Stars that include Benedict Cumberbatch, Damian Lewis, Ralph Fiennes, James McAvoy, Mark Strong, Penelope Wilton, Imelda Staunton, Kristin Scott Thomas, Juliette Binoche, David Suchet and Julian Ovenden will be gracing major London theatres in the coming months.
Dramatic highlights include a brand-new play by Tom Stoppard, plus London transfers for Jennifer Haley's The Nether (originally seen at LA's The Kirk Douglas Theatre, and now moving to the West End from the Royal Court where it received its British premiere last summer) and Joshua Harmon's Bad Jews (originally produced at Roundabout Theatre Company's Black Box Theatre and now moving to London's St James Theatre from Bath's Ustinov Studio).
On the musicals front, there's a new, entirely revised version of the 2010 Broadway musical Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, the first London production in over 40 years of Gypsy (transferring by way of Chichester), the West End bow of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and a new production of Cole Porter's High Society, directed by Maria Friedman, plus Bryn Terfel and Emma Thompson reprising their New York performances in Sweeney Todd at the London Coliseum, inaugurating a new long-term partnership that producers GradeLinnit are forging with the home of English National Opera to present musicals there.
Here are the major (and some minor) openings of the next few months, but stay tuned, as always, to Playbill for breaking London news as and when it happens! Musicals
Composer David Yazbek and librettist Jeffrey Lane saw their 2005 show Dirty Rotten Scoundrels open in the West End in 2014 (where it is currently playing at the Savoy Theatre through March 28, prior to a U.K. national tour). Now they begin 2015 with the U.K. premiere of an entirely revised version of their 2010 musical Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, opening at the Playhouse Jan. 12 (following previews that began Dec. 17), with original Broadway director Bartlett Sher helming a production that stars Tamsin Greig, Haydn Gwynne (Broadway's original Mrs Wilkinson in Billy Elliot), Jérôme Pradon, Anna Skellern and Willemijn Verkaik (who has played Elphaba in Wicked internationally, including stints on Broadway and in the West End).
Also arriving from Broadway is the current hit Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (beginning performances at the Aldwych Theatre Feb. 10 prior to an official opening Feb. 24), with a cast led by Katie Brayben in the title role. Also in the cast are Alan Morrissey as King’s husband and songwriting partner Gerry Goffin, Lorna Want as songwriter Cynthia Weil, Glynis Barber as Genie Klein, King’s mother and Gary Trainor as music publisher and producer Don Kirshner.
The 2014 revival of Gypsy, starring Imelda Staunton as Madame Rose, will transfer to the Savoy Theatre, beginning performances March 28 prior to an official opening April 15. The production reunites Staunton with director Jonathan Kent, who also directed her in her Olivier Award-winning performance as Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd, also originally at Chichester, before transferring to the West End's Adelphi Theatre, and Good People this year at Hampstead Theatre that transferred to the Noel Coward Theatre. The production marks the first time that Gypsy will be seen in the West End since Angela Lansbury starred in it at the Piccadilly Theatre in 1973 in a production that subsequently transferred to Broadway; could this production do the same?
And talking of Sweeney Todd: London gets another viewing of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street on his home turf when Bryn Terfel reprises his performance in the title role that he gave this year at New York's Lincoln Centre (and has also previously played at London's Royal Festival Hall) in Lonny Price's production, co-starring with Emma Thompson as Mrs Lovett. The production begins performances at the London Coliseum March 30 prior to an official opening March 31, for a run of 13 performances only through April 12.
Maria Friedman — who was coincidentally Terfel's Mrs Lovett at the Royal Festival Hall — turns director to present a new production of Cole Porter's High Society, beginning performances April 30 at the Old Vic prior to an official opening April 15. The musical is based on Philip Barry's 1939 play The Philadelphia Story, which was previously revived at the Old Vic in 2005 in a production that starred Kevin Spacey, and the 1956 film "High Society." Friedman's previous directorial credits include Merrily We Roll Along that was seen at the Menier Chocolate Factory before transferring to the West End's Harold Pinter Theatre last year.
Another film-to-stage transition is Bugsy Malone, a stage version of Alan Parker's 1976 debut film feature of the same name that will re-open London's Lyric Hammersmith after a multi-million pound redevelopment, beginning performances April 11. It will be directed by the Lyric's artistic director, Sean Holmes, and choreographed by Drew McOnie.
