With the frequency of cross-Atlantic transfers growing with every year, and the large number of British and American actors spending time on opposite shores, the London and New York seasons of recent years have become decidedly international affairs.
Such will again be the case in early 2007. In fact, American playwrights will provide some of the biggest highlights of the West End season. Maggie Smith, who sits atop the British acting aristocracy, has chosen to return to the stage in an obscure play by Yankee scribe Edward Albee called The Lady From Dubuque. The play, about the mysterious title character (Smith), who incites consternation with her arrival at a party, will be shepherded by Anthony Page and produced by Robert Fox and Elizabeth McCann, who usually takes care of Albee when he's produced in New York. Opening is March 20 at the Haymarket.
Meanwhile, a younger, but no less imposing, British acting doyenne, Zoe Wanamaker, has chosen a Tennessee Williams play, The Rose Tattoo, as her next challenge. The elfin Wanamaker will, of course, be widow Serafina Delle Rose, the part written for Anna Magnani but created on the stage by Maureen Stapleton. She and director Steven Pimlott will have the big stage at the National, the Olivier, on which to do their work. Opening is March 29.
|photo by Paul Kolnik|
Another Williams play, The Glass Menagerie, will have a bonafide American as its star, Jessica Lange. The film actress did not reap a lot of praise when she played Amanda on Broadway a couple seasons back. But, game gal that she is, she's trying again, with a different director, Rupert Goold, and some new co-stars, including Ed Stoppard as Tom. Ed should be familiar with the name Tom; his dad is playwright Tom Stoppard. Opening at the Apollo is Feb. 14. Smith, Wanamaker and Lange aren't the only divas on view in 2007. Legendary stage actresses reign supreme up and down the Thames. Harriet Walter will play the troublesome, lovestruck Egyptian queen in Antony and Cleopatra. Patrick Stewart will be her Antony in the Royal Shakespeare Company production, opening Jan. 15 at the Novello. Fiona Shaw, meanwhile, will be Winnie, that indomitable Chatty Cathy of the absurdist stage, in a new staging of Beckett's Happy Days at the National's Lyttleton. Her frequent artistic partner, Deborah Warner, will direct. Opening is Jan. 24. Eileen Atkins and recently christened movie star Imelda Staunton ("Vera Drake") co-star in the new Frank McGuiness play There Came a Gypsy Riding at the Almeida. Jan. 18 is the opening of the story about a family gathering honoring the birthday of someone who's dead, when an unexpected visitor from the past arrives. And Kristin Scott Thomas, the film actress who in recent seasons has established herself as a West End regular, will take on Madame Arkadina in a new Royal Court look at Chekhov's The Seagull. Ian Rickson will direct. Opening is Jan. 25.
|photo by Warner Bros.|
Britain's leading male actors will, of course, make a show as well. In fact, a top candidate for the hottest ticket of the season is a new production of Equus starring two of the most popular (though completely different) performers in the UK: The History Boys sage Richard Griffiths and Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe. Radcliffe plays Alan Strang, the boy with the slight horse problem, and Griffiths will be the doctor trying to get him back in the saddle. Opening is Feb. 27. Griffiths won a Tony for his work in The History Boys. Another UK-er who recently nabbed a Tony, Ian McDiarmid (he won it for The Faith Healer), will likewise return to native soil. The "Star Wars" actor will play the tortured title role in Ibsen's John Gabriel Borkman, opening Feb. 20 at the Donmar Warehouse. Stepping into another, more modern, classic is Robert Lindsay, who will portray corroded vaudevillian Archie Rice in the new Old Vic spin on John Osborne's The Entertainer, opening March 7. Patrick Stewart will take up a role he knows well, Prospero, in another go-round with The Tempest, opening Feb. 28 at the Novello. And first-rank British actor Antony Sher will play a first-rank British actor of a previous era in Kean. West End arrival is scheduled for May.
They'll be nobody but men in two other Old Vic attractions: Twelfth Night and Taming of the Shrew. Director Edward Hall gets all Elizabethan on us with this no-girls-allowed double bill. Both open Jan. 17.
At the National, artistic director Nicholas Hytner turns his attention to a man of another sort, George Etherege's seldom-seen Restoration masterpiece The Man of Mode. Tom Hardy will play Dorimant, a charmer who plays women like a harpsichord in the revival, opening Feb. 6. Also at the National is a new play by Nicholas Wright called The Reporter, opening Feb. 21. The drama is based on the final years of James Mossman, a star BBC correspondent who committed suicide in 1971. Ben Chaplin stars. Richard Eyre directs.