August may have been a bit of a wash-out weather-wise – literally, with all the rain – but the same cannot be said of the London theatre scene. Last month, the West End welcomed such stage productions as Epstein – The Man Who Made The Beatles, To Kill A Mockingbird, Some Girl I Used To Know and My Night With Reg, and more are on the way throughout the coming month. As we wave goodbye to summer, let’s take a look at some of the shows herding in the autumn season as they open in the West End this September.
THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG:
The Mischief Theatre production was the hit of the Edinburgh Festival in 2013 and also enjoyed successful runs at the Old Red Lion Theatre and the West End venue, Trafalgar Studios, before embarking on a UK tour at the start of this year. Now it’s coming back to the West End to entertain audience at the Duchess Theatre. Written by Mischief Theatre company members Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, the award-winning play introduces The ‘Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’ as they attempt to put on a 1920’s murder mystery. The title offers a clue as to what happens next. As everything that can go wrong, does, the accident-prone thespians battle on against all the odds to get to their final curtain call. Produced by Kenny Wax Ltd and Stage Presence Ltd, the production is directed by Mark Bell and stars Charlie Russell, Dave Hearn, Greg Tannahill, Henry Lewis, Henry Shields, Jonathan Sayer, Nancy Wallinger and Rob Falconer. The Play That Goes Wrong begins previews at the Duchess Theatre from 5th September 2014 and opens on 14th September 2014. It is due to run until 1st February 2015.
LORD OF THE DANCE – DANGEROUS GAMES:
This Irish musical and dance extravaganza has thrilled audiences all around the world since it premièred in 1996 and now an updated version comes to the West End. Dangerous Games features new staging, costumes and choreography, but still includes Michael Flatley. The Irish-American dancer created, choreographed and produced Lord of the Dance (with music by Gerard Fahy) and returns to the show for what will be his final West End appearance. In this classic tale of Good vs. Evil which is based on Irish folklore, James Keegan, Morgan Corner and Matthew Smith will be sharing the lead role of The Lord, performing alongside 40 young dancers. Girls Aloud singer Nadine Cole will also be making a guest appearance at selected performances. Lord of the Dance – Dangerous Games has its first preview show at the London Palladium on 1st September 2014 and opens two days later on 3rd September 2014. It closes there on 25th October 2014.
MY PERFECT MIND:
This play, which is a co-production with the Young Vic and Theatre Royal Plymouth, had an acclaimed run at the Drum Theatre, Plymouth in 2013 and subsequently toured further venues. It visited the Young Vic during that time last year, and this year, returns to the venue for a limited West End run. Created by Told by an Idiot and written by Kathryn Hunter, Paul Hunter and Edward Petherbridge, it is a part fact-part fiction play based on the real-life drama of Petherbridge. As actor Edward Petherbridge rehearsed for the role of King Lear, a major stroke left him barely able to talk. The play chronicles his struggle to recover, during which he makes the discovery that the entire role of Lear still exists word for word in his mind. This is a ‘ hilarious and haunting celebration of the resilience of the human spirit through the prism of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy.’ Paul Hunter and Edward Petherbridge perform in the production, which is directed by Kathryn Hunter. My Perfect Mind begins previews at the Young Vic from 3rd September 2014 and opens on 9th September 2014, running there until 27th September 2014.
KING CHARLES III:
This is a brand new ‘future history’ play written by Mike Bartlett and directed by artistic director of the Almeida Theatre, Rupert Goold, who reunite after previously working together on Earthquakes in London and Decade. In their latest collaboration, the story of King Charles III tells of the prince’s ascension to the throne following the death of the Queen. After a lifetime of waiting, he is faced with the question of how to rule in this controversial piece of new writing which looks at the modern state of the monarchy and the unwritten rules of democracy, as Bartlett examines the people underneath the crown and looks into the consciousness of Britain’s most famous family. Produced by Sonia Friedman Productions, Stuart Thompson Productions and the Almeida Theatre, it features music by Jocelyn Pook and stars Tim Pigott-Smith as Charles alongside Oliver Chris as his son William. Also in the cast are Richard Goulding, Nyasha Hatendi, Adam James, Margot Leicester, Tom Robertson, Nicholas Rowe, Tafline Steen and Lydia Wilson. King Charles III starts previews from 2nd September 2014 at the Wyndham’s Theatre. Opening night is on 11th September 2014 and it is due to close on 29th October 2014.
