The Week Ahead: Mark Shenton's week in theatre featuring Top Girls and Little Miss Sunshine
Starting today, you will find me here three days a week - on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays - offering regular commentary on what's happening in theatre land - on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond, for anyone whether they have a passionate or even only a passing interest in theatre.
As a self-confessed theatre addict, you can find me in the stalls most nights of the week - I go to the theatre at least six times a week, and sometimes have been known to go twelve (which entails seven evenings plus five matinees). And although I make my home in London, I regularly visit New York (I will also be contributing regular reviews to LondonTheatre.co.uk's partner site, the New York Theatre Guide).
But I don't confine my activities to these two world capitals of English speaking theatre; the weekend before last, for instance, I was in Stockholm catching Mamma Mia! The Party, ahead of its transfer to London's O2 Arena in September, and this coming weekend I will be in Manchester to see a new production of Rags, a fast flop when it premiered on Broadway in 1986 (it ran for just four performances) but with a creative pedigree that included book by Joseph Stein (Fiddler on the Roof), music by Charles Strouse (Annie and Bye Bye Birdie) and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (Pippin and Godspell, and who would go on to score Wicked). I'm also seeing a brand-new production of the forever-great West Side Story, originally premiered on Broadway in 1957, at the Royal Exchange.
This Week in Theatre
I'm looking forward this week to several London openings.
On Monday, 1st April, William Finn and James Lapine's musical version of the 2006 film Little Miss Sunshine, seen in California in 2011 before running Off-Broadway in 2013, opens at the Arcola, with a cast that features Olivier winner Gary Wilmot, Olivier nominees Laura Pitt-Pulford, Paul Keating and Gabriel Vick in a production directed by the Arcola's artistic director Mehmet Ergen that is set to tour after its season here.
On Wednesday, 3rd April, Caryl Churchill's 1982 play Top Girls is revived at the National in a new production directed by Lyndsey Turner. The NT describe the play as "a wildly innovative play about a country divided by its own ambitions", which pretty much sums up the current mood.
And then on Friday, 5th April, Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman's Ghost Stories returns to its original home the Lyric Hammersmith, where it first premiered in 2010, before transferring to the Arts Theatre and enjoying subsequent productions in Shanghai, Australia, Canada and being made into a hit British film. Nyman, who also starred in the original version, is now playing Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof that has just transferred to the West End (see Top Shows below). The theatre warns: "Please be advised that Ghost Stories contains moments of extreme shock and tension... We strongly advise those of a nervous disposition to think very seriously before attending."
Over on the other side of the Atlantic, this week sees Glenda Jackson reprising her starring turn in the title role of King Lear that she previously did at the Old Vic in 2016; but in a completely new production from Broadway director Sam Gold. It opens officially at the Cort Theatre on 4th April, with a cast that also features British actor Ruth Wilson.
This year's Laurence Olivier Awards will also be presented this week at the Royal Albert Hall on Sunday, 7th April. On Wednesday, I'll be offering my predictions in the major categories for this year's awards! On Sunday, we'll see if I'm right…
Top shows to see this week
The revival of Sondheim's 1970 show Company may have closed at the West End's Gielgud Theatre on Saturday, but you still have the chance to see his 1971 masterpiece Follies at the National (up until 11th May). Read my five-star review of the return of this production here.
Another forever-great Broadway musical from 1964, this eternally relevant story of displacement and family has returned to the West End in a new production that transferred from the Menier Chocolate Factory to a specially reconfigured Playhouse Theatre last week. Read my five-star review of the transfer here.
This coming Saturday (6th April) will mark the 20th anniversary of the West End opening of Mamma Mia!, a musical that launched a thousand imitators that sought to fold existing pop songs into a new story. But Mamma Mia! does it with such fun and vivacity that it's still never been beaten. It went on to become not one but two hit films.
Unmissable play by young French playwright Florian Zeller about parents dealing with their son's depression is anguished and heart-breaking to watch. It is directed by Michael Longhurst, who this week will also announce his first season at the helm of the Donmar Warehouse. The Son runs at the Kiln Theatre (formerly the Tricycle) to 13th April, but surely a West End transfer will be in order.
Last two weeks to see the West End transfer of Laura Wade's sharp, funny play about marital games and trying to live in the past, with the wonderful Katherine Parkinson. Read my review of the West End transfer here.
The West End is suddenly alive with women playwrights and women's stories - as well as Laura Wade (see above), a new play by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm opened recently that not only has an all-female cast and entirely female creative team, but is also brought to the West End by a team of four female co-producers. And its playing right next door to Waitress, a new musical that also boasts an all-female lead creative team of writers, director and choreographer. Read our review of Emilia here.