London Theatre Preview: July 2015


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London Theatre Preview: July 2015

Previewing some of the new shows opening in the West End this JulySummer seems to be well and truly on its way here, finally! July will hopefully bring more sunny days, but it will also be bringing a whole host of new shows to the West End. London’s theatre scene is ever-changing, and there are a fantastic assortment of musicals, dramas, comedies, and so much more on their way this month to continue the cycle of change. We’ve looked at them all and picked a selection of some of the most exciting new arrivals coming to the West in July, to help guide you through the maze of choice.

CHILDREN

THE GRUFFALO:
This stage production of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s award-winning children’s book has played in venues all around the country, and is now on its way back to the West End to provide some delightful family entertainment this summer. The beloved children’s tale follows Mouse on a daring adventure through the dark woods in search of hazelnuts, encountering the cunning Fox,, the eccentric old Owl and the party mad Snake along the way. He saves himself from becoming these woodland creatures’ dinner with stories of an imaginary monster, but there’s no such thing as a Gruffalo – is there? Created by Tall Stories, the stage version features music by composers Jon Fiber and Andy Shaw and is directed by Olivia Jacobs. The cast stars Ellie Bell/Angela Laverick as Mouse, Owen Guerin/Aaron Millard as The Gruffalo and Charlie Guest/Timothy Richey as The Predators, with Paul Matania and Jeremy Randall as understudies/ASM’s. The Gruffalo tour arrives in London’s Lyric Theatre on 1st July 2015 and can be seen there until 6th September 2015.

TIDDLER AND OTHER TERRIFIC TALES:
The team of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler has produced many more magical memories for the children who read their books, and this stage production by Scamp Theatre takes inspiration from some of their other popular tales to create a family-fun stage production. Tiddler And Other Terrific Tales weaves together live music, puppetry and a whole host of colourful characters from the likes of Tiddler, Monkey Puzzle, The Smartest Giant In Town and A Squash And A Squeeze, taking the audience on a journey under the sea, out on the farm and into the jungle. ‘Is Tiddler telling the truth? Will Monkey find his Mummy? Will George The Giant make lots of friends? Can the old lady really squash and squeeze all those animals in?’ The production is directed by Sally Cookson and  features music by Benji Bower. Brought to life by Joseph Carey, Peta Maurice and Darren Seed, Tiddler And Other Terrific Tales guarantees funky moves, toe-tapping tunes and  giggles when its arrives in the West End. It opens at the Leicester Square Theatre (Main House) on 12th July after a preview performance on 11th July 2015, and runs there until 31st August 2015.

HORRIBLE HISTORIES – BARMY BRITAIN PART THREE:
A new edition of the popular family series, Horrible Histories, premières in the West End this summer with Barmy Britain – Part Three! Following in the footsteps of the highly successful Parts One and Two, this brand new production features a brilliantly eccentric line-up of crazy characters and rude rulers as the barmiest bits of Britain’s history attack the stage, including a special sketch with King John to celebrate the 800th year of the signing of the Magna Carta. ‘Will King John be a martyr for the Magna Carta? Party with the Puritans and light up your life with the Great Fire of London! Clap along with crazy King Charles! Will you see eye to eye with Admiral Nelson? Does the Duke of Wellington get the boot? Vomit with the vile Victorians and make a great escape from the First World War.’ The show is written and directed by Neal Foster, who also takes to the stage alongside Anthony Spargo as the many characters from our country’s history. Produced by Birmingham Stage Company, Horrible Histories – Barmy Britain Part Three! opens at  the Garrick Theatre on 25th July 2015, running through until 5th September 2015.

COMEDY

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST:
Oscar Wilde’s classic comic farce tells of the hilarious misadventures of bachelors John Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff as they lead double lives in their attempt to court the attentions of the desirable Gwendolyn Fairfax and Cecily Cardew. They must then grapple with the uproarious consequences of their ruse – and the formidable Lady Bracknell. The play is filled with witty observations of the social pretensions in Victorian society, and delights in debunking them. This latest production is directed by Adrian Noble and stars David Suchet, who follows in the footsteps of fellow actors Geoffrey Rush and Brian Bedford to play the female role of Lady Bracknell. Also featured in the cast are Michael Benz (Jack Worthing), Philip Cumbus (Algernon Moncrieff), Emily Barber (Gwendolyn Fairfax), Imogen Doel (Cecily Cardew), Michele Dotrice (Miss Prism) and Richard O’Callaghan (Chasuble). Produced by Kim Poster for Stanhope Productions and Nica Burns, The Importance of Being Earnest began previews at the Vaudeville Theatre on 24th June 2015. Opening night is on 1st July 2015 and it closes in the West End on 7th November 2015.

