London Theatre Preview: July 2014

There’s plenty going on in the West End to keep people coming back time and time again, and as well as the long-running productions such as Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera and The Mousetrap, there are always a fresh bunch of shows being welcomed into the family fold. The West End prides itself on offering theatre for everyone, so theatregoers searching for something new to see are sure to find something to wet the palate as they take a look at our ‘picks of the month’ for shows opening in town this July.


This internationally best-selling book is loved by children everywhere and now those pant-loving aliens are flying out of its pages and heading for the stage. The pantastic story by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort is set to delight little faces this summer as Adam Bampton-Smith’s stage adaption makes its premiere in London’s West End. The whole family will enjoy this hilarious new show as the mischievous aliens embark on their mission to Earth to steal underpants from its humans, with live performances and original music throughout the 55-minute production. Produced by Big Wooden Horse and Nick Brook Limited, Aliens Love Underpants features choreography by Emma Clayton and creator Adam Bampton-Smith also directs. Starring Charlotte Cooper (Veronica), Mark Collier (Stevens), Cheryl Felgate (Mum) and Harrison Spiers (Timmy), it has a preview performance at the Leicester Square Theatre Main House on 19th July 2013 before opening the following day (20th July). It runs there until 31st August 2014.


One of Oscar Wilde’s most recognised plays, this ‘trivial comedy for serious people’ follows the story of two upper class bachelors, Algernon Moncrieff and John Worthing. Both gentlemen take turns pretending to be the fictitious Ernest Worthington, an alternate identity the friends created in order to pursue their intended love interests, which leads to all sorts of trouble. This revival production is presented by The Bunbury Company of Players, starring Nigel Havers, Sian Philips, Rosalind Ayres, Niall Buggy, Martin Jarvis, Christine Kavanagh and Cherie Lunghi. Directed by Lucy Bailey, The Importance of Being Earnest has been in previews at the Harold Pinter Theatre since 27th June 2014. Its opening night takes place on 17th July 2014 and it runs until 20th September 2014.


TRH Productions, Lee Jean and Jenny Topper in association with Park Theatre present the West End transfer of Oliver Cotton’s play, following its acclaimed world premiere at London’s Park Theatre last year. A play with ‘not one but two love stories at its heart’, Daytona is set in New York during 1986, when ballroom dancers Joe and Elli are busy practicing their routine for the next big competition. The strength of their 50-year-long love affair is clear to see, despite their bickering, but Joe’s long-lost brother Billy reappears one night with as extraordinary tale to tell. Playwright Oliver Wooton also stars in his play as Billy, alongside Maureen Lipman (Elli) and Harry Shearer (Joe). This David Grindley-directed production began previews at the Haymarket Theatre Royal from 30th June 2014 and opened yesterday (7th July), where it will continue to play until 23rd August 2014.

A story which seemed made for the stage, Lee Hall’s adaption of the popular 1998 film by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard has been a highly anticipated theatrical event since it was first announced and now it has finally made it to the West End. The story centres on promising new playwright William Shakespeare, who is struggling with debt and writer’s block. He finds his muse in the form of passionate young noblewoman Viola De Lesseps and the drama of their forbidden love inspires him to write the greatest love story of all time, Romeo and Juliet. The Academy Award-winning film starred Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow as the ‘star-crossed lovers’, but in the world premiere stage adaption, Tom Bateman and Lucy Briggs-Owen lead the cast as William Shakespeare and Viola De Lesseps. Also featuring in the cast are Ian Bartholomew (Tilney), Tony Bell (Ralph), Anna Carteret (Queen Elizabeth), Paul Chahidi (Henslowe), David Ganley (Burbage), Richard Howard (Sir Robert De Lesseps), Harry Jardine (Sam), Abigail McKern (Nurse), David Oakes (Marlowe), Patrick Osborne (Mr Wabash), Alistair Petrie (Wessex), Doug Rao (Ned Alleyn), Ferdy Roberts (Fennyman), Colin Ryan (John Webster) and Gaiety (Crab the Dog), along with ensemble members Daisy Boulton, Ryan Donaldson, Janet Fullerlove, Sandy Murray, Timothy O’Hara, Thomas Padden, Elliott Rennie, Charlie Tighe and Tim Van Eyken. Presented by Disney Theatrical Productions and Sonia Friedman Productions, Shakespeare in Love is directed by Declan Donnelly and features choreography by Jane Gibsen. Still in its preview period (since 2nd July), the play opens at the Noel Coward Theatre on 23rd July 2014 and is booking until 25th October 2014.

The timeless classic by Tennessee Williams returns to London this July in a new production starring Gillian Anderson. The stage and screen actress plays fallen woman Blanche Dubois, whose downward spiral in the subject of the work as she first turns to her sister Stella before encountering the visceral and unforgiving Stanley Kowalski. A co-production between the Young Vic and Joshua Andrews, the play is directed by Benedict Andrews and also stars Ben Foster as Stanley and Vanessa Kirby as Stella. Included in the cast as well are Corey Johnson, Clare Burt, Lachele Carl, Branwell Donaghey, Otto Farrant, Nicholas Gecks, Stephanie Jacob and Claire Prempah. A Streetcar Named Desire starts previews at the Young Vic Theatre (Main House) from 23rd July 2014. It opens there on 28th July 2014 and runs until 6th September 2014.


