LONDON SPRING SEASON PREVIEW: In the West End and Beyond, Expect Helen Mirren, Daniel Radcliffe, Jude Law and More

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27 Dec 2012

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

The West End's perpetual reliance on warming up old films (Top Hat) and old pop catalogues (the Spice Girls for Viva Forever!), or sometimes a combination of the two (The Bodyguard, featuring the music of Whitney Houston), is set to be challenged this year by the arrival of two Broadway imports of the Tony-winning Best Musicals of the last two years.

The sell-out 2011 winner Book of Mormon, by South Park writers Matt Stone and Trey Parker joining forces with Avenue Q's Robert Lopez, comes to the Prince of Wales Feb. 25, with Gavin Creel and Jared Gertner as Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, respectively, who previously played the roles in the U.S. national touring company.

The 2012 Tony-winning Best Musical winner Once, based on the Irish indie film of the same name but first made into s stage musical at New York Theatre Workshop before transferring to Broadway, comes to the Phoenix from March 16, but it is cleverly doing an Irish try-out at Dublin's Gaiety Theatre beforehand, from Feb. 22.

Also from Broadway, there are revivals for two classics and one mostly forgotten flop. Marvin Hamlisch's A Chorus Line receives its first West End revival since the original production played the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane; this time, Bob Avian, co-choreographer on the original production, will recreate 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. And this summer's musical at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park will be The Sound of Music, the first Rodgers and Hammerstein ever presented there, to be directed by Rachel Kavanaugh (from July 25).

Jerry Herman's 1969 Broadway flop Dear World will 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 under the direction of Gillian Lynne, choreographer of the original productions of Cats and The Phantom of the Opera. Lynne helped guide Buckley to her Tony win in the original Broadway company of Cats.

Betty Buckley
photo by Myriam Santos

One Roald Dahl story "Matilda" is already a smash-hit musical in the West End (and Broadway bound in March); can another, even more famous one, strike lucky, too, when Charlie and the Chocolate Factory comes to the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane from May 18? With a book by prolific British playwright David Greig and new songs from Hairspray's Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, it is directed by Sam Mendes, with Douglas Hodge  — recently on Broadway as Cyrano de Bergerac  — swapping a giant nose with a talent for creating sweets to play Willy Wonka.

From Here to Eternity, based on a 1951 novel that's best known for a film version of the same name, is also being musicalised, with lyricist Tim Rice working with new composer Stuart Brayson and book writer Bill Oakes, at the Shaftesbury from Sept. 30. It will be preceded by the return of Burn the Floor, the ballroom dance show that previously played there as well as on Broadway, running from March 6 and headlined by "Strictly Come Dancing" stars Robin Windsor and Kristina Rihanoff. Also returning is Midnight Tango, another tango-based dance show that will run at the Phoenix Theatre from Jan. 30 with a cast that includes two more "Strictly Come Dancing" stars, Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace.

Off-West End, Soho Theatre will host the world premiere of LIFT, a musical by Craig Adams and Ian Watson, from Jan. 30, set in the elevator of a London tube station. The fringe will also see the return of Ivor Novello's 1951 backstage musical Gay's the Word at Jermyn Street Theatre from Feb. 7, that marks the first full London run of a Novello musical in over 40 years.


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