‘The world’s favourite season is the spring. All things seem possible in May.‘ – Edwin Way Teale.
The London theatre scene is ever-changing, and the spring season has indeed brought new life into the West End. Now, with May almost upon us, we look ahead to see what new delights the coming month brings for theatre-goers as we preview some of the best new shows opening in the West End in the final leg of spring.
Whilst still on the subject of ‘new life’, mention must be made of the West End revival of Noel Coward’s Hay Fever, which comes to London for a limited run of three months. Lindsay Posner’s acclaimed production of the renowned play was first seen at the Bath Theatre last year, and most of that original company are reprising their roles in the West End transfer. Felicity Kendall leads as retired actress Judith, starring opposite Simon Shepherd as her on-stage husband David, Michael Simkins as Richard Greatham, Sara Stewart as Myra Arundel, and joined by fellow original cast members Alice Orr-Ewing (Sorel Bliss), Edward Franklin (Simon Bliss), Celeste Dodwell (Jackie Coryton), and Mossie Smith (Clara). The only new addition to the cast is Edward Killingback as Sandy Tyrell. Once glittering star Judith is married to egocentric novelist David, and has two bohemian adult children, Sorel and Simon. They’re everything a respectable English family shouldn’t be – unconventional, risqué, and often downright rude, so when each of them invites a guest to their rural Berkshire retreat for the weekend, the unassuming visitors are thrown into a living melodrama of misjudged meetings, secret seductions and scandalous revelations. The Theatre Royal Bath production begins previews at the Duke of York’s Theatre from 29th April 2015. Hay Fever opens there 11th May 2015 and is set to close on 1st August 2015.
Back in February 2013, Peter Morgan’s The Audience made its world première at the Gielgud Theatre with Helen Mirren in the starring role of the Queen – a role she recently reprised for Broadway. Now it’s back in London as Stephen Daldry revives the hit play in a brand new production for the West End. ‘For sixty years Elizabeth II has met each of her twelve Prime Ministers in a weekly audience at Buckingham Palace. Both parties have an unspoken agreement never to repeat what is said, not even to their spouses. The Audience imagines a series of pivotal meetings between the Downing Street incumbents and their Queen. From Churchill to Cameron, each Prime Minister uses these private conversations as a sounding board and a confessional – sometimes intimate, sometimes explosive.’ Produced by Matthew Byam Shaw for Playful Productions, Robert Fox and Andy Harries, it stars Kristin Scott Thomas as Queen Elizabeth II this time and also features David Calder (Winston Churchill), Mark Dexter (David Cameron), Michael Gould (John Major), Gordon Kennedy (Gordon Brown), Sylvestra Le Touzel (Margaret Thatcher), David Rob (Anthony Eden), Nicholas Woodeson (Harold Wilson), David Peart (Equerry), Charlotte Moore (Bobo MacDonald and Private Secretary), Matt Plumb and Harry Feltman (footmen). Previews began at the Apollo Theatre on 21st April 2015, with opening night set for 5th May 2015. Audiences can go to see The Audience there until 25th July 2015.
DEATH OF A SALEMAN:
The drama continues with the Royal Shakespeare Company’s critically-acclaimed production of Arthur Miller’s classic play, which transfers into the West End for a strictly limited engagement at the Noel Coward Theatre. The revival was originally staged in Stratford-Upon-Avon and will subsequently run for 10-weeks in the West End, directed by RSC artistic director Gregory Doran and starring Antony Sher, who reprises his role as the ageing, travelling salesman, Willy Loman. ‘In the land of the free, each man is in charge of his own destiny. Willy Loman knows and cherishes this truth. After a life of honest hard work, it’s Willy’s birthright to retire with his loving wife and watch his two athletic, handsome sons continue his legacy. Yet as old age begins to take hold and retirement beckons, Willy’s dream seems further away than ever. Decades of graft have somehow failed to translate into wealth and his eldest son refuses to follow the path his father has chosen for him. As actions buried in his past resurface, Willy struggles to reconcile his long-cherished dream with the life he has actually lived.’ The rest of the original Stratford cast join Sher in the West End, which includes Harriet Walter (Linda Loman), Brodie Ross (Bernard), Joshua Richards (Charley), Guy Paul (Uncle Ben), Sarah Parks (The Woman), Miranda Nolan (Letta), Sam Marks (Happy Loman), Emma King (Miss Forsyth), Alex Hassell (Biff Loman), Ross Green (Stanley), Helen Grady (Jenny), Paul Birchard (Older Waiter) and Tobias Beer (Howard Wagner). Death of a Salesman features as part of the centenary celebrations for the iconic playwright, and begins previews at the Noel Coward Theatre from 9th May 2015. It opens there on 13th May 2014 and runs until 18th July 2015.
