We’re now in the final leg of the run-up to Christmas and fast approaching the finish line. If you haven’t completed your Christmas shopping yet and are in need of a little inspiration then look no further – after all, what better gift could you give than the gift of theatre? The month of December brings with it a sleighful of new shows to see, so if you really want to show someone you love them, or perhaps even just treat yourself, then take a look at our guide to the best new shows opening in London’s West End this December. Spread some festive cheer the stagey way!
The Tall Stories production of this family favourite returns to London for a Christmas season at the Vaudeville Theatre. Adapted from the popular children’s book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, the live stage musical follows Mouse on her adventure through the deep dark wood in the search for hazelnuts, where she encounters Fox, Owl and Snake and outwits them with the story of the fabled Gruffalo. After all, there’s no such thing as a Gruffalo – is there? The cast stars Ellie Bell as Mouse, alongside Owen Guerin as the Gruffalo and Timothy Richey as the Predators. Paul Matania joins them as Understudy/ASM, with Company Stage Manager Benjamin Luke. The Gruffalo is produced by Tall Stories Theatre Company and directed by Olivia Jacobs. Billed as suitable for ages 3 and over, this fun family show opens at the Vaudeville Theatre on 15th December 2015 and continues performances there until 3rd January 2016.
DR SEUSS’S THE LORAX:
It’s a fun show!
This stage adaption of the Dr Seuss classic tale blends theatrical invention, puppetry, songs and zany humour to entertain kids and adults alike this Christmas. ‘The Lorax tells of a moustachioed and cantankerous critter who’s on a mission to protect the earth from the greedy, tree-chopping, Thneed-knitting businessman known only as The Once-ler.’ Adapted for the stage by David Greig, the Max Webster-directed production is led by Simon Lipkin as The Lorax and Simon Paisley Day as The Once-ler. Also featured in the cast are Laura Cubitt, Ben Thompson, Stuart Angell, Thomas Arnold, Miles Barrow, Jack Beale, Laura Cubitt, Caleb Frederick, Emily Houghton, Richard Katz, Anabel Kutay, Penny Layden, Melanie La Barrie, Carly Mercedes Dyer, Ebony Molina, Juma Sharkah, Silas Wyatt-Barke, Joe Evans and Jo Nichols. The in-house production has musical direction by Phil Bateman and is recommended for children aged 6 and over. The Lorax begins previews at the Old Vic Theatre from 3rd December 2015 and opens on 16th January 2015, with the final performance set for 16th January 2016.
PETER PAN GOES WRONG:
After the success of the hit West End show, The Play That Goes Wrong, comes J. M. Barrie’s classic tale of Peter Pan. ‘Once again the members of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society battle against technical hitches, flying mishaps and cast disputes. Will they ever make it to Neverland?’ The musical comedy stars the original cast of TPTGW, including creators Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields. Other names include Nancy Wallinger, Charlie Russell, Greg Tannahill, Dave Hearn, Tom Edden, Chris Leask, Ellie Morris, Rosie Abraham and Fred Gray. Produced by Kenny Wax Ltd and Stage Presence, Peter Pan Goes Wrong is directed by Adam Meggido and features songs composed by Richard Baker and Rob Falconer. It opens at the Apollo Theatre on 9th December 2015 (previews from 4th December) and will close there on 31st January 2016.