THE MENTALISTS:
Taking over from American Buffalo at the Wyndham’s Theatre for the summer is a new production of Richard Bean’s comic two-hander, The Mentalists. ‘Holed up in a faceless Finsbury Park hotel room, Ted and Morrie are forced to confront the darker side of their unique relationship. Things unravel as the pressure mounts in this ‘hilarious’ and touching tale of friendship and utopian visions gone awry.’ The play originally premièred as part of the 2002 Transformation season at the National Theatre, and is now back in London for a strictly limited six-week run. Making his West End début in the production is BAFTA Award-winning writer, comedian and actor Stephen Merchant, best known for his TV collaborations with Ricky Gervais. Under the direction of Abbey Wright, he will star as Ted alongside stage and screen star Steffan Rhodri as Morrie. Produced by Old Vic Productions, Smith & Brant Theatricals and Steven Harris in association with Jimmy Jewell Ltd, The Mentalists begins previews at the Wyndham’s Theatre from 3rd July 2015. It opens on 13th July 2015 and is set to play its final performance there on 26th September 2015.

DRAMA

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD:
Following two sold-out seasons at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, Christopher Sergel’s stage adaption of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee returns to London at the conclusion of its UK Tour. It tells the story of life in the American Deep South as racial injustice envelops a small-town community. ‘Jem and Scout’s idyllic childhood innocence is ruined by the realisation that prejudice rules their town when their father defends a young black man falsely accused of raping a white woman and the family becomes a target of gossip and abuse.’ The award-winning revival is directed by Timothy Sheader and stars American stage and screen actor Robert Sean Leonard, who reprises the role of Atticus Finch exclusively for the show’s summer season in London. Featured alongside him in the cast are Christopher Akrill (Boo Radley), Geoff Aymer (Reverend Sykes), Victoria Bewick (Mayella Ewell), David Carlyle (Nathan Radley/Mr Gilmer), Natalie Grady (Maudie Atkinson), Jamie Kenna (Heck Tate), Susan Lawson Reynolds (Calpurnia), Zackary Momah (Tom Robinson), Ryan Pope (Bob Ewell), Christopher Saul (Walter Cunnigham/Judge Taylor) and Connie Walker (StephanieCrawford/Mrs Dubose). Jemima Bennett, Ava Potter and Rosie Boore will alternate the role of Scout, while Harry Bennett, Tommy Rodger and Billy Price will alternate the role of Jem. Additionally, the role of Dill Harris will be shared by Leo Heller, Connor Brundish and Milo Panni. The show is produced by Regent’s Park Theatre Ltd, Fiery Angel, Adam Spiegel and William Village, and features choreography by Polly Bennett. To Kill A Mockingbird began previews at the Barbican Theatre on 24th June 2015. It opens there on 2nd July and will close on 25th July 2015.

AS IS:
Andrew Keates directs this production of William M. Hoffman’s play, which transfers to Trafalgar Studios with a new cast and design following its sell-out run at the Finsborough Theatre. It celebrates the 30th anniversary of the play’s première in New York, which was hailed as the most powerful play of the year as it shattered the apathy and ignorance surrounding AIDS in the ’80’s in a humorous and sensitive story following the life of Rich in New York, 1985. ‘Rich, a young writer who is beginning to find success, is breaking up with his long-time lover, Saul, a professional photographer. However, Rich’s idyll with his new lover is short-lived when he learns that he has contracted the terrifying new disease AIDS and he returns to Saul for sanctuary as he awaits its slow and awful progress.’ It’s a heart-breaking and unsparing examination of a deeply felt human relationship shattered by a mindless, destructive disease, told using a mosaic of brilliantly conceived short scenes that blend humour, poignancy and dazzling theatricality. Stephen Webb and David Poyner, who previously starred in the 2006/07 production of The History Boys at the Royal National Theatre together, reunite to lead this production of As Is in the roles of Rich and Saul respectively. They are also joined by Natalie Burt, Bevan Celestine, Giles Cooper, Dino Fetscher, Jane Lowe and Russell Morton. Produced by Arion Productions Ltd and featuring a musical score by Matthew Strachan, As Is opens at Trafalgar Studios 2 on 3rd July 2015 (previews from 1st July 2015). It will close there on 1st August 2015.

