See Irish theatre and Irish actors in the West End
If you’re looking for a fun way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, then head to a theatre! The West End is teeming with Irish talent — hardly surprising, since Ireland itself has a long and remarkable theatrical tradition.
William Congreve, one of the leading poets and playwrights of the Restoration era, grew up in Ireland and studied at Trinity College, Dublin. In the following centuries, the country produced great playwrights like Oliver Goldsmith (She Stoops to Conquer), Richard Sheridan (The Rivals and The School for Scandal), and Dion Boucicault (London Assurance, The Octoroon).
Oscar Wilde’s remarkable social comedies, like An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest, are still treasured today, while fellow Irishman George Bernard Shaw is renowned for his more polemical work, like Major Barbara, Saint Joan, and Pygmalion.
More recently, Ireland has produced the likes of John Millington Synge (The Playboy of the Western World), Seán O’Casey (Juno and the Paycock, The Plough and the Stars), Enda Walsh (Disco Pigs, Once), Conor McPherson (The Seafarer, Girl from the North Country), Martin McDonagh (The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Hangmen), Marie Jones (Stones in His Pockets), and of course the great modernist Samuel Beckett (Waiting for Godot, Endgame). Not to mention the stream of wonderful actors, directors and creatives, and great Irish stories – like Jez Butterworth’s play The Ferryman.
Here are some of the exciting productions you can book for now in London featuring talent from Ireland and Northern Ireland.
See Killian Donnelly in The Phantom of the Opera
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s legendary musical is still a West End favourite thanks to the composer’s sweeping score, the production’s jaw-dropping Paris Opera House design, and the story’s stirring love triangle between budding soprano Christine, her childhood friend-turned-wealthy suitor Raoul, and her singing teacher: the mysterious, sewer-dwelling Phantom.
The key role of the Phantom is currently being played by the great Irish musical theatre leading man Killian Donnelly. It’s a homecoming for Donnelly, who last played Raoul in the show. He’s renowned, too, for his performances in Les Misérables, working his way up from a swing to Enjolras and then Jean Valjean, plus playing Courfeyrac in the 25th Anniversary Concert and Combeferre in the movie adaptation. He also starred in Billy Elliot The Musical, The Commitments, Memphis, and Kinky Boots.
In 2021, Donnelly returned to play the title role in the West End Phantom, and is now bringing his considerable talent to this powerful production alongside Lucy St. Louis as Christine and Rhys Whitfield as Raoul.
See Stephanie McKeon in Frozen
It was only a matter of time before Disney’s film phenomenon came to the stage, with its musical theatre-ready score from Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. Sure enough, Frozen debuted on Broadway in 2018, starring Patti Murin and Caissie Levy, and featuring all of the film’s hits as well as new songs like “Monster.”
Michael Grandage’s sumptuous production uses clever design, special effects, and puppetry to evoke the magical Arendelle and characters like Sven and Olaf, while Jennifer Lee’s book expands on the relationship between the two sisters — making those lead roles even more enticing. But who would play them in the West End?
Samantha Barks was cast as Elsa, and Dublin-born Stephanie McKeon got the part of Anna. McKeon has a strong track record, having played Natalie in The Commitments and Cynthia Weil in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, but this is a star-making role for her — and one that’s earned her a much-deserved Olivier Award nomination.
Photo credit: Killian Donnelly in The Phantom of the Opera (Photo courtesy of production)
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