The Open Air Theatre stages the popular Gershwin musical this summer, where audiences can watch beggar Porgy devote himself to the task of taming the wild Bess and saving her from a life of ruin in this story of love and betrayal. Featuring music by George Gershwin, a libretto by Dubose Heyward and lyrics by Heyward and Ira Gershwin, this production of the show is directed by Timothy Sheader and features choreography by Liam Steel as well as musical direction and orchestrations by David Shrubsole. Rufus Bonds Jr and Nichola Hughes star as Porgy and Bess respectively, in a cast which also includes Philip Boykin (Crown), Sharon D Clarke (Mariah), Jade Ewen (Clara), Cedric Neal (Sportin’ Life), Golda Rosheuvel (Serena) and Leon Lopez (Jake), alongside David Albury, Angela Caesar, Alex Giannini, Owain Gwynn, Tyrone Huntley, George Ikediashi, Claudia Kariuki, Arthur Kyeyune, Oliver Lidert, Jay Marsh, Tania Mathurin, Ellen O’Grady, Yemie Sonuga and Marvin Springer. Porgy and Bess starts previews at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre from 17th July 2014 and opens there on 28th July 2014. It runs until 23rd August 2014.

Casting for the European premiere of this musical was recently announced, with West End stars Cynthia Erivo and Cassidy Janson to take on the female leads of Dessa and Ruth. The story is set in the ante-bellum south of 1846 and follows a young slave Dessa Rose and a white mother Ruth. Both have suffered hardships in their lives, Dessa through the colour of her skin and Ruth because of her gender, but on their journey to acceptance the two ‘discover the value of unconditional friendship and establish a deep and lasting bond’. Based on the novel by Sherley Anne Williams, history and fiction blend with the musical elements of blues, folk, hymns and gospel in this musical production which features a book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty. Andrew Keates is on board to direct, with John Addison, Edward Baruwa, Sharon Benson, Miquel Brown, Alexander Evans, Cameron Leigh, Fela Lufadeju, Gabriel Mokake, Abiona Omonua and Jon Robyns also named in the show’s cast. Dessa Rose starts previews at Trafalgar Studios 2 from 29th July 2014 and opens on 31st July 2014. It closes there on 30th August 2014.


The National Theatre stages this new version of Euripides’ powerful tragedy, written by Ben Power by Carrie Cracknell. Medea is a wife and mother who leaves her family home and bears two sons in exile for the sake of her husband Jason. When he abandons his family for a new life, Medea faces banishment and separation from her children. She begs for one day’s grace and then exacts an appalling revenge, destroying everything she once held dear. The title role in this NT production is played by Helen McCrory, who stars alongside Dominic Rowan, Michaela Coel, Danny Sapani, Cath Whitefield, T’Jai Adu-Yeboah, Lorna Brown, Ricco Godfrey Brown, Vivien Carter, Simon Desborough, Amy Griffiths, Adrian Grove, Hazel Holder, Trevor Imani, Jane Leaney, Joel McDermott, Caroline Martin, Daisy Maywood, Jude Pearce, YuYu Rau, Petra Soor, Clemmie Sveaas, Naomi Tadevossian, Martin Turner, Toby Wharton, Kyron Wilson and Jane Wymark. Featuring choreography by Lucy Guerin, Medea has its first preview performance on 14th July 2014 at the Olivier, NT. It opens there on 21st July 2014 and runs until 4th September 2014.


Stage and screen actor Martin Freeman, known for such prominent roles as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit and John Watson in the BBC Sherlock TV series, lends his acting talents to the stage as he tackles the iconic title role in Shakespeare’s historical play. Set in England during the War of the Roses, the story follows the deformed and devious Richard, Duke of Gloucester as he manipulates his position in court and woos the Lady Anne while plotting to seize the throne for himself. Produced by Jamie Lloyd Productions, Gina McKee (Queen Elizabeth), Simon Coombs (Tyrrel), Philip Cumbus (Richmond), Gerald Kyd (Catesby), Paul Leonard (Stanley), Forbes Masson (Hastings), Paul McEwan (King Edward IV/Bishop of Ely), Mark Meadows (Clarence/Lord Mayor), Lauren O’Neil (Lady Anne), Maggie Steed (Queen Margaret) and Jo Stone-Fewings (Buckingham) also star alongside Freeman as Richard III. Directed by Jamie Lloyd, this new production appears as part of the second season of Trafalgar Transformed at Trafalgar Studios 1 Theatre. Previews began from 1st July 2014. Richard III has its opening night tonight (8th July) and runs through until 27th September 2014.

By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25

Tuesday 8th July 2014

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