But the film-to-stage translation I am most looking forward to is Bend it Like Beckham, based on the 2002 film of the same name that will be brought to the stage by director Gurinder Chadha, who also co-wrote the original film, beginning performances at the Phoenix Theatre May 15 prior to an official opening June 24. It will feature original music by composer Howard Goodall and lyrics by Charles Hart — together they've written such gems as The Dreaming and The Kissing-Dance, and with other writing partners, Goodall's credits include The Hired Man and Love Story, while Hart most famously wrote lyrics for The Phantom of the Opera. On the London fringe, the Finborough in Earl's Court offers the European premiere of Jerry Herman's 1979 Broadway flop The Grand Tour (beginning performances Jan. 1 prior to an official opening Jan. 6). Southwark Playhouse — which presented two of 2014's best musicals in the U.K. premieres of In the Heights and Dogfight — begins the year by reviving the 2001 Off-Broadway musical Bat Boy, beginning performances Jan. 9 prior to an official opening Jan. 14, for a run through Jan. 31. It stars Lauren Ward, who originated the role of Miss Honey in the RSC's Matilda the Musical at Stratford, in the West End and on Broadway (where she was Tony nominated).
In the regions, but sure to be aiming for the West End thereafter, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ - the Musical, based on Sue Townsend's best-selling debut novel of the same name that was first published in 1982, is to receive its world premiere at Leicester's Curve Theatre, beginning performances March 7 prior to an official opening March 17. With book and lyrics by Jake Brunger and music and lyrics by Pippa Cleary, it will be directed by Luke Sheppard.
Mrs. Henderson Presents, a stage version of the 2005 film of the same name that starred Judi Dench and the late Bob Hoskins, is to receive its world premiere at the U.K.'s Bath Theatre Royal, beginning performances Aug. 14, prior to an official opening Aug. 26 for a run through Sept. 5, prior to an anticipated West End transfer. It will be directed by Terry Johnson, the Tony-wining director of the revival of La Cage aux Folles that transferred to Broadway from the Menier Chocolate Factory and the West End. He is also writing the book, based on the original screenplay by Martin Sherman. Music is by George Fenton and Simon Chamberlain (respectively composer and music director of the film), with lyrics by Don Black.
Probably the most keenly-awaited new play of 2015 is the world premiere of Tom Stoppard's The Hard Problem, his first original play since 2006's Rock 'n' Roll was seen at the Royal Court (and subsequently transferred to the West End and Broadway). The Hard Problem will begin performances Jan. 21 at the National's Dorfman Theatre, prior to an official opening Jan. 28, in a production that will directed by Nicholas Hytner, in his final production as director of the National Theatre. It will be broadcast to cinemas as part of NT Live April 16. In the play, Hilary, a young psychology researcher at a brain science institute, is nursing a private sorrow and a troubling question at work, where psychology and biology meet. If there is nothing but matter, what is consciousness? This is "the hard problem" which puts Hilary at odds with her colleagues. Hilary will be played by Olivia Vinall, who recently played Cordelia in King Lear and Desdemona in Othello at the National.
Also new at the National: Dara, adapted by Tanya Ronder from Shahid Nadeem's play that originally premiered by Pakinstan's Ajoka Theatre, will begin performances Jan. 20 prior to an official opening Jan. 27 in the Lyttelton Theatre. It is described in press materials as an intense domestic drama of global consequence. Set in Mughal India in 1659, it revolves around two brothers, whose mother’s death inspired the Taj Mahal, who are heirs to this Muslim empire. Now they fight ferociously for succession. Sam Holcroft's Rules for Living will begin performances March 13 prior to an official opening March 24 in the Lyttelton. Marianne Elliot, currently represented in the West End and on Broadway by her production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, will direct a play in which everyone creates their own coping strategies or rules for living. But what happens when an extended family gathers in the kitchen for a traditional Christmas and they each follow those rules rigidly? In this play, the family does just that. And when the instructions are there for all to see, audience included, there’s really no place to hide.
Simon Russell Beale is to return to the Donmar Warehouse, where he was previously seen in The Philanthropist, Twelfth Night and Uncle Vanya (for which he won the 2003 Olivier Award for Best Actor), to star in the premiere of Steve Waters's Temple, beginning performances May 21 prior to an official opening May 27. A fictionalized account of the events that took place during the 2011 Occupy demonstration outside St. Paul’s Cathedral, Beale will play the cathedral's Dean.
The Donmar will also premiere James Graham's The Vote (which will be broadcast live and in real time on television May 7, the night of the next British general election, the same time as the action of the play is set), beginning performances April 24 for a run through May 7. Described in press materials as a "real-time play for the stage and television," it is set in a fictional polling station during the last 90 minutes of the poll.
The Almeida will present two premieres. Mike Bartlett, currently represented in the West End by the transfer of King Charles III (that transferred from the Almeida), has written Game, which will begin performances Feb. 23 prior to an official opening March 3, that revolves around a young couple who are offered a home of their own in the midst of a housing crisis.