The Royal Court Theatre production transfers for a limited West End season following its sell-out run at the venue earlier this year. The critically acclaimed new play by award-winning playwright Martin McDonagh is set in a small pub in Oldham and centres on local celebrity Harry, England’s second best hangman, on the day hanging is abolished. ‘But amongst the reporters and pub regulars waiting for his reaction to the news, his old assistant Syd and the peculiar Mooney lurk with very different motives.’ The West End cast stars David Morrissey as Harry alongside Andy Nyman as Syd and Johnny Flynn as Mooney, with Josef Davies (Hennessy), James Dryden (Clegg), Tony Hirst (Bill), John Hodgkinson (Pierrepoint), Bronwyn James (Shirley), Craig Parkinson (Inspector Fry), Ryan Pope (Charlie), Sally Rogers (Alice), Mark Rose (Guard) and Simon Rouse (Guard). Mitchell Baggott is Understudy Hennessy/Clegg, Clio Davies is Understudy Shirley/Alice, and David Walker is Understudy Harry/Albert/Arthur. Hangmen is directed by Matthew Dunster and produced in the West End by Robert Fox, Matthew Byam Shaw for Playful Productions and Royal Court Productions. It runs at the Wyndham’s Theatre from 1st December 2015 to 5th March 2016, with press night set for 7th December 2015.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL:
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…as a new stage version of the classic Christmas tale comes to the West End this winter. Inspired by the Charles Dickens novel of the same name, Patrick Barlow’s imaginative adaption sees award-winning stage and screen actor Jim Broadbent make his long-awaited return to the stage to play Scrooge. He is joined in the cast by Adeel Akkhtar, Amelia Bullmore, Keir Charles and Samantha Spiro, along with puppeteers Jack Parker and Kim Scopes. Produced by Sonia Friedman Productions and directed by Phelim McDermott, A Christmas Carol began its preview period on 30th November 2015. It opens at the Noel Coward Theatre on 9th December 2015 and is set to run until 30th January 2016.
The Olivier Award-winning play by Mike Bartlett returns to the Young Vic following its sell-out run at the venue earlier in the year. ‘Three colleagues battle over two jobs. In a cutthroat office environment, where every word is a weapon, playground tactics quickly escalate into manoeuvres of a far more vicious nature.’ The co-production between Supporting Wall and Young Vic is directed by Clare Lizzimore and stars Max Bennett as Tony, Susannah Fielding as Isobel, Nigel Lindsay as Carter and Marc Wootton as Thomas. Bull begins previews at the Young Vic Theatre (The Maria) from 11th December 2015, with opening night due to take place on 15th December 2015. It closes there on 16th January 2016.
GOODNIGHT MISTER TOM:
The Olivier Award-winning Chichester Festival Theatre production of this modern classic returns to London this Christmas. Adapted from Michelle Magorian’s novel of the same name, David Wood’s stage version is directed by Angus Jackson and produced in the West End by Fiery Angel, The Ambassador Theatre Group, Fiery Dragons & The Children’s Touring Partnership / Chichester Festival Theatre. Set during the dangerous build up to the Second World War, it follows young William Beech on his evacuation to the countryside where he forges a remarkable and heart warming friendship with elderly recluse Tom Oakley. ‘All is perfect until William is suddenly summoned by his mother back to London.’ The cast stars David Troughton as Tom, alongside Clark Devlin, Elisa de Grey, Guy Lewis, Simon Markey, Abigail Matthews, Jane Milligan, Martha Seignior, James Staddon, Melle Stewart, Georgina Sutton and Hollie Taylor. Alternating the role of William are Joe Reynolds, Freddy Hawkins and Alex Taylor-McDowall, with the role of Zach similarly shared by Sonny Kirby, Harrison Noble and Oliver Loades. Goodnight Mister Tom opens at the Duke of York’s Theatre on 17th December 2015 (previews from 11th Dec) and continues throughout the winter season, with the final performance set for 20th February 2016.
THE BLUES BROTHERS XMAS SPECIAL:
The live tribute show storms back into the West End to spread a little festive cheer over the Christmas period. Devised by Louis Hartshorn and Brian Hook, the Xmas Special features new material for Jake and Elwood approved by Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi. ‘Backed by the tightest rhythm and blues band in the city. Jake, Elwood and co. tear through the best in American blues, soul and rock ‘n’ roll classics including ‘Gimme Some Lovin’’, ‘Think’, ‘Soul Man’, ‘Minnie The Moocher’ and ‘Jailhouse Rock’.’ Joshua Mumby directs and stars in the production as Elwood Blues opposite David Christopher Brown as Joliet Jake Blues, with Simon Ray Harvey (Ray), and Hannah Kee, Sasi Strallen and T’Shan Williams (Stax Sisters). It also has choreography by Lily Howkins and musical direction by James Robert Ball. Presented by Hartshorn-Hook Productions, The Blues Brothers Xmas Special has been previewing at the Arts Theatre from 26th November 2015. Following the official opening night on 3rd December 2015, the show will continue to run until 10th January 2016.