THE ELEPHANT MAN:
The hit Broadway play transfers into the West End this May, with the entire US cast coming along to reprise their roles here in London. Written by Bernard Pomerance, it is based on the true-life story of 19th century British man Joseph Merrick, who was born with severe deformities and exhibited as ‘The Elephant Man’ in travelling freak shows until renowned surgeon Dr Treves took him into his care at the London Hospital, ‘astonished by the man’s brilliant intelligence, unshakable faith and, most of all, his his resounding desire for love and understanding.’ After being introduced to the beautiful actress Mrs Kendall, a complex friendship develops among the three as Treves and Kendall struggle to protect Merrick from the world. American film actor Bradley Cooper stars in the title role, joined by Patricia Clarkson as Mrs Kendall and Alessandro Nivola as Dr Frederick Treves. The cast also includes Anthony Heald (Ross/Bishop How), Scott Lowell (Snork/Pinhead Manager/Lord John), Kathryn Meisle (Miss Sandwich/Princess), Henry Stram (Carr Gomm/Conductor), Chris Bannow (Will/Orderly/Pinhead/Train Station Man), Peter Bradbury (Orderly/Belgian Policeman/Duke), Lucas Calhoun (Standby John Merrick), Eric Clem (Orderly/English Policeman), Amanda Lea Mason (Nurse/Pinhead/Countess), Marguerite Stimpson (Duchess/Nurse) and Emma Thorne (Nurse). Produced by James L. Nederlander in association with Michael Codron, director Scott Ellis’ acclaimed production opens at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket on 19th May 2015. The play has a 3-month residency here in the UK and is scheduled to close on 8th August 2015.
JM Barrie’s original stage play will be performed at Regent’s Park as directors Timothy Sheader and Liam Steel rediscover the classic British tale of the boy who refuses to grow up for the opening production of Open Air Theatre’s 2015 season. ‘”I ran away the day I was born,” said Peter, “cause I heard Father and Mother talking of what I was to be when I became a man. I want always to be a little boy and to have fun, Wendy.” But this could not be for the Darlings; all children, except one, grow up. 1914 is a very different world . Faced with this reality, their only escape is to let imagination take flight to Neverland.’ Hiran Abeysekera stars as the forever-young boy Peter Pan in a cast which also features David Birrell as Captain Hook, Beverly Rudd as Smee, Kae Alexander as Wendy, Patrick Osborne as John, Thomas Dennis as Michael and Rachel Donovan as Tinkerbell. Also included are Lost Boys: George Bukhari (Nibs), Eben Figueiredo (Tootles), Thomas Pickles (Slighty), Richard James-Neale (Curly), and Jacob James Beswick and Chris Lew Kum Hoi (Twins), along with Carl Prekopp (Gentleman Starkey), Okorie Chukwu, Owain Gwynn, Jonathan Holby, Arthur Kyeyune (Pirates), Melanie Pappenheim, Daniel Bradley, Candida Caldicot, Zands Duggan, Tamara Young (Musicians) and Joe Swain (Show Climber). Musical supervision and direction is additionally provided by cast member Candida Caldicott. Peter Pan can be seen at the Regent’s park venue from 15th May 2015, launching the 2015 season with opening night on 21st May 2015. The Open Air Theatre production runs there until 14th June 2015.
