MT musical Festival “tours” virtually after live London run in May

Here’s a fascinating chance to see musicals in the making this Summer.

8 intriguing new pieces of musical theatre “work in development” can be seen live at The Turbine Theatre in Battersea, London from May 17-29, followed by a digital tour (online only- not in person) to twelve venues across the UK in the following five weeks.

The shows to be presented are below (with bookable links attached)

Far From Heaven

By Richard Greenberg, Scott Frankel & Michael Korie LIVE: 17th – 19th May

Book Now

#50Days

Created and written by Thabo Stuck LIVE: 17th – 19th May

Book Now

The Man in the Ceiling

By Andrew Lippa & Jules Feiffer LIVE: 20th – 22nd May

Book Now

Cake

By McManus, Lloyd Malcolm & Taylor-Johnson LIVE: 20th – 22nd May

Book Now

HouseFire

By P Burton-Morgan & Felix Hagan LIVE: 24th – 26th May

Book Now

Millennials

Music, Book & Lyrics by Elliot Clay LIVE: 24th – 26th May

Book Now

Daisy

By Caroline Kay

CANCELLED

Proud

By Graham Lappin, Mark Anderson & Lee Freeman LIVE: 27th – 29th May

Book Now

Tony! (A Tony Blair Rock Opera)

By Harry Hill and Steve Brown LIVE: 27th – 29th May

Book Now

MY PICKS

Top of the group for me is FAR FROM HEAVEN, featuring a jazz-influenced score based on the haunting Todd Haynes film set in the late 1950s America. The big appeal here is the brilliant Scarlett Strallen in the lead role of Cathy, who will make this worth the ticket price alone for a chance to hear her sing.

Caroline Kay’s DAISY has certainly pricked my interest. After waking from a coma with no memory of life before her accident, a young woman must try to move on knowing little more than her name: Daisy. Writing challenges and stimulates her abilities of recall – but are some memories best left forgotten? This story explores several forms of loss, challenges the resilience of a family, and celebrates the healing-power of storytelling. What also intrigues me is that Kay herself performs as Daisy. ***UPDATE This show has now sadly been dropped from the festival without explanation.

HOUSE FIRE also catches the eye, being co-written by Felix Hagan, one of the SpitLip mastermind team behind cult comedy musical OPERATION MINCEMEAT. Its a frenetic gig-theatre show which features a trio of endangered animals who form a rock band to protest against the climate crisis.

Comedy-wise we are sure to find value in TONY!, following Harry Hill’s earlier brilliantly funny but short-lived I CAN’T SING! with Cynthia Erivo and Simon Lipkin, amongst others. Lipkin is featured in the cast of this new piece and he is always worth watching.

THE MAN IN THE CEILING boasts co-creator Andrew Lippa who is always bringing interesting work. His, and Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Jules Feiffer’s, show is about a 12 year old boy who wants nothing more than to be a cartoonist.

All of the shows will be available to see live in person on the dates mentioned above only at the Turbine Theatre in London, where social distancing measures will ensure audience and performers’ safety.

The shows will all then become digitally available for online viewing only through twelve “tour” theatres, which are:

Norwich Theatre Royal

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Birmingham Hippodrome

Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

Mercury Theatre, Colchester

The Curve, Leicester

Dundee Rep Theatre

New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich

Theatr Clwyd, Mold, Wales

Sheffield Theatres

Royal & Derngate, Northampton

The Lowry, Salford

PLEASE NOTE Tickets for all live shows at the Turbine in person will be £15. Tickets for all digitally-delivered shows online will be £12.50. Most shows last around 45minutes. Tickets are limited availability for live shows and also online. At venues offering digital only there is a one-week window to see the show of your choice, and after you have started watching you will then have 24 hours to finish watching that show. Tickets are per device.

Most shows will be available to watch globally. Shows are available on a mix of dates at different venues. Please check the individual theatre for the dates on which shows will be available.

You can find more details and booking information at the Turbine’s website here


Theatre FootNotes for February 2020 – a summary of other theatre events in my diary

SOAPDISH

(Seen at Battersea’s Turbine Theatre on Saturday 8 February, duration 60 minutes)

As part of the Turbine’s Music Theatre Festival, I saw the last of three public performances of a much-anticipated work-in-progress, the Stiles and Drewe musical treatment of one of my favourite films, SOAPDISH.

The story of the attempts made to bring down a popular but demanding daytime TV star by her rivals was a hugely funny- and popular- film from 1991 which starred Sally Field and Kevin Kline, Whoopi Goldberg, Robert Downey, Jr and others.

From the work put in by Stiles and Drewe, book writer Robert Harling (writer of the original movie), director Rachel Kavanaugh, MD supreme Alex Parker and the starry cast, it all looks very promising.

Following the storyline of the film tightly, the songs are natural extensions of the plot framework, which gives them credibility and solidity.

The starry cast did a great job of putting over the material. The busy, uptempo “Get Ready” – set at the Daytime TV awards – is a perfect opener. It was great to hear Louise Dearman as Celeste the star, tunefully lamenting about wanting to “Wash My Hands of Soap”. Good also to see Laura Pitt-Pulford playing hard as nails Montana, Celeste’s mortal enemy, hilarious in her breathy seduction of the show’s producer David (nicely twitchy Richard Dempsey), in her gleefully tacky song “Tit for Tat”. Ben Richards, cast as Jeffrey (Celeste’s previous on-screen love interest but in reality bitter enemies, brought back to the show to torment Celeste) doesn’t get too much to do in Act One (which is essentially what we saw a digest of), but he was very welcome anyway.