The National Theatre production transfers to the Theatre Royal Haymarket following the ‘fast and furious’ play’s acclaimed world première at the National’s Lyttelton Theatre earlier this year. Playwright Richard Bean’s new play is ‘an anarchic satire about the press, the police and the political establishment. Concerns Paige Britain, an ambitious young news editor of The Free Press, a tabloid newspaper locked in a never ending battle for more readers.’ Billie Piper starred as Paige Britain at the National, but is replaced in the West End transfer by Hollywood-based British actress Lucy Punch. Ben Mansfield also joins the new company, which includes original cast members Sarah Annis, Ross Boatman, Robert Calvert, William Chubb, Dermot Crowley, Jo Dockery, Robert Glenister, Ian Hallard, James Harkness, Scott Karim, Barbara Kirby, Nicholas Lumley, Maggie McCarthy, Iain Mitchell, Miles Mitchell, Aaron Neil, Lucy Punch, Nick Sampson, Kellie Shirley, Kiruna Stamell, Harriet Thorpe, Rupert Vansittart, Joseph Wilkins and Andrew Woodall. Directed by Nicholas Hytner, Great Britain begins previews at the Theatre Royal Haymarket from 10th September 2014. It opens there on 26th September 2014 and runs until 10th January 2015.
The musical Fame remains a popular show years after it first appeared on the scene, and now an official sequel is set to make its world première in the West End for a one night only concert performance this September. Fame Forever was conceived and developed by David De Silva and features music by Steve Margoshes and a book and lyrics by Ben H Winters. ‘It’s the 20th reunion of the class of 1984, two decades since the original musical’s characters graduated from New York’s La Guardia High School of Music & Art and the Performing Arts and there’s a whole new generation pursuing their singular ambition of fame. Serena Katz is now an English teacher at the school; Nick Piazza – her high school sweetheart – a huge (and rich) TV star; Tyrone Jackson has his own dance company; even the spirit of Carmen Diaz, still 18, makes an appearance to see how life, her classmates and time have passed her by.’ Casting is yet to be announced for the new musical, which is expected to embark on a nationwide tour in 2015/16. The world première of Fame Forever will be staged at the Lyric Theatre on 8th September 2014.
The musical revue originated on Broadway when Gerard Alessandrini created the first edition of his show which lampoons the Broadway shows and stars of the day. Philip George directs this updated version which showcases some of the best productions in the West End and on Broadway, such as The Book of Mormon, Once, Matilda, Wicked and Miss Saigon. Produced by John Freedson and Harriet Yellin, it features musical direction by Joel Fram and illustrations by Ken Fallon. Forbidden Broadway transfers from the Menier Chocolate Factory, bringing its three cast members along with it: Anna-Jane Casey, Damian Humbley and Ben Lewis. New addition, YouTube sensation Christina Bianco, completes the impressive line-up of the production, which begins previews at the Vaudeville Theatre on 9th September 2014. It opens on 15th September 2014 and runs until 22nd November 2014.
Created over thirty years ago during Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s writing partnership, this classic musical has been touring around the UK recently and is soon to make its return to the West End. It opens at the Dominion Theatre in September following the renovation work at the venue and the departure of its long-running show, We Will Rock You. ‘The award-winning musical charts the story of Eva Peron, wife of former Argentine dictator Juan Peron, from her humble beginnings through to the extraordinary wealth, power and iconic status which ultimately led her to be heralded as the ‘spiritual leader of the nation”. Produced by Bill Kenwright, by special arrangement with the Really Useful Group, Evita runs for a strictly limited 55 performances and features Marti Pellow (Che) and Madalena Alberto (Evita) reprising their starring roles from the touring production. With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, it also includes the choreography of Bill Deamer and this production is directed by Bob Tomson Troilus and Bill Kenwright. Previews begin at the Dominion Theatre from 16th September and opening night follows close behind on 22nd September 2014. It closes on 1st November 2014 to make way for the theatre’s Christmas season show, White Christmas.
