London's West End 2016 Theatre Preview
With the last days of 2015 now on the horizon and all the theatrical openings now complete, it's time to look ahead towards what the New Year will bring for theatre goers in London's West End. Following on from an impressive year of drama and new plays, there is plenty to look forward to in the coming months, with more Broadway transfers and London premieres offering a wide range of theatrical delights.
If you're unsure about what to see in 2016 and which shows should certainly be on your radar - fear not! Below is our list of the West End's most exciting new productions that should help see you through the January Blues:
For those who immediately enter a post-holiday blues the second the final bauble is packed away and the tree is unceremoniously thrown in the hope that the council will soon be round to clear them whilst hollering "bring out your dead", I can't think of a better way to perk yourself into the New Year than by seeing a classic Broadway musical. Regarded by many as the best musical ever written, this musical comedy features a string of well known hits that will cast off the January lull and have your foot furiously tapping away in the aisles. The production comes direct from a UK tour and a successful run at the Chichester Festival Theatre, and features a whole host of familiar theatre faces including the glorious Jamie Parker. With choreography by Carlos Acosta, you'll soon wish you were being whisked off to Havana and duped into drinking alcoholic cocktails (Sarah Brown needs a rape alarm), and you'll forget you're in cold London empathising with Miss Adelaide's wheezes and the sneezes. A sure fire hit to kick off 2016 with a bang.
Regardless what awards panels may say, to me Ralph Fiennes gave the most unforgettable performance in 2015 for his masterful work in Shaw's 'Man + Superman' at the National. I'm literally quivering with excitement to see him in Ibsen's drama in what I'm expecting to be another knock-out production from The Old Vic. Those who've recently enjoyed Mr Fiennes in 'Spectre' will revel seeing him up close and personal and in one of the greatest plays of the 20th century. My new year's resolution is to be less bold in my claims and opinions. I give it until 3rd Jan.
Described as a love child between 'Avenue Q' and 'The Book of Mormon', this hit American play comes direct from Broadway where it was nominated for a 2015 Tony Award for Best Play. At a time when the world is quite a dark place, sometimes you just want to go to the theatre and laugh...enter 'Hand to God'. Witty, irreverent, smart and pants-wettingly funny. The pull quotes practically write themselves...
With so few new musicals heading to the West End in 2016, I can't help but feel that all our eggs are in Mrs Henderson's basket for a big British musical hit. This brand new musical based on the film of the same name received jolly notices from its out of town tryout, and comes to the West End with an impressive cast and creative team attached. Tracie Bennett is an unforgettable performer, and it's exciting to know she'll be back in the West End where she belongs. I have every digit crossed that this new British musical will be a hit - get yourself to the Noel Coward and support this valiant effort.
Jamie Lloyd continues to barnstorm the West End with high-quality and expertly judged productions that are designed to wake you up and make you think. One of the most impressive and consistant directors working today in the commercial sector, I'm already excited for what Benedict Andrews and Andrew Upton have brought to this adaptation of Jean Genet's thriller that follows two maids who fantasize about killing their employer, playing out dangerous and sadistic scenarios as they plan her violent death. 'Orange is the New Black' star Uzo Abuda won 2015 for me with her incredible cameo in 'The Wiz Live' (send her another Emmy, thanks), and I can't wait to see her live in the intimate surroundings of the Trafalgar Studios.
The National Theatre have enjoyed commercial successes with shows such as 'War Horse' and 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time', but their latest West End transfer is certainly no family story. Written by Duncan Macmillan, this fiercely sharp, powerful and enigmatic drama deals with drug addiction in the modern day, as the main character struggles to come to terms with the effect drugs and alcohol are having on her body and mind. Through some impressive set design by Bunny Christie, the audience experiences first hand what Emma is going through and are forced to confront the realities of coping with addiction.
It's hard to believe that this will mark Glenn Close's West End debut, but she makes a welcome return to a role that earned her a Tony Award and international acclaim, this time for London audiences. Lloyd Webber's 'Sunset Boulevard' is regarded as one of his most popular shows, thanks to the sweeping score of classics such as "With One Look", "The Perfect Year" and "As If We Never Said Goodbye". It's a brave move returning to a role you last played 20 years ago, but I'm confident with some appropriate key modulation, Norma will be back at last in one of London's grandest venues. Will this new production end in a law suit? Roll on April...
Disney fans rejoice! This peppy screen-to-stage adaptation of the loved animated classic is the latest Broadway blockbuster to make the trip across the Atlantic to delight West End audiences. Featuring Alan Menken's score that defined my generation, hop aboard a magic carpet ride to the mythical world of Agrabah, where "even the poor people are fabulous". Whilst it lacks the stage magic of 'The Lion King' or heart of 'Mary Poppins', it's certainly a wonder to behold, thanks mainly to Casey Nicholaw's outstanding choreography. Pretend you have a child, grab tickets and spend the interval shouting "Felicity! Sebastian!" and you'll fit in no problem.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back into a bookshop...That's right, after promising a definitive end to the Harry Potter franchise following seven books, eight films and numerous spin-offs - the Boy Wizard is back in a brand new adventure story, but this time live on stage. Now the cynical amongst you may believe this is a shameless attempt to cash in on an internationally recognisable title, but I for one can't wait to see this exciting franchise live on stage. The show sold out for about 16 years before a word of the script had even been written, so if you don't have tickets yet, you'll need to get your Slytherin friends to log onto the 'dark' web and sell a dragon's egg or similar. If you managed to 'accio' yourself tickets, you now have gloating rights in front of your millennial friends for approximately five months, or at least the time it takes for Warner Brothers to make the film version (come on - we ALL know it's going to happen...).
Perhaps the pinnacle of the Kenneth Branagh takeover of The Garrick Theatre, this fantastic play by John Osborne was written at the request of Laurence Olivier himself, and will star - yes, you guessed it - Kenneth Branagh in the role of Archie Rice. An example of 'kitchen sink realism', the play shocked audiences and critics when first presented in 1957, and has since enjoyed a number of high profile revivals. Osborne's style requires nothing less than a virtuoso performance, and we're confident that Sir Kenneth can deliver. Don't miss this fine British play, starring the closest thing we have left to Larry himself.