Then Simon Stephens' Carmen Disruption will begin performances April 10 prior to an official opening April 17 at the Almeida, which is described as a dramatic reimagining of Bizet's Carmen. It will be directed by Michael Longhurst, currently represented on Broadway by the transfer of his Royal Court production of Constellations.
Mark Hayhurst's debut play Taken at Midnight, which received its world premiere at Chichester's Minerva Theatre in November, will transfer to the West End's Theatre Royal, Haymarket, beginning performances Jan. 15 prior to an official opening Jan. 26. Penelope Wilton, who returns to the West End for the first time in five years since she was seen as Gertrude opposite Jude Law's Hamlet, will reprise her role as Irmgard, the mother of celebrated lawyer Hans Litten, who puts Hitler on the witness stand in 1930s Germany with devastating consequences.
There will also be transfers of new plays from Hampstead Theatre, the Royal Court and Bath's Ustinov Studio. Jenna Russell, Tony-nominated in 2008 for Best Actress in a Musical when she reprised her West End performance as Dot in Sunday in the Park with George, and Samantha Spiro are to join original cast member Tamzin Outhwaite in the West End transfer of Amelia Bullmore's Di and Viv and Rose that was originally produced at London's Hampstead Theatre in 2012 and again in 2013. It will begin performances Jan. 22 at the Vaudeville Theatre prior to an official opening Jan. 29. Outhwaite, Spiro and Russell respectively play the title characters, three women who join forces at university, and the play follows them through the subsequent years, as it explores friendship's impact on life and life's impact on friendship.
Jennifer Haley's The Nether, which received its U.K. premiere at London's Royal Court in Jeremy Herrin's co-production with Headlong Theatre, is to transfer to the West End, beginning performances Jan. 30 at the Duke of York's, prior to an official opening Feb. 23. The play was originally premiered at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles under the auspices of the Center Theatre Group. It won the 2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and is described in press materials as an intricate crime drama and a haunting sci-fi. The production stars Amanda Hale and Stanely Townsend.
Joshua Harmon's Bad Jews, which received its U.K. premiere in a season at Bath's Ustinov Studio in a production directed by Michael Longhurst, is to transfer to London's St. James Theatre, beginning performances Jan. 15, prior to an official opening Jan. 21. In the play, a beloved grandfather has died and a treasured family heirloom with religious significance is up for grabs. But who is most deserving of it?
Also from the U.S., the Menier Chocolate Factory will offer the U.K. premiere of Jonathan Tolins's Off-Broadway hit Buyer and Cellar, beginning performances March 11, with "Ugly Betty" star Michael Urie reprising his performance as an out-of-work actor working in Barbra Streisand's personal shopping mall in the basement of her California home.
Also due to receive its London premiere is Mike Bartlett's Bull, first seen at Sheffield's Crucible Studio and subsequently reprised in New York at 59E59 Theaters, which will begin performances at London's Young Vic Jan. 8, 2015, prior to an official opening Jan. 15. The New York company comprising Adam James, Eleanor Matsuura, Neil Stuke and Sam Troughton reassemble in Clare Lizzimore's production. The play sees three desperate colleagues fight for just two jobs in an office-come-bullfighting ring, designed by Soutra Gilmour. Audiences surround the action and can cheer and boo the opponents from the ringside by choosing standing tickets.
Also transferring to the Young Vic is a new production of Caryl Churchill's 2002 play A Number that premiered at Southampton's Nuffield Theatre in 2014, and will now begin performances July 3 prior to an official opening July 7 in a production directed by Michael Longhurst. The play, which revolves around a father's relationship with his son(s), is played by real-life father and son John and Lex Shrapnel. When Bernard discovers he's not an only child – as he was brought up to believe – but one of a number of clones, he must confront his father, Salter, and his own fears. He is left reeling from the news and Salter questions the choices he's made.
Meanwhile, the Young Vic's hit 2014 production of Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge, directed by Ivo van Hove, is to transfer to the West End's Wyndham's Theatre Feb. 11 prior to an official opening Feb. 16. Mark Strong is to reprise his starring performance as longshoreman Eddie Carbone, who welcomes his Sicilian cousins to the land of freedom. But when one of them falls for his beautiful niece, they discover that freedom comes at a price. Eddie's jealous mistrust exposes a deep, unspeakable secret – one that drives him to commit the ultimate betrayal. Also transferring to a West End commercial run is the Donmar Warehouse's sell-out revival of Kevin Elyot's 1994 Olivier Award-winning play My Night with Reg. beginning performances Jan. 17 at the Apollo Theatre, prior to an official opening Jan. 23. The full original cast of the Donmar production that includes Julian Ovenden and Geoffrey Streatfeild, will reprise their roles in the West End transfer.
