What's Hot in London: Jonathan Groff Revisits High School, Bradley's Back Onstage and More

News   What's Hot in London: Jonathan Groff Revisits High School, Bradley's Back Onstage and More
 
The biggest news of the last week was behind-the-scenes, where Rufus Norris — new artistic director of the National Theatre — announced a major shake-up to the way the organisation is run, including the appointment of Ben Power as his deputy artistic director and making changes to the process for producing new work which will now fall under the banner of a newly created department.

New Work at National
In his own words, "The New Work department will become the engine room of the National's creative process. All artistic development, from new play commissions to Studio workshops and the evolution of productions of classic texts, will be led by a single department: maximising the combined potential of the Literary Department and the unique facility that is the NT Studio."



Amongst the new plays created by the National in the last decade are the current Tony-nominated The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and shows like War Horse, The History Boys and Coram Boy that all transferred to Broadway.

Meanwhile, Norris's own next production of Damon Albarn and Moira Buffini's musical wonder.land, that will premiere at Manchester's Palace Theatre in July as part of this year's Manchester International Festival before transferring to the National in November, has announced casting for its initial run that will include Rosalie Craig and Hal Fowler (both of whom starred in Norris's London Road, and also feature in the about-to-be-released film version).

Opening this week!
The week ahead sees Broadway's Jonathan Groff (Tony nominated for the original production of Spring Awakening and recently in Hamilton at the Public) in a one-night concert version of How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying at the Royal Festival Hall May 19.

The show also features Hannah Waddingham, Clive Rowe and the soon-to-be-Broadway bound Cynthia Erivo (when she recreates her Menier performance in The Color Purple there). In the middle of a recent interview I was doing with Groff for The Stage, he took out his cell phone and showed me a photograph of himself in the role of J.Pierrepont Finch 15 years ago (half his lifetime away!) that he is now reprising. "It was my first freshman year at high school," he told me, "and I know every word by heart! I love that show!"

Jonathan Groff
Jonathan Groff

Groff's fellow "Glee" actor Dianne Agron is also in town, opening in McQueen, a new play about the late British fashion icon Alexander McQueen, opening at the St James Theatre, also May 19. John Caird (original co-director of Les Miserables) directs Stephen Wight in the title role.

Also new in London this week: there are outdoor press nights on consecutive nights at Shakespeare's Globe (for As You Like It, starring Michelle Terry as Rosalind, May 20) and at the Open Air Theatre (for Peter Pan, starring David Birrell as Captain Hook, May 21). Can this mean that summer has officially arrived in London?

Michelle Terry in <i>As You Like It</i>
Michelle Terry in As You Like It Photo by Simon Kane

Legendary Japanese director Yukio Ninagawa returns to his regular London home at the Barbican to present the UK premiere of his latest version of Hamlet (opening May 21). On the fringe this week, Max Stafford-Clark brings his production of Touch, Touch, Pause, Engage — a play about Gareth Thomas, the first British professional rugby player to come out as gay while still playing — to the Arcola, opening May 22, after a national tour; and The Flannelettes (opening May 15 at the King's Head) reunites playwright Richard Cameron and director Mike Bradwell, who previously collaborated on The Glee Club that transferred from the Bush to the West End.

Motown Sets London dates and venue; Memphis announces final star
Broadway's Motown the Musical is finally making the transatlantic crossing and has confirmed its West End home and dates — it will begin performances Feb.1 at the Shaftesbury Theatre. Motown founder Berry Gordy, who also wrote the show, has commented, ""I am thrilled to be bringing Motown back to the U.K. fifty years after our first visit back in 1965 when Diana Ross and The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas and I came to London for our very first U.K. tour. Half a century later we are delighted to be returning, this time bringing our story and the Motown sound on stage at the Shaftesbury Theatre in the legendary West End."

Meanwhile, Memphis — currently running at the Shaftesbury — has announced it will bow out Oct. 31 prior to a planned national tour. Before it closes, the role of Huey will be taken over by Matt Carle, 2010 winner of the UK's "X Factor," from July 6, after original London star Killian Donnelly departs to star in the London production of Kinky Boots. Simon Russell Beale and Roger Allam to Star at Hampstead Theatre
It was also announced this week that the ubiquitous Simon Russell Beale, who begins previews this week for Temple at the Donmar Warehouse ahead of a May 27 opening, is to star next in the stage premiere of Ian Kelly's Mr Foot's other Leg, based on the book of the same name, at Hampstead Theatre from Sept. 14. Then Roger Allam — the original Javert in Les Mis who starred at Hampstead last year in the UK premiere of Theresa Rebeck's Seminar — returns to star in the world premiere of David Hare's The Moderate Soprano from Oct. 23, directed by Jeremy Herrin (currently represented on Broadway by Wolf Hall).

Quote of the Week
Bradley Cooper, who begins previews in the transfer of his recent stint in The Elephant Man at the Haymarket this week, interviewed in the Sunday Times: "The great thing about theatre is that no matter what someone thinks of you, when you’re on stage you’re starting at zero. There is nothing to hide behind. It’s happening right now, in front of them. Every day it’s ‘no. Show up now. Be available.’ That’s what theatre does. You can’t hide behind the movie you did that they can go see in the multiplex on 14th Street, you know?”

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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