Theatre openings and my Top Ten Choices of the Week (w/c Feb15)

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This week sees London theatre put black actors and experiences centrestage on consecutive nights. Given the current furore of the all-white nominees list for the Oscars, it is refreshing to see that in the theatre, at least — notwithstanding such antique attitudes as Trevor Nunn’s casting last year for The War of the Roses at the Rose in Kingston with an all-white cast for reasons, he stated, of “historical verisimilitude” — we’re able to reflect a more diverse world.

MAIN THEATRE OPENINGS OF THE WEEK

In London:

  • Red Velvet — Garrick Theatre
    Adrian Lester (pictured above) reprises his role as 19th-century Shakespearean actor Ira Aldridge in Lolita Chakrabarti’s play, first seen at the Tricycle in 2012, and now finally coming to the West End as part of the Branagh Theatre season, opening tonight (February 1) at the Garrick Theatre. Website: http://www.branaghtheatre.com/red-velvet/
  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom — National’s Lyttelton Theatre
    Dominic Cooke directs Sharon D Clarke in the title role of August Wilson’s play, returning to the National where it was originally given its British premiere back in 1989, opening in the Lyttelton on February 2. Website: http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/ma-raineys-black-bottom
  • ralph-fiennesThe Master Builder — Old Vic
    Matthew Warchus directs Ralph Fiennes (pictured right) in the title role of Ibsen’s play, presented in a new version by David Hare, opening on February 3. Also in the cast are Broadway actress Linda Emond, James Dreyfus and Sarah Snook. Website: http://www.oldvictheatre.com/whats-on/2016/themasterbuilder/

MY TOP TEN SHOWS OF THIS WEEK

the-mother-tricycle1) The Mother. While Florian Zeller’s The Father is soon to make a return West End date at the Duke of York’s, his earlier play The Mother is currently to be seen at the Tricycle where Gina McKee plays the title role of a middle-aged woman losing her family. See my review for The Stage here. Website: http://www.tricycle.co.uk/current-programme-pages/theatre/theatre-programme-main/the-mother/
beckham-girls

2) Bend it Like Beckham. Last week this show was named the Best Musical of the year in the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards — which I entirely concur with! It was my favourite new musical of last year, as I wrote here for The Stage. This stage version of the 2002 film Bend It Like Beckham, features the glorious and soaring music of Howard Goodall. It has sadly been announced that it will close on March 5 at the end of the original cast’s contracts, so catch it now — or catch it again, as I intend to, as much as possible in the next few weeks! See my review for The Stage here. Website: http://benditlikebeckhamthemusical.co.uk/

3) Close to You. Joyful concert revue of Burt Bacharach classics, mashed up and re-made for now, now extended at the Criterion to Feb. 14. See my review for The Stage here.  Website: http://closetoyoulondon.com/

in-the-heights4) In the Heights. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2008 Tony winning Broadway musical returns to London in the exhilarating production first seen at Southwark Playhouse last year, and now at the new Olivier-eligible King’s Cross Theatre, where it is currently booking to April 10. See my review for The Stage here. Website: http://intheheightslondon.com/

5) Les Liaisons Dangereuses. This grimly gripping portrait of human manipulation and sexual game playing casts a dark spell, superbly played by Janet McTeer and Dominic West, at the Donmar Warehouse. My review for London Theatre Guide is here. Webiste: http://www.donmarwarehouse.com/whats-on/donmar-warehouse/on-now/2015/les-liaisons-dangereuses.

guys-and-dolls-sit-down6) Guys and Dolls. Originally only booking for a limited season at the Savoy before heading off on a U.K tour, the Chichester transfer of the show I consider to be the greatest Broadway musical of all time is now moving to the Phoenix after it ends its run at the Savoy on March 12, to resume performances March 19. A separate company will fulfil the touring obligations. See my review of the Savoy opening for The Stage here. Website: http://www.guysanddollsthemusical.co.uk/

funny-girl7) Funny Girl. The entire run at the Menier (to March 5) is sold out — but it moves to the Savoy next from April 8 (to take over from Guys and Dolls, see above), so book now to see the wonderful Sheridan Smith starring in the first major London revival of Jule Styne’s 1960s musical since its original premiere on Broadway and in the West End featured Barbra Streisand in the title role (as well as in the subsequent film version). Seen my review for The Stage here. My interview with Sheridan Smith for The Stage is here. Website: http://www.funnygirlthemusical.co.uk/
GreyGardens

8) Grey Gardens. The 2006 Broadway musical based on the true story of a reclusive mother and daughter who lived in squalor in an East Hampton mansion and were related to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis receives its London premiere in a  production starring the great Sheila Hancock and Jenna Russell, running to February 6. I’ve just watched the phenomenal 1975 documentary it is based on, and it amplifies the achievement of this show’s creators in making a narrative work out of a defiantly undramatic story.  See my review for The Stage here. Website: http://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/the-large/grey-gardens/

andy-nyman-hangmen9) Hangmen. Named Best New Play in last week’s Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards, Martin McDonagh’s latest thriller chiller comedy stars David Morrissey and Johnny Flynn, newly joined by Andy Nyman for its West End transfer to Wyndham’s (where it runs to March 5) from the Royal Court. My review of the Royal Court opening for London Theatre Guide is here. My interview with Andy Nyman (pictured above) for The Stage is here. Website: http://www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk/Tickets/Hangmen/Hangmen.asp

homecoming10) The Homecoming. Jamie Lloyd directs an insinuatingly creepy, beautifully acted production of Pinter’s masterpiece about a family battle for possession and control, running at Trafalgar Studios to February 13. The cast features Keith Allen, Gemma Chan, Ron Cook, Gary Kemp, John Macmillan and John Simm.  Website: http://thejamielloydcompany.com/our-shows/the-homecoming

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