One month down, eleven more to go… So the first month of 2015 is almost at an end, and this is usually the point where the lustre of New Year’s Resolutions has begun to wear off; if they haven’t already been broken by now then it’s right on the verge. The appeal of the ‘New Year, New Me’ promises may be waning, but one thing that doesn’t lose its appeal is the West End. Our London theatre draws people in every day, of every month, of every year, and being on the cusp of February with the promise of fresh shows for a fresh month, that’s as true as it ever has been. There’s an influx of new shows opening here throughout February, and the dominant themes of the theatre scene this months appears to be drama and musicals. It’s a full menu of tasty theatrical treats, so I’m here to act as your helpful waiter and guide your choice of shows to see with this list of the February Specials.
MAN – THREE PLAYS BY TENNESSEE WILLIAMS (AUTO-DA-FE, THE STRANGEST KIND OF ROMANCE, SUMMER AT THE LAKE):
It’s three-for-one at the Young Vic Theatre this month, as a trio of rarely performed plays by American playwright Tennessee Williams are to be staged there for a strictly limited run in February. Each one-act play is a story of misplaced identity and sexual repression which reveals the tragic consequences of isolation and scapegoating those on the fringes of society. Auto-da-Fe tells the story of young postal worker, Eloi, whose sexuality is repressed by a rigidly moralistic mother, while The Strangest Kind of Love centres on a lonely worker’s devotion to his cat. The third, Summer At The Lake, is about a sensitive teenager who feels trapped by his self-absorbed Southern mother and his shoe company executive father, who wants him to abandon his plans for college and find a menial job. The cast features Sam Cox, Janet Henfrey, Justine Mitchell and Nikesh Patel under the direction of Finn Beames in this in-house production. Man: Three Plays by Tennessee Williams opens at the Young Vic Theatre (The Clare) on 11th February 2015 and closes there on 21st February 2015.
A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE:
Following its extended, sell-out run last year, the Young Vic’s production of this classic play by Arthur Miller is returning to London for a limited eight-week engagement. ‘In Brooklyn, longshoreman Eddie Carbone welcomes his Sicilian cousins to the land of freedom. But when one of them falls for his beautiful niece, they discover that freedom comes at a price. Eddie’s jealous mistrust exposes a deep, unspeakable secret – one that drives him to commit the ultimate betrayal.’ Ivo Van Hove directs this production, which sees original cast members Mark Strong (Eddie Carbone), Emun Elliott (Marco), Phoebe Fox (Catherine), Michael Gould (Alfieri), Luke Norris (Rodolpho) and Nicola Walker (Beatrice) reprise their roles in the West End. Previews for A View From The Bridge begin from 10th February 2015 at the Wyndham’s Theatre, with opening night to follow on 16th February 2015. The play runs until 11th April 2015.
FARINELLI AND THE KING:
Shakespeare’s Globe presents this intriguing true story about the world’s most famous castrato Farinelli, which is re-told in Claire van Kampen’s new play. Against the backdrop of eighteenth century Spain and Italy, it tells the tale of Farinelli’s decision to trade fame and fortune for a live of servitude at the court of King Philippe V and contains a great many of the arias first sung by the Italian opera singer. Mark Rylance stars as the depressed insomniac, King Philippe, alongside Sam Crane as Farinelli. The play-with-music also features Huss Garbiya (Doctor Jose Cervi), Melody Grove (Isabella Farnese), Colin Hurley (Metastasio) and Edward Peel (De la Cuadra), while Iestyn Davies and William Purevoy both have selected performance dates for the leading role of Farinello during the show’s run. Directed by John Dove, Farinelli and the King starts previews at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse from 11th February 2015. The production opens there on 20th February 2015 and runs until 8th March 2015.
Patrick Marber’s Olivier Award-winning play has been produced in over 200 cities around the world since it premièred at the National in 1997, as well as being turned into a hit film in 2004 with Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Clive Owen and Julia Roberts, and now it returns to London as part of the Donmar Warehouse’s Spring 2015 season. ‘Dan rescues Alice. Anna photographs Dan. Larry meets Anna online. Alice rescues Larry. This is London at the end of the twentieth century, where lives collide and fates change in an instant.’ Directed by David Leveaux, his revival of this intimate play stars Nancy Carroll, Oliver Chris, Rachel Redford and Rufus Sewell, and also features compositions by Corin Buckeridge. Previews for Closer begin at the Donmar Warehouse from 12th February 2015. It opens there on 23rd February 2015 and runs until 4th April 2015.
