PLAYBILL PICKS: Spring Fever! Playbill Contributors Share Titles They're Eager to See in Spring 2013

By Playbill Staff
17 Jan 2013

Gavin Creel in The Book of Mormon.
Photo by Joan Marcus

MARK SHENTON, London Correspondent

Once (Phoenix Theatre, London)
Broadway and the West End may be separated by a giant ocean, but talent and shows move freely between the two world capitals of English-speaking theatre. The two most recent Tony Award-winning Best Musicals, 2011's The Book of Mormon and 2012's Once, are both transferring to the West End, less than a month apart, while the UK's biggest award winner Matilda heads to Broadway. It will, of course, be interesting to see how they fare; success is never guaranteed in the other territory, though massive marketing spends for Mormon in London and Matilda on Broadway are certainly helping to create brand awareness.

But Once could be the sleeper hit London needs – and is a homecoming of sorts, too, for this quietly reflective, moving stage version of the Irish indie film hit, since most of the creative team are Anglo-Irish, including director John Tiffany, book writer Enda Walsh, designer Bob Crowley and orchestrator Martin Lowe, each of whom won Tony Awards for their efforts, plus Tony-nominated choreographer Steven Hoggett. It's interesting that they had to come first to New York Theatre Workshop to create the show, rather than originate it closer to home; but now the show is heading to the West End's Phoenix Theatre from March 16, via a try-out in Dublin first at the Gaiety Theatre there from Feb. 22.

The Book of Mormon is importing the two leads of the U.S. national tour; Gavin Creel and Jared Gertner as Elder Price and Elder Cunningham respectively, to head up the cast at London's Prince of Wales from Feb. 25; while Broadway will get to see the inimitable Bertie Carvel as Mrs. Trunchbull in Matilda, at the Shubert from March 4. I plan to be at the opening nights of all three!

A Chorus Line (London Palladium, London)
I also can't wait to see A Chorus Line back on the London stage. The transfer of the original Broadway production to the Theatre Royal Drury Lane was the first West End musical I saw after moving to London in 1979, on the last day of its run then; this is the first time it has been back since, with Bob Avian, co-choreographer on the original production, recreating it at the London Palladium from Feb. 2 with a new British cast led by John Partridge as Zach, Scarlett Strallen as Cassie, Leigh Zimmerman as Sheila, and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt as Diana.

I'm also looking forward to seeing Jerry Herman's 1969 Broadway flop Dear World receive its British premiere at the Charing Cross Theatre, beginning performances from Feb. 4. Broadway's Betty Buckley will play the role originally created by Angela Lansbury, joined by a cast that also includes Paul Nicholas, Peter Land, Robert Meadmore and Stuart Matthew Price, under the direction of Gillian Lynne, choreographer of the original productions of Cats and The Phantom of the Opera.

Pippin (Broadway's Music Box Theatre)

London recently had a seriously revamped, futuristic outing for Stephen Schwartz and Roger Hirson's 1972 Broadway musical Pippin, set as if inside a giant video game, at the Menier Chocolate Factory. But now, as the show marks its 40th anniversary, it'll be great to see it back on Broadway, via the circus-based production recently premiered at Cambridge's A.R.T. It is directed by Diane Paulus, whose controversial take on Porgy and Bess also travelled from A.R.T. to Broadway. This has long been one of my all-time favourite Broadway scores, with my favourite theatre song of all time: "Corner of the Sky."

Douglas Hodge
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane)
After the success of Matilda, I can't wait to see another Roald Dahl story make its way to the stage, when Sam Mendes – fresh from directing "Skyfall" – returns to the theatre to direct a new stage adpatation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane from May 18. Featuring a book by David Greig and new songs from Hairspray's Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, it will star Douglas Hodge as Willy Wonka, returning to musicals for the first time since his Olivier and Tony-winning performance in La Cage aux Folles.

The Audience (Gielgud)/Peter and Alice (Wyndham's)
There is nothing like a Dame (or two) -- and two of our most illustrious cross-over stage-to-Oscar-winning film dames are both returning to the London stage to play real-life characters: in The Audience, Helen Mirren reprises the role of Britain's ruling monarch that she previously did to Oscar-winning glory in "The Queen," at the Gielgud from Feb. 15; while in John Logan's Peter and Alice, Judi Dench is Alice Liddell Hargreaves (the original Alice in Wonderland) opposite Ben Whishaw as Peter Llewelyn Davies (the original Peter Pan), at the Noel Coward Theatre from March 9.

Of new plays on Broadway, I'm also looking forward to seeing Tom Hanks in Nora Ephron's Lucky Guy (at the Broadhurst from March 1), and Nathan Lane in Douglas Carter Beane's The Nance (at the Lyceum from March 21).

The Cripple of Inishmaan (Noel Coward)/Much Ado About Nothing (Old Vic)
There's lots of star power in the West End – led by the Michael Grandage company season of productions at the Noel Coward of Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan with Daniel Radcliffe from June 8. What an interesting, post-Harry Potter career young Radcliffe is having: After making his West End and Broadway stage debut in the buff in Equus, he has proved that he is not bluffing when it comes to testing his mettle as a stage actor, segueing to a musical (Broadway's How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying) and now McDonagh's dark Irish drama. He is followed at the Coward by two classics: Sheridan Smith as Titania and David Walliams as Bottom in A Midsmmer Night's Dream from Sept. 7, then Jude Law as Henry V from Nov. 13.

It will also be fun to see Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones reuniting after their previous Broadway and West End triumphs in Driving Miss Daisy to star as an unusually older Beatrice and Benedick in Mark Rylance's production of Much Ado About Nothing (at the Old Vic from Sept. 7).