ShentonSTAGE Daily for WEDNESDAY JUNE 29

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Welcome to today’s edition of ShentonSTAGE Daily. I’m back after a restful, non-theatre week in Spain, though I have inevitably kept pace with what’s been happening back home, like Sunday’s opening of MAD HOUSE at the Ambassadors, a new play by Theresa Rebeck that was partly inspired by conversations she had with the play’s co-star David Harbour, who has revealed in an interview that he was institutionalised and diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 26.

The actor, who is now 47 (pictured above with co-star Bill Pullman), said: “I’ve had some experience with [mental illness] myself and so she wrote a play over the pandemic based on a lot of stuff I talked about with her. It’s very much her play but I definitely contributed a piece of myself into it, so to do it, it feels like a very personal expression for me.”

I am playing catch up with that production on Saturday, as well as A DOLL’S HOUSE PART TWO at the Donmar Warehouse tomorrow afternoon that I also missed the opening of, and attending tomorrow evening’s London Palladium opening of the currently touring production of Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. 

That will put the cherry on the cake of June’s theatre openings. As we move into July on Friday, there’s much to look forward to, including Jamie Lloyd’s production of THE SEAGULL starring Emilia Clarke that had begun previews at the Playhouse as the pandemic shut down theatres, and is now opening at the Harold Pinter instead next Wednesday (July 6).

I’ll in fact be at Leeds Playhouse that night, catching the return of Opera North production of Sondheim’s A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC that premiered there last July.

 I then return to London on Thursday to see another Sondheim, MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, being presented by students at the Royal Academy of Music. There’s something uniquely moving about seeing student companies present this show about how hopes for the future curdle, as so often in Sondheim, into disappointed lives; this show originally received its European premiere in 1983 in a student outing at Guildhall School of Music.

 Meanwhile previews began just last night for the transfer of the Encores! production of INTO THE WOODS to Broadway’s St James Theatre, before it opens officially on July 10; while Bath’s Theatre Royal also offers another new production of the same show in August, directed by Terry Gilliam that was originally programmed by the Old VIc but got derailed by protests over Gilliam’s comments on transsexuals that Old VIc theatre staff had objected to. (Before INTO THE WOODS, Bath also has a press night on July 12 for a new tour that is going out for the Lyric Hammersmith’s 2015 production of BUGSY MALONE)

And GYPSY, another classic that has lyrics by Sondheim (to music by Jule Styne) is being revived next month from July 7-24 as part of the Buxton International Festival with a cast led by Joanna Riding as Momma Rose that is warranting a trip up there for me. Closer to home, at least for me now, Chichester Festival Theatre are presenting a reconceived revival of CRAZY FOR YOU, opening on July 19, that is being overseen by its original choreographer Susan Stroman who will also now do double duty as director as well.

Meanwhile London’s Sadler’s Wells is hosting a summer season of Chichester’s 2021 revival of SOUTH PACIFIC from July 27, as part of a national tour, while the Barbican is hosting a summer return for last year’s scintillating revival of Cole Porter’s ANYTHING GOES (running now with a press night on July 13). Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre has the premiere next month of a new stage version of 101 DALMATIANS, opening on July 22, and at Hammersmith’s Eventim Apollo, Jennifer Saunders leads the cast of a touring revival of SISTER ACT, opening on July 27.

On the plays front, the National has RIchard Bean and Oliver Chris’s JACK ABSOLUTE AGAIN, a rewrite of Sheridan’s THE RIVALS, opening in the Olivier on July 14, and Katherine Parkinson and John Hefferman as Beatrice and Benedict in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, opening in the Lyttelton on July 18. The Almeida has Tom Hollander in Peter Morgan’\s PATRIOTS, opening on July 12, and the West End sees the arrival of a new production of THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE, opening at the Gillian Lynne on July 28.

Many of these productions have been several years in the making, their arrivals long delayed by COVID interruptions. That existential threat is still very much amongst us, as much as the government would have us continue as if life were normal; right now, MOULIN ROUGE has not performed since Friday at the Piccadilly, with today’s performances once again cancelled.

My updated list of London openings, selected regional theatres and Broadway is here: http://shentonstage.com/theatre-openings-from-w-c-june-27-onwards/

SEE YOU ON FRIDAY

I’ll be back here on Friday. If you can’t wait that long, I may also be found on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/ShentonStage/ (though not as regularly on weekends

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