And just as the West End readies to send Broadway King Charles III (now also simultaneously on a UK tour that has kicked off in Birmingham, starring Robert Powell in the title role) and The Color Purple (with star Cynthia Erivo this week announced to be giving a final London farewell concert Sept. 21 at the Hippodrome), Broadway next week returns the favor, sending us back Kinky Boots, the Tony-winning stage musical version of the 2005 British film. It's just one of the highlights of a busy week.
Matthew Warchus launches Old Vic Regime
The director Matthew Warchus is currently represented on Broadway by Matilda the Musical and his previous credits on the Rialto include Yasmina Reza's Art (and its prior West End production which ran, with constantly rotating casts, for some seven years in London) and God of Carnage as well as as revivals of Shepard's True West (with the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Sondheim's Follies. Now he takes on the running of his first theatre in a career that stretches back over a quarter of a century.
Though Warchus has worked regularly in Britain's subsidized sector on shows for both the RSC and National Theatre as well as the Donmar Warehouse, he is a man with a commercial heart and impulse, and the Old Vic is a perfect fit – it's run without subsidy, but at the same time only needs to balance its books, not turn a profit for investors.
So he's able to be more adventurous in his programming, as well as more wide-ranging – his opening slate of seven shows includes four he will direct himself. These stretch from a brand-new play (Future Conditional, which opens Sept. 10, starring Rob Brydon) to classics by Pinter (The Caretaker with Timothy Spall) and Ibsen (The Master Builder starring Ralph Fiennes that he was already committed to direct on Broadway, but which he re-routed to the Old Vic. There's also the world premiere of Tim Minchin's musical version of Groundhog Day that has also already announced Broadway plans for 2017.
The season also features a new production of Eugene O'Neill's The Hairy Ape, directed by Richard Jones and starring Bertie Carvel, and a brand-new dance piece Jekyll and Hyde, directed and choreographed by rising star Drew McOnie, and a family show for Christmas of Dr Seuss's The Lorax. Future plans beyond the first year include reviving Art and Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, plus new musicals based on the film "Pride," that Warchus directed, and "Dennis the Menace." Michael Grandage Also Returns to the West End
The Michael Grandage Company made a big splash in 2012 by launching with a five-play season that featured stars like Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw, Simon Russell Beale, Jude Law, Sheridan Smith and Daniel Radcliffe (the latter starred in Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan that subsequently transferred to Broadway). Now Grandage returns to the same West End theatre the Noel Coward to offer the British premiere of Anna Ziegler's play Photograph 51 — previously produced at Off-Broadway's Ensemble Studio Theatre in 2010 – that opens officially Sepember 14.
It stars Nicole Kidman, who recently worked with Grandage on his debut feature film "Genius" that is yet to be released and who was last seen on the London stage inThe Blue Room at the Donmar Warehouse that subsequently transferred to Broadway. In a separate interview, Grandage recently told me, "I don’t want people to think that my seasons can only work with huge stars. I want to do what I did at Sheffield and the Donmar, where we created a brand so that people knew that whenever they saw anything there it would be a very good standard of performance, and even if they didn’t enjoy the play, it would be well acted, and beautifully designed and executed." I'm sure he will be as good as his word!
A double dose of Fierstein has him on fire
London is getting a double dose of cross-dressing Harvey Fierstein shows in the same week when Kinky Boots officially arrives at the Adelphi Theatre on September 15, followed the very next night by the British premiere of his 2014 Tony nominated play Casa Valentina at Southwark Playhouse.
The all-British cast of Kinky Boots is led by Killian Donnelly (headlining his third consecutive West End show after The Commitments and Matt Henry), while Casa Valentina is helmed by rising young director Luke Sheppard.
I recently spoke to Fierstein about the coincidence of these two shows opening back-to-back, and he told me, "It's always exciting to get your work done," and amplified how excited that Casa Valentina was being staged here. "I've not seen this production of Casa Valentina so I'm very curious. I always thought that English actors would really get right down into it — they would be a little less scared of it. We're a bit more scared of gender identity in the US, so I'm really look forward to that. But knowing that it is happening but not being there means it is rather like a mystery box. I don't know these actors or the director, so that I have to make that wonderful act of faith when you step out off the cliff. But one of the wonderful parts of theatre is that it is alive, and is will be what it is now, and someone 20 years from now will do it again, and it will be something else again. But your children grow up, and go out into the world. You have to let them go."
But he won't let me go when I try to ask him about the regular appearance of drag roles in his shows even as he is right now writing yet another in a musical version of the film "Mrs. Doubtfire." His career has regularly been about pushing the theatrical envelope — but he clearly refuses to be put into one.
"You're really making me laugh — you're trying to take all my work and put it in one envelope," he tells me, as I try to make connections in his work. "Is that something you do in your life, do you sit at home and alphabetize everything? You seem to be hell bent on getting my work neatly filed, but I do not think that way or feel that way. It's like asking David Mamet if you were interviewing him, "you had some heterosexuals in hour last play, is there a reason you have heterosexuals in this play?" To me, that's absolutely ridiculous. Mrs. Doubtifre is about a man hiding as a woman so that he can see his children. It has nothing in common with La Cage aux Folles, Torch Song Triology or Casa Valentina at all!
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