LONDON FALL PREVIEW: New Musicals from Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice, Tori Amos, Duncan Sheik and More
By Mark Shenton
Among the stars gracing London stages in the fall will be Vanessa Redgrave, James Earl Jones, Sheridan Smith, David Walliams, Jude Law, David Tennant and Tom Hiddleston (all of them headlining in plays by Shakespeare) as well as Olivia Williams, Ben Whishaw, Rupert Grint, Brendan Coyle, Matthew Macfadyen, Henry Goodman, Lesley Manville, Antony Sher and an allegedly farewell season for Barry Humphries.
New musicals will include the latest from Andrew Lloyd Webber (Stephen Ward, a bio-musical based on the real-life story of a British political scandal of the early 1960s), another from Tim Rice (From Here to Eternity, adapted from the celebrated novel and film of the same name), plus Roddy Doyle adapting his own novel The Commitments for the stage. The National Theatre will present the world premiere of The Light Princess, featuring music and lyrics by Tori Amos, while the Almeida will offer the world premiere of American Psycho, Duncan Sheik and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's stage version of Brett Easton Ellis' novel of the same name.
Imports from New York will include the U.K. premiere of Kander and Ebb's The Scottsboro Boys, with a cast that includes the Tony-nominated stars of the Broadway original, Colman Domingo and Forrest McClendon. Domingo will first also reprise his solo show, A Boy and His Soul, at London's Tricycle Theatre. Both of those shows first originated at New York's Vineyard Theatre, also the originating home for Nicky Silver's The Lyons, which will receive its U.K. premiere at London's Menier Chocolate Factory. Other plays from New York will include Beau Willimon's Farragut North (originally premiered under the auspices of the Atlantic Theater Company in 2008).
The new Michael Grandage Company, resident this year at the West End's Noel Coward Theatre, will wrap its debut season with two consecutive Shakespeares: Grandage will direct Sheridan Smith and David Walliams as Titania and Bottom, respectively, in A Midsummer Night's Dream (from Sept. 7 for a run through Nov. 16), then Jude Law in the title role of Henry V (from Nov. 23), reuniting the star with the director of his Hamlet that was originally produced under the auspices of the Donmar Warehouse at the West End's Wyndham's Theatre before transferring to Broadway.
David Tennant will return to the RSC, where he was last seen in the title role of Hamlet, to now play the title role of Richard II (at Stratford-upon-Avon's Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Oct. 10-Nov. 16, before transferring to the RSC's former home of the Barbican Theatre, Dec. 9-Jan. 25, 2014).
And, Tom Hiddleston will return to the Donmar Warehouse, where he previously appeared in Othello and Ivanov, to play the title role in Coriolanus (from Dec. 6), under the direction of artistic director Josie Rourke. Also in the cast will be Mark Gatiss, best known as one of the original line-up of The League of Gentlemen, as Menenius.
Matthew Macfadyen and Stephen Mangan will star as Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense (at the Duke of York's from Oct. 30), a new play co-authored by brothers Robert and David Goodale that is based on the works of PG Wodehouse.
At the Royal Court, Vicky Featherstone's inaugural season at the helm of the London theatre will feature four world premieres, including The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas (from Sept. 5), a new play by Dennis Kelly, 2013 Tony winner for Best Book of a Musical for his work on Matilda the Musical, that Featherstone will herself direct. The Royal Court will also host a limited run of Let the Right One In (from Nov. 29), a production from Featherstone's former company, The National Theatre of Scotland, that is directed by John Tiffany, before it transfers to the West End.
Shakespeare's Globe also has two world premieres: director-turned-playwright Jessica Swale's Blue Stockings (from Aug. 24), telling the story of the first female undergraduates at Cambridge University, and Ché Walker's The Lightning Child (from Sept. 14), which is described as an anarchic take on Euripides' The Bacchae and features songs by Arthur Darvill (currently on Broadway in Once).
At the National, a new stage version of Erich Kästner's Emil and the Detectives, adapted by Carl Miller (in the Olivier from Nov. 16), will feature Naomi Frederick and Sue Wallace. The central characters of Emil and the Detectives will be played by 9-13 year olds, with a 50-strong ensemble of children recruited from local London boroughs, schools and youth theatres.
The RSC is to present the world premiere of Ella Hickman's Wendy & Peter Pan (at Stratford-upon-Avon's Royal Shakespeare Theatre from Dec. 10), as well as Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, a two-part theatrical adaptation of Hilary Mantel's Man Booker Prize-winning historical novels (at Stratford-upon-Avon's Swan Theatre from Dec. 11).
At North London's Tricycle and Hampstead Theatres, there will be two premieres: at the Tricycle, Moira Buffini's Handbagged (from Oct. 1) revolves around the relationship between Margaret Thatcher and the Queen, to be played, respectively, by Stella Gonet and Marion Bailey; and at Hampstead Theatre, Tamzin Outhwaite will star in actor-turned-playwright Simon Paisley Day's Raving (from Oct. 17).
At the London fringe's Southwark Playhouse, there will be a U.K. premiere for Beau Willimon's Farragut North (from Sept. 11), the Nobel Prize-winning Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's The Love Girl and the Innocent (from Oct. 9) and the world premiere of Timberlake Wertenbaker's Our Ajax (from Nov. 6).