URINETOWN THE MUSICAL:
After a highly successful Off-West End run at the St James Theatre earlier this year, which also marked its UK première, the show is transferring to the West End to set up home at the newly re-opened Apollo Theatre following the roof collapse last year. Urinetown tells the tale of ‘a town fit to burst; spending a penny can prove problematic in a place where the privilege to pee has become a punishable offence. There is no such thing as rent free relief until our young hero, Bobby Strong, appears – with more than a good set of pipes – and starts a revolution! Sometimes all you need is a drop of hope to change the world’. Matthew Seadon-Young joins the West End production in the lead role of Bobby Strong, taking over from Richard Fleeshman who starred in the original production. Nathan Amzi as Officer Barrel is another new addition to the show, appearing alongside Simon Paisley Day (Cladwell B. Cladwell), Jenna Russell (Penelope Pennywise), Jonathan Slinger (Officer Lockstock), Marc Elliott (Mr McQueen), and other returning cast members Chris Bennett (Swing), Katie Bernstein (Little Becky Two Shoes / Mrs. Millennium), Cory English (Old Man Strong/ Hot Blades Harry), Madeleine Harland (Soupy Sue), Rosanna Hyland (Hope Cladwell), Karis Jack (Little Sally), Julie Jupp (Old Woman/ Josephine Strong), Aaron Lee Lambert (Billy Boy Bill/ UGC Executive), Mark Meadows (Senator Fipp), Joel Montague (Swing), Jeff Nicholson (Tiny Tom/ Dr. Billeaux), Alasdair Buchan (Swing), Christina Modestou (Swing), Kane Oliver Parry (Robbie The Stockfish) and Vicky Lee Taylor (Swing). Featuring music and lyrics by Mark Hollman and book and lyrics by Greg Kotis, with choreography by Ann Yee, Urinetown is produced by Julian Stoneman Associates and The Arac Group and is directed by Jamie Lloyd. Orchestrations are by Bruce Coughlin, with musical supervision and direction by Alan Williams. It opens at the Apollo Theatre on 29th September 2014 and is currently booking until 24th January 2015.
An ‘ambitious and tender’ new work by playwright Enda Walsh, Ballyturk is an intimate play in which the lives of two men unravel quickly over the course of 90 minutes. ‘Where are they? Who are they? What is this room, and what might be beyond the walls?’Cillian Murphy returns to the National after his critically acclaimed solo performance in Misterman, joined by Mikel Murphy (long-time collaborator of Enda Walsh) and Stephen Rea. Ballyturk is produced by Landmark Productions and Galway Arts Festival, and directed by Enda Walsh. Previews begin at the Lyttelton, NT from 11th September 2014, opening on 16th September 2014 and running until 11th October 2014.
THE JAMES PLAYS – PARTS I, II, AND III:
The James Plays are a trio of new history plays by Rona Munro that bring to life three generations of Stewart Kings who ruled Scotland in the tumultuous fifteenth century.
James I: The Key Will Keep The Lock explores the complex character of the colourful Stewart king – poet, lover and law maker. ‘Captured at the age of 13 and crowned King of Scots in an English prison, James I of Scotland is delivered home 18 years later with a ransom on his head and a new English bride. The nation he returns to is poor; the royal coffers empty and his nobles ready to tear him apart at the first sign of weakness. Determined to bring the rule of law to a land riven by warring factions, James faces terrible choices if he is to save himself, his Queen and the crown’. The cast includes James McArdle (James I), Blythe Duff (Isabella), Peter Forbes (Balvenie), Gordon Kennedy (Murdac), Andrew Rothney (Walter Stewart), Mark Rowley (Alisdair Stewart), Cameron Barnes (Big James), Jamie Sives (Henry V), Sarah Higgins (Meg), Stephanie Hyam (Joan), Daniel Cahill (Earl of Douglas), Ali Craig, Alasdair Macrae, David Mara, Beth Marshall, Rona Morison and Fiona Wood.
