TICKETS: Mark’s Top Ten recommendations + this week’s openings (14 Dec)

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

Another week of big openings ahead means I won’t be getting to everything even if I wanted to (and right now I am still trying to take it easier than I used to), let alone playing catch-up on what I missed when I was incapacitated after my recent double rounds of surgery! 

Here are the main openings of the week to look out for, followed by my current Top 10.

This week’s main openings

In London:

  • Bull – Mike Bartlett’s 2013 play about Darwinian office bullying returns to the Young Vic’s Maria Studio, where it was previously seen last January, to re-open on December 15, with a cast that comprises Max Bennett, Susannah Fielding, Nigel Lindsay and Marc Wootton.
  • The Lorax – Director Max Webster and choreographer Drew McOnie stage David Greig’s adaptation of Dr Seuss’s classic tale, opening on December 16, at the Old Vic, with a cast that includes Simon Lipkin (pictured above), Simon Paisley Day and Melanie Le Barrie.
  • The Dazzle — Andrew Scott (Sherlock, Spectre) returns to the London stage in the British premiere of Richard Greenberg’s off-Broadway play The Dazzle, opening December 15 at Found 111, a new venue recently created on the site of the old Central St. Martins School of Art on Charing Cross Road.

Beyond London:

gina-beck-&-michael-xavier

Gina Beck and Michael Xavier in Show Boat

  • Show Boat —Crucible Theatre, Sheffield — Daniel Evans (recently announced to take over as artistic director at Chichester, and who was interviewed about it in The Times, as I reported here) directs Michael Xavier, Gina Beck and Rebecca Trehearn in Kern and Hammerstein’s 1927 Broadway classic, opening on December 16.

 

 

1. Funny Girl
Owing to my recent double round surgery (my hip replacement and its subsequent dislocation), I had to miss the opening of the first London revival of Jule Styne’s 1964 Broadway musical since Barbra Streisand reprised her Broadway role as Fanny Brice in the transfer of the original production in the West End. So I couldn’t wait to catch up with it at the Menier Chocolate Factory, and just did. Sheridan Smith, inheriting Streisand’s role of Fanny Brice – the 1920s vaudeville superstar – is a marvel.
As I wrote in my weekly diary of a theatre addict, “When Sheridan sings “I’m the greatest star,” Fanny Brice’s early desperate cry of self-belief that you can tell she doesn’t quite fully believe in herself, she could be sing her personal autobiography: she has a terrific talent that has to overcome her own insecurity, that she reveals in her extremes of vulnerability and punch onstage. When I tweeted about how heartbreakingly wonderful she is, one follower called @BrightonLock concurred, and added that she’s “so emotional that I just hope she’s keeping something back for herself.”
2. Peter Pan Goes Wrong
Never mind the slew of panto versions of JM Barrie’s story usually available at this time of year, including one at Wimbledon starring Marcus Brigstocke; the one to see is Mischief Theatre’s version that defiantly insists it is not a pantomime. But it’s a farce – and a riotous one – in which, instead of Peter Pan’s traditional declaration that to die would be an awfully big adventure, it is more of an awfully big misadventure. It’s a cliche to say you were crying with laughter, but I really was. Not to mention surprised that the cast weren’t dislocating their own hips in the process. See my review for The Stage here.
3. Bend It Like Beckham
My favourite new musical of the year – Howard Goodall’s glorious music soars in this stage version of the 2002 film, booking at the Phoenix Theatre to March 5. Jamie Muscato joins the cast from Dec. 14, to replace Jamie Campbell Bower, joining existing principals that include Natalie Dew,Lauren Samuels, Sophie-Louise Dann, Preeya Kalidas, Tony Jayawardena and the indescribably beautiful Jamal Andréas. See my Stage review here.
4. 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. See my Stage review here.
5. 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.
6. Derren Brown – Miracle
The amazing Derren Brown with a show that I described in my Stage review as “truly gobsmacking”. Running at the Palace Theatre to 16 January, then resuming regional tour.
7. Mr Foote’s Other Leg
Simon Russell Beale, Dervla Kirwan and Joseph Millson in Ian Kelly’s marvellous theatrical play, first seen at Hampstead Theatre where I reviewed it for London Theatre Guide, now transferred to the Haymarket, where it is, appropriately, partly set, and where it’s running to23  January.
8. The Winter’s Tale
Kenneth Branagh leads the opening production of his new theatre company’s year-long residency at the Garrick, running to January 16. Also in the cast are Judi Dench, Michael Pennington, Hadley Fraser, Tom Bateman, John Dagleish, Adam Garcia and Jessie Buckley. See my Stage review here.
9. Guys & Dolls
My absolutely favourite musical of all time, bar none! Frank Loesser’s masterpiece of musical theatre construction and great, great songs, is revived in a transfer of Chichester Festival’s summer 2014 production to the Savoy, where it is now previewing prior to an official opening on January 6.
10. Bull
Mike Bartlett’s play re-opens at the Young Vic this week with a brand-new cast who I’ve not seen yet. But I can’t wait to catch this short but hardly sweet, blistering and bruising play again about the brutal competition between three office workers to outwit each other to keep their jobs, running to January 16.
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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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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