Brits on Broadway - The West End takes over Broadway this Spring
London's West End is used to welcoming a string of Broadway hit shows, from celebrated new musicals to well-reviewed revivals of musicals that are looking to extend their life beyond the USA. This Spring sees the arrival of An American in Paris in the West End via a run in Paris, making a wonderful trio of cities that have hosted this beautiful Tony Award-nominated new musical. Broadway hits such as Kinky Boots, Beautiful and Jersey Boys continue to pack in the crowds with smaller scale musicals such as The Wild Party and Murder for Two have arrived for runs in London following Broadway and off-Broadway successes.
This Spring marks a distinct gear change in the traffic flowing from London to Broadway as a record number of British born productions are opening in New York over the coming months. This evening Cameron Mackintosh's revival of Miss Saigon begins previews at The Broadway Theatre, the location of its original New York run between 1991 and 2001. With the original American production breaking records for its advance and causing controversy with American Actor's Equity over the casting of Jonathan Pryce, the celebrated revival which has been redirected by Lawrence Connor sees the epic musical return to New York for the first time, preparing to offer a whole new generation the opportunity to see a first-rate production of the powerful musical.
Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard opened to rave reviews last week and has extended its limited run through to the early summer. Critics once again praised the performance of Glenn Close in the lead role of Norma Desmond, returning to Broadway in the now iconic role some 20 years after originally creating the role in the USA and winning the Tony Award. Sunset Boulevard had its world premiere at the Adelphi Theatre in 1994 in a production that starred Patti LuPone. Following a mixed review by Frank Rich in the New York Times, LuPone was ingloriously fired from recreating the role in the States, something that had been written into her contract. Close opened the show in LA before transferring to Broadway for a 977 performance run.
This new production originally ran at the London Coliseum last year and co-starred Michael Xavier and Siobhan Dillon where it was met with rapturous reviews and nightly standing ovations. Close, making her West End debut in the role, is a sure fire lock-in for an Olivier Award nomination come awards season, and despite not being eligible for the Tony Award in the same role could cause an impressive win in a fiercely fought category.
The recent London revival of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street which originally opened at the Harrington's Pie and Mash Shop in a site-specific production in south London has also made its way across the pond, opening at the Barrow Street Theatre off-Broadway on 1 March. British stars Jeremy Secomb and Siobhán McCarthy lead the cast as Sweeney and Mrs Lovett, opening the production before handing over to Norm Lewis and Carloee Carmello later in the run. An utter triumph in London the production was applauded by Sondheim himself and offers audiences a unique and intimate way to rediscover a classic.
After bidding farewell to the West End earlier this year Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the Musical is preparing to open on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on 23 April. Directed in the West End by Sam Mendes the Broadway production has been redirected by Jack O'Brien, and is said to include a refreshed score by Marc Shaimain and Scott Wittman to include more material from the much-loved musical film. Christian Borle stars as the mysterious Willy Wonka - his second lead role this season on Broadway following his triumphant turn in Falsettos. The Broadway production only uses one child, Charlie Buckett, with adults playing the other children who get their hands on the golden tickets. Fans of the show in London remember the spectacular set design and beautiful visuals that helped it run for almost four years. It's wonderful to see a West End show develop especially for the Broadway market.
The Old Vic's production of Groundhog Day the Musical is also another rare example of a big-budget musical enjoying an out-of-town tryout in London ahead of a Broadway bow. Always intended to rise in New York the production was developed by the Old Vic Theatre under the direction of Matthew Warchus and brought together the multi-award-winning team behind Matilda the Musical to see if lightning can really strike the same place twice. The show was met with generally excellent reviews with many praising the designs, score by Tim Minchin and the central performance of Andy Karl as grumpy Mike Connor. Punxsutawney Phil may have gone in this year but Broadway will certainly begin to warm up as Groundhog Day begins performances at the August Wilson on 16 March.
One of the most exciting Broadway transfers is the celebrated London comedy The Play That Goes Wrong. Created from modest beginnings by Mischief Theatre Company the play continues to run in the West End and is preparing to knock-out Broadway audiences as the original cast reunite to bring their particular brand of mayhem to a brand new market. After attracting audiences of all ages in London and an impressive TV turn on the Royal Variety Performance the Mischief Crowd have already embraced the Broadway spirit biting back at NY Post columnist Michael Riedel in a way only they could. It's inspiring and delightful to see such a talented and hard working group of writers, performers and artists travel to Broadway - we hope that New York audiences are ready to laugh their socks off and discover the next comic hit.
The Almeida and Headlong's successful production of 1984 has announced that it will transfer to New York's newly opened Hudson Theatre this summer. After multiple West End seasons the play has a particular relevance in Trump's America, and with book sales soaring there couldn't be a more perfect time for American audiences to discover Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan's skillful stage adaptation. Macmillan is also preparing to open the New York transfer of the hit play People, Places and Things which has been announced to transfer to BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) later this year with Olivier Award-winner Denise Gough reprising her powerfully shattering performance.
Although no official details have been announced the original London production of Dreamgirls is reportedly looking at making the leap back across the pond to land on Broadway next season. This stunning production features many American cast members and of course director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw at the helm, so it's only a matter of time until the show returns to its spiritual home in this beautiful and moving production.
And finally, the Boy Wizard is preparing to pack up his trunk and apparate stateside as Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is preparing to open at the Lyric Theatre in 2018. Auditions are currently underway to find an American cast to bring JK Rowling and Jack Thorne's masterpiece to life. You don't need to be a magician to predict success for this sell-out hit - another home grown British triumph.