Your Guide to the London Fall Season

Special Features   Your Guide to the London Fall Season
 
If you’re across the pond this fall, the season is booming with new arrivals.
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There’s a slew of New York born shows heading to London this fall, led by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock (his first musical to premiere on Broadway instead of the West End since Jesus Christ Superstar in 1971) as the show transfers to the West End. Two shows with scores by Henry Krieger also make their London bows, as Dreamgirls finally gets a London production at the Savoy and Side Show (which has been seen twice on Broadway in different productions) will receive its London premiere.

There’s also a clutch of Off-Broadway musicals like The Adding Machine, Vanities, Murder Ballad, Lazarus and Death Takes a Holiday all receiving their European bows. Regional theatres are set to have the U.K. premieres of Maltby and Shire’s Big and the Frank Wildhorn scored Wonderland.

Also heading from the U.S. are plays like Suzan-Lori Park’s Father Comes Home from the Wars, Kemp Powers’ One Night in Miami... and Tony Kushner’s The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures all set to receive London premieres in major theatres.

There’s also a West End bow for a new production of Pinter’s No Man’s Land that was first seen on Broadway, with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen reprising their Broadway roles, and Mark Rylance in Nice Fish, reprising the play he has co-written and first did in the U.S., as well.

British-originated offerings include two London seasons for the Royal Shakespeare Company, with a double bill in rep of The Alchemist and Dr Faustus at their former home the Barbican, and in the West End of Much Ado About Nothing in rep with Love’s Labour’s Lost; while the Donmar will offer Shakespeare with a twist with a trilogy of all-female Shakespeare’s, with a new production of The Tempest to join their previously produced versions of Julius Ceasar and Henry IV.

These are just some of the highlights of the fall season. More details below.

MUSICALS
While Disney’s Aladdin has turned into a sell-out hit at the Prince Edward Theatre, the fall will bring Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock to the West End’s New London Theatre, from October 24. The New London was the original London home of Lloyd Webber’s Cats, where it ran for a then record-breaking 21 years; Cats transferred from there to Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre, and it is in turn that School of Rock is now transferring from the Winter Garden to the New London! So there’s a pleasing symmetry to that; but, will it repeat the success of Cats? That’s difficult to predict, but it is certainly lining up to be Lloyd Webber’s most successful new musical in years.

Meanwhile, there are rumors that it might yet to be joined on the West End by the current revival of Jesus Christ Superstar, currently playing a summer season at London’s Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park (through August 27); if and when it does, Lloyd Webber will once again have three musicals running simultaneously in both the West End and on Broadway (with School of Rock and Jesus Christ Superstar joined in London by Phantom of the Opera and on Broadway with School of Rock joined by Phantom and the revival of Cats).

Dreamgirls, originally premiered on Broadway in 1981, is to finally receive its long overdue London bow in a brand-new production directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw. It stars Glee’s Amber Riley as Effie White, beginning performances November 14 at the Savoy Theatre. And another Henry Krieger scored show, Side Show is to have its own London bow in a production at Southwark Playhouse from October 21, starring Louise Dearman and Laura Pitt-Pulford.

Amongst Off-Broadway musicals heading to various London addresses are The Adding Machine, Vanities, Murder Ballad, The Last Five Years, Lazarus and Death Takes a Holiday. The Adding Machine, Joshua Schmidt and Jason Loewith’s 2008 Off-Broadway show based on Elmer Rice’s play of the same name, will begin performances at Finborough Theatre September 28, directed by Josh Seymour.

Vanities: The Musical is Jack Heifner and David Kirshcnbaum’s stage musical version of the 1976 play of the same name. Originally seen Off-Broadway in 2009, after prior productions in California in 2006 and 2008, it will begin performances September 1 at Trafalgar Studios 2 with a cast led by Lauren Samuels, Ashleigh Gray and Lizzy Connolly.

Murder Ballad, originally seen at Manhattan Theatre Club in 2013, will star Ramin Karimloo, Kerry Ellis, Norman Bowman and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt at the Arts Theatre from September 29.

Lazarus, the final work of David Bowie that premiered in New York November 2015 before his death in January 2016 and ran on beyond it, will begin performances October 25 at the King’s Cross Theatre. Original New York cast members Michael C. Hall, Michael Esper and Sophia Anne Caruso reprise their performances in director Ivo van Hove’s production.

The Maury Yeston-scored Death Takes a Holiday, seen at Roundabout Theatre Company’s Laura Pels Theatre in 2011, is to be staged at Charing Cross Theatre from January 16, 2017. The production is directed by Thom Southerland, who previously staged revivals of Maury Yeston’s Titanic and Grand Hotel at Southwark Playhouse. Southerland will also revive Ahrens and Flaherty’s Ragtime at Charing Cross Theatre from October 8.

Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years is to get another London outing, this time at the St James Theatre from October 28 with Samantha Barks (Eponine in the film version of Les Misérables) and stage and TV actor Jonathan Bailey co-starring.

While London awaits the bow of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, scheduled for next October at the West End’s Victoria Palace, there’s the more modest bow of his 14-minute musical 21 Chump Street, that will be presented as part of a season of workshops and readings of new musicals at the fringe Tristan Bates Theatre in Covent Garden, from November 12.

