Just yesterday I was noting how the London and regional theatres are both waking up from their recent Edinburgh and summer induced slumbers – I had 13 openings listed for this week alone (and I didn’t list absolutely everything, either).
And just as the arrival of September now marks the inevitable countdown towards Christmas, the coming months also see a veritable feast of big (and small) openings around London and the rest of the country. I wrote a full preview of the autumn season for Playbill.com last week that lists most of the significant openings. I can’t, of course, be everywhere (though I try!). But here’s my personal Top 10 of the autumn season – what are you most looking forward to? Add yours below mine at the bottom of this blog.
1) There’s a lot of high-profile Shakespeare ahead, with stars that include Sheridan Smith and David Walliams (in A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and Jude Law (in the title role of Henry V), all three of them in the latest productions from the Michael Grandage Company, plus Tom Hiddleston (in Coriolanus, at the Donmar Warehouse) and David Tennant (back with the RSC for the first time since his Hamlet, to star in the title role of Richard II at Stratford and then the Barbican).
But the one I’m most intrigued by is to see Vanessa Redgrave (who is 76) and James Earl Jones (82), reunited after their Broadway and West End runs in Driving Miss Daisy, playing the usually younger sparring lovers Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing at the Old Vic, under the direction of Mark Rylance, previewing from September 7 prior to an official opening September 19. It could be a disaster, of course, but both actors are never less than watchable.
2) There are lots of big as well as smaller musicals ahead, including new ones from both Tim Rice (From Here to Eternity) and Andrew Lloyd Webber (Stephen Ward). What a pity they’ve not re-teamed together, though: Stephen Ward could have followed their masterpiece Evita in taking the lid off a particular chapter of homegrown politics this time. Still, I’m fascinated enough by Stephen Ward (and am only sorry I missed last week’s fringe Profumo the Musical at the Waterloo East Theatre) to put it high on my list. It previews from December 3, prior to an official opening December 19.
3) I’m also looking forward to the world premiere of American Psycho at the Almeida, with music and lyrics by Duncan Sheik (who wrote the brilliant Spring Awakening) and book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. It will be directed by Rupert Goold, in a production that was announced long before he was appointed as Michael Attenborough’s successor as artistic director at the Almeida, so it will be fascinating to see this new chapter in the Almeida’s life begin with a co-production with his former company Headlong. It previews from December 3 prior to an official opening December 12.
4) Another musical world premiere will see the Tori Amos-scored The Light Princess opening at the National – a rare new musical there where, under Nick Hytner’s regime, only Jerry Springer – the Opera and London Road have premiered in the last decade. But both those shows pushed the musical in brand-new directions, so let’s hope the same is true here. Marianne Elliott directs a cast that features Rosalie Craig, one of my major tips for stage stardom.
5) Coming from New York, I can’t wait to see Kander and Ebb’s The Scottsboro Boys again – I saw it in both its original Off-Broadway and short-lived Broadway incarnations at the Vineyard and Lyceum Theatres respectively, and Susan Stroman is reprising her directing and choreographic duties with several of the original New York cast, too, at the Young Vic (one of whom Colman Domingo is also reprising his own solo show A Boy and His Soul at Tricycle first). The Scottsboro Boys previews from October 18 prior to opening October 29.
6) On the plays front, another New York import of Nicky Silver’s The Lyons to the Menier Chocolate Factory should be a hoot – I saw and loved it at Broadway’s Cort Theatre, where it transferred from off-Broadway’s Vineyard, last year. Its original director Mark Brokaw directs a British cast led by Isla Blair. It previews from September 19 prior to an official opening September 26.
7) The West End is unusually offering not one but two brand-new plays this autumn: I’m looking forward to Barking in Essex for its stellar pairing of Lee Evans and Sheila Hancock, previewing at Wydnham’s from September 6 prior to an official opening September 16. It is only a pity that its playwright Clive Exton hasn’t lived to see his own play produced there: he died in 2007.
Also new in the West End this autumn is Perfect Nonsense, with Matthew Macfadyen and Stephen Mangan as Jeeves and Wooster respectively in a new play adapted from PG Wodehouse by the Goodale Brothers.
8) The West End also has an all-star revival of Jez Butterworth’s 1995 play Mojo coming to the Pinter Theatre, with Ian Rickson directing Brendan Coyle, Rupert Grinch, Ben Whishaw and Daniel Mays in it, from October 26.
9) I can’t wait to see Barry Humphries in his (allegedly farewell) tour of Eat, Pray, Laugh, in which he’ll be Sir Les Patterson, Sandy Stone and of course Dame Edna, kicking off at Milton Keynes Theatre from October 23, then visiting Cardiff and Edinburgh before arriving at the London Palladium in November.
10) There are lots of interesting things happening in the regions, too, and I’ve only left myself one entry to highlight them. While there are major tours kicking off for Wicked and War Horse, both of which I’m planning on catching, I’m also intrigued by the actor-musician production of Our House, kicking off at Ipswich’s New Wolsey Theatre on September 12, then touring.
And I want to catch Daniel Evans’s new production of Oliver! this Christmas at Sheffield’s Crucible from November 29, starring Phil Davis as Fagin and Ben Richards as Bill Sikes; and Chicago at Curve Leicester, also from November 29, featuring choreography by Drew McOnie whom I have also tipped for the top following his work last year on Kiss of the Spiderwoman at ArtsEd and more recently on West Side Story for the National Youth Music Theatre.