London Theatre Preview: October

Today is the first day of October, which means it’s now less than three months until Christmas. It may be the season to be jolly, but ‘tis also the season to be stressed out more than a turkey earmarked for Xmas dinner, so a distraction would be very welcome for many people right now. The arrival of a new month can provide just this. Theatre fans can journey to the West End to find distraction in the opening of a whole host of new shows, of which there are many. We’ve sourced some of the best new occupants moving in this month and highlighted them all here for you, as we preview October in the West End.


There’s nothing more comfortable than your pajamas, and Mark Chavez and Shenoah Allen have managed to create a unique, and very successful, brand of entertainment whilst keeping comfy in their night-time attire. The Pajama Men are an American comedy duo renowned for their simplistic, but effectively innovative narrative-sketch style of comedy. They have made a name for themselves through past shows as The Last Stand to Reason, In the Middle of No One, and their critically acclaimed 2013 show, Just the Two of Each of Us, which is now coming to the West End. This fast-paced multi-layered show introduces a horde of new characters, including Beulah (who would eat a spider to fit in with the cool kids), Nadine (whose arm is missing and she wants it back), Franz (whose biggest problem in life is too easy) and a procrastinating king (who has only 700 years to get his shit together because if he doesn’t it’s certain death for everyone). The Pajama Men manage to bring all these seemingly unrelated storylines together, with the on-stage musical accompaniment of Kevin Hume. Just the Two of Each of Us has two preview performances (starting from 15th October) and then officially opens at the Arts Theatre on 17th October 2013, where it runs until 23rd November 2013.


For the first time in almost 36 yeas, the stage of the London Palladium will be transformed into an ice rink for this festive production. Lunchbox Theatrical Productions and Tony Mercer have teamed up to create this skating spectacular, which features the music of Tchaikovsky. It follows the classic Russian tale of Marie, a young girl whose love brings her cherished Nutcracker doll – a gift from her godfather Drosselmyer – to life. Set in early 1900’s St Petersburg, the adventure which follows sees her encounter such characters as the enchanted Prince, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the evil Mouse King. Tony Mercer, Evgeny Platov and Maxim Staviski have choreographed this on-ice dance production, which stars the Imperial Ice Stars alongside Keith Chegwin and Olga Sharutenko. The Nutcracker on Ice has just one preview performance (24th October) and then opens at the London Palladium on 25th October 2013. It runs there until 3rd November 2013.


The National Youth Theatre of Great Britain (NYT) has been nurturing the talent of young performers and show technicians aged between 14-25 for the past 57 years, and now they have teamed up with the National Theatre to stage three productions in repertoire at the Ambassadors Theatre. The first is Michael Lesslie’s Prince of Denmark, a prequel to Shakespeare’s Hamlet which is set ten years before the events of his classic play. Romance, rivalry and rebellion fills the air as teenagers Hamlet, Ophelia and Laertes ‘rage against their parent’s expectations in Royal Elsinore’ in this Antony Banks-directed production. The NYT will also be performing the political comedy of Tory Boyz, directed by Thomas Hescott. Saving face and avoiding scandal is the ‘order of the day’ in this play by James Graham, which goes behind the scenes of the corridors of power at Westminster. Completing the trio is an adaption of another Shakespeare classic: Romeo and Juliet. This version by Lolita Chakrabarti moves the action to the early ‘80’s, an era where Skamania and New Wave are present against a backdrop of youth unemployment and economic recession. Paul Roseby directs the contemporary re-telling of this tragic tale of two star-crossed lovers. All three productions feature the same cast of NYT students, which is comprised of Laurence Baker, Louisa Beadel, Miguel Brooking, Sope Dirisu, Sophie Ellerby, Aruhan Galieva, Aaron Gordon, Zainab Hasan, Simon Lennon, Niall McNamee, Tom Prior, Abigail Rose, Anna Spearpoint, Tom Thompson and Daisy Whalley. Prince of Denmark/Tory Boyz/Romeo and Julie have been in previews at the Ambassadors Theatre since 25th September 2013. They open there on 2nd October 2013 and run simultaneously through until 29th November 2013.