Clive Rowe pops up delightfully as the philistine TV exec who gives a great number about what he likes – “Peppy and Cheap”.

Stiles and Drewe’s work is always a delight. Here they even musicalise “Death of A Salesman”. And what other team could so ballsily rhyme and coin new words such as “menopausable” ?

Having been to a lot of these readings and presentations over the years, often its the cast themselves who give you the best indication of how good the material is. And here the cast reactions while sitting and following the performers who were “on” were a delight. And if they enjoyed it, I can’t see how anyone else couldn’t.

This already has “big hit” written all over it.


THE ROYALE by Marco Ramirez at Milton Court Theatre (Guildhall School). (Seen on Saturday 8th February, 80 minutes duration)

Describing the aspiration of Jay “The Sport” Jackson to be the first black world heavyweight champion. Looking at the drive, the sacrifice and the real reasons behind his motivations-to give his sister a black role model she could identify with.

Good acting all round, but especially by Shaka Kalokoh as Jay and Anele Mahamba as his sister Nina

The play itself was highly descriptive but eventually too talkative and lacking in action to maintain my interest for the complete running time.


FLIGHTS by John O’ Donovan at Omnibus Theatre, Clapham. (Seen on Sunday 16 February, 2 hrs 30 minutes duration)

In a teenage hideout in rural Ireland, three contemporaries gather for their annual celebration and remembrance of their school friend Liam who died aged 17, now as long dead as he was alive. They sit around and reminisce, remember Liam, discuss their dissatisfaction with their current lives, drink a lot of beer and cider and take drugs, in ways which seem still stuck in adolescence.

With no action to speak of, it’s a very static two and a half hours, with long, rambling conversations interspersed with each actor taking a turn to metamorphose into the late Liam, with each having a fifteen-minute plus monologue about the world from Liam’s viewpoint.

All three actors do sterling work in being absolutely on top of reams of writer John O’ Donovan’s text, full credit to them all. But we are given little reason to care about these characters, and therefore for me their issues did not hit home.


October’s top shows

Welcome to October’s show highlights. Here are my picks of the most interesting shows that you can find around London and the UK.

Off-West End

Opening

From October 24th, the new Boulevard Theatre’s opening production is GHOST QUARTET, an intoxicating musical of love, loss and spirits – of both the spectral and alcoholic kind. Three-time Tony Award-nominee Dave Malloy’s hauntingly beautiful song cycle is a story about stories themselves; how we tell them, how we hear them, and how they evolve, intertwine and draw us in. With an intriguing cast including Carly Bawden and Zubin Varla this looks set to be a highlight, especially after Malloy’s other successful show, the excellent PRELUDES which is playing at Southwark Playhouse until October 12th (see below).

But back to GHOST QUARTET. Rose has a problem. She’s been betrayed by her lover, a local tree-dwelling astronomer, with her very own sister. Rose seeks vengeance and a passing bear might just offer the answer. But his services come at a price: a pot of honey, one piece of stardust, a secret baptism – and a photo of a ghost.

A kaleidoscopic journey spanning continents, centuries and the cosmos ensues. But even through the fogs of time and a haze of whiskey, Rose can’t shake the feeling that she’s done this all before…

Dave Malloy is the writer of the Broadway smash-hit Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.


BERYL Discover the inspiring story of Beryl Burton, the greatest woman on two wheels, in this revival of the 2014 trailblazing tale from writer Maxine Peake.

Beryl Burton MBE, OBE – twice World Road-race Champion, five times World Pursuit Champion – was never meant to cycle. In childhood, a serious illness left her with a weakened heart; doctors warned against strenuous exercise for the rest of her life. Yet, at 30, branded ‘the Yorkshire housewife’ and with no financial sponsorship, she became the first sportswoman in history to break a men’s competitive record.

Featuring a host of unforgettable characters and a great big dollop of Northern wit, Peake’s freewheeling play is the extraordinary true story of a woman who pushed at the limits, took on the status quo – and won. Playing at Arcola from 16 October to 16 November.


BABY REINDEER was one of the hits of this year’s Edinburgh Festival. When Edinburgh Comedy Award Winner Richard Gadd (Monkey See Monkey Do) offers a free cup of tea to a stranger, what appears to be a trivial interaction has ramifications far wider than he could ever have imagined.

This is a gripping debut play and chilling personal narrative exploring obsession, delusion, and the aftermath of a chance encounter. Directed by Olivier Award Winner Jon Brittain (Rotterdam), the show plays the Bush Theatre from 9 October to 9 November.



Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas are the internationally-acclaimed theatre makers behind EUROHOUSE and the award-winning PALMYRA. Their stripped-back shows play with humour, brutality and the impressive ability to flip between the two

Bert and Nasi return with a show entitled ONE. Locked in a deadpan double-act and a polarised world, they are both looking for a way to be together. But they get distracted by squabbles, insults, tap-dancing and one-upmanship. How will it end? You decide. 

ONE plays at the Battersea Arts Centre until October 19th


The Finborough Theatre continues its interesting finds from America with the European debut of hit Off-Broadway play THE NICETIES by Eleanor Burgess which runs from 1 to 26 October.

“There is one appropriate way of responding to a woman of color who says, I have an idea to assert, and that is to shut up and listen”

America. 2016. Within the stately office of an elite university two women united by their vision for the future, but divided on how to get there, meet to review a history paper that asks one big question: has America reached the moment for its real, radical, revolution?

When a clash of ideas becomes a complicated discussion about race, the niceties begin to wear thin and one woman is forced to put everything on the line in order to make her case.

