What's Hot in London: Billy Elliot Turns 10, Carrie Revival Gets Love from Critics and More

News   What's Hot in London: Billy Elliot Turns 10, Carrie Revival Gets Love from Critics and More
 
 Britain elected a new government last week — or at least it re-elected David Cameron as Prime Minister, but gave him a clear majority this time so he was no longer in thrall to coalition partners the Liberal-Democrats. This was just as well, as that party was comprehensively trounced in the polls, shrinking from a parliamentary party of 57 after the 2010 election to just 8 MPs this time.

The Audience Responds Immediately

Theatrically speaking, the immediate impact was registered in the West End production of Peter Morgan's The Audience (also now playing on Broadway), where the script was promptly updated to reflect the news at last Friday's performance.

As Morgan explained, “In the same week as we opened The Audience it’s been particularly interesting to have experienced such a dramatic general election. This morning I have rewritten the scene in my play between The Queen and David Cameron to reflect the events of last night and this morning. Kristin Scott Thomas and Mark Dexter will be rehearsing this new dialogue this afternoon and I hope tonight’s audience in particular will enjoy our immediate response today’s results.”

Kristin Scott Thomas
Kristin Scott Thomas Photo by Johan Persson

Billy Elliot Turns Ten
It's interesting to compare and contrast the update in The Audience, one of whose characters of course is the late Margaret Thatcher, with what happened the day that she died in Billy Elliot. That show has a number that has the striking miners comically looking forward to and celebrating her death; on the day that it actually happened, Stephen Daldry — director of Billy Elliot and also, coincidentally, of The Audience — stepped onstage before the performance and put it to an audience vote whether to include the number or not. The audience voted overwhelmingly to perform the show as written.

This coming week the show turns ten — and the event will be marked by a special gala performance May 12 at the West End's Victoria Palace Theatre. The theatre is currently rather insalubriously marooned in the middle of a massive building site that has erupted opposite Victoria Station as the buildings on all sides of it have been demolished. Even the pub next door is gone, with only its exterior facade being propped up to be included in a new build.



Opening this week!
There are welcome transfers this week for three shows from the regions: The RSC transfers its revival of Arthur Miller's landmark play Death of a Salesman to the West End's Noel Coward (opening May 13) with Antony Sher as Willy Loman and Harriet Walter as his wife Linda; while Bath's Theatre Royal transfers Lindsay Posner's revival of Coward's Hay Fever, starring Felicity Kendal as Judith Bliss. who heads up a wildly eccentric theatrical family (opening at the Duke of York's May 11); and Bath's Ustinov Studio moves Florian Zeller's The Father to north London's Tricycle Theatre, opening May 12, with Kenneth Cranham and Claire Skinner. The busy Posner, too, has consecutive openings: As well as Hay Fever, he is also directing a new production of Ayckbourn's Communicating Doors, opening at the Menier Chocolate Factory on May 13 with a cast that includes David Bamber, Imogen Stubbs and Rachel Tucker (recently on Broadway in The Last Ship).

Antony Sher and Harriet Walter
Antony Sher and Harriet Walter

On the musicals front, Maria Friedman — two-time Olivier winner and seen on Broadway in The Woman in White — turns director again, two years after her acclaimed staging of Merrily We Roll Along transferred to the West End, to direct a new production of Cole Porter's High Society (opening at the Old Vic May 14), with a cast that includes Kate Fleetwood (Macbeth on Broadway opposite Patrick Stewart), Jamie Parker (one of the original line-up of Alan Bennett's The History Boys, which he also reprised on Broadway and on film) and Rupert Young. On the fringe, Jerry's Girls — a celebration of the work of Broadway veteran Jerry Herman — returns in the production previously seen at the St. James Studio to open a run at Jermyn Street Theatre on May 15.

Headlines of the week
Carrie returns to London in triumph

28 years on from its Stratford-upon-Avon premiere for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and a subsequent Broadway transfer that ran for just five performances and lost a then-record $8 million, the musicalisation of Stephen King's novel finally received its London premiere at the fringe Southwark Playhouse last week (where it opened officially May 6). Watch video trailer here below:

And the critics this time were mostly far more favorable: a four-star review in the Daily Telegraph declared, "Put all thoughts of flops out of your mind – Carrie has been reborn in style," while The Guardian gave special praise for Evelyn Hoskins, writing of her "mesmerising, exquisitely centred performance as the flame-haired teenage avenger whose awakening desire to fit in with the crowd only sets her further apart."

June is bustin' out all over in opera houses around the world

Hot on the heels of Chicago's Lyric Opera production of Carousel, Britain's Opera North (based in Leeds) is reviving its own production of the R&H classic, opening this week (May 13) at the its home base Grand Theatre… See rehearsal videos below:

Last week Opera North also announced that they'll be staging new productions of Kiss Me, Kate (to open their 2015/16 season) and Into the Woods, co-produced with the West Yorkshire Playhouse also in Leeds, to close out the season in June 2016.

Other briefs
Broadway's Susan H. Schulman, whose Broadway directing credits include The Secret Garden plus revivals of Sweeney Todd and The Sound of Music, is to direct the world premiere of Hoagy Carmichael's Stardust Road at London's St. James Theatre from Oct. 27.

Hoagy Carmichael
Hoagy Carmichael

Christina Bianco is to bring her new one-woman show Party of One to the London Hippodrome May 14-24, ahead of a season at this year's Edinburgh Fringe from Aug. 6-16 at the Assembly George Square's Spielgeltent Colombino.

Casting Updates of the Week

The previously announced Rory Kinnear will be joined in the Young Vic's new production of Kafka's The Trial by Critics' Circle Theatre Award Most Promising Actor Kate O’Flynn, Hugh Skinner (from TV's "W1A") and Olivier nominee Sian Thomas….

Mazz Murray, a long-standing Killer Queen in the West End run of We Will Rock You (she played the role for seven years) will now become a Dancing Queen when she joins the cast of Mamma Mia! at the Novello Theatre from June 8, playing Tanya, with former Wicked star Dianne Pilkington continuing as Donna….

Ben Lewis, recently seen in the West End in Forbidden Broadway and best known for playing the Phantom in the Australian production of Love Never Dies that is available on DVD, has joined the line-up of already announced Love Me Tender, the retitled version of the 2005 Broadway musical All Shook Up, with a book by Joe DiPietro, that will begin performances at Manchester's Opera House June 5 prior to a UK tour. Also starring are Micah Paris, Sian Reeves and Shaun Williamson….

Meanwhile, Joe DiPietro – who is also currently represented in the West End by Memphis – will see a new production  I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change (with music by Jimmy Roberts) staged at the new Above the Arts studio, with West End regulars Julie Atherton, Simon Lipkin, Gina Beck and Samuel Holmes, from July 1-19.

For more updates
Follow me on Twitter here, @shentonstage, for rolling news updates as they happen! And keep checking the international section of playbill.com for major stories. 


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