Just like the unyielding, never-ceasing hustle-bustle of the city that it calls home, West End theatre is an ever-changing beast. Productions of musicals, classical plays, farces and red-hot new dance performances come and go; sometimes in what seems like the blink of an eye. Some of them, however, fast become acclaimed and live long in the memory. All of which then surely should be just cause, if you’re planning to visit London this month, to catch one or two of the newly opening theatre productions while you’re here. Here are the ones not to be missed…!
(London Coliseum, St. Martin’s Lane WC2/ 7 April-13 May 2017)
A welcome West End revival for one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most acclaimed and popular musicals (and the one that bequeathed Liverpool FC’s Kop-habiting fans their awesome anthem), this English National Opera (ENO) production follows in the wake of the company’s recent takes on both Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd and Lloyd-Webber’s Sunset Boulevard. Surely most appetite-whetting of all, however, is its funky casting, with opera-crossover stars Alfie Bow and Katherine Jenkins giving their acting chops – as well as their singing lungs – a workout, while TV sitcom favourite Nicholas Lyndhurst’s also set to appear.
City of Glass
(Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, Lyric Square, King Street W6 0QL/ 20 April-13 May 2017)
An adaption of legendary New York author Paul Auster’s 1985 novel that looks set to be a visual tour de force, this production comes hot-foot from Manchester where it went down a storm. Written for the stage by Duncan Macmillan (who recently adapted the West End take on George Orwell’s seminal 1984), it’s a noir-ish journey into the dark intrigue of the Big Apple’s criminal underworld. Expect eye-popping design that draws you right into the heart of the action.
(Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Catherine Street WC2B 5JF/ until 22 July 2017)
A fitting musical revival for arguably the West End’s premier musical home here, for 42nd Street is of course the breathlessly energetic tale of the attempt to mount a gigantic theatrical show at the height of America’s Great Depression. A money-spinning ‘backstage musical’ of the finest calibre then (fittingly featuring the tunes We’re in the Money and Keep Young and Beautiful), it actually only dates back to the early ’80s as a stage show, having been adapted from the 1933 classic Hollywood movie – a role reversal of the artform-hopping-life of many a musical. Expect all the leggy tap-dancing to slap a big grin across your chops should you be staying nearby at a boutique hotel in West End London (say, the Piccadilly London hotel) and so especially fancy giving it a try one evening.
The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?
(Theatre Royal Haymarket, 18 Suffolk Street SW1Y 4HT/ until 24 June 2017)
Overlapping with the West End run of the other famous, classic play from the pen of Edward Albee, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Featuring Imelda Staunton), this version of the US playwright’s black comedy is headlined by thesp heavyweights Damien Lewis and Sophie Okonedo and sees a plot in which a patriarch leads his family towards tragedy owing to him falling for a goat. Yes, really!
Guards at the Taj
(Bush Theatre, Uxbridge Road W12 8LJ/ 7 April-20 May 2017)
An curious show in prospect this one; a comedy detailing the building of the extraordinary Taj Mahal from the point of the view of two palace guards tasked with overseeing its more than challenging construction. What will its set design be like? How will it represent the legendary mausoleum taking shape during the project? Well, you’ll just have to pop along and catch acclaimed director Jamie Lloyd’s new production at the renovated and newly reopened Bush Theatre to find out!
(Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square SW1W 8AS/ 19 April-6 May 2017)
For fans of the utterly unique and dynamically radical art form that’s modern interpretative dance, this show at the Upstairs theatre of the legendarily experimental Chelsea venue could prove an unmissable event. There’s little to glean of its content at this stage; so far it’s only been teased the performance will contain ‘a series of suggestions on desire, death and time’ – whether there’ll be a literal ‘nuclear war’ theme or a figurative one and how that’ll be worked in remains to be seen. One thing you can rely on, though, is that it’s bound to be a compelling watch.
(Barbican Centre, Silk Street EC2Y 8DS/ 19 April-20 May 2017)
Granted, nowadays it seems like Hollywood stars upping sticks for London for a few weeks to tread the West End boards are ten-a-penny, but when one of the acting calibre of Jude Law does so, it’s special indeed. Not least because this particular production sounds really intriguing. Mounted by the Amsterdam-based Toneelgroep theatre company (who’ve taken up residency at the Barbican this year), it’s an adaptation of cinema great Luchino Visconti’s 1943 movie Ossessione – itself an Italian-language adaptation of the classic James M. Cain crime novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice.
Romeo and Juliet
(Shakespeare’s Globe, 21 New Globe Walk SE1 9DT/ 22 April-9 July 2017)
Let’s face it, when it comes to theatre it doesn’t get much more classical than Romeo and Juliet… that said, this looks set to be far from a traditional take on maybe the best loved of Shakespeare’s many stage masterpieces. That’s because it’s being put on at the Globe under its current, controversial artistic director Emma Rice (so controversial, in fact, that, having put too many noses out of joint, she’s leaving at the end of this season). Expect an unusual, dynamic version of the tale of doomed star-crossed lovers then, with many a modern touch; the blurb delights in promising audiences they’ll ‘witness the grotesque glamourisation of violence, the silence of death’ – you have been warned!