December has finally arrived. I don’t know about anyone else, but it seems as though this year has gone by incredibly fast. Christmas is only 21 days away, and one week after that, we’ll all be celebrating the dawning of a brand new year, which is already shaping up to be a promising year for theatre. Before you all start getting excited about what’s coming in 2013 though, pause for a moment to enjoy the last offerings of 2012. After taking a peek at the West End’s December tenants, here’s some of the best picks to help you see 2012 out with a big ol’ stagey bang!
There are some children’s authors whose work transcends time to entertain generations of the youth population; Dr. Seuss is one of them. There are many people out there who will have fond memories of the persistent fox with his plate of green eggs and ham, the troublesome hat-wearing cat and the elephant who saved a town of tiny people and hatched a half-bird – half-elephant baby. Now the creations of Dr. Seuss come to life on the stage with a children’s musical based on his works. Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty and Eric Idle conceived Seussical together, with Flaherty composing the music and Ahrens writing lyrics. The two also collaborated on the show’s book, which features The Cat in the Hat as a guide to the, “fantastical, bombastical and songtastical world of Dr Seuss.” The audience join Horton the Elephant as he faces the challenge of trying to save a speck of dust which holds the small world of the Who’s and guard Mayzie La Bird’s abandoned egg, all at the same time. Will Gertrude McFuzz’s unwavering faith in him be enough to save him when he is put on trial? Produced by David Hutchinson and Phillip Rowntree for Sell A Door Company, Seussical stars David Hunter as the heroic elephant. The first preview is tonight (4th December) at the Arts Theatre, with its official opening just two days later on 6th December 2012. It runs there until 6th January 2013.
SOOTY IN SPACE:
Another familiar face is blasting into the West End this Christmas with Sooty In Space. Many people also grew up with Sooty and his friends; now they’re taking over the stage with an all-new space adventure that sees Sooty off to explore the final frontier – if his rocket can make it with Sweep at the controls, that is. The show by Matthew Corbett – who many will remember as the presenter of The Sooty Show – features flying cups and saucers, dancing Martians and The Giant Triplod, along with the flight to Mars being shown in 3D (audiences will be given a free pair of Space Goggles, which they can then take home with them). Richard Cadell, who Corbett handpicked to take over from him when he retired in 1998, directs and stars in Sooty In Space, which features designs by Julian Adams. The show opens at the Duchess Theatre on 21st December 2012 and closes on 5th January 2013.
PRIVATES ON PARADE:
‘Tis the season to be jolly, so Peter Nichols’ comedic play couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Featuring music by Denis King, Privates On Parade follows Private Steven Flowers as he is posted to the Song and Dance Unit in South East Asia. Serving under the colourful Captain Terri Dennis, he soon discovers that a uniform does not alone make a man. Michael Grandage directs the talented cast, which sees Simon Russell Beale and Joseph Timms play opposite one another in the lead roles of ‘Flowers’ and ‘Dennis’ respectively. The play also features Chris Chan (Lee), Sophiya Haque (Sylvia Morgan), Harry Hepple (Lance Corporal Charles Bishop), Mark Lewis Jones (Sergeant-Major Reg Drummond), John Marquez (Corporal Len Bonny), Brodie Ross (Leading-Aircraftman Eric Young-Love), Sam Swainsbury (Flight-Sergeant Kevin Cartwright), Sadao Ueda (Cheng) and Angus Wright (Major Giles Flack).Choreography is by Ben Wright with musical direction by Jae Alexander. Previews for Privates On Parade began at the Noel Coward Theatre on 1st December. It opens there on 10th December 2012 and runs until 2nd March 2013.
THE BOY WITH TAPE ON HIS FACE:
Comedian Sam Wills continues the fun with his stand-up show The Boy With Tape On His Face. The New Zealand-born funny man, who is well-known on the fringe circuit, performs his unique show which features: “Mime with noise, stand-up with no talking – drama with no acting.” Literally standing on stage with a piece of tape on his face, his character The Boy uses his own brand of simple, clever, charming humour to reach that inner child we all have inside. He’ll be performing at the Duchess Theatre from 17th December 2012 until 5th January 2013.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL WITH SIMON CALLOW:
Actor Simon Callow has appeared in a number of one-man stage shows and now he returns with a performance of A Christmas Carol, based on author Charles Dickens’ own performance adaption. The story of the miserly Scrooge who is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future has become a classic in the literary world, and now this story of goodness and, above all, redemption, comes to the stage in a co-production from Assembly Festival and Riverside Studios. Directed by Tom Cairns, A Christmas Carol With Simon Callow is currently still in the preview period at the Arts Theatre. His one-man show opens on 5th December 2012 and runs until 6th January 2013.
CINDERELLA – THE ANTI PANTO:
Hand-in-hand with the Christmas season is panto season, but there’s one show in town this year that is ignoring the antics of Widow Twanky and the calls of ‘He’s Behind you!’ Cinderella: The Anti Panto tells one of the most famous fairy tales of all time – the way it was originally intended. Conceived by David Shopland and Callum Hughes for Blind Tiger Theatre Company, the duo have created a host of dark and deeply disturbed characters and placed them in a bloodthirsty and brutal story of both revenge and redemption. Directed by Shopland, Cinderella: The Anti Panto features live music and audience participation in a production that has been listed as unsuitable for under-14’s. This entertaining drama opens on 10th December 2012 for a limited run at the Leicester Square Theatre Lounge, closing on 30th December 2012.
