The Week Ahead: Annie-Marie Duff and Patsy Ferran gear up to star in classic revivals
This week I'm headed to New York, where between tomorrow (16th April) and next Thursday (25th April) the final eight shows of the Broadway season are opening to beat the deadline for eligibility for this year's Tony Awards (see my feature here).
This means they're all chasing publicity (and the audiences that will hopefully follow the publicity trail) at the same time - and the critics are chasing their tails trying to cover them all. It's a fairly crazy order of play(s), but it is also what gives Broadway theatre its unique buzz. Somehow, between 41st and 54th Street bounded by 8th Avenue on the west and 6th avenue on the east, nothing but theatre matters.
I'm looking forward to covering most of these for our partner site, New York Theatre Guide; but keep visiting LondonTheatre.co.uk for constant news updates and reviews of shows in London.
This Week in Theatre
On Tuesday, 16th April, the Olivier Award-winning team behind Summer and Smoke - director Rebecca Frecknall and actor Patsy Ferran -- reunite at the Almeida for a new production of Chekhov's forever-masterpiece Three Sisters, which I'll be reviewing here. It is presented in a new adaptation by Cordelia Lynn. Ferran, who plays Olga, is joined by Pearl Chanda as Masha and Ria Zmitrowicz and Irina, the three siblings of the title who are waiting for their lives to begin.
I can't wait for this production to begin - especially to see Ferran, fast emerging as a major theatre name. She first burst on the scene when she stole the show in the revival of Blithe Spirit that brought Angela Lansbury back to the London stage for the first time in nearly 40 years back in 2014; she has just been announced to be making her Broadway debut next year in a new production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, co-starring with Eddie Izzard, Laurie Metcalf and Russell Tovey.
Then, on Wednesday 17th, Josie Rourke bows out of the Donmar Warehouse, which she has run for the last seven years, by directing a new production of the 1966 Broadway musical Sweet Charity there, last seen in the West End in 2010 when the Menier Chocolate Factory production transferred to the Haymarket with Tamzin Outhwaite in the title role of Charity Hope Valentine, a "dance hall hostess" longing to escape that life.
This time its National Theatre darling Anne-Marie Duff, whose previous roles have included playing St Joan and Lady Macbeth there and now tackling her first musical. Additional novelty value for this production is that the role of Daddy Brubeck - who gets to sing the show-stopping number “Rhythm of Life” - will be played by a rotating series of guests; this week, it's Adrian Lester; future players include Beverley Knight, Le Gateau Chocolat and Clive Rowe.
Also opening on Broadway in the next 11 days are: Burn This (16th April), Hadestown (17th April, transferring after a try-out run at the National Theatre), Hillary and Clinton (18th April), Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus (21st April), Tootsie (23rd April), Ink (24th April, originally seen at the Almeida) and Beetlejuice (25th April).
Top shows to see this week
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 15th June 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"."
Also from Broadway, where it first premiered in 2015, this biographical revue of the great American soul and R'n'B record label and its founder Berry Gordy reaches the end of its London run at the Shaftesbury this week (closing 20th April), though a UK national touring production will still be on the road. As I wrote in my review for LondonTheatre.co.uk, "Director Charles Randolph-Wright's slick, sleek production, with exhilarating choreography of non-stop movement by Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adams and an amazing band under the musical direction of Gareth Weedon, makes the music come alive in sound, motion and emotion."
Andrew Lloyd Webber will, this summer, once again have four musicals playing simultaneously across London theatres, with the ongoing run of his most recent show School of Rock at the Gillan Lynne, and revivals of Joseph and the Amazing Techicolor Dreamcoat at the London Palladium and Jesus Christ Superstar at the Barbican. But The Phantom of the Opera is still at its original home more than 30 years after its premiere there, only eclipsed by Les Miserables in the longevity stakes; but with Les Mis soon to replace the original production with the current touring version, Phantom will become the longest-running original production of a musical in the West End.
Last two weeks to see the return of this hit National Theatre adaptation of Mark Haddon's 2003 book, compellingly brought to the stage by director Marianne Elliott in a production that has also had a hit run on Broadway. In my 2014 review of the production for LondonTheatre.co.uk when it was playing at the Gielgud, I said: "This is unmissable theatre - a modern classic."
It's also the last fortnight to see this revival of Arthur Miller's classic, starring the great David Suchet. With All My Sons opening at the Old Vic next, and a new production of Death of a Salesman coming to the Young Vic next month, this is very much Arthur Miller season in London. I described this production in my review for LondonTheatre.co.uk as "exemplary revival of Arthur Miller's 1968 slow-burning family drama."
Last week Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson's chiller thriller Ghost Stories returned to the home where it was originally premiered back in 2010 before going onto successive West End runs and being made into a film. And it's still terrifying audiences now: as my colleague Will Longman wrote in his review for LondonTheatre.co.uk, "Rarely do you leave a theatre with a feeling like you get after Ghost Stories: a communal sense of disbelief and palpable relief."