We may not be able to make the trains run on time (or the tube, or the buses), but we're still pretty good when it comes to burying Queens and putting on plays.
As if to prove the point, there seems to be something of a British Broadway season in New York at the moment, and its existence should be celebrated.
Alan Bates is rumored to be heading for a Tony for his performance in Fortune's Fool at the Music Box Theatre, Sir Richard Eyre has directed a striking new production of Arthur Miller's The Crucible at the Virginia, and at the Richard Rodgers Theatre Private Lives is demonstrating the continuing pulling power that Sir Noël Coward still has on both sides of the Atlantic that he used to criss-cross on ocean liners.
Although American musicals are still a major force in the West End — from long-runners like Chicago to newcomers like The Full Monty and with Susan Stroman's Contact rumored to be coming over later this year — British productions (of, admittedly, American musicals) have successfully crossed to the other side, where at the Gershwin Theatre Trevor Nunn's Oklahoma! is doing amazing business to great reviews, his Les Miserables is still playing at the Imperial, and Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera is continuing its run at the Majestic. Meanwhile, the future director of the National, Nicholas Hytner, has his production of The Sweet Smell of Success on at the Martin Beck Theatre, and the money-making fun machine that is Mamma Mia! rakes in the dollars at the Winter Garden. Sam Mendes, whose future lies in America — both in film and onstage — after he leaves the Donmar later this year, still has his award-winning production of Kander and Ebb's Cabaret running at Studio 54.
One of England's greatest writers, Charles Dickens, is represented on Broadway by one of England's finest actors, Simon Callow, in the one-man show on the writer by novelist and London historian Peter Ackroyd, directed by Patrick Garland.
Other genres where the Brits are wowing them include Noises Off, Michael Frayn's farce at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre — and is also still playing in the West End, at the Comedy. Historical drama is represented by Sean Matthias' production of The Elephant Man, co-starring Rupert Graves (currently on British television screens in "The Forsythe Saga") at the Royale Theatre.
—By Paul Webb Theatrenow