Color Purple Star Readies for Songs for a New World While Royalty Goes on Tour

News   Color Purple Star Readies for Songs for a New World While Royalty Goes on Tour
 
There's no one hotter in London theatre right now than Cynthia Erivo, a diminutive firebrand of an actress who sings and acts with an astonishing ferocity, veracity and vitality. Her credits have stretched from the all-female Donmar Henry IV opposite Harriet Walter to The Color Purple at the Menier Chocolate Factory that she will reprise later this year to make her Broadway debut opposite Jennifer Hudson. The RADA-trained star in the making is popping up here, there and everywhere before she departs for New York.

At the start of May she paired with New York-based songwriter Scott Alan, for whose work she has become a leading exponent, for his four-night residency at London's St James Theatre. Last week she appeared opposite Jonathan Groff in a concert version of How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying at the Royal Festival Hall. This coming week she's back at the Festival Hall as a guest to support Jason Robert Brown's latest UK concert appearance (May 27, on a bill that also features Bertie Carvel, the original Miss Trunchbull in Matilda the Musical in London and on Broadway — as well as Matt Henry, soon to star in the London premiere of Kinky Boots). And then in July she headlines the cast of a London return for Jason Robert Brown's Songs for a New World at the St James Theatre.

London should make the most of her while it can; once she heads to Broadway, I fear she may never come back. Mark my words: an international career will have been decisively launched.

Opening this week
Also opening in London this week: the National's new production of Farquhar's The Beaux Stratagem, opening in the Olivier Theatre on May 26, has a cast that features four of London's most impressive younger actors all on the same stage: Samuel Barnett (who previously starred there in the original cast of The History Boys and subsequently on Broadway), Pippa Bennett-Warner, Susannah Fielding and Geoffrey Streatfeild. Each of them have strong Shakespearean classical track records — Barnett in Mark Rylance's Twelfth Night at Shakespeare's Globe that transferred to Broadway, Bennett-Warner in the Donmar King Lear with Derek Jacobi in the title role in which she played Cordelia, Fielding in the RSC/Almeida Merchant of Venice (playing Portia), and Streatfeild in the RSC cycle of Henry plays (as Prince Hal/Henry).

Jane Booker, Samuel Barnett, Geoffrey Streatfeild and Pippa Bennett-Warner in <i>The Beaux Stratagem</i>
Jane Booker, Samuel Barnett, Geoffrey Streatfeild and Pippa Bennett-Warner in The Beaux Stratagem Photo by Manuel Harlan


The next night, Simon Russell Beale — one of our most beloved and important older actors, and another Shakespearean of repute from Hamlet to King Lear by way of Benedict (in Much Ado About Nothing in between (all at the National) — returns to the Donmar Warehouse to open on May 27 in the world premiere of Steve Waters' play Temple, in which he will play the Dean of St Paul's Cathedral in a fictionalised version of the Occupy London protest that occurred in the cathedral's precincts in 2011. And May 28, Jim Dale, the veteran 79-year-old actor and Tony winner for the original Broadway production of Barnum and who has made his home in New York for the last 35 years, comes home at last. He is bringing his solo career retrospective Just Jim Dale, seen at the Roundabout's Laura Pels last year, to the Vaudeville, the very same theatre where he made his West End debut over half a century ago.

Also on Thursday, the 80-year-old Japanese director Yukio Ninagawa brings his theatrical version of Haruki Murakami’s celebrated novel "Kafka on the Shore," adapted by Frank Galati, to the Barbican Theatre (running May 28-30) prior to New York's Lincoln Center Festival (where it will run at the David H Koch Theater, July 23-26).

News of the week

In life, the closing of one door often means the opening of another — and in the theatre, this translates as the closing of one show means the opportunity of another to open. In the case of Joshua Harmon's Off-Broadway play Bad Jews, successfully transplanted from the St James Theatre to the Arts, just off Leicester Square, the premature shutting of a London-bound tour of Jonathan Harvey's Beautiful Thing, that was due to take over from it from June 3, has meant that Bad Jews has been able to extend, as announced here. It will now run through July 11.

The Broadway-bound King Charles III, which imagines a near-future in which the Prince of Wales succeeds to the throne in Britain, is to also launch a UK national tour in September, beginning performance at Birmingham Repertory Theatre from September 4, with Robert Powell in the title role. Still best known for playing the title role in the TV series "Jesus of Nazareth," his recent stage roles have included touring productions of Doctor in the House and Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell.

The West End's The Commitments, a jukebox musical based on the Roddy Doyle book and film of the same name, is to shutter at the Palace Theatre Nov. 1, with a UK and Ireland tour being planned for next year…Meanwhile, in the summer it will share the stage of the Palace Theatre with The 3 Little Pigs, as announced here, a musical twist on the classic fairytale by the composing team of Stiles and Drewe (who wrote additional songs for the long-running film-to-stage version of Mary Poppins), that will play daytime performances there from Aug. 5 for a run through Sept. 6. The cast includes Simon Webbe (best known as a member of the British boy band Blue), Gareth Gates (a former pop star whose West End credits have included playing Marius in Les Miserables) and Leanne Jones (Olivier winner for originating the role of Tracy Turnblad in the West End's Hairspray).

Review of the week

Susannah Clapp reviewing Michelle Terry as Rosalind in Blanche McIntyre's new production of As You Like It that opened at Shakespeare's Globe last Wednesday (May 20), published in The Observer on May 24 here:



Terry is one of our most glorious actresses: always changing, always a light. She does not yet do everything she can with the part – I want more of her lyricism – yet she buoyantly makes it her own. She reels with desire when Orlando takes off his shirt; she hits the beat of the verse meticulously yet gestures with 21st-century insouciance. Her mellow voice has gained a slight crackle. In years to come those who saw her on stage, and saw McIntyre direct, will count themselves lucky. St Crispin’s Day for girls.

For more updates
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Michelle Terry in <i>As You Like It</i>
Michelle Terry in As You Like It Photo by Simon Kane
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