CONSTELLATIONS:
‘One relationship, Infinite possibilities.’ Back for a limited run in London, Nick Payne’s critically acclaimed play is a heartbreaking love story of endless invention that explores the themes of free will and friendship. Beekeeper Roland and quantum physicist Marianne meet at a BBQ and immediately hit it off; the play follows their romance as it might exist across parallel universes and looks at the ‘butterfly effect’, imagining how a different word chosen or a different decision made can change the course of a relationship. It first premièred in the West End in 2012 and subsequently transferred to Broadway. This production by the Royal Court Theatre and Ambassadors Theatre Group has been touring the UK and is currently playing at the Theatre Royal Brighton until 4th July 2015, wherein it will transfer into the West End for a summer run at Trafalgar Studios. It is directed by Michael Longhurst and features a cast of just two, with Joe Armstrong and Louise Brealey starring as Roland and Marianne. Constellations begins previews at Trafalgar Studios 1 from 9th July 2015 and opens there on 14th July 2015, running until 1st August 2015.

MUSICAL

GREEN DAY’S AMERICAN IDIOT:
The Tony and Grammy Award-winning Broadway musical makes its West End premiere here this summer, as too does X Factor finalist Amelia Lily who will be starring in the role of Whatshername when the production hits the UK. It features a book by Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer and is ‘the story of three boyhood friends, each searching for meaning in a post 9-11 world.’ The show also features the music of American punk rock band, Green Day (lyrics by Armstrong too), and includes such hit songs as ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’, ’21 Guns’, ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’, ‘Holiday’, and the show’s title track, all of which are taken from Green Day’s award-winning, multi-platinum 2004 album. Also starring alongside Lily as part of the original London company are Luke Baker (Theo), Natasha Barnes (Heather), Alex Gerred (Tunny), Llandyll Gove (Gerard), Raquel Jones (Extraordinary Girl), Natasha Karp (Alysha), Robyn Mellor (Libby), Lucas Rush (St. Jimmy), Steve Rushton (Will), Aaron Sidwell (Johnny) and Ross William Wild (Joshua). Green Day’s American Idiot is presented by David Hutchinson and Philip Rowntree for Sell A Door Theatre Company and Stephen McGill Productions and is directed and choreographed by Racky Plews. It opens at the Arts Theatre on 22nd July 2015, following previews from 17th July 2015, and will play a limited engagement at the venue through to 27th September 2015.

SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS:
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre are heading back to the golden age of the movie musical with their summer season production of this much-loved musical. Based on The Sobbin’ Women by Stephen Vincent Benet and the MGM film, the story centres around seven brothers who live in the backwoods of Oregon. The eldest of the brothers, Adam, goes to town and marries that same day, bringing his new wife Milly home to his farm where she sets about reforming his six uncouth younger siblings. Adam meanwhile, decides that the solution to his brothers’ loneliness is to kidnap six women to be their wives! The musical features a book by Lawrence Kasha and David S. Landay, music by Gene De Paul and lyrics by Johnny Mercer, with new songs for the stage by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn. Included in the score are such classic songs as ‘Bless Your Beautiful Hide’, ‘Goin’ Courtin”, ‘Wonderful’, ‘Wonderful Day’, and the dance spectacular, ‘Barn Dance’. Alex Gaumond and Laura Pitt Pulford star opposite one another in the lead roles of newly-weds Adam Pontipee and Milly Bradon, joined in the cast by Rosanna Bates (Liza), David Burrows (Mr Hoallum), Angela M. Caesar (Mrs Sander), Leon Cooke (Daniel), Eammon Cox (Matt), Jacob Fisher (Jeb), Charlene Ford (Dorcas), Steve Fortune (Mr Sander), Trevor Michael Georges (Preacher), Bob Harms (Ephraim), Bethany Huckle (Alice), Frankie Jenna (Sarah), James Leece (Benjamin), Philip Marriott (Zeke), Dylan Mason (Joel), Natasha Mould (Martha), Peter Nash (Nathan), Sam O’Rourke (Gideon), Ryan Pidgen (Luke), Adam Rhys-Charles (Frank), Karli Vale (Ruth), Annie Wensak (Mrs Hoallum) and Ed White (Caleb), with Matthew Whennell Clark and Emma Woods as the male and female Swings respectively. Directed by Rachel Kavanaugh and featuring musical direction by Stephen Ridley, the Open Air Theatre’s production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers begins previews at its Regent’s Park venue from 16th July 2015. Official opening night for the musical in on 23rd July 2015 and it ends its summer run there on 29th August 2015.