Jennifer Haley’s play, The Nether, arrives in the West End following the success of its sell-out run in 2014. A co-production between Royal Court Theatre and Headlong, it stars original cast members Amanda Hale (Morris), Stanley Townsend (Sims) and Ivanno Jeremiah (Woodnut), in addition to Zoe Brough and Isabella Pappas, who will once again alternate the role of Iris. David Calder also joins as Doyle. Set in the year 2050, The Nether is a combination of crime drama and thriller ‘The Nether offers complete freedom – a new virtual wonderland providing total sensory immersion. Just log in, choose an identity and indulge your every desire…The Nether follows an investigation into the complicated, disturbing morality of identity in the digital world, and explores the consequences of making dreams a reality.’ Directed by Jeremy Herrin and presented by Sonia Friedman Productions, Scott M Delman and Tulchin Bartner Productions/Headlong and The Royal Court Theatre Co-production, The Nether begins previews at the Duke of York’s Theatre from 30th January 2015. The production opens on 23rd February 2015, running through until 25th April 2015.
IT’S A BIRD…IT’S A PLANE…IT’S SUPERMAN!:
The 1966 Broadway musical is based on DC comic book character, Superman, and tells of the superhero’s efforts to defeat the vengeful Dr. Abner Sedgwick, a ten-time Nobel Prize-losing scientist who seeks to destroy the world’s symbol of good. Superman also comes into romantic conflict with Daily Mail columnist, Max Mencken, who resents Lois Lane’s attraction to the Man of Steel and is intent on revealing his true identity. The show features music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Lee Adams, and a book by David Newman and Robert Benton. It made its UK première at Ye Olde Crown and Rose in March 2014, presented by All Star Productions, and is now making its West End debut this February. Directed by Randy Smartnick, the production stars Craig Berry as Superman and also includes Michelle La Fortune as Lois Lane, Paul HarwoodHarwood as Max Mencken, and Matthew Ibbotson as Dr. Abner Sedgwick. The rest of the cast is comprised of Sarah Kennedy (Sydney), Charlie Vose (Jim), Andrew Truluck (Perry), Jonathan Chan (Father Ling), Thomas Widdup (Fan Po Ling), Christina Harris (Tai Ling), William M Lee (Ding Ling), Jade Nelson (Ming Foo Ling), in addition to ensemble members Vicky Longley, Charlotte Debattista and Shiv Rabheru. The production, which runs for a limited ten performances only, also features choreography by Kate McPhee and musical direction by Aaron Clingham. It’s A Bird…It’s A Plane…It’s Superman! begins previews at the Leicester Square Theatre from 10th February 2015 and opens on 13th February 2013, playing its final performance there on 21st February 2015.
BEAUTIFUL – THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL:
Following its première on Broadway last year, the smash hit musical biopic of Carole King is coming to the West End. Beautiful tells the inspiring story of her journey from schoolgirl to superstar; from her relationship with husband and song-writing partner Gerry Goffin, their close friendship and playful rivalry with fellow song-writing duo Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, to becoming one of the most successful solo acts in pop. The production features a book by Douglas McGrath with words and lyrics by Gerry Goffin, Carole King, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. The London cast is led by Katie Brayben as Carole King, who stars alongside Alan Morrissey (Gerry Goffin), Lorna Want (Cynthia Weil), Glynis Barber (Genie Klein), Gary Trainor (Don Kirshner), in addition to Vivien Carter, Ed Currie, Oliver Lidert, Fela Lufadeju, Tanya-Nicole Edwards, Terel Nugent, Jay Perry, Tanisha Spring, Lucy St. Louis, Danielle Steers, Dylan Turner, Joanna Woodwood, Andy Coxon, Jason Denton, Michael Anthony Duke, Joel Harper-Jackson, Rosie Heath, Aisha Jawando, Hannah-Jay Allan and Leigh Lothian. Produced by Paul Blake and Sony/ATV Music Publishing, the show is directed by Marc Bruni and also features choreography by Josh Prince and orchestrations and music arrangements by Steve Sidwell. Audiences can enjoy Carole King classics as ‘Take Good Care Of My Baby’, ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow?’, ‘Up On The Roof’, ‘You’ve Got A Friend’, ‘Locomotion’ and ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’ when Beautiful – The Carole King Musical begins previews at the Aldwych Theatre from 10th February 2015. It opens there on 24th February 2015 and is currently booking until 13th June 2015.
