What’s Hot in London: March 4–10

London News   What’s Hot in London: March 4–10
 
Olivier news, a cast album for Dreamgirls, and critics review Andrew Scott’s Hamlet and the U.K. debut of an Off-Broadway hit.
What’s Hot in London
What’s Hot in London

Olivier Awards: readying for nominations, and special award announced
The countdown to this year’s Olivier Awards, to be held April 9 at the Royal Albert Hall, officially kicks off March 6 with the announcement of the nominees. The nominations will be announced by 2016 Olivier winners Matt Henry and Denise Gough, and will be live streamed here at 12 noon GMT (7am EST).

Olivier-Awards-Wth-MasterCard_1459714460.jpg
Olivier Awards

It has already been announced that Sir Kenneth Branagh is a winner this year—he will receive the Special Award in recognition of his outstanding contribution to British theatre. 2016 saw the inaugural season of the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company at the Garrick Theatre on the West End, and three of the shows—The Winter’s Tale, Romeo and Juliet, and The Entertainer—were broadcast to cinemas across the world where they were seen by over 430,000 people.

Differently to the Tonys, which has a separate nominating committee, the Olivier nominees are voted upon by members of the Society of London Theatre (SOLT) who also get to vote in the awards, and there is no protocol for giving all nominators and voters free tickets to every show. Also, producers whose staff have multiple representations in SOLT may potentially carry more weight than their colleagues who don't.

Live London cast album of Dreamgirls and new Kerry Ellis CD to be released
The premiere London production of Dreamgirls—sure to be a strong contender in the Olivier nominees—has also announced the release of a live double CD cast recording. It is set to be released mid-April by Sony Classical, is produced by the show’s composer Henry Krieger, and features Amber Riley as Effie White.

Also to be released in April—West End singer Kerry Ellis (who took over as Elphaba from Idina Menzel in Wicked in London and subsequently reprised the role on Broadway) will collaborate on a second album with Queen guitarist and songwriter Brian May. Entitled Golden Days, it will feature five original songs by the pair, as well as covers.

Verdict: Hamlet
Andrew Scott (Sherlock, The Vertical Hour) stars in the title role of Hamlet, which opened February 28 at the Almeida Theatre with direction by Robert Icke. In a reviews round-up in The Stage, Fergus Morgan says, “Scott is easily the most hotly anticipated London Hamlet since Cumberbatch back in 2015, but whereas Cumberbatch had the cavernous Barbican auditorium to contend with, Scott has the intensity and intimacy of the Almeida in which to play. And instead of Lyndsey Turner as a director, he has Robert Icke, a man repeatedly—religiously—referred to as the great hope of British directing. The next big thing. Our very own Ivo van Hove.”

Andrew Scott at the Opening Gala of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Photo credit Dan Wooller (2).jpg
Andrew Scott Dan Wooller

In the Evening Standard, Henry Hitchings writes: “Scott finds new paths through Hamlet’s soliloquies, dwelling on certain words as if caressing their edges. He makes the most famous speeches feel fresh and unpredictable, and his silences are no less eloquent.” He adds: “Director Robert Icke, alive to the play’s emotional heft, is certainly not afraid to linger over details, and his production, which has two intervals, weighs in at nearly four hours. But it has an admirable lucidity. Much of the time it feels like a modern and highly charged family drama, steeped in Nordic Noir.”

And in The Guardian, veteran critic Michael Billington is more ambivalent. He writes: “By a strange coincidence, Andrew Scott is the first major Hamlet London has seen since his Sherlock co-star Benedict Cumberbatch. Even odder is the fact that the two actors suffer a similar theatrical fate, in that their Hamlets transcend the productions that surround them. Robert Icke’s version at the Almeida is cool, clever, chic and has some good ideas, but also some that strike me as eccentrically wrong-headed.” He says of Scott that his performance “fits the quiet, non-declamatory tone of the production. He is, for the most part, soft-spoken and gently ironic with a perceptible Irish lilt.”

And in The Daily Telegraph, Dominic Cavendish writes: “How does the Irishman, at 40, fare in this Bardic stage debut? Well enough. We expected intelligence—we get that.” But he goes on to say: “What Scott lacks, though, except in rare moments of flare-up rage and petulance, is full-throttle passion. He’s lyrical but low-key, and at times gropes for the words, hands sawing the air, with the studied tentativeness of someone unwrapping a gift the contents of which they already know.”


Verdict: Ugly Lies the Bone
The U.K premiere of Lindsey Ferrentino’s 2015 Off-Broadway play Ugly Lies the Bone opened at the National’s Lyttelton Theatre March 1. Kate Fleetwood plays a badly injured combatant who returns home to Florida after a tour of duty in Afghanistan to be treated in a virtual reality rehab unit.

Lindsey Ferrentino
Lindsey Ferrentino Joseph Marzullo/WENN

In The Independent, Paul Taylor says the play “has its imperfections,” before adding, “but is still a very impressive achievement.”

In the Daily Telegraph, Ben Lawrence applauds the design, commenting that the production “scores highly in Luke Halls’ breathtaking video design, guiding Jess and the audience through lakes of glass and snow made of feathers which constantly evolve with a hypnotic beauty (audience members are invited to use a free immersive installation outside the auditorium).”

And in The Guardian, Brian Logan dubs the play “involving, thanks to Fleetwood’s sardonic, unsentimental turn as the damaged heroine, determined that all this pain “cannot be for nothing”, and Ralf Little as the low-horizoned, big-hearted gas station attendant she left behind. The VR sequences are eye-catching, but Ugly Lies the Bone is stronger when fathoming that even more complex technology, the human heart.”

Production and casting news
A London revival of the 80s British comedy Stepping Out, about amateur dancing, is now in previews at the Vaudeville Theatre, but has temporarily lost its dance teacher. Tamzin Outhwaite, who originally played the role in its pre-London tour, has been forced to withdraw owing to a stress fracture to her foot. Until she is fit to return, she will be replaced by West End veteran Anna-Jane Casey, whose sister Natalie Casey is already in the show.

Pulitzer Prize finalist Rajiv Joseph (Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo) will have his 2015 play Guards at the Taj, originally seen at New York’s Atlantic Theater, debut in London at the Bush Theatre from April 7.

For further news…

Stay tuned to Playbill.com and follow me on Twitter @shentonstage, for rolling news updates as they happen.

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