MUSICAL CONCERT

SINATRA AT THE LONDON PALLADIUM:
This year marks what would have been Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday, and also sixty five years since his first ever UK concert. That iconic premiere performance in 1950 took place at the London Palladium, and in celebration of both this and his centenary year, the venue are hosting a tribute to the life and music of this legendary performer. The multi-media concert features a live twenty four-piece orchestra and twenty sensational dancers, additionally using cutting-edge technology and incorporating rare recordings, never-before-seen footage of the singer’s performances, interviews from his career and personal family films and photographs, as the audience enjoy such classic Sinatra hits as ‘My Way’, ‘Fly Me To The Moon’, ‘New York, New York’ and ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’. This visual spectacular is directed by David Gimore, choreographed by Glenn Wilkinson and Jacquie Biggs, and conducted by Richard John, with musical supervision by Gareth Valentine. The cast of dancers includes Alistair Postlethwaite, Amy Hollins, Anabel Kutay, Ashley Nottingham, Aston Newman Hannington, Bryony Laura Whitfield, Charis O’Connor, Faye Best, Francis Haugen, Gemma Whitelam, James Revell, Jamie Firth, Liam Paul Jennings, Lucy Banfield, Matt Holland, Niall Swords, Nicola Coates, Rahcel Ensor, Christopher Black and Aaron James. Presented by Karl Sydow, the show is supported and endorsed by the Sinatra family. Sinatra at the London Palladium begins performances at the Palladium from 10th July 2015. Playing for a limited season only, the official opening night follows on 20th July 2015 and it is set to close on 10th October 2015.

NATIONAL THEATRE

BRAINSTORM:
A fearless company of teenagers investigate the workings of the adolescent brain in a new piece from one of the UK’s leading companies making theatre with young people. The Islington Community Theatre’s production was created by Ned Glasier, Emily Lim and the company, who collaborated with cognitive neuroscientist Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore and also drew upon the life experiences of the cast. Initially presented in association with Park Theatre, the show is supported by the Wellcome Trust and is part of Call to Create, a global collective of over eighty cultural organisations that are coming together to shout louder about the great art young people make. A thrilling exploration of the most frustrating, chaotic and exhilarating changes that will ever happen to us, Brainstorm opens at the Temporary Theatre, NT on 22nd July 2015 following a preview performance on 21st July 2015. It will only play four performances after that, with a final evening performance on 25th July 2015.

THREE DAYS IN THE COUNTRY:
‘Russia. A beautiful country estate. The mid-nineteenth century. A handsome new tutor brings reckless, romantic desire to an eccentric household. Over three days one summer the young and the old will learn lessons in love: first love and forbidden love, maternal love and platonic love, ridiculous love and last love. The love left unsaid and the love which must out.’ Patrick Marber has created a new adaption of Ivan Turgenev’s A Month in the Country, which is produced by the National Theatre in association with Sonia Friedman Productions. Amanda Drew, Gawn Grainger, John Simm, Cherrelle Skeete and Mark Gatiss lead the cast, which also includes Nigel Betts, Nicholas Bishop, Paige Carter, Matthew Lloyd Davies, Mark Extance, Lynn Farleigh, Debra Gillett, John Light, Mateo Oxley, Royce Pierreson, Cassie Raine, Lily Sacofsky and Lisa Tramontin. The production is directed by Patrick Marber and features choreography by Polly Bennett. Three Days in the Country starts previews from 21st July 2015 at Lyttelton, NT and opens on 28th July 2015. It closes there on 21st October 2015.