The Donmar Warehouse presents Steve Waters’ new play in May, with Simon Russell Beale returning to its stage to take on the lead role of the Dean. The production gives a fictionalised account of the events that took place during the 2011 Occupy demonstration outside St Paul’s Cathedral – ‘On 15th October 2011, Occupy London makes camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral. On 21st October, a building that remained open through the Blitz, terrorist threats and floods closes its doors. On 28th October, the City of London initiates legal action to begin removing Occupy London from outside the cathedral.’ Appearing alongside Beale in the cast are Anna Calder-Marshall, Paul Higgins, Rebecca Humphries, Shereen Martin and Malcolm Sinclair. Temple is an in-house production, directed by Howard Davies, and starts previews at Donmar Warehouse from 21st May 2015. It opens there on 27th May 2015 and closes 25th July 2015.
Following the closure of the Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, new musical Beyond Bollywood moves into the London Palladium to make its West End début The show, which is described as as ‘a monsoon of emotion that brings the fire, heat and desire of Indian dance direct to the heart of London’, features an original score by Salim-Sulaiman, lyrics by Irfan Siddiqui, and is written, directed and choreographed by Rajeev Goswami. ‘In the quest of fulfilling her mother’s dying wish Shaily Shergill leaves behind her home in Munich to journey to India. Will her mother’s dream turn into reality?’ The colourful dance extravaganza celebrates the history of Indian arts with hundreds of costumes and a company of 42, who will take the audience on a truly authentic cultural tour of India. Beyond Bollywood is produced by RG Studio and begins previews at the London Palladium from 8th My 2015. Opening night is set for 11th May 2015 and the musical will conclude its run on 27th June 2015.
A revival of the Cole Porter musical High Society comes to London in May for a 12-week run at the Old Vic Theatre. Based on Philip Barry’s play, The Philadelphia Story, and the film of the same name, it tells the story of a Long Island socialite who must choose between three men all vying for her affections. Tracy Lord is planning her lavish summer wedding when her ex-husband, jazz musician C.K. Dexter Haven, makes an unwelcome appearance to try and win her back. He faces further competition from tabloid reporter Mike Connor, who is there to cover the wedding but also ends up taking a shine to her. The musical has a book by Arthur Kopait and music/lyrics by Cole Porter, with additional lyrics by Susan Birkenhead. Maria Friedman directs the West End production, which features a 12-piece band and jazz pianist Joe Stilgoe, with musical direction by Theo Jamieson and choreography by Nathan M Wright. Kate Fleetwood stars as Tracy Lord opposite Rupert Young as C.K. Dexter Haven and Jamie Parker as Mike Connor, with the rest of the cast completed by Barbara Flynn (Margaret Lord), Anabel Scholey (Liz Imbrie), Ellie Bamber (Dinah Lord), Ricky Butt (Mavis), Richard Grieve (George Kittredge), Christopher Ravenscroft (Seth Lord), Jeff Rawle (Uncle Willie) and Paul Kemble (Chester) and ensemble members John Brannoch, Omari Douglas, Claire Doyle, Chris Ellis-Stanton, Leon Kay, Sammy Kelly, Zak Nemorin, Katherine Pearson and Philippa Stefani. Featuring such classic songs as ‘Swell Party’, ‘True Love’ and ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?’, among many more, High Society begins its West End preview period at the Old Vic on 30th April 2015. Staged in the round, it opens there on 14th May 2015 and runs through until 22nd August 2015.
