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A triple dose of Stephen Schwartz (out of five playing in London concurrently)
We’re used to having multiple Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals in town, but this week London has, briefly, been experiencing a run on musicals scored by Stephen Schwartz: in the space of the last week, you could have seen five of his shows.
Last Tuesday, of course, as I previously reported here, the 15th West End anniversary of Wicked occurred at the Apollo Victoria. This is Schwartz’s behemoth musical — the one that has swept the world — with its universal message of empowerment and friendship between women, the dangers of ‘othering’ people who are different, and dark forces who try to control the world with fear.
The West End also currently has Prince of Egypt running at the Dominion (though it announced on Friday that it would be closing at the end of its current booking period on January 8), while on the London fringe there’s a revival of Godspell, currently at Ye Olde Rose and Crown in Walthamstow, running to October 10.
Yesterday saw the final performances of Pippin, his first Broadway success from 1972, in a sensational small-scale revival at Charing Cross Theatre that employed just eight actors and two musicians; a world apart from the original Bob Fosse production, or DIane Paulus’s amazing circus-themed 2013 Broadway revival. I loved this production wholeheartedly that I saw it six times in all — including one last time yesterday afternoon. I met another uber-fan there who was seeing it for her 12th time — she was seeing last night’s closing performance, too, plus the matinee the day before.
It’s a show that reaches deep into my soul, as it has done ever since I first saw it as a young teenager in my native South Africa in the late 70s. My review of this production is here; in that review, I failed to mention all of the exemplary cast, of whom all but one have stayed with the show to the end of the run; I want to pay fond tribute to them all now. In addition to those I did mention — Ryan Anderson’s deeply vulnerable, agile and moving Pippin, Ian Carlyle’s insinuating Leading Player, Natalie McQueen’s touching Catherine, Genevieve Nicole’s hilarious Berthe — there was also Gabrielle Lewis-Dodson’s vampish Fastrada, Jaydon Vijn’s adorable Theo, Alex James-Hatton’s youthfully preening Lewis and Daniel Krikler’s commanding Charles.
Krikler (top row, extreme right) is the one who has since departed (he is now in The Normal Heart that has just opened at the National) – but his role was seamlessly and beautifully taken for the rest of the run by Alex Lodge, who I saw for the first time yesterday.
I went straight from the penultimate performance of Pippin to Sloane Square’s Cadogan Hall, where a concert performance of Schwartz’s 1991 West End show Children Of Eden, co-written and originally directed by John Caird, was given two outings yesterday. Ruthie Henshall (below left) and Ray Shell, two of the original company of that show, made one-song each appearances yesterday, establishing a continuity between past and present; Rob Houchen (below right), who played Cain, had first encountered the show while a student at GSA, and was the force driving this revival.
Like Prince of Egypt, Children of Een is an old-fashioned Old Testament pageant show; but the songs that include Lost in the Wilderness, Stranger to the Rain, In Whatever Time we Have and In the Beginning are just glorious. And they were sung to utter perfection here by a cast that also included Adam Pearce as a deep-voiced God, and Emma Kingston (pictured below), whose Act Two rendition of Ain’t it Good completely stopped the show — and it sure was! Not least because she only took over (from an indisposed Alice Fearn) on Thursday!
