With Christmas now a distant memory and the end of winter in sight, it’s time to say goodbye to cold, wet, windy days and welcome in the spring, bringer of new (hopefully warmer) weather, new life, and of course, new shows. It’s the season to celebrate rebirth, as trees turn green, flowers bloom and babies are born, and the West End undergoes a rebirth of sorts itself as we enter into the first spring month. There’s a whole host of new shows opening in the West End this March, and here we look ahead to some of the biggest and best newcomers on their way into town.
Lindsay Posner’s new production of Harvey is currently touring the UK, having opened at the Birmingham Repertory on 6th February 2015. Soon to finish its run at Malvern Theatres (24th-28th February), it travels on to the Richmond Theatre before its final tour date at the Brighton Theatre Royal, but the show’s journey doesn’t end there as it transfers into the West End at the end of March for a limited engagement at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Mary Chase’s classic comedy play centres on Elwood P. Dowd, a man with only one character flaw: an unwavering friendship with a six-foot tall invisible rabbit named Harvey. ‘In order to save the family’s reputation, Elwood’s sister Veta takes him to see psychiatrist Dr William Chumley. But when the doctor mistakenly commits anxiety-ridden Veta instead of her brother, it sets off an hilarious whirlwind of confusion and chaos as everyone tries to catch a man and his invisible rabbit.’ Reprising their roles in the West End are the show’s two Olivier Award-winning stars James Dreyfuss and Maureen Lipman, who play Elwood P. Dowd and Veta Louise Simmons respectively. David Bamber (William R. Chumley), Desmond Barrit (Judge Omar Gaffney), Felicity Dean (Betty Chumley), Ingrid Oliver (Myrtle Mae Simmons), Amanda Boxer (Miss Ethel Chauvenet), Sally Scott (Nurse Ruth Kelly), Youssef Kerkour (Duane Wilson), Jack Hawkins (Lyman Sanderson) and Linal Haft (E J Lofgren) complete the cast. Produced by Don Gregory for Harvey West End Ltd in association with Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Harvey starts previews at the Theatre Royal Haymarket from 17th March 2015 and press night is on 23rd March 2015. It closes there on 2nd May 2015.
Joshua Harman’s family comedy won rave reviews when it ran at the St James Theatre earlier this year, and the production is now set to repeat that success with a West End transfer. First seen at the Ustinov Studio in Bath last summer, the story revolves around the death of a beloved grandfather, and Holocaust survivor, which leaves a treasured family heirloom with religious significance up for grabs – but who is most deserving of it? Is it bossy, fanatically religious Daphna? Perhaps her wealthy cousin Liam, who’s just returned from skiing with his non-Jewish girlfriend Melody? Or how about his brother Jonah, who would prefer not to get involved in the fight? The question plays out over a tense and explosive evening of vicious debate, hilarious spats and ferocious family drama. Original cast member Jenna Augen returns to reprise her award-winning role of the overbearing Daphna, along with fellow original cast members Joe Coen as Jonah, Gina Bramhill as Melody and Ilan Goodman as Liam. Produced by Theatre Royal Bath and directed by Michael Longhurst, Bad Jews takes over from the long-running Ghost Stories at the Arts Theatre from 18th March 2015. In town for a strictly limited 11-week run, opening night is on 25th March 2015 and it closes in the West End on 30th May 2015.
SEASONS OF LOVE:
This March, the West End hosts the world première of a brand new music and dance spectacular from the creative team behind the London Olympics closing ceremony and world tours by Madonna and Take That. Set against the backdrop of present day Ireland’s beautiful scenery, it portrays three love stories over the four seasons of the year and different stages of life in an exhilarating and joyful production that combines original music and songs with thrilling choreography, video projections, body mapping and hi-tech visuals. The show is a celebration of the breathless thrill of youthful encounters, the heartrending sorrow of separation, mature love lost and rekindled, and the blissful exuberance of an Irish wedding, developed and composed by Brendan Larissey and featuring songs by Mark Leddy. Celebrity music artists Claire Richards, Chesney Hawkes and Mark Read all feature in the cast of the West End production, which is produced by Martin Flitton, directed and choreographed by Gareth Walker, and features visual content by CS Media. Seasons of Love comes to the West End for one night only, playing at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane on 1st March 2015.
LORD OF THE DANCE – DANGEROUS GAMES:
Featuring new staging, costumes and choreography, the highly popular dance and music extravaganza returns to the West End after its sell-out run there in 2014. ‘Based on Irish folklore, this is the classic tale of Good vs. Evil, expressed through the universal language of dance. It’s the story of the Little Spirit, who travels through time to help the Lord of the Dance protect his people from the challenge of Don Dorcha, the Dark Lord. As this dark power challenges our hero, the adventure draws you into a mythical universe of love, danger, and desire, created by an orchestrated combination of precision dancing, state of the art lighting and pyrotechnics.’ It was created by dancer Michael Flatley, who also directs the production and will star in it between 13th and 24th March 2015, when he is then replaced by James Keegan as the Lord of the Dance. It also features music by Gerard Fahy. Lord of the Dance – Dangerous Games opens at the Dominion Theatre on 13th March 2015 and ends there on 5th September 2015.
