TICKETS: Mark’s Top Ten recommendations + this week’s openings (15 Feb)

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

A Broadway comedy and two British created musicals arrive in the West End this week – one from last summer’s season at Bath’s Theatre Royal, the other after a long stage life of touring regionally and internationally for the last eight years. Will any of them make it to next week’s Top 10 list?

This week’s main openings

In London:

  • Hand to God  Quick transfer for a Broadway comedy that only closed in New York last month comes to the West End to open at the Vaudeville on Monday 15 February with an all-new British cast that includes Janie Dee, Neil Pearson, Jemima Rooper and Harry Melling (pictured above) – and a highly abusive glove puppet.
  • Mrs Henderson Presents -Transfer from Bath Theatre Royal of a new musical version of the 2005 British film set backstage and frontstage at the Windmill Theatre, which offered audiences live, nude (but completely immobile) women. Opening at the Noel Coward Theatre on Tuesday 16 February with a cast that includes Emma Williams (pictured above)) as one of the showgirls, plus Tracie Bennett in the title role, originally played by Judi Dench in the film. My review of the original production at Bath last summer for The Stage is here.
  • The War of the Worlds – Stage version of Jeff Wayne‘s pop album of the same name that has played regular arena tours around the U.K. and the world for eight years comes to the Dominion, opening on Wednesday 17 February with a cast led by singer-songwriters Jimmy Nail, Daniel Bedingfield, Heidi Range and David Essex.

My top ten shows this week

1. Nell Gwynn
A ravishing, rambunctious and hilarious new play by Jessica Swale that’s about a love affair both in and of the theatre, revolving around the true story of the 17th century actress who ended up as mistress to KIng Charles II. First seen at Shakespeare’s Globe for a run of just 11 performances last summer, it now gets a West End transfer the Apollo, starring the wonderful Gemma Arterton in the title role of Chris Luscombe’s production.  Shakespeare’s Globe previously also transferred Twelfth Night and Richard III with Mark Rylance to the same theatre. See my review for The Stage here.
2. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
The National revisit August Wilson’s early play in his ten-play cycle of American black experience across the last century that they previously presented the UK premiere of back in 1989 to offer a stunning new production in the Lyttelton, starring Sharon D Clarke in the title role. Lucian Msamati, who’ll play Salieri in the NT’s  forthcoming production of Amadeus, is extraordinary, too, amongst a superb ensemble that also features Clint Dyer and Giles Terera. See my review for The Stage here.
3. 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 days. See my Stage review here.
4. Uncle Vanya
There isn’t a more up-and-coming director in town than Robert Icke, associate at the Almeida, who last year directed the award-winning Oresteia there that transferred to the West End. Now he does equally revelatory work on Chekhov’s enduring masterpiece, bringing it into the here and now with startling immediacy, and with an astonishing lead performance from Paul Rhys in the title role (actually re-named Uncle Johnny in this version).
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 has now extended until October. See my Stage review  here.
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. 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.
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. Rabbit Hole 
David Lindsay-Abaire’s intense, and intensely moving, American drama about dealing with grief won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 2008; now it makes its London debut at Hampstead Theatre in a stunningly acted production by Edward Hall that stars Claire Skinner and Tom Goodman-Hill as two bereaved parents dealing with the loss of their four-year-old son in very different ways. My review for The Stage is here.
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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Leave a Comment