As their private dispute explodes into a public war, the devastating consequences of their good intentions are laid bare, as both student and professor ask: Have we left it too late to repair our divided society?


Highly-praised at this year’s Edinburgh Festival, here’s a quick London season for haunting musical ISLANDER, playing at Southwark Playhouse from 2 to 26 October.

Eilidh stares out to sea and dreams of a new life beyond her lonely island. Myth and reality collide when the tide washes a mysterious stranger onto her beach, changing her life forever. Epic storytelling, intimately staged with a contemporary Scottish folk-inspired score.

The two-hander cast of Kirsty Findlay (Olivier Award Nominated, Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour) and Bethany Tennick perform a whole host of characters, while weaving, building and layering their voices using looping technology to create an expansive, ethereal soundscape for the ears and imagination.


Okay listen up, you have seventy-five years to be all you can be!

LITTLE BABY JESUS, a 2011 work by writer/performer Arinzé Kene, introduces three characters. Joanne is dipped in rudeness, rolled in attitude and is fighting to keep her life afloat. Sensitive and mature he may be, yet Kehinde struggles with an obsession for mixed race girls as he eyes his place on the social ladder. Rugrat, class clown and playground loudmouth, just wants to make it past GCSEs and keep their name on the tip of your tongue.

As their lives collide and intertwine, three extraordinary young people relay the moments they ‘grew up’. Three remarkable stories. Three incredible journeys.

Directed by Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu, winner of the JMK Award 2019, LITTLE BABY JESUS runs at the Orange Tree Theatre from 18 October to 16 November.


Playing to 19 October at the Greenwich Theatre, BROOKLYN THE MUSICAL was seen in New York in 2004 and now receives its European Premiere, starring Hiba Elchikhe (who was so good in FIVER at the Southwark Playhouse a few months ago) and John Addison (from the West End production of SCHOOL OF ROCK). The show also features Andrew Patrick-Walker (Bat Out of Hell), Sabrina Aloueche (We Will Rock You) and Emily-Mae (The Producers).  The cast alone make it worth a look, but as yet I haven’t heard the score.

BROOKLYN THE MUSICAL is a story within a story. A band of soulful street singers who meet up to share stories from their lives, and their story tonight: a young Parisian coming to America to search for fame and the father she never knew and the journey she embarks upon to find the soul of the city that bears her name.

Featuring a wide range of rock, pop and soul, these stories interweave to create an inspiring and touching musical that celebrates the energy and spirit of New York City.


Praised as “one of the freshest voices in American theatre” by the New York Times, Pulitzer Prize-winner Annie Baker returns to the National Theatre (following acclaimed runs of her mesmerising shows The Flick and John) with her latest extraordinary play THE ANTIPODES. Their phones switched off, a group of people sit around a table telling, categorising and theorising stories. This is a world that is both familiar and fantastical. Their real purpose is never quite clear, but they continue on, searching for the monstrous. THE ANTIPODES asks what value stories have for a world in crisis. Playing at the National Theatre from 21 October to 23 November.


We just haven’t had enough shows about sperm recently. So here, from the folk who brought you the sell-out comedy hit Planet Earth III, PRIVATES: A Sperm Odyssey sees Luke Rollason (“amazingly entertaining” Ed Fest Mag), Christian Brighty (“hilarious” List) and Tom Curzon (“charming” Chortle) perform as three sperm on an adventure as big as life itself.

In this new, award-winning show, these plucky Privates must survive basic training, hostile white blood cells and the most dramatic ejaculation sequence ever seen onstage to be the first to fertilise the egg and become a beautiful baby. A very funny, fantastical and very frank look at how we talk about sex, and why. Playing at the Soho Theatre on October 31 to November 2nd.


Sometimes I wake up in the morning and all the missed opportunities of my life stare at me, grind me down until I’m nothing. Nothing but dust.

A new darkly comic, absurdist play by James Mannion, MITES is a sinister exploration of the manipulation that lies beneath relationships, in particular of those who are mentally vulnerable in society.

A lonely woman, abandoned by her husband, lives in an isolated house with her outspoken, anthropomorphic cat, Bartholomew. One day she is visited by Ken, a Pest Controller, who claims to be her ex-husband returned to her. Deceived by his lies and obsessed with memories of the past, the woman accepts Ken into her life, despite the sceptical protestations of Bartholomew. As her self-deception grows and Ken’s true intentions become clear, how will she survive the competitive machinations of her two male companions? And is there more to Bartholomew than meets the eye? MITES plays at the Tristan Bates Theatre from 7 to 26 October.


Off West End – Last Chance

Until October 12th FAITH, HOPE AND CHARITY is an unmissable, quietly devastating look at the dereliction of the UK’s social service through a hugely compassionate lens. In a run-down community hall on the edge of town, a woman has been cooking lunch for those in need. A choir is starting up, run by a volunteer who’s looking for a new beginning. A mother is seeking help in her fight to keep her young daughter from being taken into care. An older man sits silently in the corner, the first to arrive, the last to leave. Outside the rain is falling.

FAITH, HOPE AND CHARITY is the culmination of a trilogy that began with BEYOND CARING – ‘Unforgettable’ (The Times) – and followed by LOVE – ‘the National’s play of the year, and then some’ (Evening Standard). Alexander Zeldin’s new play goes to the heart of our uncertain times. Playing at the National’s Dorfman Theatre from until October 12th.

