London performing arts this week has an avalanche of new musicals – led of course by “Bat Out of Hell: The Musical.” A revived “Chicago” and “Chess” join “Tina Turner” and “Strictly Ballroom.”
We are coming close to the end of the run of “The Ferryman,” which seems like complete commercial and artistic madness given audience demand and its recent Oliver Awards. It is one of London’s finest new plays in years – nothing lasts forever but it is very sad to see it go.
The format of these weekly short capsule previews is to list newly opening and one-time shows; others highly recommended, and those near the end of their run. We also continue to review the best and most noteworthy in depth and separately.
“Bat Out of Hell: The Musical”
At Dominion Theatre, London, from April 2, opening April 19, booking through July 28, open-ended run.
The Meat Loaf musical is back in town for a long run after sell-out dates last year in a short period at the London Coliseum. The songs are as over-the-top as possible and the plot is crazy. As a piece of fun spectacle it is hard to beat. Review of its previous incarnation here and interview with the stars here.
At Royal Opera House, through May 16
This is part of the events to mark the 25th anniversary of Kenneth MacMillan’s death. His masterpiece of modern ballet had a big impact on British dance. MacMillan’s source was the 18th-century French novel by Abbé Prévost, already adapted for opera by Massenet and Puccini.
“Tina: The Musical (The Tina Turner Musical)”
At Aldwych Theatre, March 21, opens April 17; through June 17
With rock musical bios still doing well over the last few years – Michael Jackson, the Beatles, Queen, the Kinks, ABBA, Carole King and many more – a work covering Tina Turner’s life makes perfect sense. This London production is the world premiere. The girl from Nutbush, her strained marriage, her fight against prejudice and abuse all sit with songs such as “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” “Proud Mary,” “The Best,” “River Deep Mountain High” and “Better Be Good To Me.” Turner is played by Adrienne Warren.
“The Moderate Soprano”
At Duke of York’s, though June 30
This is a David Hare transfer from the Hampstead Theatre, increasingly an incubator of plays that move into town. The play gently draws out the story of the founding of Glyndebourne by country-house owner John Christie and his young soprano wife. It is about as English as cucumber sandwiches with high tea by the croquet lawn, or indeed Glyndebourne itself.
At Royal Albert Hall, April 19 only
The Grammy-winning jazz and soul singer is backed by a full orchestra for these performances. He draws on the award-winning albums “Liquid Spirit” and “Take Me To The Alley” among others.
At London Coliseum, April 26 through June 2 only
Last year, the Coliseum did a short run of “Bat Out of Hell” leading to the show’s permanent return to London. Now we have “Chess” at the Coliseum for a short run from April through June. Whether this leads to more remains to be seen, but this is the first major West End revival for “Chess” in 30 years. The stars this time include Michael Ball, Alexandra Burke and Murray Head. The music of course is by Tim Rice and ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus.
“Strictly Ballroom – The Musical”
At Piccadilly Theatre, from March 29, opens April 24 through July 21.
Baz Luhrmann’s movie “Strictly Ballroom” is the basis of this musical – the familiar Romeo-and-Juliet type story of star-crossed lovers united by their passion for dance. Will Young is among the stars proclaiming “Love is in the Air” in a role especially written for him.
LAST CHANCE TO SEE
“Périclès, Prince de Tyr”
At Barbican, April 6 through 21 only.
It’s “Pericles” but not as we know it. Shakespeare’s late play is done by the Cheek by Jowl company in French with English surtitles. This approach might make most sense for one of the familiar plays, though few are familiar with the Pericles adventure story. Declan Donnellan’s work is rarely less than intriguing, however.
“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 rarely match musicals in running 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.
ALSO WORTH SEEING
At the Noël Coward, from March 31 through June 16.
All change at the Coward, which has moved from the All-American “Girl From The North Country” to “Quiz” (to be followed by “The Lieutenant of Inishmore.”) James Graham’s “Quiz” looks at the TV show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” through the trial of Major Charles Ingram, who was accused of cheating his way to the top prize with a coughing accomplice in the audience. The play also examines other TV quiz shows as part of the build-up. Its London transfer comes after premiering at the Minerva, Chichester. The play was extensively rewritten based on the out-of-town feedback and is now something of a must-see.
Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams
At Underbelly Festival Southbank, April 6 through May 20. The festival runs from April 6 through September 30.
The Underbelly Festival is now in its 10th year and has its usual impressive line-up of shows with a fair smattering of circus acts. The likable performers in this show perform some daring stunts. A full review is here on Blouin ARTINFO.
At Phoenix Theatre, Covent Garden, through October 6
Not quite a new opening of course. This is the 1997 production of the Kander and Ebb 1975 musical that is back in London after a tour. Basically it has been going strong for decades. Now Cuba Gooding Jr is Billy Flynn. The show has dance, song, a breathless murderous plot, lots of girls in fishnets and guys in hats. It’s not quite as hot as it was, but if you haven’t seen it – do give it a go. Gooding is especially impressive.
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 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 after the Oliviers. Given its wins this month – with Delfont Mackintosh messaging to say it must end – it seems complete artistic and commercial madness to take it off. One hopes it returns soon. Click here for a review.
“Harold and Maude”
At Charing Cross Theatre, extended through May 12.
The 1971 Hal Ashby movie, written by Colin Higgins, has a plot that sounds like it should be unbelievable. It is a bizarre game of consequences. A near 20-year-old guy obsessed with suicide and death meets a near 80-year-old eccentric who loves life and steals for fun. They meet at a funeral and they fall in love. It also seems a little unstageable, with the original’s potential for flashbacks and changes of scene. Yet this works well and is worth seeing.
At Young Vic, though May 19
There is some serendipity in Manhattan getting a new staging of the two-part “Angels in America” transferred from London’s Royal National Theatre. Tony Kushner’s 1993 epic play was of course about AIDS and gay relationships. Now Matthew Lopez has written a similarly marathon two-parter on the same theme, suitably updated. Comparisons with the earlier work should be contained because this is inspired by the novel “Howard’s End,” by E.M. Forster. Vanessa Redgrave stars, but only in Part 2.
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.
At the Theatre Royal Haymarket, through May 5.
Not to be confused with Disney’s “Frozen,” coming to town allegedly soon! The Bryony Lavery play features “Doctor Foster” star Suranne Jones. It’s a long way from her “Coronation Street” beginnings. The 1998 play, sometimes called a masterpiece, focuses on a mum whose 10-year-old daughter has vanished. We also discover the child’s murderer. The word “unsettling” turns up often in play blurbs by theaters. Here, it is justified.
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.”
Click on the slideshow for images of some of the shows
Founder Louise Blouin