Arnold Wesker’s 1958 play is widely considered as one of the most important of its era. Roots is the ‘remarkable centrepiece of Wesker’s seminal post-war trilogy’ which centres on the uneducated, working-class Beatie Bryant who falls in love with young socialist Ronnie while in London. Back home at the farm in Norfolk, she awaits his arrival to meet her family. As her head swims with new ideas, the thought of a bolder, freer world threatens to clash with their rural way of life. This in-house production by Donmar Warehouse is directed by James Macdonald and stars Jessica Raines in the role of Beatie. Also featured in the intimate cast are Linda Bassett (Mrs Bryant), Michael Jibson (Jimmy), Emma Stansfield (Pearl), David Burke (Stan Mann), Lisa Ellis (Jenny Beales), Ian Gelder (Mr Bryant), Nic Jackman (Mr Healey) and Carl Prekopp (Frank Bryant). Previews for Roots begin at Donmar Warehouse from 3rd October 2013. It opens on 8th October 2013 and closes on 30th November 2013.


This is the story of young working-class music fan Jimmy Rabbitte, who shapes an unlikely bunch of amateur musicians and friends into what becomes the finest soul band Dublin has ever produced. This brand new musical has been adapted from the original novel by its author Roddy Doyle and features songs by various artists, such as ‘Think’ by Aretha Franklin, ‘Try A Little Tenderness’ by Otis Redding and ‘Night Train’ by James Brown. The show follows the journey of two members of a frustrated synthesiser band who turn to local music expert Jimmy for help. Produced by The Commitments London Ltd and directed by Jamie Lloyd, newcomer Denis Grindel plays the lead role of Jimmy alongside Killian Donnelly (Deco), Sarah O’Connor (Imelda), Stephanie McKeon (Natalie), Jessica Cervi (Bernie), Ben Fox (Joey ‘The Lips’), Mark Dugdale (Derek), Brian Gilligan (Billy), Andrew Linnie (Dean), Joe Woolmer (Mickah), Matthew Wycliffe (Outspan) and Padraig Dooney (Ensemble). The show also features choreography by Ann Yee and musical supervision/arrangements by Alan Williams. The Commitments began previews at the Palace Theatre on 21st September 2013 and opens there on 8th October 2013. It is booking until 26th January 2014.

This musical theatre adaption of James Jones’ award-winning 1951 novel of the same name is Tim Rice’s first new musical for over ten years. Featuring lyrics by Rice, along with music Stuart Brayson and a book by Bill Oakes, From Here To Eternity is a story of passion and honour set on the Hawaiian island of Oahu in 1941, before and during the Pearl Harbour attack. ‘Troubled Private Prewitt falls for the kind hearted escort club girl Lorene, and when his platoon sergeant, Warden, embarks on a dangerous affair with his commanding officer’s wife, Karen, the lives of both men are set on a course they cannot control. As war approaches, the worlds of the four lovers and the soldiers of G Company are dramatically ripped apart’. Produced by Tim Rice and Lee Menzies for Eternity Productions Limited, the show features a top-notch cast which is led by Darius Campbell (Warden), Siubhan Harrison (Lorene), Robert Lonsdale (Prewitt), Ryan Sampson (Maggio) and Rebecca Thornhill (Karen). The remainder of the company is made up of Keisha Amponsa Banson, Marc Antolin, Julie Armstrong, James Ballanger, John Brannoch, Abigail Climer, Brian Doherty, Jessica Ellen, Dale Evans, Shimi Goodman, Kirby Hughes, Lauren Ingram, Dean John-Wilson, Joshua Lacey, Carolyn Maitland, Nuno Queimado, Lucinda Shaw, Warren Sollars, David Stoller, Rebecca Sutherland, Laura Tyrer, Adam Vaughan, Lauren Varnham, Stephen Webb and Matthew Wesley. Directed by Tamara Harvey and featuring choreography by Javier De Frutos, From Here To Eternity started previews yesterday (30th September 2013) at the Shaftesbury Theatre and it officially makes its world premiere on 23rd October 2013. The production is currently booking until 26th April 2014.

This co-production between the Young Vic and Catherine Schreiber Productions is based on the true story of nine young black men aged between 12 and 19 who, while travelling through Scottsboro, Alabama on a train in 1931, had their lives changed forever by a single lie. In search of a new life, they are instead falsely accused of rape by two white women. The musical follows events through to their eventual conviction and the subsequent trials and appeals (which lasted seven years) which divided a nation.  Featuring a book by David Thompson, John Kander composed the musical’s score with lyrics by Fred Ebb. Directed by Susan Stroman (who is also the show’s choreographer), The Scottsboro Boys features a strong cast, which includes Colman Domingo (Mr. Bones), Forrest McClendon (Mr. Tambo), Christian Dante-White (Charles Weems), Clinton Roane (Roy Wright), Julian Glover (The Interlocutor), Dawn Hope (The Lady), Adebayo Bolaji (Clarence Norris), Carl Spencer (Andy Wright) , Martin Bishop, Susan Reynolds and Jordan Shaw. Previews begin at the Young Vic Theatre (Main House) from 18th October 2013 with an opening date following on the 29th October 2013. It runs through until 21st December 2013.