Read my **** review of the show here


Until October 12th PRELUDES is mesmerising – a true original. Based on a true story of the composer genius Rachmaninoff’s sessions of hypnotherapy, PRELUDES is an intriguing new musical by three-time Tony Award-nominee Dave Malloy (Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, Ghost Quartet). It examines the crippling debilitation and harm the world can do to people, and how the dramatic and musical process can be used as therapy to restore them back into the fullest of creative lives. PRELUDES runs until October 12th at Southwark Playhouse.

Read my **** review of the show here


Until October 12th ANNA BELLA EEMA  “Something is coming. It’s either the interstate or the end of the world”. Precocious child Annabella lives in a deserted trailer park. Schooled by her eccentric mother Irene, she learns to co-exist with the vampires, werewolves and monsters that lurk in the world outside. Desperate to ward off the new highway that threatens the demolition of their home, Annabella steps outside to build a girl out of mud. The girl comes to life. The girl is Anna Bella Eema.

Pulitzer Prize finalist Lisa D’Amour’s (Detroit, National Theatre) part ghost story, part fairytale, part coming-of-age fantasy, ANNA BELLA EEMA plays at the Arcola until October 12th.

Read my *** review of the show here


Until October 13th TORCH SONG, Harvey Fierstein’s Tony-winning play about the life and loves of a drag artist in 1970s New York runs until October 13th at the Turbine Theatre in Battersea, next to the Power Station. This inaugural production at the venue is directed by Olivier-winner Drew McOnie


Until October 5th FOR SERVICES RENDERED A warm September afternoon in an idyllic English village. Tea is served on the terrace. Sounds of a tennis party float across the lawn. But this England has no place for the heroes of the First World War. No jobs to sustain them, no mantelpieces for their medals, and no money for their debts. Against the odds, three sisters must carve new paths in an uncertain world.

Somerset Maugham’s sharply observed and passionate play is a Chekhovian examination of desire, frustration and hope.

FOR SERVICES RENDERED runs at the Jermyn Street Theatre until October 5th, and is directed by JST’s Artistic Director, Tom Littler.


Continuing

FALSETTOS , the double Tony Award winning musical from James Lapine and William Finn finally gets its London premiere (courtesy of Selladoor Productions) at the Other Palace until November 23rd. Featuring a brilliant cast including Laura Pitt-Pulford (LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE), Natasha J Barnes (WASTED) and Daniel Boys (AVENUE Q) amongst others.

An hilarious and poignant look at a modern family, FALSETTOS revolves around the life of a gay man Marvin, his wife, his lover, his soon to be bar mitzvahed son, their psychiatrist, and the lesbian neighbours, Originally created under the spectre of the AIDS crisis, this ground-breaking musical about family dynamics manages to remain buoyant and satirically perceptive even as it moves towards its heartbreaking conclusion, which reminds us that love is all that really matters.


West End Opening

Opening October 8th Stephen Mangan leads this restyling (by comedy specialist Sean Foley) of the classic 1951 Ealing comedy THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT which originally starred Alec Guinness. All about a scientist who creates a miracle fibre which doesn’t wear out, the discovery is seized upon by both the mill owners and the trades unions who all want to suppress it. It will be intriguing to see how Foley works with the fifties nature of the story and manages to bring his own quirky eye to the story details. Reuniting Foley with Stephen Mangan, (they worked together on JEEVES AND WOOSTER to great success in 2016), this will be an interesting experiment in itself.


Opening Outside London

Manchester

Until November 9th Manchester is excited for this – and me too. After 50 years Jerry Herman’s classic musical MAME is back! When young Patrick goes to stay with his Auntie Mame, he walks into a fast-living world of fun and and joy. It will be a real treat to see two-time Olivier-winner Tracie Bennett (Follies) (pictured above, top right) as Mame, with the great Tim Flavin (above, left) and Harriet Thorpe (Absolutely Fabulous) (pictured above, centre) as Mame’s “old, old, old friend” Vera Charles. Get set for some high-octane musical fun! The celebrated score includes the rousing title number, plus “Open a New Window,” “If He Walked into My Life,” “We Need a Little Christmas,” “Bosom Buddies” and “That’s How Young I Feel.” Good to see that rising star producer Katy Lipson -who has now made so many excellent smaller-scale musicals – is starting to move into the bigger shows. Great good wishes from me to everyone involved! Previews from September 28th and playing till November 9th. The show visits Northampton and Salisbury in January 2020, and must tour the whole country soon!


Salisbury

5th – 29th October Here is a most welcome revival of BREAKING THE CODE, a play first seen in 1986 when it starred Derek Jacobi. At the height of the Second World War eccentric genius Alan Turing was breaking the complex German code, Enigma, at Bletchley Park. Since his work was classified top secret for years after the war, no one knew how much was owed to him when he was later put on trial and publicly humiliated by the revelation of his sexuality. Hugh Whitemore’s compelling play intertwines an account of Turing’s most heroic hour with that of his betrayal by the nation he had helped in its darkest hour. Turing’s story went on to be told in the 2014 Oscar-winning film The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

Breaking the Code stars Edward Bennett and Julian Firth and is directed by Christian Durham.


Touring the UK

C’est Magnifique! Achieving the near-impossible task of translating a unique French movie to the stage, and doing so in some style, this UK tour of AMELIE will bring a smile to your lips and warmth to your heart, as we follow our heroine helping others but finding it hardest to help herself. With a tuneful score and dynamic Audrey Brisson as Amelie, this is your passport to joie de vivre. See it in October at Southampton until October 5th when the tour ends. The show then prepares for a transfer to London in November for a Christmas season at The Other Palace.

Read my **** review of the show here


If you love the Latin crossover music of Gloria Estefan you will enjoy ON YOUR FEET! It has had mixed but mostly positive reviews, unanimous in the musical content of the show. It looks good and sounds just great, with a brilliant band (worth the price of admission alone) who never let the energy flag.