Regionally, the Broadway shows Big (the 1996 musical based on the 1988 film, with a score by Maltby and Shire) and Wonderland (the 2011 musical based on the Alice in Wonderland story, with a score by Frank Wildhorn) are to receive U.K. regional premieres in Plymouth (from November 5) and Edinburgh (from January 20) respectively.

Homegrown British musicals are in short supply around all these imports, but a new stage musical version of The Wind in the Willows, with a score by the prolific Stiles and Drewe (currently represented at Chichester by their rewrites and new songs for the 60s British musical Half a Sixpence), beginning at Plymouth’s Theatre Royal from October 8. And not a musical so much as a dance drama is The Red Shoes, based on the 1948 film by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale, and unconnected to the short-lived 1993 Broadway musical. Matthew Bourne, two-time Tony winner for his direction and choreography of Swan Lake on Broadway in 1999, will direct and choreograph this world premiere at Plymouth's Theatre Royal prior to an eight-week Christmas season at London's Sadler's Wells, beginning performances December 6.


PLAYS
American plays or American-originated productions feature heavily in the fall London schedule. Suzan-Lori Park’s Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 and 3) will begin performances September 15 at the Royal Court, directed as was at the New York Public Theatre by Jo Bonney. Kwame Kwei-Armah will direct the U.K. premiere of Kemp Powers’ One Night in Miami... that he also previously Stateside at the Donmar Warehouse from October 6, with a cast that includes American actor Francois Battise as Malcolm X in a play about a meeting between a 22-year-old Cassius Clay and three of his closest friends. Tony Kushner’s The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures will receive its U.K. premiere in a new production directed by former RSC supremo Michael Boyd, at Hampstead Theatre from October 15 with a cast led by Tamsin Greig.

Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen will reprise the roles they played in the 2013 Broadawy revival of Pinter’s No Man’s Land at the West End’s Wyndham’s Theatre from September 8, and Mark Rylance will star again in Nice Fish, the play he has co-written and first did in the U.S., at the Harold Pinter Theatre from November 15.

Elsewhere around town, there are some more notable revivals. Kenneth Branagh ends his year-long residency at the Garrick Theatre by starring in the title role of John Osborne’s The Entertainer (from August 20). The National has a new production of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus in the Olivier Theatre—its original London home—with Michael Longhurst directing Lucien Msamati in the role of Salieri. The National will also offer a new production of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, transferring from Bristol Old Vic to the Olivier Theatre from November 16.

David Baddiel brings his solo autobiographical play My Family, Not the Sitcom, first seen at the Menier Chocolate Factory, to the Vaudeville from September 12. The Menier itself revives Tom Stoppard’s early hit Travesties with a cast that’s led by Tom Hollander from September 22. Sean Foley will direct Ken Stott and Reece Shearsmith as an ageing actor-manager and his long-suffering dresser, respectively, in a revival of Ronald Harwood’s 1980 play The Dresser, at the Duke of York’s from October 5. Another modern classic, Yasmina Reza’s Art, will be revived at the Old Vic from December 10, directed by its original director Matthew Warchus.

There’s a lot of Shakespeare and other classical theatre around. At the Old Vic, Glenda Jackson—who has spent a quarter of a century as a parliamentarian—will return to the theatrical stage to play the title role in King Lear, running from October 25. There’s also a more conventional King Lear from the RSC that transfers from Stratford-upon-Avon to London’s Barbican from November 10, starring Antony Sher in the title role.

The Donmar stages another all-female Shakespeare production of The Tempest, to play in rep with director Phyllida Lloyd’s previous productions of Julius Caesar and Henry IV, all starring Harriet Walter, in a new, temporary in-the-round theatre at King’s Cross from September 23, before transferring to New York’s St Ann’s Warehouse in January 2017. Meanwhile at their home theatre in Covent Garden, Donmar artistic director Josie Rourke will return from transferring last Christmas’s production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses to Broadway’s Booth Theatre to stage a new production of Shaw’s St Joan, starring Gemma Arterton in the title role from December 9.

At the Almeida, hotshot director Robert Icke will direct Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams in Schiller’s Mary Stuart from December 2, with the two actors alternating in the roles of Elizabeth I and the title role. (Icke then directs a new production of Hamlet from February 17, starring Andrew Scott in the title role.) Ahead of both of those, Icke will make his National Theatre directing debut to stage David Hare’s new play The Red Barn, starring Mark Strong (A View from the Bridge) and Hope Davis from October 6, produced in association with Broadway’s Scott Rudin.

The RSC has double bills in rep of The Alchemist and Dr Faustus at the Barbican (from September 2) and of Much Ado About Nothing and Love’s Labour’s Lost at the West End’s Theatre Royal, Haymarket from December 9.

There are also revivals of Kaufman and Hart’s classic Broadway comedy Once in a Lifetime (at the Young Vic from November 25), Wild Honey (Michael Frayn’s play based on Chekhov’s Platonov, at Hampstead Theatre from December 2) and a West End date for James Graham’s 2012 play This House, first seen at the National Theatre, beginning November 19 at the Garrick Theatre.

As ever, this is by no means a comprehensive list of everything opening in the next few months—but it is a big taster! Keep reading Playbill for regular updates, and visit weekly for the What’s Hot in London column, published every Saturday. You can also follow Playbill.com’s London correspondent on Twitter @ShentonStage.

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