Avengers Assemble! See Marvel Cinematic Universe actors in the West End
The relationship between the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) and London’s entertainment scene is about to get even closer, with the exciting arrival of a Guardians of the Galaxy-themed Secret Cinema event. Fans of Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Rocket and of course Groot can soon join the world of this ragtag crew in an immersive experience that’s almost literally out of this world.
But that’s not the only link between the two. You’ll find plenty of the fantastic actors who have appeared in Marvel films and TV series, plus some who are slated to join the MCU soon, in London theatre shows, moving seamlessly from superheroes and bad-ass villains to period dramas, cutting-edge plays and celebrated musicals.
So, gear up for your Secret Cinema outing with our guide to the Marvel stars you can see on stage right now.
David Harbour in Mad House
David Harbour made a colourful entry into the MCU in the 2021 film Black Widow. He played Soviet super soldier Alexei Shostakov, aka the Red Guardian, who posed as a normal American family with ‘wife’ Melina and ‘daughters’ Natasha Romanoff and Yelena Belova. Later, they reunite when Natasha and Yelena spring him from prison so they can take down General Dreykov and free the other Black Widows.
Harbour’s Alexei is a brilliant comic creation, a delusional has-been who believes he’s in an epic duel with Captain America, and his dysfunctional family bond with Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh and Rachel Weisz is a true pleasure. The actor now brings a similar skill set, and flair for family drama, to West End play Mad House.
Harbour is Michael, who is stuck in rural Pennsylvania caring for his dying - and difficult - father, played by fellow Hollywood star Bill Pullman. When Michael’s siblings show up, tensions flare over inheritance in Theresa Rebeck’s powerful dark comedy.
Book Mad House tickets on London Theatre.
Fra Fee in Cabaret
The Northern Irish actor joined the MCU in 2021 as part of the Hawkeye cast. The Disney+ series sees Hailee Steinfeld’s budding archer Kate Bishop team up with her idol, Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton aka Hawkeye. Barton’s past as vigilante Ronin comes back to haunt them in the guise of the Tracksuit Mafia, led by deaf commander Maya and her closest associate Kazi - played by Fra Fee.
The role gave Fee a chance to show off his villainous tendencies, including some skilful fighting, and also to learn American Sign Language. He’s likewise hugely impressive, and multitasking, in the Olivier Award-winning revival of musical Cabaret in the West End - which transforms the Playhouse Theatre into the Kit Kat Club - succeeding Eddie Redmayne as the Emcee.
This all-important character welcomes the audience to Weimar Berlin and performs some of Kander and Ebb’s most deliciously naughty numbers, including "Two Ladies" and "Money." His transformation also mirrors the devastating rise of Nazism and erosion of anyone who did not fit the fascist model.
Book Cabaret tickets on London Theatre.
Simon Callow in Anything Goes
The veteran actor added Marvel to his heaving list of credits when he too joined the world of Hawkeye. Rather than a gangster, he played the flamboyantly named Armand Duquesne III: uncle to Jack, who is dating Kate’s mother Eleanor. Suspicious Kate decides to investigate the Duquesnes, but (spoiler alert!) it turns out that Callow’s trip to the MCU is a short one, since Kate finds Armand murdered at the end of the opening episode.
It’s much smoother sailing for Callow in the glorious revival of Cole Porter musical Anything Goes, which has docked at the Barbican for a second summer after its smash-hit run in 2021. Callow plays the successful Wall Street banker Elisha J Whitney, a proud Yale man and an even more dedicated drinker.
He is one of the affluent passengers aboard luxury ocean liner the SS American, and he’s determined to renew his acquaintance with the now widowed Evangeline Harcourt, played by Bonnie Langford. But his employee Billy has stowed away so he can chase the woman he loves, and can’t be discovered, so he steals Whitney’s glasses. Hijinks ensue, with Callow relishing every riotous moment.
Book Anything Goes tickets on London Theatre.
Emilia Clarke in The Seagull
Clarke is no stranger to a gigantic franchise: she’s already played Qi’ra in Star Wars film Solo and, of course, she starred as Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones. But she’s now about to embark on her first Marvel project, joining the upcoming Disney+ series Secret Invasion. We don’t know much about it yet, other than it involves shapeshifting aliens the Skrulls infiltrating life on Earth, and Samuel L Jackson’s Nick Fury is involved.
In the meantime, Clarke is treading the boards in a new production of Chekhov’s The Seagull in the West End. Jamie Lloyd’s radical reinvention of the play - using Anya Reiss’s bold adaptation - is a very modern telling of this classic Russian work.
Clarke is the aspiring thespian Nina, who falls under the spell of an older novelist, Trigorin. He is the lover of the fading actress Irina; Irina’s son, playwright Konstantin, is in love with Nina. That’s just some of the tortured romantic complications in this indelible work, which is reborn in Lloyd’s production - and in which Clarke is a standout.
Book The Seagull tickets on London Theatre.
Paul Bettany in The Collaboration
Bettany is a long-standing member of the MCU. His J.A.R.V.I.S. (Just A Rather Very Intelligent System) aids Tony Stark in the very first Iron Man film, in 2008, and crops up again in the Iron Man sequels, the Avengers films and Captain America: Civil War. He eventually takes physical form as the android Vision and plays a key role in Marvel TV series Wandavision.
All of those Marvel outings have kept Bettany away from the theatre, but he finally made a triumphant return earlier this year in the premiere of Anthony McCarten’s The Collaboration at the Young Vic. Bettany played an iconic figure, the artist Andy Warhol, opposite Jeremy Pope as Jean-Michel Basquiat.
The show was warmly received and is now set to run on Broadway, beginning performances at the Samuel J Friedman Theatre in November, once again directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah. Kwei-Armah will also adapt The Collaboration into a movie, with Bettany and Pope again reprising their roles.
Andrew Garfield in Angels in America
Alas, you can’t see this one on stage right now - although you can watch the fantastic recording via streaming service National Theatre at Home. But it’s always worth celebrating the incredible theatre work of Andrew Garfield, who of course rejoined the MCU last year in Spider-Man: No Way Home, once again donning his Spidey suit alongside Tobey Maguire and Tom Holland (who got his start in stage musical Billy Elliot).
Although Garfield hasn’t yet returned to theatre since his incredible Prior Walter in Tony Kushner’s landmark play Angels in America, he’s still clearly got a passion for it: he played Jonathan Larson in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s film adaptation of tick, tick…BOOM!. It was a deeply moving tribute to the RENT composer.
Might we see Garfield playing the role on stage, too? We’re definitely overdue for a revival, and Miranda’s version - incorporating Larson’s own life story - puts a whole new spin on it. If we can have three Spider-Men, then surely it’s not that much of a stretch.
Hayley Atwell in Rosmersholm
This is another one we all remember fondly: Atwell’s barnstorming performance as the idealistic Rebecca West in Ibsen’s riveting political drama Rosmersholm. The show lit up the West End in 2019, with Atwell brilliantly matched by Tom Burke and Hamilton star Giles Terera.
It was the latest in Atwell’s peerless run of London shows, which include Major Barbara at the National Theatre, The Pride at Trafalgar Studios and a role-switching Measure for Measure at the Donmar Warehouse.
She’s certainly made her mark on the MCU as well, playing the popular character Peggy Carter. We first met Peggy in the Captain America movies - she was Steve Rogers’ love interest - and she also appeared in several Avengers films, Ant-Man and the latest Doctor Strange outing. She was most fun carving her own path in the sadly cancelled TV series Agent Carter. However, if we can’t have a dedicated Peggy series, perhaps we can have Atwell back for another London theatre show soon.
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