What's Hot in London: In the Heights Sizzles in London and the Royal Court Announces 60th Anniversary Season

News   What's Hot in London: In the Heights Sizzles in London and the Royal Court Announces 60th Anniversary Season It goes without saying that the biggest musical on Broadway right now is Hamilton, and it is already proving to be most revolutionary indigenous musical to arrive there since Rent in the mid-90s. (Fortunately, its creator Lin-Manuel Miranda is very much still among us; he's now 35, the same age that Jonathan Larson was when he died suddenly, on the eve of the downtown opening of Rent).



Hamilton is, of course, a show that re-makes American history to make history itself. Miranda knows his musicals through and through, and though it speaks with its own unique rap voice, he has populated it with references to other shows. And it's striking, seeing his earlier 2008 Tony-winning Broadway musical In the Heights again now in London after seeing Hamilton, how that show has led to the other.

<i>In The Heights</i>
In The Heights

Last year's sell-out Southwark Playhouse production has transferred to the King's Cross Theatre, a tented structure behind King's Cross station. As I wrote in my own review for The Stage, "It is inevitable to look and listen to In the Heights, his first and more intimately personal Broadway tribute to his own streets in upper Manhattan's Washington Heights, in an all-new light. You can hear lots of echoes in the dense overlaying of musical themes and of course the heavy use of rap influences, though Hamilton riffs on them in even more sophisticated, stylish ways. In the Heights, by contrast, is a big contagious hug of a show that grabs its characters with palpable affection and love and stirs them into a giddy, gorgeous portrait of a real community on the cusp of irrevocable change."

In The Guardian, Lyn Gardner writes about Miranda's work on Hamilton before going on to review In the Heights, which she, too, wants to hug: "There are even claims that it has reinvented the musical theatre form, which still often seems trapped in the mid-20th century. Here's one he made earlier in 2008, an utterly huggable and thrillingly exuberant celebration of the daily lives of the Dominican and Puerto Rican American community in New York's Washington Heights. There's more than a touch of West Side Story in its portrayal of a close-knit population, but if Heights has none of the conflict and tension of that show, it's got plenty else going for it."

In The Times, Sam Marlowe refers to Miranda's "intoxicating hip-hop and Latin score", and calls the show "fresh, vibrant and exuberant... It's delivered with such seductive, hip-swivelling, heart-stopping élan that reservations are swiftly stamped out beneath its strutting feet."

Booking was already extended, as reported here, before the show even officially opened — it is now booking through Jan. 3, 2016.

Daveed Diggs in <i>Hamilton</i>
Daveed Diggs in Hamilton Photo by Joan Marcus

The Royal Court Announces 60th Anniversary Season

London's Royal Court Theatre has, for 59 years now, been at the forefront of new writing in British theatre, premiering important work by John Osborne (including the game-changing Look Back in Anger), Edward Bond, Arnold Wesker, NF Simpson, Christopher Hampton and Howard Brenton, to more recent discoveries like Mark Ravenhill, the late Sarah Kane, Simon Stephens, Polly Denham, Nick Payne and Martin Crimp, amongst numerous others.

Their recent hit premiere of another Royal Court alumni Martin McDonagh of Hangmen, which ended its Sloane Square run on Oct. 10, has already been announced to transfer to the West End's Wyndham's Theatre from Dec. 1. At a press conference earlier this week, artistic director Vicki Featherstone announced the 60th anniversary season which will feature six world-premieres, including a new full-length play by veteran Royal Court writer Caryl Churchill called Escaped Alone, that will begin performances Jan. 21 to open the season.

Also announced: Suzan-Lori ParksFather Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3), originally premiered at New York's Public Theater in 2014 under the direction of Jo Bonney, will receive their U.K. premieres beginning performances Sept. 15, again directed by Bonney. Parks has previously been represented at the Royal Court by the London premiere of her Pulitzer Prize-winning Topdog/Underdog.

Opening this Week in London and beyond
Amongst the highlights in the week ahead are:

  • Next month the Menier Chocolate Factory will transfer its production of The Color Purple to Broadway, with Cynthia Erivo reprising her London performance newly joined by Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson. The Menier brought a little bit of off-Broadway to the West End, when Close to You — originally called What's it All About? — re-opened officially at the Criterion, after playing a summer season at the Menier with original co-creator and star Kyle Riabko reprising his Off-Broadway performance in the show that was first seen at New York Theatre Workshop.
  • At Chichester Festival Theatre, Jonathan Kent directs a triple bill of Chekhov's early plays, Platonov, Ivanov and The Seagull, presented under the umbrella title "Young Chekhov," presented in new versions by David Hare with a cast that features Anna Chancellor, James McArdle, Samuel West and Peter Egan.
  • David Hasselhoff — yes, the Hoff himself, previously a Billy Flynn in Chicago in the West End and a take-over in Broadway's Jekyll & Hyde — will lead the cast of a new jukebox show of 80s and 90s songs Last Night a DJ Saved My Life, opening at Blackpool's Opera House Oct. 20 prior to a national tour. He plays an Ibiza DJ who doesn't realise that a new decade has dawned and disco is out and the club scene is in. So he's still playing Cyndi Lauper and Take That, Ricky Astley and (of course) the theme from "Baywatch."

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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