Mark Shenton’s theatre picks: May 28
Broadway sends a couple of leading player Brits back home this week: one is the title character of a biographical account of Joseph Merrick, the so-called Elephant Man who became a Victorian freak-show spectacle and is now a theatrical one in Bernard Pomerance’s 1977 play; the other is Jim Dale, star of music hall and Carry On films, who has long been resident in New York but now comes home to the very theatre at which he made his West End debut exactly 50 years ago.
The Elephant Man – Theatre Royal Haymarket, London
Last year’s Broadway revival of The Elephant Man – a play set in London but starring Hollywood A-lister Bradley Cooper in the title role with the rest of his entire Broadway company alongside him – has arrived in the West End, complete with Broadway prices – the top price is an eye-watering £108. They’re billed as premium, but since they comprise virtually the entire stalls apart from a handful of rear stalls, that’s really the official top price. (They’re also breaking with tradition by not having an official first night – critics are invited to previews, with reviews embargoed to June 1.)
Cooper first played the role in a 2012 revival at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Scott Ellis’s production also features Patricia Clarkson (Tony nominated this year for this performance) and Alessandro Nivola.
Just Jim Dale – Vaudeville Theatre, London
Another homecoming this week sees Jim Dale, who has made his home in New York for the last 35 years and is now a naturalised American citizen, bring his solo career retrospective, Just Jim Dale, to open at the Vaudeville on May 28, directed by Broadway revue expert, crossword setter and original lyricist for Miss Saigon Richard Maltby Jr.
King John – Shakespeare’s Globe, London
James Dacre’s production, co-produced by the Globe and Northampton’s Royal and Derngate and first seen in at London’s Temple Church in April and then at Northampton’s Holy Sepulchre Church, now transfers to the Globe for a season in rep from June 1-27. The cast is led by Jo Stone-Fewings in the title role, with Alex Waldmann (who previously played the title role in the RSC’s last production of the play in 2012) as the Bastard. Also in the cast are Tanya Moodie, Barbara Marten, Joseph Marcell and Johnny Flynn.
Kafka on the Shore – Barbican Theatre, London
The Ninagawa Company presents a stage version of Haruki Murakami’s best-selling novel, adapted by Frank Galati, at the Barbican Theatre from May 28-30, prior to New York’s Lincoln Centre Festival (where it will run at the David H Koch Theater, July 23-26).
Duncton Wood – Union Theatre, London
Michael Strassen – wizard of the small-scale but think-big musical revivals at the Union Theatre (where his revelatory stagings have included The Fix, Billy, Company and and Pacific Overtures) – now directs the world premiere of musical actor-turned-composer Mark Carroll’s Duncton Wood, opening on May 29.
The Clockmaker’s Daughter – Landor Theatre, London
Another world premiere of a British-written musical on the fringe sees Daniel Finn and Michael Webborn’s The Clockmaker’s Daughter open on June 1 at the Landor Theatre, featuring both an original story and original music, based around themes of prejudice, discrimination, animosity and a fear of the unknown.
Theory of Relativity – Drayton Arms, London
Another new fringe musical, Theory of Relativity was originally commissioned by The Canadian Musical Theatre Project in 2013 and had a workshop in Toronto in April of that year. Over the next year, UK production company Relative Motion became involved and in May 2014 produced the show’s first professional outing in a showcase performance at The Actor’s Church in Covent Garden. Now they’re giving its full London premiere at the Drayton Arms, opening tonight in a production starring West End regular Simon Bailey.
Elegies for Punks, Angels and Raging Queens – Criterion Theatre, London
An ’80s musical memorial to those who had lost their lives through AIDS, Elegies for Punks, Angels and Raging Queens returns to the Criterion Theatre for one night only on May 31 – the theatre where the piece originally had a brief West End run in 1993 (with a cast that then included Miquel Brown, Kim Criswell, Kwame Kwei-Armah, James Dreyfus, Simon Fanshawe and drag queen Regina Fong). This time around the cast includes Emma Williams, Madelena Alberto, Kelly Price, Fra Fee, Gary Wood and many more.
Shoshana Bean – Hippodrome Casino, London
As Broadway’s first replacement Elphaba in Wicked after Idina Menzel originated the role, Shoshana Bean has a cult following and a big voice. She sang backing vocals for Michael Jackson at his 30th anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden and arranged vocals for Jennifer Lopez’s American Idol performance of I Luh Ya Papi. Now she returns to the London cabaret stage for a three-night residency at the Hippodrome from June 3-5, with an extra late night performance on June 4.
Touring musicals – various venues nationwide
Outside London, there’s a very strong roster of touring musicals at the moment – but one of the best, Sheffield Crucible’s Anything Goes is curtailing its tour early, ending at Belfast’s Grand Opera House on May 30. Chichester’s Barnum, with Brian Conley in the title role, is also recommended, and is currently at Plymouth’s Theatre Royal to June 6. And direct from the West End, Alexandra Burke is reprising The Bodyguard on tour – at Stoke-on-Trent’s Regent to May 30, then Bradford’s Alhambra from June 2-13.