Featuring 26 hits, this Tony Award nominated show ran on Broadway for two years, for over 750 performances. ON YOUR FEET! is the inspiring true love story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan and charts their journey from Cuba to the streets of Miami and finally to international superstardom. Featuring some of the most iconic pop songs of the era, including “Rhythm is Gonna Get You”, “Conga”, “Get On Your Feet”, “Don’t Want To Lose You Now” and “1-2-3” and many more.

ON YOUR FEET! is directed by two-time Tony Award® winner Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots, Legally Blonde), with choreography by Olivier Award-winner Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys) and book by Academy Award® winner Alexander Dinelaris (Birdman). See it in October at Sunderland, Edinburgh, Sheffield, Cardiff and Manchester.

Read my ***.5 review of the show here


NT Live Broadcasts

October brings another NTLive broadcast to screens around the UK and further afield. On October 17th The Bridge Theatre’s highly-acclaimed production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM will be coming to a venue near you.

To find screenings in your area check out the schedule of NT Live website, details here.


Shows to look forward to in September 2019

Welcome to September’s show highlights. Here are my picks of the most interesting shows that you can find around London and the UK.

So, after a rash of festivals in Edinburgh and London, there’s just a moment to catch our breath before the next wave of great shows kicks off in early September. Fasten your seatbelts!

Off-West End

PRELUDES sounds fascinating. Based on a true story of the composer genius Rachmaninoff’s sessions of hypnotherapy, PRELUDES is an intriguing new musical by three-time Tony Award-nominee Dave Malloy (Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, Ghost Quartet). It examines the crippling debilitation and harm the world can do to people, and how the dramatic and musical process can be used as therapy to restore them back into the fullest of creative lives. PRELUDES runs from September 6th until October 12th at Southwark Playhouse.


FAITH, HOPE AND CHARITY In a run-down community hall on the edge of town, a woman has been cooking lunch for those in need. A choir is starting up, run by a volunteer who’s looking for a new beginning. A mother is seeking help in her fight to keep her young daughter from being taken into care. An older man sits silently in the corner, the first to arrive, the last to leave. Outside the rain is falling.

FAITH, HOPE AND CHARITY is the culmination of a trilogy that began with BEYOND CARING – ‘Unforgettable’ (The Times) – and followed by LOVE – ‘the National’s play of the year, and then some’ (Evening Standard). Alexander Zeldin’s new play promises to be another uncompromising theatrical experience that goes to the heart of our uncertain times. Playing at the National’s Dorfman Theatre from September 9th to October 12th.


Hampstead Theatre Downstairs is an undisputed treasure trove of new writing, and this looks set to continue with EITHER . Running from September 19th to October 26th, Ruby Thomas’ funny, smart and sexy debut play probes our romantic choices in life and explores the human need to connect and be loved – regardless of the ramifications.

A young, loved-up couple are surrounded by life’s infinite possibilities and temptations. And at a time in their lives where they have little responsibility, they’re determined to live this chapter as fully and spontaneously as possible. But in their pursuit to enjoy all that life has to offer, should every opportunity that comes their way be taken?


FALSETTOS , the double Tony Award winning musical from James Lapine and William Finn finally gets its London premiere (courtesy of Selladoor Productions) at the Other Palace from August 30th until November 23rd. Featuring a brilliant cast including Laura Pitt-Pulford (LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE), Natasha J Barnes (WASTED) and Daniel Boys (AVENUE Q) amongst others.

An hilarious and poignant look at a modern family, FALSETTOS revolves around the life of a gay man Marvin, his wife, his lover, his soon to be bar mitzvahed son, their psychiatrist, and the lesbian neighbours, Originally created under the spectre of the AIDS crisis, this ground-breaking musical about family dynamics manages to remain buoyant and satirically perceptive even as it moves towards its heartbreaking conclusion, which reminds us that love is all that really matters.


ANNA BELLA EEMA  “Something is coming. It’s either the interstate or the end of the world”. Precocious child Annabella lives in a deserted trailer park. Schooled by her eccentric mother Irene, she learns to co-exist with the vampires, werewolves and monsters that lurk in the world outside. Desperate to ward off the new highway that threatens the demolition of their home, Annabella steps outside to build a girl out of mud. The girl comes to life. The girl is Anna Bella Eema.

Pulitzer Prize finalist Lisa D’Amour’s (Detroit, National Theatre) part ghost story, part fairytale, part coming-of-age fantasy, ANNA BELLA EEMA is a dazzling burst of storytelling from the dark heart of American Gothic. Playing at the Arcola from September 11th to October 12th.


TORCH SONG, Harvey Fierstein’s Tony-winning play about the life and loves of a drag artist in 1970s New York runs from September 6th to October 13th at the Turbine Theatre in Battersea, next to the Power Station. This inaugural production at the venue is directed by Olivier-winner Drew McOnie


FOR SERVICES RENDERED A warm September afternoon in an idyllic English village. Tea is served on the terrace. Sounds of a tennis party float across the lawn. But this England has no place for the heroes of the First World War. No jobs to sustain them, no mantelpieces for their medals, and no money for their debts. Against the odds, three sisters must carve new paths in an uncertain world.

Somerset Maugham’s sharply observed and passionate play is a Chekhovian examination of desire, frustration and hope.

FOR SERVICES RENDERED runs at the Jermyn Street Theatre from September 4th to October 5th. Directed by JST’s Artistic Director, Tom Littler.