At Richmond's Orange Tree Theatre in South West London, Sam Walters opens his final season as artistic director of the theatre he founded some 42 years ago with the world professional premiere of Susan Glaspell's 1943 play Spring Eternal (from Sept. 11).
At Hampstead Theatre, playwright and Tony-winning director Terry Johnson will direct a new production of his own play Hysteria, reuniting with Antony Sher, who previously starred last year in a production of it at Bath's Theatre Royal (from Sept. 5). At the St. James Theatre, Trevor Nunn will reprise his production of Ingmar Bermgan's Scenes from a Marriage that he first staged at Coventry's Belgarde Theatre in 2008, with a cast that now includes Olivia Williams and Mark Bazeley (from Sept. 11).
Henry Goodman will reprise the title role in Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui at the Duchess Theatre from Sept. 18 that he first starred in at Chichester's Minerva Theatre last year, in a cast that also includes Keith Baxter, Michael Feast, William Gaunt and Joe McGann.
An all-star West End revival of Jez Butterworth's debut play Mojo will be presented at the Harold Pinter Theatre (from Oct. 26), directed by Ian Rickson, who also staged the play's original production at the Royal Court in 1995 and has subsequently also directed the premieres of all of Butterworth's subsequent plays including Jerusalem. The cast will include Rupert Grint (best known for playing Ron Weasley in the "Harry Potter" films), Brendan Coyle (John Bates in TV's "Downton Abbey") and Ben Whishaw.
At the Almeida, Richard Eyre will direct Lesley Manville as Mrs. Alving in a new production of Ibsen's Ghosts (from Oct. 3). At the Donmar Warehouse, James Maconald will direct a new production of Arnold Wesker's Roots (from Oct. 3), with a cast that includes Jessica Raine, Linda Bassett, Emma Stansfield and Michael Jibson.
At the Tricycle, Mary O'Malley's 1977 comedy Once a Catholic, set in a London convent girls' school in the 1950s, will be revived from Nov. 21, before the theatre revives one of its own more recent hits, Lolita Chakrabarti's Red Velvet, which won the playwright both the Critics' Circle and Evening Standard Awards for Most Promising Playwright when it premiered at the Tricycle last year, returning from Jan. 23. Adrian Lester will reprise his award-winning performance as 19th-century actor Ira Aldridge, before the production transfers to New York's St. Ann's Warehouse from March 25, 2014.
The National will make a rare excursion into new musicals – under Nick Hytner, it has only staged world premieres of Jerry Springer the Opera and London Road, plus imported Caroline, or Change and Fela! from Broadway – to now offer The Light Princess, featuring music and lyrics by Tori Amos and book and lyrics by Samuel Adamson (in the Lyttelton Theatre from Sept. 25). Marianne Elliott, Tony-winning co-director of War Horse, will direct a cast that includes Rosalie Craig. It is described as a dark fairytale about grief, rebellion and the power of love.
From Here to Eternity, based on James Jones' 1951 debut novel that is best known for the 1953 Oscar-winning film version, will begin performances Sept. 30 at the Shaftesbury Theatre. With a score by Stuart Brayson and Tim Rice, the cast features Darius Campbell (formerly known as Darius Danesh) and Robert Lonsdale.
Susan Stroman will again serve as director and choreographer for Kander and Ebb's The Scottsboro Boys — as she did for the show's world premiere at the Vineyard and its subsequent Broadway transfer — for its U.K. premiere at the Young Vic (from Oct. 18 for a run through Nov. 23). As well as the Tony-nominated Colman Domingo and Forrest McClendon, original Broadway cast members Christian Dante White and Clinton Roane will also star.
At the Almeida, Headlong will co-produce the world premiere of American Psycho, the stage version of Brett Easton Ellis' novel of the same name with a book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and music and lyrics by Duncan Sheik (from Dec. 3). It will be directed by Rupert Goold, the former artistic director of Headlong, who has now taken the reigns of the Almeida.
Andrew Lloyd Webber will return to the Aldwych, original London home of his Whistle Down the Wind in 1998, to premiere Stephen Ward (from Dec. 3), teaming up again with playwright Christopher Hampton and lyricist Don Black with whom he previously worked on Sunset Boulevard. Richard Eyre directs the show, which is based on a real life political scandal that shook Britain in 1963. Its title character is one of the victims of the Profumo Affair - not John Profumo himself, the disgraced Minister for War, nor even the fatally wounded Conservative government of Harold Macmillan, but the society osteopath whose private libertarian experiments blew up in his own and everyone else's face. (By coincidence, another musical based on the affair, entitled Profumo the Musical, pre-empted it to receive a fringe premiere at the Waterloo East Theatre, running through Aug. 31).
Heading out on the touring road are productions of Wicked (kicking off Sept. 12 at Manchester's Palace Theatre), War Horse (launching at Plymouth's Theatre Royal Sept. 27) and Singin' in the Rain (first seen at Chichester before transferring to the West End, and now due to begin a national tour with a cast that includes Maxwell Caulfield, running at Manchester's Opera House from Nov. 9).
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