The Week Ahead: The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, the end of history and many a London Midsummer
This Week in Theatre
On 2nd July, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾ - The Musical finally arrives in the West End, four years after its original premiere at Leicester's Curve in 2015 that was followed by a revised London production at the Menier Chocolate Factory in the summer of 2017. This isn't the first time that Sue Townsend's 1982 novel about the growing pains of a young Leicester-based teenager has made it to the West End, though: a previous musical version played at Wyndham's in 1984. But this new version, with a book by Jake Brunger and music by Pippa Cleary and lyrics by both of them, heralds the first West End outing for this promising writing team, whose first musical Jet Set Go! was seen on the Edinburgh Fringe in 2008. It is directed by Luke Sheppard, who has been with the musical from its first Leicester production, and the cast includes Rosemary Ashe, who has similarly been with it from the beginning as Adrian's grandmother, also joined by Lara Denning, John Hopkins, Andrew Langtree, Amy Ellen Richardson and Ian Talbot.
Also on 2nd July, Michael Frayn's now-classic theatrical farce Noises Off returns to Lyric Hammersmith, where it originally premiered in 1982 before transferring to the West End and Broadway, in a new production now directed by Jeremy Herrin, who also directed the last Broadway revival of the play for Roundabout Theatre Company in 2016. The play has also been twice revived in London - at the National in 2000 that subsequently transferred to Broadway, and at the Old Vic in 2011 that also transferred to the West End. This time the cast includes Meera Syal, Daniel Rigby (an original cast member of One Man Two Guvnors), Lloyd Owen and Debra Gillett.
On 3rd July, director John Tiffany and playwright Jack Thorne reunite after their extraordinary success with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child for the premiere of a new play titled the end of history... at the Royal Court. The cast includes David Morrissey, Lesley Sharp and Kate O'Flynn.
Also on 3rd July, ENO teams up with Theatre Royal Stratford East in their first-ever collaboration to offer a new production of Benjamin Britten's Noye's Fludde, with a company that combines professional singers, actors and musicians with a community chorus and local school children.
The first of this week's two al fresco productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream also opens on 3rd July. Sean Holmes (formerly artistic director of Lyric Hammersmith and new newly appointed associate artistic director at the Globe) directs a cast at Shakespeare's Globe that features Jocelyn Jee Esien as Bottom, Ekow Quartey as Lysander, Victoria Elliott as Titania and Amanda Wilkin as Helena.
On 5th July, Dominic Hill directs another new production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre. These productions join the current Nick Hytner immersive indoor revival at the Bridge Theatre, starring Gwendoline Christie.
Also on 5th July, a new musical by Alex James Ellison and Tom Lees and also co-directed by them opens at Southwark Playhouse's Little Theatre. Fiver follows the story of a £5 note as it passes through the hands and pockets of different people in London. Then cast comprises Dan Buckley, Hiba Elchikhe, Luke Bayer, Aoife Clesham and Alex James Ellison.
Top shows of the weeks
Broadway's latest pop bio-musical to arrive in the West End is this energetic tribute to Latin musical superstar Gloria Estefan and her husband and co-producer Emilio, telling their life story to the accompaniment of the hits they made famous. In my review for LondonTheatre.co.uk I wrote, "The times the show actually ignites with real passion and power is during the rousing upbeat songs. If Sergio Trujillo's choreography is sometimes repetitive, it is certainly athletic, all swooning, sweeping flurries of movement in unison. And with an electrifying band under musical director Clay Ostwald pumping up the volume, your feet are all but powerless to not tap along."
Last chance to catch this gorgeous London premiere for the 2005 Broadway musical, that has already become a personal obsession for me. I've been back to see it once again already, and am now booked for the last night this Friday too. As I wrote in my review for LondonTheatre.co.uk it has "a score of swelling, surging musical joy, full of meltingly lovely arias, laments and a sense of overwhelming feeling. I don't think that there's a more ravishing sound to be heard in all of London right now. And the luxury casting of Daniel Evans's London premiere of the show - in the players of both the cast and onstage orchestra - ensures that it is heard at its exquisite best."
With Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat now previewing at the London Palladium ahead of opening on 11th July, their second musical Jesus Christ Superstar now joins it for a summer festival of Lloyd Webber's early shows that will also see a new production of Evita at the Open Air Theatre next month as I reported here. I already know it's wonderful: it was first seen at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre in 2016 and was reprised the following summer. I can't wait to see it again now that it's going indoors to the Barbican.
14 years after the Almeida launched their hit stage version of Thomas Vinterberg's 1998 film Festen, they've now premiered a new stage version of another Vinterberg film, the 2012 Jagten - and it's as shattering and alarming. Both revolve around child abuse: actual in the case of Festen, but this time told from the point of view of a falsely-accused suspected perpetrator. As I wrote in my review for LondonTheatre.co.uk, "The ordinary terrors of the consequences of this false accusation, as Lucas's life goes into rapid freefall, are played with a shocking, desperate realism by Tobias Menzies... It's a gripping, unsettling evening - not easy to watch, but impossible to look away from.
The West End looks like a certainty after the virtual unanimous raves that greeted Matthew Warchus's revival of Noel Coward's play at the Old Vic, starring Andrew Scott. As Will Longman wrote in his review for LondonTheatre.co.uk, "The West End seems to be full of ‘weighty’ plays recently; serious plays like Rosmersholm, Bitter Wheat and Sweat, with serious messages, which is great. But the laughter which roared through the stalls at the Old Vic for most the duration of this hilarious Present Laughter is just so welcome."
With two outdoor productions of Shakespeare's comedy opening in London this week, there's also a third still running at the Bridge Theatre in Nick Hytner's immersive promenade production. Some critics awarded it a five-star rave; I was less measured in my enthusiasm myself but said that Hytner and his collaborators kept the show "fast and fluid, fun and occasionally surprising."