TICKETS: Mark’s Top Ten recommendations + this week’s openings (1 Feb)

In Features, London theatre, Musicals, Native, Opinion, Plays, Reviews, Ticket recommendations by Mark ShentonLeave a Comment

This week sees London theatre put black actors and experiences centre-stage on consecutive nights. Given the current furore of the all-white nominees list for the Oscars, it is refreshing to see that in the theatre, at least — notwithstanding such antique attitudes as Trevor Nunn’s casting last year for The War of the Roses at the Rose in Kingston with an all-white cast for reasons, he stated, of “historical verisimilitude” — we’re able to see a more diverse world being reflected.

This week’s main openings

In London:

  • Red Velvet – Garrick Theatre: Adrian Lester reprises his role as 19th-century Shakespearean actor Ira Aldridge in Lolita Chakrabarti’s play, first seen at the Tricycle in 2012, and now finally coming to the West End as part of the Branagh Theatre season, opening tonight (1 February) at the Garrick Theatre.
  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – National’s Lyttelton Theatre: Dominic Cooke directs Sharon D Clarke in the title role of August Wilson’s play, returning to the National where it was originally given its British premiere back in 1989, opening in the Lyttelton on 2 February.
  • The Master Builder  Old Vic: Matthew Warchus directs Ralph Fiennes in the title role of Ibsen’s play, presented in a new version by David Hare, opening on 3 February. Also in the cast are Broadway actress Linda Emond, James Dreyfus and Sarah Snook.

My top ten shows this week

1. The Mother
While Florian Zeller’s The Father is soon to make a return West End date at the Duke of York’s, his earlier play The Mother is currently to be seen at the Tricycle where Gina McKee plays the title role of a middle-aged woman losing her family. See my review for The Stage here.
2. Bend It Like Beckham
My favourite new musical of last year was the stage version of the 2002 film Bend It Like Beckham, featuring the glorious and soaring music of Howard Goodall. It has sadly been announced that it will close on 5 March at the end of the original cast’s contracts, so catch it now – or catch it again, as I intend to, as much as possible in the next few weeks. See my Stage review here.
3. Close to You
Joyful concert revue of Burt Bacharach classics, mashed up and re-made for now, now extended at the Criterion to 14 February, when it gives its final (multiple) performances. See my Stage review here.
4. In the Heights
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2008 Tony winning Broadway musical returns to London in the exhilarating production first seen at Southwark Playhouse last year, and now at the new Olivier-eligible King’s Cross Theatre, where it is currently booking to 10 April. See my Stage review  here.
5. Les Liaisons Dangereuses
This grimly gripping portrait of human manipulation and sexual game playing casts a dark spell, superbly played by Janet McTeer and Dominic West, at the Donmar Warehouse. My review for London Theatre Guide is here. It will also be broadcast live to cinemas in the UK and elsewhere in partnership with NT Live this week on Jan 28. Check out details here on venues it will be screens in.
6. Guys & Dolls
Originally only booking for a limited season at the Savoy before heading off on a UK tour, the Chichester transfer of the show I consider to be the greatest Broadway musical of all time is now moving to the Phoenix after it ends its run at the Savoy on March 12, to resume performances March 19. A separate company will fulfil the touring obligations. See my review of the Savoy opening for The Stage here.
7. Funny Girl
The entire run at the Menier (to March 5) is sold out – but it moves to the Savoy next from April 8 (to take over from Guys and Dolls), so book now to see the wonderful Sheridan Smith starring in the first major London revival of Jule Styne’s 1960s musical since its original premiere on Broadway and in the West End featured Barbra Streisand in the title role (as well as in the subsequent film version). See my review for The Stage here. 
My interview with Sheridan Smith for The Stage is here. 
8. Grey Gardens
The 2006 Broadway musical based on the true story of a reclusive mother and daughter who lived in squalor in an East Hampton mansion and were related to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis receives its London premiere in a  production starring the great Sheila Hancock and Jenna Russell, running to February 6. See my review for The Stage here.
9. Hangmen
Martin McDonagh’s latest thriller chiller comedy stars David Morrissey and Johnny Flynn, newly joined by Andy Nyman for its West End transfer to Wyndham’s (where it runs to March 5) from the Royal Court. My review of the Royal Court opening for London Theatre Guide is here. 
My interview with Andy Nyman (pictured) for The Stage is here.
10. The Homecoming
Jamie Lloyd directs an insinuatingly creepy, beautifully acted production of Pinter’s masterpiece about a family battle for possession and control, running at Trafalgar Studios to February 13. The cast features Keith Allen, Gemma Chan, Ron Cook, Gary Kemp, John Macmillan and John Simm.

 

 

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Mark Shenton
My Theatre Mates co-founder Mark Shenton is one of the UK’s leading theatre critics and correspondents, whose regular credits include LondonTheatre, Playbill.com and The Stage, where he is contributing editor. He chairs the drama section of the Critics’ Circle, and hosts the annual Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards, held at the Prince of Wales Theatre. He blogs independently at www.shentonstage.com and tweets @ShentonStage.

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Mark Shenton on FacebookMark Shenton on Twitter
Mark Shenton
My Theatre Mates co-founder Mark Shenton is one of the UK’s leading theatre critics and correspondents, whose regular credits include LondonTheatre, Playbill.com and The Stage, where he is contributing editor. He chairs the drama section of the Critics’ Circle, and hosts the annual Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards, held at the Prince of Wales Theatre. He blogs independently at www.shentonstage.com and tweets @ShentonStage.

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