LET IT BE:
‘From humble beginnings in Liverpool’s Cavern Club, relive The Beatles’ rapid rise to the heights of Beatlemania, through to their later studio masterpieces.’ Following a successful tour of the UK and Ireland, Let It Be is returning to London for its third engagement in the West End. The show uses video footage and live performances to tell the story of the Fab Four’s meteoric rise, and features over forty of their greatest hit songs, including ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’, ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, ‘Twist And Shout’, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, ‘Strawberry Fields’, ‘When I’m 64’, ‘Hello Goodbye’, ‘Get Back’ and many more. Presented by Jamie Hendry Productions and Annerin Productions, the show is directed by John Maher and stars Emanuele Angeletti, Michael Bramwell, John Brosnan, Paul Canning, Ben Cullingworth, Ryan Alex Farmery, James Fox, Michael Gagliano, Peter John Jackson, Paul Mannion and Luke Roberts. Let It Be opens at the Garrick Theatre on 28th February 2015 and runs through the summer until 27th September 2015.
MAN AND SUPERMAN:
‘Jack Tanner,celebrated radical thinker and rich bachelor, seems an unlikely choice as guardian to the alluring heiress, Ann. But she takes it in her assured stride and, despite the love of a poet, she decides to marry and tame this dazzling revolutionary. Tanner, appalled by the whiff of domesticity, is tipped off by his chauffeur and flees to Spain, where he is captured by bandits and meets The Devil. An extraordinary dream-debate, heaven versus hell, ensues. Following in hot pursuit, Ann is there when Tanner awakes, as fierce in her certainty as he is in his.’ Bernard Shaw’s play is part-romantic comedy, part-epic fairytale, and part-fiery philosophical debate, asking fundamental questions about how we live. This revival of Shaw’s classic work is directed by Simon Godwin and stars Ralph Fiennes in the role of Jack Tanner, opposite Indira Varma as Ann. The rest of the cast is comprised of Elliot Barnes-Worrell, Nicholas Bishop, Faye Castelow, Clare Clifford, Naomi Cranston, Henry Everett, Colin Haigh, Nick Hendrix, Corey Johnson, Christine Kavanagh, Mary Keegan, Ferdinand Kingsley, Nicholas le Prevost, Simon Markey, Tim McMullan and Arthur Wilson. The in-house production of Man And Superman starts previews at Lyttelton, NT from 17th February 2015 and opens on 25th February 2015. It runs there until 17th May 2015, but will also be broadcast to cinemas on 14th May 2015.
This critically-acclaimed co-production between Shakespeare’s Globe and The Royal Opera returns to the stage in February, under the direction of Kaspar Holten, Director of The Royal Opera. First staged in Venice in 1644, Francesco Cavalli’s opera is a comic and moving tale of the loves and betrayals of princes, its miraculous plot twists spurred on over three acts by the forces of Destiny, Love and Luck. ‘Princes Ormindo and Amidas vie for the love of Erisbe, who is unhappily married to the old King Ariadenus. Vowing not to let their rivalry destroy them, they challenge her to choose, but as one love story is plotted, another is unfurled. Amidas’ abandoned ex-lover Sicle, heartbroken by his abandonment, enters the scene. With the help of disguise and her old nurse Eryka, the two set out to thwart Amidas in winning the Queen.’ This production is an English translation by Christopher Cowell which features music by Francesco Cavelli and Libretto by Giovanni Faustini, as well as choreography by Signe Fabricius. Samuel Boden and Ed Lyon star as Ormindo and Amidas respectively, appearing alongside James Laing (Nerillus), Rupert Enticknap (Nerillus), Joelle Harvey (Sicle), Harry Nicoll (Eryka), Susanna Hurrell (Erisbe), Rachel Kelly (Mirinda), Graeme Broadbent (King Ariadentus) and Ashley Riches (Osman). They will also be joined by the Orchestra of the Early Opera Company, and musical direction is by Christian Curnyn. L’Ormindo opens at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse on 3rd February 2015 and closes there 5th March 2015.
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Thursday 29th January 2015