The musical adaption of the 1992 hit-film began its preview period back in early November, but the romantic thriller will finally make its official opening tomorrow (5th December). The Bodyguard is the unexpected love story of superstar Rachel Marron, whose life is under threat from an unknown stalker, and the former Secret Service Agent-turned bodyguard, Frank Farmer, who is hired to protect her. The musical features an array of hit songs by the late Whitney Houston who played Marron in the original film version, including ‘Run To You’, ‘I Have Nothing’, ‘Queen of the Night’ and, of course, ‘I Will Always Love You’. With a book by Alex Dinelaris, the Michael Harrison and David Ian stage production is led by Heather Headley and Lloyd Owen as the unlikely lovers, alongside an outstanding cast which includes Debbie Kurup (Nicki Marron), Nicolas Colicos (Tony) and Mark Letheren (The Stalker), as well as Gloria Onititi as the alternate Rachel Marron. Directed by Thea Sharrock and with choreography by Arthur Pita, The Bodyguard opens on 5th December 2012 at the Adelphi Theatre and is currently booking until 27th April 2013.
Another highly-anticipated musical has just started its preview period: Viva Forever! Based on the songs of The Spice Girls, the original musical follows the talented Viva and her friends as they enter an X-Factor style TV talent contest. As she becomes swept up in the pursuit of her dream, Viva’s relationships with her friends and her mother are struggle under the weight of overnight fame – will they really be friends forever and will Viva and her mother learn to empower themselves and be who they really want to be? With a book by Jennifer Saunders, this humerous and inspiring musical features many of The Spice Girls biggest hits, such as ‘Wannabe’, ‘2 Become 1’, ‘Stop’ and a mash-up of ‘Mama/Goodbye’, as well as the title song. Produced by Judy Craymer in association with Simon Fuller, Universal Music and The Spice Girls, the Paul Garrington-directed jukebox musical stars Hannah John-Karmen and Sally Ann Triplett as Viva and her mother, Lauren. The rest of the cast includes: Siobhan Athwal (Luce) , Lucy Phelps (Diamond), Dominique Provost-Chalkley (Holly), Lucy Montgomery (Suzi), Simon Slater (Mitch), Bill Ward (Judge), Sally Dexter (Judge), Tamara Wall (Judge), Ben Cura (Angel), Hatty Preston (Minty), Simon Adkins (Leon) and Anthony Topham (Lance), alongside a terrific ensemble team. Viva Forever began previews at the Piccadilly Theatre on 27th November and it officially opens on 11th December 2012. It is currently booking until 1st June 2013.
THE ANIMALS AND CHILDREN TOOK TO THE STREETS:
Written by Suzanne Andrade, this critically acclaimed show is a unique theatre experience that seamlessly synchronises live music, performance and storytelling with film and animation. Joanna Crowley’s production for 1927 Theatre Company is a tale set in the feared city area of the Bayou. Agnes Eaves arrives with her daughter late one night at the infamous tenement block Bayou Mansions, a place full of suspicious peeping toms and where the wolf is always at the door. Is their arrival a beacon of hope for this desolate place or has the horror only just begun? Andrade both directs and stars in this children’s drama (suitable for 11+), alongside fellow cast members Esme Appleton and Lillian Henley. The Animals and Children took to the Streets opens at the Lyttelton, National Theatre on 12th December 2012 and plays there until 10th January 2013.
HANSEL AND GRETEL:
The story of Hansel and Gretel is a well-known one, and now Lucy Kirkwood has created an all-new stage show (co-devised with Katie Mitchell), based on the Brother Grimms’ original fairy tale. Mitchell directs this tale of the two children lost in the woods, a breadcrumb trail and a witch who lives in a gingerbread house, produced by the National Theatre. Music is by Paul Clark, movement by Joseph Aldred and puppet design by Toby Olie, with a cast line-up that features Ruby Bentall, Kate Duchene, Dylan Kennedy, Justin Salinger and Amit Shah. Previews begin at Cottesloe, National Theatre on 7th December, opening six days later on 13th December 2012. It is playing there until 26th January 2013.
JULIUS CAESAR (an all-female company):
William Shakespeare’s classic telling of the rise and fall of Roman dictator Julius Caesar is given a fresh interpretation in this alternative production of the tragic play. Phyllida Lloyd directs an all-female company which is lead by Frances Barber as Julius Caesar. The remainder of the cast is comprised of Harriet Walter (Brutus), Cush Jumbo (Mark Anthony),Jade Anouka (Calpurnia), Clare Dunne (Portia), Jenny Jules (Cassius), Ishia Bennison (Casca), Helen Cripps (Cinna the Poet), Jen Joseph (Trebonius), Charlotte Josephine (Lucius), Irene Ketikidi (Dardanius), Carrie Rock (Soothsayer), Carolina Valdes (Cinna/ Volumnius) and Danielle Ward (Clitus). Designs are by Bunny Christie. Julius Caesar began previews on 19th November and opens today (4th December 2012) at the Donmar Warehouse. It runs there until 9th February 2013.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Tuesday 4th December 2012