It will be followed into the Apollo Theatre by a West End return for Peter Morgan's The Audience, with Kristin Scott Thomas inheriting the role of Queen Elizabeth II originated by Helen Mirren, as Mirren reprises the role on Broadway this spring. It will begin performances April 21, prior to an official opening May 5. Thomas has just finished completed an acclaimed run at the Old Vic in the title role of Electra.
The Railway Children, a Laurence Olivier Award-winning stage adaptation of E. Nesbit's novel of the same name that previously played in a specially created environment at Waterloo Station for two seasons, is to return to London, this time playing in a specially-built venue behind King's Cross Station. It is currently in previews prior to an official opening Jan. 14.
There will be also be high-profile new revivals of plays by Peter Barnes, Bernard Shaw, David Mamet, Oscar Wilde, Harold Pinter and Patrick Marber, amongst others.
James McAvoy is to return to the West End's Trafalgar Studios to star in the first-ever revival of Peter Barnes' 1968 play The Ruling Class, beginning performances Jan. 16 prior to a gala opening Jan. 28 at the Trafalgar Studios. McAvoy has desribed the the play as "wild, funny, shocking, subversive and brutal, and, most importantly, entertaining." He will play Jack, a possible paranoid schizophrenic with a Messiah complex, who inherits the title of the 14th Earl of Gurney after his father passes away in a bizarre accident. Singularly unsuited to a life in the upper echelons of elite society, he finds himself at the centre of a ruthless power struggle as his scheming family strives to uphold their reputation.
Ralph Fiennes returns to the National Theatre, where he was most recently seen in the title role of Oedipus, to star in Shaw's Man and Superman, beginning performances Feb. 17, prior to an official opening Feb. 25 in the Lyttelton Theatre. It will be broadcast as part of NT Live May 14. Fiennes plays Jack Tanner, a celebrated radical thinker and rich bachelor, in Simon Godwin's production that also features Tim McMullan and Indira Varma.
Damian Lewis — best known now for his starring role in TV's "Homeland" and last seen onstage in The Misanthrope in 2009 — is to return to the West End to star in a new production of David Mamet's 1975 play American Buffalo that will begin performances April 16, prior to an official opening April 27 at Wyndham's Theatre. Daniel Evans, the artistic director of Sheffield's Crucible Theatre, directs a play that examines the fickle nature of honour among thieves. Also returning to the West End is actor David Suchet, who will star as Lady Bracknell in a new production of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, set to begin performances June 24 prior to an official opening July 1, at a theatre that is yet to be announced. It will be directed by Adrian Noble, former artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
A West End bow for Harold Pinter's No Man's Land, with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen reprising the roles they played at Broadway's Cort Theatre earlier in 2014, is also planned, but no dates or theatre are set yet.
The Donmar Warehouse is to revive Patrick Marber's 1997 play Closer, beginning performances Feb. 12 prior to an official opening Feb. 23, with David Leveaux directing a cast that includes Rufus Sewell, Nancy Carroll and Oliver Chris.
Benedict Cumberbatch is to star in the title role of a new production of Hamlet, beginning performances at London's Barbican Theatre Aug. 5 prior to an official opening Aug 25, for an already sold-out run through Oct. 31. It will be directed by Lyndsey Turner, represented in 2014 on Broadway by Machinal at the American Airlines Theatre.
Also at the Barbican, Juliette Binoche is set to play the title role in Ivo van Hove's production of Antigone, beginning performances March 4 prior to an official opening March 5 and last year's Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park production of To Kill a Mockingbird will play an indoor season there from June 24-July 25. The theatre will also to host a three-week International Beckett Season in June. Productions will include Robert Wilson performing in his own staging of Krapp's Last Tape (running June 19-21), and a visit from the Sydney Theatre Company in Andrew Upton's production of Waiting for Godot, featuring Australian screen and stage stars Richard Roxburgh, Hugo Weaving and three-time Olivier winner Philip Quast (running June 4-13).
Elsewhere, there's a very intimate production of Wallace Shawn's The Fever, presented to audiences of just 28 in a suite at London's May Fair Hotel, running Jan. 7- Feb. 7 and performances by Tobias Menzies under the direction of Robert Icke. It is presented under the auspices of the Almeida Theatre.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of everything opening in the next few months — but its a big taster! Keep reading Playbill's International section for regular updates. You can also follow Playbill.com's London correspondent here: @ShentonStage.