2014 London West End Theatre
2013 was a fantastic year for theatre in the West End. After quite a dismal 2012/13 season in regards to new musicals, the latter half of 2013 certainly made up for it with three large commercial musicals opening across the West End – all with different levels of success. Looking ahead to 2014 it is refreshing to see a mix of new shows, classics and revivals, and with many more yet to be announced it seems as though there will be plenty to keep audiences entertained.
After the mixed success of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, all eyes are now firmly set on the London Palladium, where a brand new family musical is set to open officially in March. I Can’t Sing: The X Factor Musical has already made headlines thanks to a careful marketing campaign which has already seen large numbers of advance tickets purchased. Produced by Simon Cowell himself, this light hearted new musical pokes fun at the phenomenon which has seen the X Factor dominate television schedules for the past decade. Many were initially sceptical about the idea, but after it was announced that comedian Harry Hill was behind the book and libretto, more people became excited at the prospect of a hilarious new musical comedy. Featuring an original score by Steve Brown (Spend, Spend, Spend) songs have already been released and were even performed at the Royal Variety Performance, to wide acclaim. Aided by some intelligent casting in the form of vocal powerhouse Cynthia Erivo as the wannabe singer and Nigel Harman as Mr Cowell himself, this is set to be one of the most popular musicals of next year.
After all the Broadway imports that dominated 2013 (The Book of Mormon, Once) another slightly delayed production is already creating quite a stir. David Yazbek and Jeffrey Lane’s 2005 musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is based on the 1988 film of the same name starring Michael Cane and Steve Martin. After proving to be a hit on Broadway and around the world, this new production directed by Jerry Mitchell opens at the Savoy Theatre in March. Robert Lindsay and Rufus Hound star as the crooks who aim to swindle the old ladies of the Riviera, whilst Katherine Kingsley and Samantha Bond co-star as the two equally beautiful female leads, Christine and Muriel.
Musical revivals will continue to delight audiences next year, and there are already two delightfully contrasting pieces to entertain London audiences. The first to open will be the West End transfer of Adler and Ross’s hit Broadway musical The Pajama Game which comes to the Shaftesbury Theatre following a successful run in Chichester. West End favourite Joanna Riding will star as Babe, opposite the dashing Michael Xavier as Sid in Richard Eyre and Stephen Mear’s classy production.
Cameron Mackintosh’s eagerly anticipated revival of Boublil and Schonberg’s Miss Saigon will also open in May at the Prince Edward Theatre, whilst Jersey Boys finds a new home at the Piccadilly Theatre. This hit musical originally ran at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane for 10 years, and will return to the West End in a brand new and exciting production. Casting has just been announced, and a new Kim will be introduced to the London stage as 17 year old school girl Eva Noblezada takes on this iconic role. She is joined by Alistair Brammer as Chris, Hugh Maynard as John, Tamsin Carroll as Ellen and Rachelle An Go as Gigi.
Musicals continue to be London’s top sellers, and plenty more are lined up waiting in the wings to open at any moment. We’ve heard that the Tony Award winning musical Memphis is already eyeing up the Shaftesbury Theatre after The Pajama Game wraps up its limited season, but may face stiff competition from current Broadway hit Memphis. British musicals Made in Dagenham and Bend it Like Beckham are also expected to land next year – the former at the Adelphi Theatre hot off the heals of The Bodyguard. Producers are currently circling The Palace Theatre which is currently home to The Commitments, with Bill Kenwright itching to transfer The Regent’s Park Open Air production of The Sound of Music for a summer season, before Broadway import Kinky Boots is expected to bring a set of high heels back to the famous Cambridge Circus Marquee.
The West End has had a particularly successful year for commercial plays, with many transferring to Broadway once again for multiple successful seasons. The Michael Grandage Season is about to come to an end, leaving the Noel Coward Theatre open to new tenants. Both new shows are based on hit films, but have quite different appeal. The Full Monty is a stage adaptation of the hit British film and has already been a success in Sheffield as well as on UK tour. This will be swiftly followed by another popular screen-to-stage adaptation as Shakespeare in Love plays a limited season, produced by Disney Theatricals. Casting for this is yet to be announced, but we are expecting this to be a sure fire hit.
Over at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, Fatal Attraction continues the trend of favourite movies onstage, and this new production will be directed by Trevor Nunn. One of the most exciting revivals already announced is a new production of Blithe Spirit directed by Michael Blakemore. This will star stage and screen icon Angela Lansbury in the role of Madame Arcarti, a role in which she has already won the Tony Award for. This delightful Noel Coward play is surely the first of many classic revivals to be announced in the commercial West End next year.
London’s producing houses are also offering varied seasons in an attempt to draw in the crowds in the ever increasing market. After a triumphant 50th anniversary year, The National Theatre enters into 2014 with two revivals of classic British texts. The first brings Simon Russell Beale to the South Bank yet again, this time as King Lear in a new production directed by Sam Mendes. It’s the latest in a string of celebrity Lear’s and hopefully the last on Russell Beale’s bucket list. Shelagh Delaney’s age defying play A Taste of Honey stars Kate O’Flynn as Jo and Lesley Sharp as her mother Helen in what is expected to be an interesting take on a modern classic.
The Young Vic provide a season straight off the reading list of an A-Level English student, with productions of Beckett’s Happy Days, Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard William’s A Streetcar Named Desire and Miller’s A View From the Bridge. This somewhat classic season is sure to be full of new takes and fine performances that we have become to associate with this fantastically fresh venue, and I’m sure a West End transfer will be on the cards for any of these commercial vehicles.
Over at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre history begins to repeat itself as their highly successful production of To Kill a Mockingbird is reprised after proving to be a hit with critics and audiences. This is followed by two other plays from the classic canon – Hobson’s Choice and All My Sons which are sure to get bums on seats over the (hopefully) warm summer months. Artistic Director Tim Sheader returns to the venue with the Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess which has recently been a hit on Broadway. We’re already poised to see what angle Sheader takes with this and we hope this is a glorious return to the triumphant classic revivals for which the venue has become known.
2014 Show Openings Calender
|Previews Begin||Press Night||Show||Venue|
|16th Jan||21st Jan||The Weir||Wyndham’s Theatre|
|14th Jan||23rd Jan||King Lear||Olivier, National Theatre|
|23rd Jan||30th Jan||Happy Days||Young Vic|
|10th Feb||18th Feb||A Taste of Honey||Lyttleton, National Theatre|
|20th Feb||25th Feb||The Full Monty||Noel Coward Theatre|
|1st March||18th March||Blithe Spirit||Gielgud Theatre|
|8th March||25th March||Fatal Attraction||Haymarket Theatre Royal|
|27th Feb||26th March||I Can’t Sing! The X Factor Musical||London Palladium|
|4th April||11th April||A View From The Bridge||Young Vic|
|1st May||13th May||The Pajama Game||Shaftesbury Theatre|
|15th May||20th May||All My Sons||Open Air Regent’s Park|
|3rd May||21st May||Miss Saigon||Prince Edward Theatre|
|12th June||17th June||Hobson’s Choice||Open Air Regent’s Park|
|July||July||Shakespeare in Love||Noel Coward Theatre|
|17th July||28th July||Porgy and Bess||Open Air Regent’s Park|
|August||August||A Streetcar Named Desire||Young Vic|
|10th October||16th October||The Cherry Orchard||Young Vic|