THIS WEEK’S OPENINGS
Monday October 4
- Hamlet (Young Vic) September 27-November 13, opens October 4. Greg Hersov directs Cush Jumbo (pictured above). Press contact: Emma Hardy at Young Vic. https://www.youngvic.org/whats-on/hamlet-cush-jumbo
Also Monday October 4
- The Chamber Musical Sessions (Garrick Theatre, October 4) Extracts from new chamber musicals being written by 15 teams of writers. Press contact: Chloe Pritchard Gordon at About Grace PR. https://www.nimaxtheatres.com/shows/the-chamber-musical-sessions/
Wednesday October 6
- The Mirror and the Light (Gielgud Theatre). September 23-January 23, press night October 6. Jeremy Herrin directs Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light (the third and final part in her Wolf Hall trilogy), adapted for the stage by Mantel and Ben Miles (who stars as Cromwell, reprising a role he also played in the RSC stage version of the first two parts in 2014), with Nathaniel Parker resuming his Olivier winning role as Henry VIII. Press contacts: Maisie Lawrence and Ben Chamberlain at Bread and Butter PR firstname.lastname@example.org/ email@example.com https://themirrorandthelight.co.uk/
Also Wednesday October 6
- Metamorphoses (Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, at Shakespeare’s Globe) September 30-October 30, opens October 6) A new piece of theatre inspired by Ovid’s myths of chaos and creation, written by Globe writers-in-residence Sami Ibrahim, Laura Lomas and Sabrina Mahfouz. Press contacts: Claudia Conway at Claudia Conway, or Jessica Strawson at the Globe. https://www.shakespearesglobe.com/whats-on/metamorphoses-2021/
Thursday October 7
- The Long Song (Chichester Festival Theatre, October 1-23, press night October 7) Suhayla El-Bushra adapts Andrea Levy’s novel for the stage, and Charlotte Gwinner directs. Press contact: Lucinda Morrison at Chichester Festival Theatre. https://www.cft.org.uk/whats-on/event/the-long-song-1
- The Tragedy of Macbeth (Almeida Theatre, September 25-November 20, press night October 14, replacing originally announced October 5). JamesMcArdle plays the title role in Yaël Farber’s new production, with four-time Academy Award-nominated Saoirse Ronan making her UK stage debut as Lady Macbeth. Press contact: Alexander Milward at the Almeida. https://almeida.co.uk/whats-on/the-tragedy-of-macbeth/29-sep-2021-20-nov-2021
- Get Up Stand Up! – The Bob Marley Musical (Lyric Theatre) From October 1, opens October 20. With a script by Lee Hall (Billy Elliot), direction by Clint Dyer (deputy artistic director of the National Theatre) and starring Arinzé Kene as Bob Marley). Press contact: Ben Chamberlain at Bread and Butter PR. https://getupstandupthemusical.com
- White Noise (Bridge Theatre) October 5-November 13, press night October 12. Polly Findlay directs the European premiere of Suzan-Lori Parks’s new play, originally premiered at New York’s Public Theater in 2019. Press contact: Janine Shalom at Premier Communications. https://bridgetheatre.co.uk/whats-on/white-noise/
- Love and other Acts of Kindness (Donmar Warehouse) October 7-November 27, press night October 14. Cordelia Lynn’s new play, commissioned by the Donmar after she won the 2020 Berwin Lee Award, is premiered in a production directed by Elaye Ismail, Press contact: James Lever at Jo Allan PR, firstname.lastname@example.org. https://www.donmarwarehouse.com/
- The Shark is Broken (Ambassadors) October 9-January 15 (press performances October 19-21, with review embargoed to midnight October 21). An Edinburgh Fringe hit in 2019 that goes behind-the-scenes of the making of Spielberg’s Jaws transfers to the West End. It is co-written and performed by Ian Shaw, son of Jaws star Robert Shaw, and Joseph Nixon. Press contact: Chloe Pritchard-Gordon or Laura Myers at About Grace PR, email@example.com; laura@Aboutgracepr.com. https://thesharkisbroken.com/
- Rice (Orange Tree Theatre, October 9-November 13, press night October 13) Matthew Xia directs the UK premiere of an award-winning Australian play about globalisation, politics and family by Asian-Australian writer Michele Lee. Press contact: Riona Kelly/Freya Cowdry at Kate Morley PR. https://orangetreetheatre.co.uk/whats-on/rice/about
- The Beauty Queen of Leenane (Lyric Hammersmith, October 9-November 6, with a press night on October 13) Co-produced with Chichester Festival Theatre, where this production completed its run on the wewekend, this revival of Martin McDonagh’s play is directed by Rachel O’Riordan, artistic director of the Lyric Hammersmith. Press contact: Sue-Ann Chow-Seegoolam. https://lyric.co.uk/shows/the-beauty-queen-of-leenane/
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