A summer consumed by Olympics fever in London saw much of the West End turned into what was described as a "ghost town" and has led, at least partly, to an imminent clear-out of such long-runners as Chicago (closing Sept. 1 after 15 years and setting a record for the longest-running American musical of all time in the West End) and Blood Brothers (closing Oct. 27, after a continuous run of 24 years and over 10,000 performances, making it the third longest-runner ever in the West End, after Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera).
The prospect of the Olympics also held producers off from launching major new shows until it was a distant memory; but now several are circling over the West End like planes over Heathrow, ready to come into land. The musicals include Viva Forever! and a stage version of The Bodyguard, plus regional tours for Broadway shows American Idiot and 9 to 5 and an out-of-town try-out for Finding Neverland, originally planned for La Jolla but now relocated to Leicester's Curve, with Rob Ashford still at the helm and Harvey Weinstein producing. There's also an arena stage tour of Jesus Christ Superstar, featuring an actor playing Jesus chosen by public vote on reality TV, and the Beatles' tribute show Let It Be (known as Rain on Broadway).
Amongst the stars that will be gracing these and other plays this fall are Broadway's Heather Headley, Tim Minchin, Jonathan Pryce, Sheridan Smith, Rupert Everett, Juliette Binoche, Kim Cattrall, John Lithgow, Roger Rees, Mathew Horne, Eileen Atkins, Michael Gambon, Dominic West, Laura Michelle Kelly, Will Young, Fiona Shaw, Frances de la Tour, Tamsin Greig, Ken Stott, Tommy Steele, Billie Piper and Mark Rylance. Amongst the dramatic highlights, the Royal Court is staging new plays by Caryl Churchill and Jez Butterworth, the National has the world premiere of Alan Bennett's latest, and director Michael Grandage is returning to launch his own company in the West End.
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