The Week Ahead: Small Island at the National, Man of La Mancha at the Coliseum plus Ibsen's Rosmersholm
I was in New York last week, catching most of the round of new shows that opened to get in under the wire for eligibility for this year's Tony Awards, the nominations for which will be announced tomorrow (Tuesday 30th April). That means I saw 9 Broadway shows (plus one cabaret concert and the opening show at the new Shed arts centre in Hudson Yards) in 8 nights, seven of which I reviewed for our partner site, the New York Theatre Guide. Expect multiple Tony nominations for To Kill a Mockingbird and Ink (in the play corner) and Tootsie and Hadestown (in the musicals round)...
This Week in Theatre
On Tuesday, ENO's partnership with Grade/Linnit brings a new production of Man of La Mancha, the 1965 Broadway musical that features standards like "The Impossible Dream", back to London for the first time since its original production transferred to the Piccadilly Theatre in 1968. (It has, by contrast, had four Broadway revivals since it was first seen in New York). At the Coliseum, it will star Kelsey Grammer, Danielle de Niese, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Cassidy Janson and Peter Polycarpou.
Also on Tuesday, Howard Goodall and Melvyn Bragg's magnificent 1984 British musical The Hired Man is revived in a new production opening at the Queen's Theatre in Hornchurch, East London, in a co-production with Hull Truck.
On Wednesday, Andrea Levy's novel Small Island is adapted for the stage by Helen Edmundson, opening at the National's Olivier Theatre in a production directed by NT artistic director Rufus Norris. Tracing the tangled history of Jamaica and the UK, it tells three intricately connected stories, in which Hortense yearns for a new life away from rural Jamaica, Gilbert dreams of becoming a lawyer, and Queenie longs to escape her Lincolnshire roots.
Also opening on Wednesday are two plays about trying to have babies: Maxine Peake stars in the premiere of a solo show Avalanche: A Love Story at the Barbican Theatre (for a run to 12th May, before touring to Sydney) about a woman's experiences of the IVF industry; and Zoe Cooper's Out of Water at the Orange Tree, co-commissioned with the RSC, about a lesbian couple having a baby.
Wednesday also sees Sisters Grimm - Inala, previously seen at Sadler's Wells in 2015, returns for a West End run at the Peacock, for a run to 18th May. It brings together South African choral legends, Soweto Gospel Choir with choreographer Mark Baldwin in a unique artistic collaboration.
Then on Thursday, Hayley Atwell, Tom Burke, Peter Wight and Giles Terera star in a new production of Ibsen's Rosmersholm, opening at the West End's Duke of York's. About a country in state of political flux, it has been adapted by Duncan Macmillan and is directed by Ian Rickson.
Hampstead Theatre also presents the world premiere of Howard Brenton's Jude, loosely inspired by Thomas Hardy's novel Jude the Obscure, on Thursday. Edward Hall directs his last production as artistic director here.
And finally, on Friday, new musical The Happy Prince, with music and lyrics by Hal Cazalet and book by Michael Barry based on Oscar Wilde's classic fairy tale, begins a run of three showcase performances at the Place Theatre, with a stellar cast led by Janie Dee, Phil Daniels and Sam Archer (who also choreographs).
Top shows of the week
The Phantom of the Opera
Her Majesty's Theatre
Andrew Lloyd Webber's longest-running musical in the West End continues in its original production. The Broadway transfer to the Majestic is now the longest-running musical in Broadway history, and last week celebrated its 13,000th performance. Hal Prince's production remains a masterpiece of stagecraft, with Maria Bjornson's sumptuous designs that summons the Paris Opera House and its subterranean secrets.
9 to 5 - the Musical
As I wrote in my review for LondonTheatre.co.uk, "Sometimes theatre is all in the timing. When the 1980 comedy 9 to 5 was first turned into a Broadway musical in 2009, it was just the latest in a run of film titles being opportunistically adapted for the stage; and it duly ran for only five months there. But now, in the wake of #MeToo, its story about sexual harassment and bullying in the office place, as well as unequal pay and opportunities for female workers there, carries a new resonance and relevance." I also pointed out that with Waitress also playing across the street, "women ARE now claiming their rightful space, and not just in Broadway musicals... It turns an also-ran musical into something bang up-to-date - and a smart, fast brand-new production also pitches it with supreme confidence that's full of both wit and grit."
The West End is experiencing an onslaught of Broadway-originated shows this year, including the Olivier winning Come from Away and the imminent transfers of On Your Feet and Dear Evan Hansen, plus a new London production for The Light in the Piazza. You've only got until June 15 to see Katharine McPhee, the one-time American Idol winner, reprising her Broadway performance in the title role of Waitress. 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"."
A German Life
It's the home stretch of the run to see Maggie Smith's momentous solo return to the London stage, aged 84, in her first London stage appearance in 12 years. As I wrote in my review for LondonTheatre.co.uk, "The bad news is that it's therefore impossible to get a ticket. But for those that have already got them, this is more than just an event and a landmark, but a skilfully and understated evening of thrilling acting by a veteran performer still at the very height of her powers." Beg, steal or borrow to get a ticket -- or queue for a return."
Harold Pinter Theatre
Now extended to run through 8th June, 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
Last week a new Broadway production of Arthur Miller's 1947 play opened on Broadway with a cast that included Annette Bening and Tracy Letts; the next night another production of the same play opened at the Old Vic with Sally Field and Bill Pullman. As Will Longman wrote in his review: "Death of a Salesman is about to open down The Cut at the Old Vic's younger theatre cousin the Young Vic, which concludes a number of Arthur Miller plays in London in quick succession. But this production goes to show how relevant, timely and entertaining his canon remains."
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