The Other Palace in August, there are still plenty of shows that need to travel over here, too.  

Originally published on

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