In 2014, stage and screen actor Kevin Spacey appeared at The Old Vic in a sell-out and critically acclaimed 22-performance run of Clarence Darrow, the compelling one-man play by David W. Rintels. In 2015, he returns to The Old Vic stage to reprise the role for a strictly limited 6-week engagement. The drama follows the larger-than-life lawyer Clarence Darrow as he relives many of pivotal experiences in the courtroom, including the infamous Scopes ‘Monkey’ and ‘Thrill Killers’ trials which helped establish his reputation as a courtroom giant and civil rights hero. The former Artistic Director of The Old Vic will additionally be in conversation on stage following the 29th March performance to discuss his experiences as Artistic Director there, as well as his remarkable acting career. Produced by The Old Vic Theatre and directed by award-winning director Athea Sharrocks, Clarence Darrow returns to The Old Vic on 3rd March 2015 and runs through until 11th April 2015 – just make sure your mobile phone is turned off!
‘An uneasy stand-off exists between the Captain and his wife, Laura. But, a disagreement over the future of the daughter, Bertha, triggers an all-out war. Laura will stop at nothing to gain control of her daughter’s future. When she suggests to the Captain that he may not be the girl’s father, a chain of events is set in motion that cannot be stopped. It is a battle of the minds, but the real question is – is it a battle either can win?’ August Strindberg’s 19th century play is coming back to the West End in a new version by Laurie Slade, which also features music by Simon Slater and Abbey Wright as director. Alex Ferns and Emily Dobbs star as the Captain and Laura respectively, joined by June Watson (Nurse), Thomas Coombes (Nojd) and Barnaby Sax (Doctor). Produced by Jagged Fence Productions in association with Making Productions, The Father begins previews at Trafalgar Studios 2 from 11th March 2015. It opens on 17th March 2015 and ends the West End run on 11th April 2015.
THE BROKEN HEART:
John Ford’s play tells a story of an exalted love struggling to exist in a world of selfishness, jealousy and tawdry court politics. In the setting of Ancient Sparta, loving couple Penthea and Orgilus are forced apart by her brother and Penthea is pressed into a loveless marriage with a brutal and jealous old man. Orgilus, disguised as a poor scholar, watches, waits, and as events unfold, unleashes a terrible cycle of revenge. Caroline Steinbeis directs a cast which features Amy Morgan as Penthea, Brian Ferguson as Orgilus, Owen Teale as Bassanes, Luke Thompson as Ithocles, Liam Brennan as Crotolon, Patrick Godfrey as Amyclas, Peter Hamilton Dyer as Tecnicus, Joe Jameson as Nearchus, Adam Lawrence as Amelus/Phulas, Sarah McRae as Calantha, Sanchia McCormack as Grausis, Tom Stuart as Prophilus, Thalissa Teixeira as Euphrania and Paul Whitchurh as Armostes. The Shakespeare’s Globe production of The Broken Heart starts previews at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse from 12th March 2015, opening their on 18th March 2015 and running through until 18th April 2015.
BE BOP A LULA!:
Following a highly successful début in May 2014, the ‘outright kings of Rock n’ Roll’ are set to take over the West End this March. The brand new show brings together the four giants of late Fifties and early Sixties popular music, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Billy Fury and Roy Orbison, for the first time in a brand new musical concert. Backed by the band, The Wildcats, Gavin Stanley and Lars Young recreate these music legends, with Stanley performing as Eddie Cochran/Billy Fury, and Young performing as Gene Vincent/Roy Orbison. Spencer Evoy also appears as Rocking Reverand DJ Spencer. Produced by Lord Tim Croxford, Gavin Stanley and Lars Young, Be Bop A Lula! opens at the Ambassadors Theatres on 4th March 2015 and is currently booking until 5th August 2015.
SWEENEY TODD – THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET:
The Sondheim musical has enjoyed huge success recently with the Chichester Festival/West End production and the site-specific version at Tooting – which is heading to the West End – and is soon to appear again in another new production, this time in a semi-staged and semi-operatic production at the London Coliseum. Set in Victorian London, it follows the murderous and bloody trail left by vengeful barber Sweeney Todd, helped by pie shop owner Mrs Lovett, whose partnership with Todd results in pies to die for – literally. The show has music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Hugh Wheeler, from an adaption by Christopher Bond. Academy Award-winning actress Emma Thompson and international opera and concert star Bryn Terfel star as Sweeney Todd and Mrs Lovett in the West End, reprising their roles from the sell-out performances at New York’s Lincoln Centre last year. Also joining the star cast are Philip Quast as Judge Turpin, John Owen Jones as Pirelli, Matthew Seadon-Young as Anthony, Katie Hall as Johanna, Jack North as Tobias, Alex Gaumond as Beadle Bamford and Rosalie Craig as Beggar Woman. The concert production is directed by Lonny Price and produced by English National Opera (ENO) and the Gradelinnit Company. A preview performance takes place at the London Coliseum on 30th March 2015, opening the following night on 31st March 2015. It is booking there until 12th April 2015.
RULES FOR LIVING:
‘Everyone creates their own coping strategies or rules for living. But what happens when an extended family gathers in the kitchen for a traditional Christmas and they each follow those rules, rigidly?’ In playwright Sam Holcroft’s new production, the family does just that, and as long-held mechanisms for survival are laid bare, even mum, who’s been preparing for this lunch since last January, becomes embroiled. Long-held rivalries and resentments will out. Accusations fly, relationships deteriorate, the rules take over. Director Marianne Elliot is on board for the National’s in-house production, as are cast members Claudie Blakley, Deborah Findlay, Miles Jupp, Stephen Mangan, John Rogan, Maggie Service and Daisy Waterstone. Rules For Living is a dark comedy of manners, which begins previews at the Dorfman, NT from 13th March 2015. It opens there on 24th March 2015 and runs until 8th July 2015.
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Thursday 26th February 2015