London’s credentials as a major performing arts capital, if not the world’s best (sorry New York) are clear this coming week. Roger Waters, The Cure, Eric Clapton and Santana all have concerts. New openings include two exceptional shows in “The Lieutenant of Inishmore,” starring Aidan Turner, and the Royal Shakespeare Company’s “Imperium.”
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.
“The Lieutenant of Inishmore”
At Noel Coward, through September 8.
Michael Grandage’s company is reviving Martin McDonagh’s play with Aidan Turner of “Poldark” in the main role. There is plenty of violence and the mad anti-hero manages to be convincing on how he can happily kill people and yet flip out when his beloved cat is badly treated. For a full review, click here.
At the Gielgud, through September 8.
The Royal Shakespeare Company has won praise for its adaptation of “Cicero” by Robert Harris. Now it comes to London. Epic two-part plays are everywhere: “The Inheritance,” “The Divide,” “Harry Potter” and now this one. They have nothing in common apart from their marathon length. For a full review, click here.
“The King and I”
At London Palladium, through September 29.
This musical has got a lot going for it. The score is splendid; the Broadway production is big and glossy; it has star names in Ken Watanabe and Kelli O’Hara. The show was written in 1951 but to criticize it for being outdated is to miss the point. One might as well criticize “Show Boat” and “Porgy and Bess” and dozens more. To the open-minded this is a magnificent show.
Barclaycard Presents BST Hyde Park
Hyde Park, from July 6.
This would normally be about the Glastonbury time of summer. Glasto has a fallow year in 2018, so take a look at this urban alternative. BST has a lot of mainstream star names as well as a sprinkling of cooler up-and-coming acts. Nowhere near as many as Glasto of course. Still, of the stars, this weekend has Roger Waters, Richard Ashcroft and Seasick Steve topping the bill Friday; The Cure, Interpol, Goldfrapp and Editors on Saturday and Eric Clapton, Santana and Steve Winwood on Sunday. Michael Buble, Van Morrison, Bruno Mars, Paul Simon and James Taylor follow on the weekend of July 13-15.
At Finsbury Park, July 6 through 8.
This festival is especially good for rap/hip-hop, grime and R&B. J Cole and Post Malone perform on Friday, Stormzy on Saturday and DJ Khaled and Rae Sremmurd on Sunday. Bonus points if you know the last is “Ear Drummers” backward.
At Koko, Camden Town, June 30 to July 28.
This amusing series of shows at Koko and the Latitude Festival pulls together a host of pop and disco-themed acts, from Rihanna to Whitney Houston, Taylor Swift to S Club 7.
Nile Rodgers and Chic
At Greenwich Music Time, July 6 only
As part of a U.K. tour, Rodgers joins this short festival at the Old Royal Naval College. Noel Gallagher’s High-Flying Birds follow on July 7 and Il Divo on July 8.
LAST CHANCE TO SEE
“An Ideal Husband”
At Vaudeville Theatre, through July 14.
Oscar Wilde’s comedy gets a nice twist in this production by starring a real-life father and son: Edward and Freddie Fox. The play is undoubtedly one of Wilde’s finest and might have had more initial success had he not been arrested for gross indecency during its opening run. It is studded with Wildean epigrams such as “to love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance” and “morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people we personally dislike.”
“The Lehman Trilogy”
At National Theatre from July 4, opens July 12, in repertoire through October 20.
There are plenty of boldface names involved in this. Sam Mendes directs Ben Power’s English version of Stefano Massini’s play. Adam Godley, Ben Miles and Simon Russell Beale play the main Lehman characters.
ALSO WORTH SEEING
“One for Sorrow”
At Royal Court, through August 11.
Cordelia Lynn’s story is a barbed look at tolerance and terrorism as seen through the eyes of a family that takes in a refugee and then struggles with the consequences.
At Young Vic, through September 1.