The Duchess Theatre plays host this month to a one-night-only performance which brings a little bit of Broadway to the West End. Neil Eckersley for Speckulation Entertainment presents this one-off concert featuring songs from Broadway musicals which haven’t yet made it to the UK. Under the musical direction of Joe Louis Robinson, a six-strong cast will perform songs from such current and cult shows as Next to Normal, Newsies, The Addams Family, Bring It On, The Little Mermaid, Wonderland, The Boy from Oz and more. Delivering over two hours of this unique entertainment are the special guest vocalists: Jordan Luke Gag, Christopher Mitchell, Sally Samad, Alexandra Da Silva, Phoebe Street and Sebastian Thomas. Been On Broadway takes place at the Duchess Theatre on 13th October 2013.


This ‘dark fairytale about grief, rebellion and the power of love’ has taken a while to make it to the National, but it’s here now and the combined effect of music, dance, circus skills, puppetry and animation make it one of this month’s definite must-see productions. The show, which is a musical version of a Victorian fairytale, tells of a prince and princess from opposing kingdoms that have both lost their mothers: ‘Althea, unable to cry, became light with grief and floated, and so was locked away. Digby became so heavy-hearted that he could never smile, and so was trained as a warrior. One day, he declares war. Althea is forced out of hiding and down to ground but, in defiance of her father, she escapes, only to encounter the solemn prince on contested land. Beside a lake the warring heirs begin a passionate and illicit affair. But for Althea to find real love, she must first confront the world’s darkness and face her own deepest fears’. Featuring music and lyrics by American singer/songwriter Tori Amos, The Light Princess also has a book and lyrics by Samuel Anderson. The production is directed by the NT’s award-winning Marianne Elliot, who is working with acclaimed actress Rosalie Craig. Craig stars as Althea in the show alongside Nick Hendrix and Digby. The rest of the company is an assortment of further proven stage talents, featuring Clive Rowe, Hal Fowler, Amy Booth-Steel, Stephanie Bron, Vivien Carter, James Charlton, Owain Gwynn, Nicola Hart, C J Johnson, Luke Johnson, David Langham, Richard Lowe, Tommy Luther, Jamie Muscato, Emma Norin, Malinda Parris, Kane Oliver Parry, Adam Pearce, Caspar Phillipson, Laura Pitt-Pulford, Nuno Silva, Phoebe Street, Ben Thompson and Lynne Wilmot. Choreography is by Rae Smith. The Light Princess began previews on 25th September 2013 and officially opens at the Lyttelton, NT on 9th October 2013, booking through until 9th January 2013.


Established comedian Paul Thorne stars in this all-new show, which mixes stand-up comedy with music and selectively offensive tirade. In Apocalypse, he takes ‘a sideways look’ at the evils of modern day life, which unsurprisingly includes bankers. He also covers bigots, the seven deadly sins, radicalised agnostics, the 5th horseman of the Apocalypse and the three fundamentalist teddy bears. Thorne is a regular face at many of the UK’s major comedy venues and festivals and has performed all around the world. Now he brings his unique comedy-stylings to the Leicester Square Theatre Lounge for just three exclusive performances, which audiences can experience first-hand on 3rd, 4th and 5th October 2013.

This sixty minute play by Three’s Company’s Tom Crawshaw is a one-man tribute to the Monty Python star Graham Chapman. Doctor, mountaineer, comedian, raging alcoholic, pioneering gay icon and the only current non-living member of the Monty Python team, Chapman remains little-known despite the huge success of the Python sketches and films. The play centres on him as he struggles to come to terms with his terminal cancer and reconnect with estranged lover David Sherlock, exploring and recounting his life as seen ‘through the lens of the anarchic Python comic style’. Not The Messiah was written by Crawshaw for George Telfer, who leads the audience on this tragic-comic quest for the holy meaning of this extraordinary man through his solo performance as Graham Chapman. Directed by Yaz Al Shaater, the production had sold-out runs at the Buxton and Edinburgh Fringes earlier this year, and is now unveiling Chapman to a West End audience. It opens at the Leicester Square Theatre Lounge on 22nd October 2013 for a strictly limited engagement, which sees it run through until 26th October 2013.

(Another option for West End theatre lovers might be the alternative entertainment form of the circus freak show, The Circus of Horrors. Performances at the Lyric Theatre run from 28th October 2013 to 16th December 2013; with nudity and bad language appearing throughout though, this is not one for the kids.)

By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)

Tuesday 1st October 2013