What's Hot in London: "Downton Abbey" and "Orange Is the New Black" Stars Take to the Stage

News   What's Hot in London: "Downton Abbey" and "Orange Is the New Black" Stars Take to the Stage By coincidence, two of London's smaller producing theatres have taken on Broadway in the same week. Here's a look at which shows crossed the pond and what television stars are coming to the West End.

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On Nov. 10, previews began for the latest transfer from the Menier Chocolate Factory, The Color Purple, which brings the 2005 Broadway musical back home but now in a production that was first seen in London in 2013, with London star Cynthia Erivo newly joined by Jennifer Hudson.

On Nov. 12, Ivo van Hove's brand-new take on Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge opened officially at Broadway's Lyceum; the production originated at London's Young Vic, one of the most exciting playhouses in London that has also propelled shows like A Doll's House (with Hattie Morahan) to the West End and imported The Scottsboro Boys from Broadway and then sent it on to the West End.

Both the Menier and Young Vic are situated on London's South Bank, a thriving cultural quarter that stretches from Waterloo Bridge to Tower Bridge, and was, of course, originally the West End of Shakespeare's Day, as the original home of both the Globe and Rose Theatres. The Globe is itself back, near its original site, and in glowing health as a year-round theatre operation: In addition to the outdoor theatre season that runs April to October, it now has an indoor space, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, named after the revived theatre's founder (who never lived to see its completion), and where the current West End hit Farinelli and the King, starring Mark Rylance, originated. Then, of course, there's the National (recently given a sparkling £70 million-plus refit), the Old Vic (the NT's original South Bank home, now under the new artistic directorship of Matthew Warchus), and fringe spaces like the Union Theatre and Southwark Playhouse (where the current London production of In the Heights originated last year before being revived at King's Cross Theatre this year). And coming in 2017: former National Theatre supremos Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr are also setting up a new commercial base on the South Bank, in a brand-new purpose-built theatre near Tower Bridge.

West End News Highlights
Amongst the recently reported stories on Playbill.com:

  • War of the Worlds, a much-traveled stage version of Jeff Wayne's album of the same name that has played regular arena tours around the U.K. and the world for eight years, is to finally make its West End debut, beginning performances Feb. 8, 2016, at the Dominion Theatre, prior to an official opening Feb. 17.
  • Next year's season at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park, which always includes a musical, will feature a revival of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar, marking the 45th anniversary of the show's original Broadway premiere. It will run July 15-Aug. 21.
  • Uzo Aduba, the double Emmy Award-winning star of "Orange Is the New Black," is to play opposite "Downton Abbey" star Laura Carmichael and Zawe Ashton in a new, contemporary version of Jean Genet's The Maids, beginning performances Feb. 20, 2016, at London's Trafalgar Studios, prior to a gala opening Feb. 29, as reported here.

Major Openings in London Ahead

  • The Illusionists — a theatrical packaging of magic acts — comes to the Shaftesbury, opening Nov. 26, as it simultaneously also returns to Broadway and plays in Dubai and Mexico as well.
  • Regular West End visitor Derren Brown brings his latest show Miracle to town after a national tour (opening at the Palace Theatre Nov. 17), his seventh since 2003, which he has himself dubbed his "boldest, most contentious show yet."
  • British TV comedy writer and stand-up Dawn French brings her first solo show, 30 Million Minutes, to the Vaudeville, an autobiographical comedy show directed by Michael Grandage, opening Nov. 12, after a national tour.

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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