James II: Day of the Innocents explores the violent royal playground around the young king; a terrifying arena of sharp teeth and long knives. ‘James II becomes the prize in a vicious game between Scotland’s most powerful families. Crowned when only six, abandoned by his mother and separated from his sisters, the child king is little more than a puppet. There is only one friend he can trust: William, the future Earl of Douglas. As James approaches adulthood in an ever more threatening world, he must fight to keep his tenuous grip on the crown while the nightmares of his childhood rise up once more’. The cast includes Andrew Rothney (James II), Mark Rowley (William), Blythe Duff (Isabella), Peter Forbes (Balvenie), Gordon Kennedy (Livingston), Ali Craig (Crichton), Cameron Barnes (Bullheaded Man), Rona Morison (Annabella), Sarah Higgins (Meg), Stephanie Hyam (Joan and Mary), Daniel Cahill , Alasdair Macrae, David Mara, Beth Marshall and Fiona Wood.
James III: The True Mirror centres on the charismatic and cultured king, obsessed with grandiose schemes that his nation can ill afford. ‘James III is by turns loved and loathed. Scotland thunders dangerously close to civil war, but its future may be decided by James’ resourceful and resilient wife, Queen Margaret of Denmark. Her love and clear vision can save a fragile monarchy and rescue a struggling people’. The cast includes Jamie Sives (James III), Sofie Grabol (Queen Margaret), Blythe Duff (Annabella), Gordon Kennedy (John), Andrew Rothney (Cochran), Mark Rowley (Ramsay), Ali Craig (Sandy), Sarah Higgins (Meg’s ghost), Stephanie Hyam (Joan’s ghost), Daniel Cahill (Jamie), Fiona Wood (Daisy), David Mara (Bishop), Rona Morison (Phemy),Alasdair Macrae (Phemy), Cameron Barnes (Phemy), and Beth Marshall.
Laurie Sansom directs all three productions, but each play stands alone as a unique vision of a country tussling with its past and future. Produced by the National Theatre, the National Theatre of Scotland and the Edinburgh International Festival, The James Plays open at the Olivier, NT intermittently throughout September. James I starts previews from 10th September 2014, opens on 25th September 2014 and closes on 28th October 2014. James II starts previews from 15th September 2014, opens on 25th September 2014 and closes on 29th October 2014. James III starts previews from 19th September 2014, 25th September 2014 and closes on 29th October 2014.
THE COMEDY OF ERRORS:
William Shakespeare’s popular comedy returns to the Globe Theatre in a production which employs Renaissance costumes and staging. ‘Take one pair of estranged twin brothers (both called Antipholus), and one pair of estranged twin servants (both called Dromio), keep them in ignorance of each other and throw them into a city with a reputation for sorcery, and you have all the ingredients for theatrical chaos. One Antipholus is astonished by his foreign hospitality; the other enraged by the hostility of his home town. The Dromios, caught between the two, are soundly beaten for obeying all the wrong orders’. Starring in this in-house production are Matthew Needham (Antipholus of Ephesus), Simon Harrison (Antipholus of Syracuse), Brodie Ross (Dromio of Syracuse) and Jamie Wilkes (Dromio of Ephesus). Appearing alongside them in the cast are James Laurenson (Egeon), Stefan Adegbola, Andy Apollo, Paul Brendan, Linda Broughton, Gershwyn Eustache Jr, Becci Gemmell, Peter Hamilton Dyer, Emma Jerrold, Hattie Ladbury, and Anne Odeke. Featuring music composed by Olly Fox, The Comedy of Errors began previews at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre from 30th August 2014 and is set to open there on 4th September 2014. It runs until 12th October 2014.
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Friday 29th August 2014