HOW LOVE IS SPELT “She wanted spontaneity, adventure… I said I can be spontaneous… I just need a little bit of time to plan.” Peta is new in town and ready for whatever London has to throw at her. She’s looking for romance, for friendship, for exciting people to lead her on big adventures. But being an independent woman in the new millennium isn’t easy, especially when there’s a constant reminder of the life you’re trying to escape. With each new encounter, Peta flirts with what might have been, but has the journey to London put enough distance between her and her past?

This is the first major revival of this fascinating and funny play from Susan Smith Blackburn Prize-winning playwright Chloe Moss (This Wide Night, Soho Theatre; Dickensian, BBC) which was first produced at Bush Theatre in 2004. How Love Is Spelt is directed by Charlotte Peters (Associate Director War Horse, UK Tour and An Inspector Calls, West End). Playing at Southwark Playhouse from September 4th to 28th.


At the Royal Court from September 3rd to 21st, TOTAL IMMEDIATE COLLECTIVE IMMINENT TERRESTRIAL SALVATION by experimental theatre maker Tim Crouch arrives in London after a controversial season at the Edinburgh Festival.

“You should all have a book.  Does everyone have a book? This book is part of the play. 
In a minute, we’ll all open this book and we’ll invite you to turn the pages.”

The writer manipulates a group of people to sit together and believe in something that isn’t true. The book he’s written predicts it all: the equations, the black hole and all the words we’ll speak until the end.

On this last day, at this last hour, a defector finds her voice and returns.

In this new play, presented through stage action and illustrated text, audience and actors turn the book’s pages together, they study the images and they sometimes share the words out loud.


ALL OF ME is an intimate and absurd exploration of wanting to live, wanting to die and what can happen if we sit together with the dark. Olivier Award nominee Caroline Horton reunites with director Alex Swift (★★★★ How to Win Against History, Young Vic) to bring you the show that happens after the curtain call, when the lights have gone down but the mess remains. Playing at the Yard in East London from September 10th to 28th


Until September 7th at the Kiln Theatre in Kilburn, the Olivier and Tony Award nominated musical BLUES IN THE NIGHT is in its first major London revival in 30 years. Directed by Susie McKenna and starring Olivier Award winners Sharon D. Clarke (Death of A Salesman, Caroline or Change, Ghost, Amen Corner) and Clive Rowe (Guys and Dolls, Carousel), Blues in the Night is a steamy compilation of 26 hot and torchy blues numbers that frame the lives and loves of four residents of a downtown hotel. Featuring soul-filled songs by blues and jazz icons Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen and many more.


West End Opening

Well, we have had quite a slew of film to stage adaptations in the last few years, haven’t we? Whilst it’s true that they will never have the same qualities as the originals, they are often worth seeing for the talent involved. A case in point is the restyling of the classic 1951 Ealing comedy THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT which originally starred Alec Guinness. All about a scientist who creates a miracle fibre which doesn’t wear out, the discovery is seized upon by both the mill owners and the trades unions who all want to suppress it. It will be intriguing to see how Sean Foley (adaptor and director) works with the fifties nature of the story and manages to bring his own quirky eye to the story details. Reuniting Foley with Stephen Mangan, (they worked together on JEEVES AND WOOSTER to great success in 2016), this will be an interesting experiment in itself.


Outside London

Manchester is in for a treat. After 50 years Jerry Herman’s classic musical MAME is back! When young Patrick goes to stay with his Auntie Mame, he walks into a fast-living world of fun and and joy. It will be a real treat to see two-time Olivier-winner Tracie Bennett (Follies) (pictured above, top right) as Mame, with the great Tim Flavin and Harriet Thorpe (Absolutely Fabulous) (pictured above, centre) as Mame’s “old, old, old friend” Vera Charles. Get set for some high-octane musical fun! The celebrated score includes the rousing title number, plus “Open a New Window,” “If He Walked into My Life,” “We Need a Little Christmas,” “Bosom Buddies” and “That’s How Young I Feel.” A tour must follow. Previews from September 28th and playing till November 9th.


Touring the UK

C’est Magnifique! Achieving the near-impossible task of translating a unique French movie to the stage, and doing so in some style, this UK tour of AMELIE will bring a smile to your lips and warmth to your heart, as we follow our heroine helping others but finding it hardest to help herself. With a tuneful score and dynamic Audrey Brisson as Amelie, this is your passport to joie de vivre. See it in September at Eastbourne, Inverness and Southampton . Read my review of the show here


If you love the Latin crossover music of Gloria Estefan you will enjoy ON YOUR FEET! It has had mixed but mostly positive reviews, unanimous in the musical content of the show. It looks good and sounds just great, with a brilliant band (worth the price of admission alone) who never let the energy flag.

Featuring 26 hits, this Tony Award nominated show ran on Broadway for two years, for over 750 performances. ON YOUR FEET! is the inspiring true love story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan and charts their journey from Cuba to the streets of Miami and finally to international superstardom. Featuring some of the most iconic pop songs of the era, including “Rhythm is Gonna Get You”, “Conga”, “Get On Your Feet”, “Don’t Want To Lose You Now” and “1-2-3” and many more.

ON YOUR FEET! is directed by two-time Tony Award® winner Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots, Legally Blonde), with choreography by Olivier Award-winner Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys) and book by Academy Award® winner Alexander Dinelaris (Birdman). See it in September at Birmingham, Plymouth, Nottingham and Sunderland. Read my review of the show here


James Lapine and William Finn’s LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE is a musical adaptation of the hit 2006 quirky road movie. It’s touring the UK and is worth a visit. See it in September at Leicester, Cardiff, Aberdeen and Liverpool, where the tour closes. Read my review of the show here


Also….

