LONDON SPRING PREVIEW 2012: In the West End and Beyond, Expect Susan Boyle, Mark Rylance, a Musical Bridget Jones' Diary and More

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02 Jan 2012

Scarlett Strallen in <i>Singin' in the Rain</i>.
Scarlett Strallen in Singin' in the Rain.
Photo by Manuel Harlan

Looking ahead to the 2012 spring theatre season in London and the U.K., the forecast includes the musicals Bridget Jones' Diary, Top Hat, Sweeney Todd and Susan Boyle in I Dreamed a Dream, plus projects for Cate Blanchett, Simon Russell Beale, Jonathan Pryce, Laurie Metcalf, Lindsay Duncan, Mark Rylance.


Danny DeVito, Zach Braff, Laurie Metcalf, Cate Blanchett and Juliette Binoche are amongst the international roster of stars heading to London theatre this year, while homegrown returning stars include Mark Rylance, Simon Russell Beale, Jonathan Pryce, David Suchet, Lindsay Duncan, Jeremy Northam, Imelda Staunton, Michael Ball, Antony Sher, Richard Griffiths, David Haig, Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith, Katherine Kelly and Tara Tointon.

On the musicals front, a bunch of new homegrown commercial musicals are in development, though all are waiting until after the summer Olympics before daring to show their hand. Amongst them are Viva Forever that seeks to do for the Spice Girls what Mamma Mia! did for ABBA, and is being developed with a book by Jennifer Saunders. Musical versions of Bridget Jones' Diary and the films "The Bodyguard" and "The Commitments" are also on the cards, while the much-lauded Broadway hit The Book of Mormon is looking to land in London, too.

But this side of the Olympics, there are not one but two transfers from the last Chichester summer season: Singin' in the Rain comes to the Palace (from Feb. 4) with Adam Cooper, Daniel Crossley, Scarlett Strallen and Katharine Kingsley; and Sweeney Todd, starring Michael Ball in the title role with Imelda Staunton as Mrs. Lovett, heads to the Adelphi (from March 10). The stage premiere of Top Hat comes to the Aldwych (from April 19), starring Tom Chambers and another Strallen sister (Summer, not the season but the person), following a hugely successful regional tour.

Michael Ball in Sweeney Todd.
photo by Catherine Ashmore

The Aldwych also hosts a filler ahead of that with a West End season for the touring dance show Midnight Tango (from Jan. 20), with Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace, stars of TV's "Strictly Come Dancing." Following the success of last summer's Rodgers and Hammerstein entry at the Barbican with South Pacific, R&H are back there this summer with Opera North's production of Carousel (from Aug. 15), touring first to Leeds and Salford Quays. The summer will also bring a new production of Ahrens and Flaherty's musical Ragtime to the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park (from May 18).

The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess — currently being revived on Broadway in a new production with Norm Lewis and Audra McDonald in the title roles —- is also heading back to the U.K., by way not of Broadway but of Cape Town. A tour of Cape Town Opera's production of the show, which relocates the action to the townships of Soweto, will kick off in Birmingham in June, before ending up at the London Coliseum July 11-21.

Another Broadway classic, Wonderful Town, with a score by Leonard Bernstein (music) and Comden and Green (lyrics), will be seen at the Lowry in Salford Quays; they are joining forces with the Hallé Orchestra and Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre to present a run from March 31 to April 14. Connie Fisher, who won the 2006 TV contest "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" to star in the London Palladium revival of The Sound of Music that year, will lead the cast, and then go on an 11-week nationwide tour with the production.

Also embarking on a U.K. tour is a new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's roller-skating musical Starlight Express that ran for nearly 18 years in the West End (kicking off at New Wimbledon Theatre from May 10), joining the ongoing touring production of Lloyd Webber's Evita. A re-designed, newly staged production of The Phantom of the Opera is going on a big U.K. tour, too, kicking off in Plymouth in March 2012, with a cast that will see the current London Phantom John Owen-Jones share the title role at different dates with Earl Carpenter. Featuring a new design and staging that retains Maria Björnson's original costumes, the production is directed by Laurence Connor, with choreography by Scott Ambler and set design by Paul Brown.

Also in the regions, Susan Boyle will appear herself in the finale of I Dreamed A Dream, a new touring musical based on her life story, kicking off at Newcastle's Theatre Royal March 23; a new production of Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim's Broadway classic Gypsy will be staged at Leicester's Curve beginning March 13, starring Caroline O'Connor as Rose; and the premiere of a brand-new musical Loserville will run at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds from June 16. On the fringe, Adam Guettel and Tina Landau's 1994 Floyd Collins will be revived at Southwark Playhouse from Feb. 28, with Glenn Carter (Jesus in the 2000 Broadway revival of Jesus Christ Superstar) in the title role.


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