‘Aly is struggling with all the pressures of being a teenager: family, school, friends and her own insecurities. Then she discovers wonder.land – a mysterious online world where, perhaps, she can create a whole new life. The web becomes her looking-glass – but will Aly see who she really is?’ A new musical inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, this coming-of-age adventure combines live theatre and digital technology, and is the creation of Damon Albarn (music), Moira Buffini (book and lyrics) and Rufus Norris (director). The show also features choreography by Javier De Frutos, musical direction by David Shrubsole and projections by 59 Productions. Leading the cast are Lois Chimimba as Aly and Carly Bawden as Alice, alongside Sam Archer (Dum), Leon Cooke (Dee), Nadine Cox (WPC Rook), Ivan De Freitas (Dodo), Hal Fowler (MC – Cheshire Cat/Caterpillar), Anna Francolini (Ms Manxome), Adrian Grove (Mr King), Paul Hilton (Matt), Joshua Lacey (White Rabbit), Daisy Maywood (Humpty). Enyi Okoronkwo (Luke Laprel), Stephanie Rojas (Mary Ann), Abigail Rose (Kitty), Golda Rosheuvel (Bianca), Cydney Uffindell-Phillips (Mock Turtle), Ed Wade (Mouse/Kieran) and Witney White (Dinah). Ensemble and Swing members include Simon Anthony, Dylan Mason and Lisa Ritchie. Wonder.land is a Manchester International Festival and National Theatre co-production, and carries an age recommendation of 10 years and over. It is currently showing preview performances at the Olivier, NT (from 23rd November) and is set to open on 10th December 2015, where it is booking until 30th April 2016.
The Globe Theatre presents this William Shakespeare play in a production directed by Sam Yates. ‘Innogen, daughter of King Cymbeline, has displeased her father by marrying Posthumus. In exile, Posthumus proclaims the beauty of his wife to the villainous Iachimo and lays a wager on her fidelity. But Iachimo will stop at nothing to prove that Innogen has been unfaithful – and Posthumus seems implacable in his revenge.’ Joseph Marcell appears as the title character, with Emily Barber as Innogen, Jonjo O’Neill as Poshumus, Eugene O’Hare as Iachimo and Pauline McLynn as the Queen. Also featured in the cast are Calum Callaghan (Cloten), Trevor Fox (Pisanio), Darren Kuppan (Arviragus), Christopher Logan (Cornelius), Brendan O’Hea (Belarius), Dharmesh Patel (Soothsayer/Philario), Tika Peucelle (Mother/Helen), Paul Rider (Caius Lucius) and Sid Sagar (Guiderius). The production has choreography by Michela Meazza and music composed by Alex Baranowski. Cymbeline begins previews from 2nd December 2015 in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Opening night follows on 8th December 2015, with a closing date set for 21st April 2016.
HENRY IV PART I & II:
Produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company and directed by Gregory Doran, this pair of plays by William Shakespeare are set to run in London over the Christmas season as part of the Barbican’s King and Country season.
Part I – Henry IV prepares for war while Prince Hal revels in the company of Falstaff. But with the crown under threat, Hal must confront his responsibilities.
Part II – King Henry’s health is failing but he is uncertain Hal is a worthy heir. Sent to recruit troops, Falstaff indulges in lining his own pockets. Now Hal must choose between duty and an old friend.
Reprising their roles are Jasper Britton as Henry IV, Alex Hassel as Hal and Antony Sher as Sir John Falstaff. Henry IV Part I runs at the Barbican Theatre from 14th to 29th December 2015. Henry IV Part II runs at the Barbican Theatre from 14th to 29th December 2015.
Also worth mentioning is the Chichester Festival Theatre production of Guys and Dolls, which begins its West End previews this month. The first performance at the Savoy Theatre is on 10th December; thereafter the preview period continues throughout December and into the New Year, with an official opening night set for 6th January 2016.
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Tuesday 1st December 2015