From 13 to 22 September, there are over 100 theatre-related events going on across the country during Heritage Open Days. Most likely a theatre near you will be opening its doors to offer tours of the buildings. Intrigued? Then take a look at their website here where you can search what’s happening near you.


Every September since 1992, London Open House has enabled public access to 800+ buildings, many of which are inaccessible at any other time of the year, with associated walks, talks and tours over one very busy weekend, now attracting over a quarter of a million people annually.

22 theatres and 5 cinemas are listed in this year’s offerings, ranging from the grandeur of Sir Cameron Mackintosh’s freshly-refurbished Victoria Palace Theatre to the Victorian charms of Hoxton Hall and Wilton’s Music Hall, to more modern offerings such as the National Theatre. All will be open for exploration via tours and/or talks on-site. Tucked away in the “entertainment” category is the first cinema to be Grade-I listed, the incredible Tooting Granada (now rather cheesily-titled Buzz Bingo, but inside still an awe-inspiring and richly-detailed movie palace)

Please note that some sites require advance booking while others do not. Do check with the Open House website on each venue’s individual listing page for full details. Also, a lot of venues will open on just one day of the weekend, not both, so do please check before you travel.

Find out more at the Open House website which you can find here


NT Live Broadcasts

September brings two NTLive broadcasts to screens around the UK and further afield. On September 12th Phoebe Waller-Bridge brings her hit show FLEABAG to UK-wide audiences from the stage of Wyndham’s Theatre.

Then on September 26th (and later dates) it’s the welcome return of one of the National’s biggest successes of recent years, Richard Bean’s ONE MAN TWO GUVNORS starring James Corden in a career-boosting role for him.

To find screenings in your area check out the schedule of NT Live website, details here.


London Shows closing

September 7th- BLUES IN THE NIGHT closes at The Kiln Theatre

September 8th- JOSEPH closes at the London Palladium

September 9th- EQUUS closes at Trafalgar Studios

September 14th – THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY closes at the Menier Chocolate Factory

September 21st – EVITA closes at the Open Air Theatre, Regents Park

September 28th – THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA at the Noel Coward Theatre

London’s exciting new theatres – coming soon!

It is such an exciting time for new, renovated and renewed theatre spaces opening up in and around London, that I thought that a quick round-up would make interesting reading.

Opening very soon

Troubadour White City Theatre

Troubadour Theatres are opening two new large (1000-plus seats) outer-London theatres this month, in White City (in the former BBC Media Village in west London) and Wembley Park (in the former Fountain Studios, the venue of live televised shows including The X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent and Pop Idol). This follows the company’s ethos of repurposing existing buildings to create exciting new arts environments. Both of these areas have no existing significantly sized theatre spaces, and the founders of Troubadour, Oliver Royds and Tristan Baker (who ran the temporary Kings Cross Theatre to such success with shows like THE RAILWAY CHILDREN, David Bowie’s LAZARUS and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s IN THE HEIGHTS), aim to grow an audience base from the surrounding areas with the massive home-building developments which continue to bring more people into the capital. Family-friendly spaces, with flexible capacities and facilities, these will be welcome additions to London’s theatre scene. Schemes include ample eating and drinking opportunities as well as lots of toilets – at last!

Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre

Big shows coming in this summer for the opening include the DINOSAUR WORLD LIVE, the National Theatre’s PETER PAN and later in the year, a run of the National’s mega-hit WAR HORSE. Alongside these are a range of shows for children and young people, welcoming the next generation of theatregoers in as early as possible to grow the theatre-going habit. Both venues open late July. Let’s wish them every success!

Find the Troubadour Theatres website here


A brand new 200-seater located in the railway arches next to Battersea Power Station will open in August to enhance the cultural options in the gradual revitalisation of this area. Artistic Director is Paul Taylor-Mills (ex- the Other Palace) and presented by producer Bill Kenwright. The inaugural show is the Tony Award-winning TORCH SONG by Harvey Fierstein and directed by Drew McOnie. Preview performances from 22 August.

Find the Turbine Theatre website here


Opening Late 2019

Hammersmith’s Riverside Studios (projected opening end of 2019) was originally a compact, busy film studio in the 1930s and 40s, its two sound stages turning out many good British films until 1954. Bought by the BBC for conversion into TV studios, the facility remained in regular use until 1974 when the Riverside was bought by the Council and run as a Trust. By 1978 two large studios were home to a wide variety of performances and associated events, running with much success for decades. TV production returned in 1996 and was in much demand until the building closed in 2014. The site has now been redeveloped to include the obligatory massive slab of (over 150) flats sitting on top of a reborn Riverside Studios, which comprises five spaces- a TV studio seating 400, two theatre/studio spaces seating 400 and 180, a flexible events space with river views and a community/rehearsal space. Also housing two cinemas, cafes, bars and a restaurant with river views and access, this will be a really welcome return for an ever-popular venue.

Find the Riverside studios website here


The Boulevard Theatre(opening in October). Part of strip club king Paul Raymond’s Revue Bar, located in Walker’s Court, Soho, the Boulevard Theatre part of the venue originally hosted up and coming comedy from the likes of Eddie Izzard, French and Saunders and Rik Mayall back in the 1980s. With the closure of the venue in 2004, it has finally been redeveloped with a new auditorium and bar/restaurant facilities to a design by leading theatre architects CharcoalBlue. Its tiny capacity of just over 160 will mean that its programme may well be specialised, but Artistic Director Rachel Edwards (of the Sweeney Todd revival in the pie and mash shop of a couple of years ago) will no doubt bring some credibility to the place. Let’s wish it success with its newly-announced programme starting in October.

