Some of the greats of history are being celebrated on the London stage this week. Philip Glass’s acclaimed opera about Mahatma Gandhi is one such new opening. Then there is William Shakeapare’s “Julius Cesar.
New plays include the U.K. premiere for an award-winning Sarah Burgess work, “Dry Powder,” while among musical concerts, Police Dog Hogan mixes bluegrass and humor.
Our format of these short capsule previews is to list newly opening and one-time shows; those near the end of their run, and others highly recommended. We continue to review the best and most noteworthy in depth and separately.
At London Coliseum, through February 27. 2018
Philp Glass has done three operas about history makers. “Einstein on the Beach” is well known. “Akhnaten,” about the Egyptian ruler, is perhaps less familiar. “Satyagraha” (it means insistence on truth) is loosely based on the life of Mahatma Gandhi and his years in South Africa. It is sung in Sanskrit. During those formative years, Gandhi – a conventionally dressed young lawyer – formulated the idea of peaceful protest he later explored as a saintly figure in traditional garb back in India.
“Long Day’s Journey into Night”
At Wyndham’s Theatre, Previews from January 9, opens February 6 and runs through April 7.
Jeremy Irons and Lesley Manville return to their parts in Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” a Pulitzer winner. The Richard Eyre production had a sold-out run at the Bristol Old Vic as part of its 250th Anniversary events. The long play takes the Tyrone family from darkness to despairing gloom. Tickets are selling fast: get in fast if you are interested.
At Hampstead Theatre, Swiss Cottage, through March 3.
American playwright Sarah Burgess is making her debut in the U.K. with this award-winning work talking a wry look at the world of private equity. The work has won applause for its sharp script and it has catapulted her into the big time.
Police Dog Hogan
At Scala, St Pancras, February 8
Anyone who has seen the videos of “West Country Boy” or “Shitty White Wine” will know what to expect: the seven piece band has all the humor of Madness and verve of Blowzabella or Bellowhead with a bluegrass, folk and country edge. Or something. Heck, describe them as you will but expect a good time.
LAST CHANCE TO SEE
At King’s Head Theatre Islington, opens January 9 through February 3.
Steve Berkoff’s verse-play “East” made its London debut not on the Commercial Road, say, but at this pub-theater on Upper Street. It keeps coming back, winning Edinburgh awards and more.
“The Rat Pack - Live from Las Vegas”
At Theatre Royal Haymarket, opens January 9 and runs through February 3.
The show is back again, having had an incarnation as “Christmas With the Rat Pack” with added seasonal songs. Expect re-creations of Frank Sinatra crooning “Fly Me to the Moon,” Dean Martin’s casual charm and the enthusiastic Sammy Davis Jnr. Like many 1950s, shows it was really uncool for years but now is back as retro style gains a new lease of life. Perhaps not as hot as in 2003 when it premiered in the West End, but still good for an entertaining night out.
“OVO - Cirque du Soleil”
At Royal Albert Hall, opens January 7 and runs through February 11.
It is a circus, Jim, but not as we know it. To call this a circus is too mild. This is part dance spectacular, part cabaret, and party surrealistic musical with carnival thrown in. The show is a mad rush of strange insects, flying from trampolines and juggling. They suddenly have to face the arrival of a strange egg, Ovo.
ALSO WORTH SEEING
At Bridge Theatre, runs through April 15.
The Bridge has only been open since late last year and Nicholas Hytner directs this Shakespearean thriller. David Calder plays Caesar. Ben Whishaw and Michelle Fairley are Brutus and Cassius. The play can be witnessed as a promenade event, with the onlookers a part of the action, or as an in-the-round seated experience. Click here for a review.
At Dorfman, National Theatre. Previews form January 17, runs through March 3.
Annie Baker came to wider notice with her play “The Flick,” which had a sold-out run at the National in 2016. Her latest play is billed as “uncanny,” with many inanimate objects as well the audience watching the action.
“Lady Windermere’s Fan”
At Vaudeville, January 12 through April 7.
This is part of a series of Oscar Wilde works by artistic director Dominic Dromgoole. Wilde’s clever-clever script comes packed with quips and plot twists. Plus the most quotable of quotes: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” “I can resist anything except temptation.”
At Duke of York’s, January 13 through March 31.
The Almeida’s production finds its way into the West End, with the most mind-boggling start. Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams are the two stars, playing Mary and Elizabeth. They open the evening by tossing a coin to decide who plays which part: will it end in victory or execution? Both are familiar with the roles, so whichever version you see of Robert Icke’s show, this will be pretty impressive.
“The Birthday Party”
At the Harold Pinter, from January 9 through April 14.
One cannot imagine a more apt venue to stage Pinter’s masterpiece. Zoë Wanamaker, Toby Jones, Stephen Mangan and Pearl Mackie star. The menace, silences and general unease are the Nobel-winning playwright at his trademark best. Ian Rickson directs this production.
At Victoria Palace Theatre through July 28, 2018.
The first thing to say is “Hamilton” is a huge Broadway hit, with plenty of political relevance even now, and even with unofficial Off-Broadway spin-offs such as “Spamilton” for those who can’t get to see the real thing. The second thing to say is that this rap musical is a superb show. Third, it’s not easy to get tickets and, if you do, expect tight ID checks, with original card and government photo ID needed. But it is worth it. The British production works well.
“Girl From the North Country”
At Noël Coward Theatre. Previews from December 29, opens January 11 through March 31.
This Conor McPherson script, laced with songs from Bob Dylan such as the title number, premiered last year at The Old Vic. Its West End transfer maintains the dark and grimy feel of a serious work which ends up neither play nor a “Bob Dylan musical” as some fans called it when it first started.
At the Gielgud, now extended booking to May 19, 2018.
This critic gave it five stars, but so did nearly everybody else too it seems. The best play in London at present. Jez Butterworth nails another dance of life and death in a “Jerusalem” transported to Ireland. This three-hour epic has just won the best play, best director (Sam Mendes) and best emerging-talent gongs (Tom Glynn-Carney) in the Evening Standard Awards – so, expect booking out to sell out even faster. Click here for a review.
“Everybody’s Talking About Jamie”
At Apollo Shaftsbury, through April 21, 2018.
If there is a law about London stage shows, one seems to be that even great plays often have musicals can run for a long time. This one has a true-life plot which reads like “Billy Eliot” crossed with “Kinky Boots.” A 16-year-old Sheffield boy wants to become a drag queen. The music is by Dan Gillespie Sells, of The Feeling.
At Theatre Royal Drury Lane, booking extended through May 31.
Another Broadway blockbuster. “Shuffle Off To Buffalo,” dream along with “Lullaby of Broadway,” hope along with “We’re In The Money,” and hum along with “I Only Have Eyes For You.”