A much-admired American musical adaption gets its British premiere, directed by Sam Gold though with a new British cast. The piece won five Tony Awards and is based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel.
“The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie”
At Donmar Warehouse, through July 28.
Muriel Spark’s novel is made over for the stage with Lia Williams as the lead character. The play still has the unorthodox teacher telling her girls about her love life and educating them in an unusual way, broadening their horizons and simultaneously endangering her own future.
Various venues, through July 22.
The London International Festival of Theatre returns, with shows at the Barbican, Royal Court, Southbank Centre, Lyric Hammersmith and many more. Some of the most innovative are walking tours performed at secret locations. There is also South African singing, Singapore opera and a finale of 1,500 pigeons that take off at sunset with LEDs attached to their bodies.
At Trafalgar Studios, through August 18.
The range of roles played by Orlando Bloom continues to broaden after his time in “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” trilogies plus “Pirates of the Caribbean.” This time he is Detective Joe Cooper, a policeman who is also an efficient contract killer. This Tracey Letts play originally started on the stage before being filmed with the tagline: “a totally twisted, deep-fried Texas redneck trailer park murder story.” A Blouin Artinfo review can be found here.
At Underbelly Festival Southbank, through July 14.
After Circus Abyssinia’s lively “Ethiopian Dreams” show, the Underbelly Festival showcases more Edinburgh Fringe Festival stars. We get more gravity-defying stunts, done this time to throbbing Latin music. A Blouin Artinfo review can be found here.
At Olivier, National Theatre, running through August 11.
To his admirers, the late Irish writer Brian Friel is as good as some of the greatest playwrights such as Harold Pinter. This play is a clever take on cultural imperialism. British officials are on a visit to a tiny rural community. The mission is to Anglicize Irish names. For example, Baile Beag, meaning small town, becomes Ballybeg. The locals are less than thrilled. Colin Morgan and Ciaran Hinds star. A Blouin Artinfo review can be found here.
Shakespeare’s Globe, through August 26.
Purists have long been carping against casting directors changing sex, race or age of characters in classic plays. The politically-correct changes sometimes make little sense: black parents cast with white children or old people playing youngsters. These revisions can also work, as with all-female “Julius Caesar” or female King Lears. Gender swapping as was normal in the Bard’s time, with boys often playing girls. Now we have Michelle Terry bravely assuming the central role in “Hamlet” as she takes on the part of Artistic Director at The Globe. Reviews have been mixed, while many would say that the Globe is best with Shakespeare plays done as authentically possible.
At Wyndham’s Theatre, through July 28.
Mark Rothko had a fascination with color, as we all know. Apart from the burgundy and brown of the Seagram works, he also liked psychedelic yellow — then in his later years, dull graphite. London audiences may recall the obsessed artist in “The Fast Show” TV comedy with his aversion to black. Here we are into red, in more ways than one, courtesy of John Logan’s drama starring Alfred Molina and Alfred Enoch and staged by Michael Grandage’s company.
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 Victoria Palace Theatre, booking through December 15, 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.
“Tina: The Musical (The Tina Turner Musical)”
At Aldwych Theatre, now booking through February 2019.
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.
“Strictly Ballroom – The Musical”
At Piccadilly Theatre, through July 21.
Like “Bat Out of Hell,” this is a very strange musical with a weird plot and many bizarre scenes. It is also a Romeo-and-Juliet type story of star-crossed lovers. It is based on Baz Luhrmann’s movie “Strictly Ballroom.” Will Young does most of the big singing in a role written especially for him. The bizarre collection of songs seems assembled randomly with no purpose but just to entertain: sometimes that is all that is needed.
“Bat Out of Hell: The Musical”
At Dominion Theatre, London, 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 Theatre Royal Drury Lane, booking extended through December 1, 2018.
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.” Dorothy Brock has been played by Sheena Easton and more recently Lulu, who is back on the West End stage after 30 years.
Click on the slideshow for images of some of the shows
Founder Louise Blouin