Find the Boulevard Theatre website here


Southwark Playhouse(projected opening end of 2019) – has had several temporary homes since 1992, but it has now found a permanent residence at its new facility, which is actually on two sites. Located on Newington Butts, just five minutes down the road from where they are now, there is a 300-seat flexible theatre space, with a youth and community theatre space appended. On the second site, which is back at the theatre’s old home on Tooley Street under London Bridge station, there will be two flexible smaller spaces (200 and 150 seats) for emerging and developing work. They are currently fundraising to fit out the new spaces, but have some way to go with their funding targets, hence the opening date may be knocked back.

Find the Southwark Playhouse website here

Read more about the new development at the Southwark Playhouse website here


Opening 2020

Theatre Royal Drury Lane. It’s on the left….honest!

The Theatre Royal Drury Laneprojected reopening October 2020. Having bought the building next door (above right) for Front of House extensions including lifts, restaurants, bars and cafes, as well as more ladies loos (hooray!) , this jewel in world theatre’s crown is the longest continual theatre site in the world. Considering the major clobbering it is currently enduring, I find it very hard to believe that the theatre will open in October 2020 with Disney’s FROZEN, but perhaps I shall be proved wrong. Time will tell.

Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, who owns the venue as part of his LW Theatres group, said “The auditorium will be completely reconfigured into a comfortable and more intimate space. The auditorium will also be reshaped to create a tighter curve, bringing the performer and audience closer together.” The aim is to produce a flexible auditorium, which I personally find very difficult to imagine with a 2000-seater, so I shall have to wait and see. If it works, they will have pulled off a very tricky conundrum. So, let’s wish then luck for now and I’ll reserve my judgement.

More about Theatre Royal Drury Lane redevelopment at the LW Theatres website here


In 2020 the King’s Head Theatre in Islington plans to move just a stone’s throw from its current 110-seat room-behind-a pub to a brand new basement space within Islington Square. The submitted proposals would see the creation of a 250-seat auditorium and an 85-seat studio, along with bar, foyer and good backstage facilities which will be a real blessing for all those who have had to endure the old theatre’s many limitations.


Opening 2021

Selladoor Worldwide have recently announced ambitious plans to redevelop the Greenwich Borough Halls building into a new multi-space theatre and performing arts hub named the Greenwich Festival Theatre. The new venue will be a major producing theatre and entertainment hub for South East London, offering a diverse theatre programme and an artistic mission to present a year round live performance programme of both local and national importance. The Grade II listed former Greenwich Borough Halls was built in 1939 and has most recently been home to a dance organisation but then fell vacant and is currently disused. It could open as early as Spring 2021.

Visual for proposed Greenwich Borough Halls remodelling into the Festival Theatre

The plans will create a 650-seat main stage and a 240-seat flexible studio/black box space. The plans also include extending the main stage performance footprint and seating capacity of the hall to allow larger and more ambitious musicals, plays and live performance to be presented in the building. The redevelopment will also feature a basement rehearsal suite for creative learning programmes, community use and skills development. A front extension to the building is planned to facilitate a two-story brasserie bar for all day dining and pre-theatre meals, as well as a rooftop terrace bar for evening drinks and functions.

How this new venue will sit alongside the existing nearby Greenwich Theatre – which has recently celebrated its 50th anniversary – remains to be seen.


Built on the site of the old Astoria Theatre, amidst the new Crossrail station development, the new Nimax Theatre in Tottenham Court Road has been a long time coming since its first announcement, but work is now under way for a 600- seat auditorium opening late 2021.


Kings Cross theatre building proposals – illustration

After their success with the new Bridge Theatre which opened near Tower Bridge in 2017, the two Nicks, Hytner and Starr, through their London Theatre Company plan to open and run a new, as yet unnamed theatre in the new Kings Cross development area. Designed by The Bridge’s architects and engineers, this new 600-seat space will be similarly flexible in layout and offer a range of configurations. Opening is projected for Winter 2021.


And beyond?

Any addition to London’s theatre scene is welcome, especially since the loss of many smaller venues from the 1960s to the 80s reduced the breadth of choice to theatregoers. Personally, I would love to see more 200-300 seat spaces where work could come in, to be given greater exposure and a longer life, ideally in a complex of varying sized spaces so that work could grow its audience and establish itself, away (if just for a time) from some of the harsher commercial realities.

Currently in London, there are precious few venues under 800-seat capacity, and those we have are in constant demand for new shows which might not be able to fill a larger venue for a twelve week run. This is partly why the new 500-600 seat sized venues have arisen, and they are so welcome. Of the existing smaller West End venues, the 550-seat St Martin’s has been tied up for over 45 years with THE MOUSETRAP, the 430-seat Fortune has been tied up for 30 years with THE WOMAN IN BLACK, The 440-seat Ambassadors was let to STOMP! for almost ten years and the 470-seat Duchess is currently booking The Play That Goes Wrong into 2020. Smaller theatres in London are always in-demand and therefore usually unavailable, denying a West End run to many shows which might otherwise have made the leap successfully. In this sense specifically, Trafalgar Studios have got it right in venue size, with a 500-seat and a 100-seat space to receive both larger and smaller shows.

So let’s wish all these upcoming new and remodelled theatres every success. And let us all get out and support them!


FootNote: There are a number of other plans in the pipeline but at present such minimal details are available as to not allow us to discuss them in any certainty. For that reason, I will add regular update articles as new plans are firmed up and announcements made.