The Week Ahead: London premiere of Amour, Death of a Salesman at the Young Vic and the best of rock musicals
It may be a shorter week owing to the bank holiday, but there's still a busy week for what's left - plus celebrations of Sondheim and rock musicals.
This Week in Theatre
Sondheim features strongly across the week: Broadway performer Melissa Errico brings her latest cabaret set Sondheim Sublime, focusing entirely on the composer's work to Crazy Cons from 6th to 8th May, renewing an association with his work that has stretched from playing Dot in Sunday in the Park with George at Kennedy Center's 2002 celebration of Sondheim in Washington DC, an Off-Broadway run in Passion in 2013, and most recently a concert version of Into the Woods on Long Island. The National's return run of Follies closes on Saturday (11th May); before it does, on Thursday 9th May, I'll be hosting a platform interview with Ted Chapin at the National about his book Everything Was Possible, which chronicled the insider story of the making of the original 1971 Broadway production of the show (Chapin had a ringside seat as a production assistant on it).
On Wednesday, Amour - a musical by the recently deceased Michel Legrand which had an abbreviated run on Broadway in 2002 with a cast led by the aforementioned Melissa Errico - receives its London premiere at Charing Cross Theatre, with Anna O'Byrne starring and a first listen to her singing 'Somebody'.
On Thursday, the current informal Arthur Miller festival in the Cut continues, with a new production of Death of a Salesman opening at the Young Vic, co-directed by Marianne Elliott and Miranda Cromwell, with a cast led by American actor Wendell Pierce as Willy Loman, Sharon D. Clarke as his wife Linda and Arinzé Kene as his son Biff. It joins the revival of All My Sons playing down the street at the Old Vic, which was also previously resident to The American Clock.
On Friday, Shakespeare's Globe kick off the summer outdoor season with a triple bill opening of Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, and Henry V. Directed by Federay Holmes and Sarah Bedi, the new resident Globe Ensemble is led by Michelle Terry as Hotspur in Henry IV Part 1, Helen Schlesinger as Falstaff in Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, and Sarah Amankwah plays Hal in Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 and the titular role in Henry V.
On Sunday, The Best Of... Rock Musicals will be hosted by Sir Tim Rice at Hammersmith's Eventim Apollo, featuring songs from Jesus Christ Superstar, Hair, Chess, Aida, Rent, Spring Awakening and more, performed by a cast that will include Kerry Ellis, Broadway's Adam Pascal and Judy Kuhn, Emma Hatton, Rob Houchen, Debbie Kurup, Jon Robyns and Ray Shell, amongst others.
Top shows of the week
The Hired Man
Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch
Strictly speaking Hornchurch is in Essex, but its (almost) at the end of the District Line so it also has a foot in London, too - and the Queen's Theatre there is a producing jewel of a theatre. Now it is boldly staging a revival of Howard Goodall and Melvyn Bragg's 1984 achingly beautiful musical that I saw last week, and reported on here, commenting that "I spent most of the second act in tears - there's something so heartfelt and shattering in this searing portrait of life on the land, in the mines and the trenches of World War One that it touches my soul.....The show is both wrenching and wonderful."
Come From Away
On Broadway, this heartfelt musical about the power of kindness was nominated for seven Tony Awards but only won a single one for director Christopher Ashley, but it lost out otherwise to Dear Evan Hansen. But Dear Evan Hansen doesn't open in the West End until later this year so the coast was clear for Come from Away to sweep at this year's Olivier Awards and it did - winning awards for best new musical, outstanding achievement in music, best theatre choreographer and best sound design. Here's my five-star review for LondonTheatre.co.uk.
Victoria Palace Theatre
Last year's Oliviers were dominated by Hamilton, winning seven of the 13 awards it had been nominated for. It's still a must-see, a game-changer for contemporary musicals. In my five-star review, I wrote, "Now the show has arrived in London - its first appearance on non-US territory - and it's even more thrilling than I - already an avid fan who has seen it four times in New York - could hope for.... Hamilton captures the heartbeat and heartbreak of a nation trying to find itself - and relates it directly to a pursuit it is still engaged in trying to define anew today, maybe especially today, in the age of the 45th President Donald Trump."
Olivier Theatre, National Theatre
The National's artistic director Rufus Norris has found that its largest theatre the Olivier can be an albatross and difficult to fill (both with audiences and metaphorically). But at last he has struck a bullseye, with a new stage adaptation of Andrea Levy's prize-winning 2004 novel. As I wrote in my review for LondonTheatre.co.uk, it "translates the story of the arrival of some of them from Jamaica to a frequently less-than-warm welcome into relatable human terms but employs a vivid theatrical language to do so with.
Duke of York's Theatre
The National will soon be reviving Ibsen's Peer Gynt; but the West End is getting in ahead of them by reviving his equally challenging 1886 play. As I wrote in my review for LondonTheatre.co.uk, "In one of producer Sonia Friedman's possibly boldest (or most reckless?) moves yet, she's giving commercial life to the Norwegian misery merchant's (very) rarely-seen 1886 play Rosemersholm; even the title is off-putting and hardly trips off the tongue." But it turns out to be truly electrifying: as I also wrote, "It also startlingly becomes a play for today in Duncan Macmillan's searing new version."
All About Eve
Noel Coward Theatre
Ivo van Hove's stage version of the 1950 film ends on 11th May, with Gillian Anderson as the veteran stage actor Margo Channing and Lily James as Eve Harrington, the ambitious woman who insinuates herself into her life and becomes her understudy. Last week I saw the understudy run as I reported here, which gave the story an extra meta-theatrical charge, as a play about understudies was played by them. It also made me more keenly aware of the visual tricks played by the production. As Will Longman noted in his review, "There’s a great story under this play, one about deception, power, age and acting. It’s just a shame that some of the best acting in the play happens in a box on the stage, and we only witness it through a lens. It detaches the audience from the story, and teeters on the edge of losing them."