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The Starry Messenger

The Week Ahead: Rutherford and Son at the National and Matthew Broderick at the Wyndham's

Mark Shenton
Mark Shenton

Another bank holiday weekend means a slightly curtailed week for London theatre openings, but there are still two big first nights: one at the National, the other at the West End's Wyndham's. And I'm going to sneak across the channel to Paris next weekend, too, to catch one of the last performances of a new production of Guys and Dolls - my all-time favourite musical - performed in English at the Theatre Marigny, directed and choreographed by Britain's Stephen Mear; whose production of Little Shop of Horrors I'll also be catching the day I return at Chester's Storyhouse Theatre.

This Week in Theatre

On Tuesday 28th May, Roger Allam returns to the National for the first time in a decade to lead a new production of Githa Sowerby's Rutherford and Son, inspired by her own experience of growing up in a family-run factory in Gateshead. Polly Findlay directs a play that's described as a searing depiction of class, gender and generational warfare. In a recent interview in The Observer, Allam said of the play, "It takes a very cold, hard stare at the patriarchy, capitalism, industrialisation and the relations between men and women, families. It's extremely challenging and very strong stuff. It was a huge hit in its time but then languished for almost a century. It is certainly time that it was done again."

The UK premiere of Kenneth Lonergan's The Starry Messenger opens at the Wyndham's Theatre on Wednesday 29th May, with its original Off-Broadway star Matthew Broderick reprising his New York performance in a new production directed by Sam Yates and co-starring Downton Abbey's Elizabeth McGovern.  Reviewing the original New York production, Ben Brantley wrote in the New York Times, "If this is what a disaster looks like, bring on the apocalypse. The early word on The Starry Messenger was so appalling it seemed that instant euthanasia would be in order. The theater chat rooms were dense with complaints about the production's excessive length, sloppy acting and fuzzy focus... Yet the gentle, compassionate comic drama that opened on Monday has the sweet taste of redemption. It re-establishes Mr. Lonergan, who hasn't had a new play on the boards since 2001, as a possessor of all the crucial parts of a good dramatist's anatomy: a critical mind, an empathetic heart and a musical ear that hears whole lives in sentences. And Mr. Broderick delivers his finest, most affecting performance in years."

Main Men of Musicals, a one-night concert celebration of the best songs written for men in musicals, takes place at Chelsea's Cadogan Hall on Friday 31st May, with a company comprising leading men Ben Forster, Trevor Dion Nicholas, Liam Tamne and Luke Bayer.  

Top shows of the weeks

Musicals

Waitress
Adelphi Theatre

 

Katharine McPhee, the American Idol runner-up, will be departing from the title role in Waitress on June 15th, to be replaced by local talent Lucie Jones. As I wrote in my review for LondonTheatre.co.uk, she "has an effortlessly natural acting style and an alternately soaring and throbbing singing voice, not least in the show's Act Two power ballad "She Used to Be Mine."

Aladdin
Prince Edward Theatre

The new live-action movie version of Disney's animated classic has just opened in cinemas, with a cast that includes Will Smith as the Genie. But the real live version that's live in every way is still playing nightly at the Prince Edward Theatre. Stage musicals have, of course, previously featured flying cars, glass elevators and helicopters, but here the audience is invited to hop aboard a magic flying carpet along with homeless urchin Aladdin as he courts the beautiful Princess Jasmine, with the assistance of a genie summoned from a lamp. And the joy is that the magic works.

School of Rock
Gillian Lynne Theatre

I've just had the happy experience of hearing a sing-through of Andrew Lloyd Webber's newest musical Cinderella, as I reported here, and will no doubt appear in the West End in due course. But this is the last summer on Broadway for Lloyd Webber's most recent show School of Rock while it still runs in the West End, alongside the long-running The Phantom of the Opera. They will be joined by revivals this summer of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the London Palladium and Jesus Christ Superstar at the Barbican.

Plays

Betrayal
Harold Pinter Theatre

Last chance to see Jamie Lloyd's brilliant revival of Harold Pinter's 1978 masterpiece of marital betrayal is galvanised by stellar performances from a trio that comprises Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Cox and Zawe Ashton. In my review for LondonTheatre.co.uk, I wrote, "more than any other production I've ever seen, it strips the play to its bare bones, both physically and emotionally... This is a magnificent, searing account of Pinter's most autobiographically charged play (inspired by an affair he had himself when he was already married)."

All My Sons
Old Vic

While Annette Bening and Tracy Letts are currently starring in a Broadway revival of Arthur Miller's play, another production starring Sally Field and Bill Pullman in London is reaching the end of its run, closing on June 8th. As Will Longman wrote in his review for LondonTheatre.co.uk, "This production goes to show how relevant, timely and entertaining his canon remains."

ANNA
Dorfman Theatre

With an immersive soundscape broadcast into individual headphones, the audience are themselves cast as eavesdroppers to this theatrical thriller. As Victoria Ferguson wrote in her review for LondonTheatre.co.uk, "This production creates an impressively unique experience with its tinny soundtrack of domestic surveillance; one that feels at once innovative and new, and completely of the Cold War era."

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