London Journey’s End Reopens at Playhouse May 20; Mamma Mia! Reopens Prince of Wales, June 3

News   London Journey’s End Reopens at Playhouse May 20; Mamma Mia! Reopens Prince of Wales, June 3
 
News on West End theatre jumps. David Grindley’s 75th anniversary production of R. C. Sheriff’s Journey’s End has moved from the Comedy Theatre and reopens at the Playhouse May 20. And, Mamma Mia’s move from the Prince Edward to the Prince of Wales will now take place a week later than planned (after renovations finish), June 3. It continues at the Prince Edward until May 29.

Journey’s End continues with the production’s original cast. Apart, that is, from David Haig, who’s off to co-star in the forthcoming Cameron Mackintosh/Disney production of Mary Poppins. He’s replaced in the role of Osborne by Philip Franks.

It was Journey’s End, the first play about World War I to score a commercial hit, that made R. C. Sheriff’s name. From there he decamped to Hollywood and wrote the screenplays for classic movies, including “Goodbye Mr. Chips,” “The Invisible Man” and “The Dambusters."

Based on Sheriff’s own experiences in the Great War, the play is set in a trench in St. Quentin, France, as a group of British officers await their day of reckoning — the young Captain Stanhope tries to galvanize his men as they prepare to raid the enemy across No Man’s Land. Meanwhile, his company is joined by his old schoolfriend Raleigh, who finds his one-time hero much changed.

As well as Franks, the cast includes popular comic Phil Cornwell and Paul Bradley (a household face, if not name, in the UK because of his long-running role on the TV soap “Eastenders”). Alongside them are Christian Coulson, Ben Meyjes, Max Berendt, Alex Grimwood, John R. Mahoney, Rupert Wickham, Guy Williams and Geoffrey Streatfield. David Grindley directs.

Planned to reopen a week earlier, renovations on the Prince of Wales took slightly longer than expected, and the builders were given extra time to finish. The theatre’s owner, Cameron Mackintosh, has had the building gutted and rebuilt at a cost of more than £7 million. The auditorium has been redesigned to give greater leg room and more comfortable seats. The building’s façade has also been redesigned in what a press release describes as “a contemporary take of the original 1930’s style.” Currently in its fifth year, Mamma Mia! now features its sixth cast. Vivien Parry stars as Donna (played by Sara West at certain performances), alongside Lara Mulcahy, Kim Ismay, Simon Slater, Robert Hands, Dale Rapley, Alexandra Jay, Dean Stobbart, Louise Raven, Kelly Price, Kieran Jae and Jamie Wilkin.

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