Another Night at the Opera: A Preview of the 2010 London Season

Special Features   Another Night at the Opera: A Preview of the 2010 London Season
 
When there's a sequel to the most successful stage show of all time on the docket, it's not difficult to buttonhole the most anticipated show of the new year.
Love Never Dies stars Sierra Boggess and Ramin Karimloo
Love Never Dies stars Sierra Boggess and Ramin Karimloo Photo by John D. McHugh

Andrew Lloyd Webber's Love Never Dies is a follow-up to his The Phantom of the Opera, which is not only the composer's most successful show, but the longest-running production in Broadway history and a worldwide phenomenon recognized by millions of people. To say the new show has a lot to live up to is putting it mildly.

The musical, long in the works, takes an unexpected plot tack—so unexpected that the uninitiated typically react to a description of the story with a stunned "What?" In, Love Never Dies, set ten years after Phantom ends, The Phantom has moved from his lair in the Paris Opera House—to the fairgrounds of Coney Island. Talk about a change of scenery! It's Phantom of the Cyclone. All the major players are back, including Christine, Raoul and Madame Giry. And, taking a tip from the title, it's a good bet that the Masked One's feelings for Christine have not dimmed.

Ramin Karimloo, Sierra Boggess (the fetching fish girl from The Little Mermaid), Joseph Millson and Liz Robertson will respectively play the title role, Christine, Raoul and Madame Giry. Other principal roles will be played by Summer Strallen, Niamh Perry, Adam Pearce and Jami Reid-Quarrell.

Love Never Dies begins performances Feb. 20 at London's Adelphi Theatre, prior to an official opening March 9. It's expected to reach Broadway the following fall.

For those Londoners who like their musicals American, there are a couple choices. Legally Blonde The Musical opened in its London premiere Jan. 13 after previews from Dec. 5, 2009, at the Savoy Theatre in the West End. Sheridan Smith stars as the spunky sorority sister who slays Harvard, Elle Woods. And the Tony Award winning revival of the 1968 Broadway musical Hair will begin its London debut at the Gielgud Theatre April 1. Meanwhile, The Union Theatre's sell-out 2009 London premiere production of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty's 2002, Dublin-set, Off-Broadway musical A Man of No Importance will transfer to the West End's Arts Theatre, beginning performances Feb. 9, prior to an official opening Feb. 10, for a run through Feb. 27. Paul Clarkson will reprise his performance as Dublin bus conductor Alfie Byrne in Ben De Wynter's production.

Perhaps the most exciting new play production of the spring is the world premiere of Dennis Kelly's The Gods Weep, starting March 12 at London's Hampstead Theatre. It will open March 17 for a run through April 3. Tony Award-winning actor Jeremy Irons returns to the Royal Shakespeare Company for the first time in 23 years to star as Colm, a magnate who has taken a lifetime to brutally build his empire, only to see his achievement crumble as power is divided between his subordinates, and unleashes a bloody power struggle.

Julian Bleach and members of the Southbank Sinfonia in Every Good Boy Deserves Favour
photo by Simon Annand

Significant play revivals include a new production of George Bernard Shaw's Mrs. Warren's Profession, which will star Felicity Kendal in the title role. The show recently completed a UK tour after premiering at Bath's Theatre Royal. It will begin performances March 16, prior to an official opening March 25. The National Theatre reprises its sell-out 2009 production of Tom Stoppard and André Previn's Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, which began performances Jan. 9 for a run of 41 performances only, through Feb. 17. And the perhaps-too-young Greg Hicks (he's only 56) will play the title role of King Lear in a new production for the Royal Shakespeare Company, beginning performances at Stratford-upon-Avon's Courtyard Theatre Feb. 18, prior to an official opening March 2, for a run through Aug. 26. There's more Shakespeare at the Almeida Theatre, where Michael Attenborough will direct Rory Kinnear as Angelo and Anna Maxwell Martin as Isabella in a new production of Measure for Measure, running Feb. 21-April 10. Almeida will follow that with the London premiere of Lynn Nottage's Pulitzer Prize-winning play about the cheap price of humanity in a small mining town deep in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ruined.

The Donmar Warehouse, too, turns its attention to the work of an American playwright, producing Lanford Wilson's seldom-seen 1970 work Serenading Louie, starting Feb. 11. The play is about Carl and Alex, friends since college who are struggling to deal with the harsh realities of adulthood as they enter their thirties. The cast includes American actor and New York stage regular Jason Butler Harner and is directed by Simon Curtis.

Finally, the Royal Court Theatre, which struck gold last year with Enron (now bound for Broadway), again aims its arrow at America's profligate way with money. Disconnect by Anupama Chandrasekhar looks at a situation we can all relate to: the call from India dunning us to pay up our credit card bill. The play, directed by Indhu Rubasingham, is described thusly: "You hang up the phone on Ross chasing your payments. But Ross is actually Roshan and though the sun is shining for you it’s past midnight in his window-less call centre. With a new accent and invented back story, bright young graduates in India are renamed and rebranded as they work to claw back the cash spent by Americans crippled by debt."

Playwright Chandrasekhar is actually based in Chennai, in southeast India. And you thought Yasmina Reza was exotic because she lives in Paris.

 

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