Alexander Zeldin’s new work, written through devising with the company, is a brutally honest and darkly humorous play that exposes stories of an invisible class. It premièred at The Yard Theatre in 2014 and is the second show developed by them to come to the National. ‘Four people arrive to work the night shift in a meat factory. They meet for the first time. They are employed as cleaners, by a temp agency. They are all on zero-hour contracts. Every shift, they clean. Every four hours, they take a break. They drink tea or coffee together. They read magazines. They chat. As it gets light, they go home, or to another job. They cycle goes on. And on. Strangers. Until something stirs, until isolated people get too close to one another, too fast.’ Zeldin also directs The Yard Theatre production, which has a cast of just five that includes Janet Etuk as Grace, Kristin Hutchinson as Susan, Sean O’Callaghan as Phil, Luke Clarke as Ian and Victoria Moseley as Becky. Beyond Caring has its first preview performance tonight (28th April 2015) at the Temporary Theatre, NT, opening officially on 1st May 2015 and running through til 16th May 2015.
THE BEAUX’ STRATAGEM:
A wild comedy of love and cash, George Farquhar’s final play follows Mr Aimwell and Mr Archer, two charming, dissolute young men who have blown their fortunes in giddy London and, shamed and debt-ridden, flee to provincial Lichfield with the ‘stratagem’ of marrying for money. They pose as master and servant while lodging at the local inn and encounter ‘a teeming variety of human obstacles: a crooked landlord, a fearsome highwayman, a fervant French Count, a maid on the make, a drunken husband, a furious butler, a natural healer, and a strange, turbulent priest. But their greatest obstacle is love. When the Beaux meet their match in Dorinda and Mrs Sullen they are most at risk, for in love they might be truly discovered.’ Directed by Simon Godwin, the production is led by Samuel Barnett (Aimwell), Geoffrey Streatfeild (Archer), Pippa Bennett-Warner (Dorinda) and Susannah Fielding (Mr Sullen), joined by Esh Alladi, Jamie Beamish, Jane Booker, Cornelius Clarke, Molly Gromadzki, John Hastings, Richard Henders, Lloyd Hutchinson, Chris Kelham, Nicholas Khan, Barbara Kirby, Ana-Maria Maskell, Amy Morgan, Mark Rose, Chook Sibtain and Timothy Watson. Choreography is by Jonathan Goddard, with music by Michael Bruce. The Beaux’ Stratagem begins previews at the Olivier, NT from 19th May 2015. It opens there on 26th May 2015 and is set to close on 20th September 2015.
AS YOU LIKE IT:
One of playwright William Shakespeare’s most popular comedy play, As You Like It returns to London this May. ‘Rosalind, the daughter of a banished duke, falls in love with Orlando at a wrestling match, but her usurping uncle, jealous of her popularity, banishes her from court. Disguised as a boy she seeks out her father and his friends in the Forest of Arden. Here she meets Orlando again and, under the guise of a young man, counsels him in the art of love.’ The production stars Michelle Terry in the principal role of Rosalind, performing alongside a cast that also features David Beames (Duke Senior/Duke Frederick), Daniel Crossley (Touchstone), Patrick Driver (Corin), James Garnon (Jacques), Simon Harrison (Orlando), Gwyneth Keyworth (Phebe), William Mannering (Oliver/Amiens), Jack Monaghan (Silvius), Sophia Nomvete (Audrey), Ellie Piercy (Celia), Gary Shelford (Charles/Hymen), Perri Snowden (Le Beau/Jacques de Boys) and Terry Whitchurch (Adam). Directed by Blanche McIntyre and featuring a score by composer Johnny Flynn, this in-house production of As You Like It begins previews at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre from 15th May 2015, with opening night on 20th May 2015. Scheduled to run throughout the summer, it closes there on 5th September 2015.
Theatre-goers may also be interested in the one-man show, Just Jim Dale, featuring Tony Award winner, two-time Grammy Award winner and two-time Academy Award nominee Jim Dale, who brings his critically acclaimed solo show to the West End following a successful off-Broadway run in New York. Directed by Richard Maltby Jr, Just Jim Dale runs at the Vaudeville Theatre from 28th May 2015 (previews from 26th May) to 20th June 2015.
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Tuesday 28th April 2015