SHAKESPEARE

MEASURE FOR MEASURE:
William Shakespeare’s classic drama exploring sexual politics and social justice comes to London’s Globe Theatre as part of the venue’s summer season. Disgusted by the immorality in his city, Vincentio, Duke of Vienna, withdraws from public life and leaves his deputy in charge in his absence. The puritanical Angelo begins a ruthless campaign against lechery and sexual licence, which results in Claudio being sentenced to death. Claudio’s only chance of mercy is his virginal sister Isabella, a novice nun; but surely she could not awake the lust of this cold, censorious man? Dominic Dromgoole directs this co-production by Shakespeare’s Globe and Royal  & Derngate Theatre, which stars Dominic Rowan as Duke Vincentio, Kurt Egyiawan as Angelo, Joel MacCormack as Claudio and Mariah Gale as Isabella. They lead a cast which also features Naana Agyei-Ampadu (Juliet), Trevor Fox (Pompey), Dennis Herdman (Froth/Friar Thomas), Rosie Hilal (Mariana), James Lailey (Abhorson/Friar Peter), Petra Massey (Mistress Overdone), Dean Nolan (Elbow/Barnadine), Brendan O’Hea (Lucio), Paul Rider (Escalus) and Dickon Tyrrell (Provost). Measure for Measure began previews at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on 20th June 2015, staged in the intimate setting of the theatre’s beautiful indoor candlelit Playhouse. The official opening night is on 1st July 2015, after which it can be seen there til 17th October 2015.

RICHARD II:
Another of Shakespeare’s classic works comes to the Globe Theatre this summer in the form of Richard II. The playwright’s drama is a searching exploration of the meaning of kingship and the rising powers that can destroy it, following the downfall of the misguided monarch in the final two years of his life as the exiled Henry Bolingbroke returns to retrieve his seized estates and force him off the throne. Charles Edwards stars in the iconic role of Richard II, leading a cast which also features Oliver Boot (Mowbray/Carlisle), Graham Butler (Aumerle), William Chubb (Duke of York), Henry Everett (Salisbury), William Gaunt (John of Gaunt), Johnny Glynn (Northumberland), Greg Haiste (Bushy), Angus Imrie (Bagot), Richard Katz (Exton/Gardener), Ekow Quartey (Ross), Anneika Rose (Isabel), David Sturzaker (Bolingbroke), Sasha Waddell (Duchess of Gloucester), Arthur Wilson (Green) and Sarah Woodward (Duchess of York). This in-house production is directed by Simon Godwin and features musical compositions by Stephen Warbeck. Richard II begins previews at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on 11th July 2015, joining its fellow Shakespeare play in the Playhouse. It opens there on 22nd July 2015 and runs through until 18th October 2015.

[Another production of note coming to the West End in July is Impossible, a ‘magical’ entertainment show that brings some of the best magicians and tricksters in the world to the stage of the Noel Coward Theatre for a limited five-week engagement. This unique show fuses dazzling grand stage illusions, up-close-and-personal magic, cutting-edge technological tricks and death-defying escapology, performed by a line-up of eight leading performers from the world of magic. The cast includes daredevil and TV escapologist Jonathan Goodwin, digital illusionist Jamie Allan, mind-reader Chris Cox, boundary-breaking magician Ben Hart, mentalist and magician Katherine Mills, grand illusionist Luis de Matos, sleight of hand master Ali Cook and street illusionist Magical Bones, all of whom have been brought together by director Anthony Owen, the triple BAFTA Award-winning Executive Producer behind Channel 4’s Derren Brown. Produced by Jamie Lloyd Productions, Impossible opens at the Noel Coward Theatre on 24th July 2015 and closes there on 29th August 2015.]

By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25

Tuesday 30th June 2015