Audra McDonald honors her London engagement as Lady Day.
The six-time Tony winner was originally due to make her West End debut reprising her Tony-winning performance as Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill last summer, but had to postpone it owing to her unexpected pregnancy; she will finally make good on that promise, beginning performances June 17 at Wyndham's Theatre. Prior to this, she will also travel to London to perform four concerts at the Leicester Square Theatre hosted by Seth Rudetsky, featuring special guest Will Swenson (her husband) from April 12 to 15, as previously announced.
And the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards go to...
The annual Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards, presented by Critics’ Circle Drama Section, was held January 31 in a private event at the Prince of Wales Theatre, though winners’ speeches were broadcast on Facebook Live (and can be viewed here).
Top honors went to several Broadway-bound shows, with Groundhog Day winning the Best Musical Award and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child winning three awards, including Best Director for John Tiffany, Best Designer for Christine Jones, and Most Promising Newcomer for Anthony Boyle (full results are here). Best Play went to Annie Baker’s The Flick, imported from Off-Broadway to London’s National Theatre.
Accepting an award for Best Shakespearean Performance was actor-turned-parliamentary-politician Glenda Jackson; she won for her return to the stage for the first time in nearly 25 years as the title role in King Lear at the Old Vic. She commented, “I have in the past been highly critical of the critics, and in the past critics have been highly critical of me, and so I welcome this opportunity to kiss and make up.”
Collecting the award on behalf of Christine Jones for Best Designer for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, director Tiffany remarked of their collaboration, “It was only when we realized we could set the whole show in King’s Cross station that we thought we might be able to do this. Then Jo [J.K. Rowling] told us her mum and dad had met there, which is why it figures so massively in the Harry Potter books, so we knew we were onto something with that.” He read out a thank you note from Jones, which ended with her saying, “May we all use our magic as a means of casting light into this darkness.”
Building on that theme Evening Standard theatre critic Henry Hitchings noted: “In November in New York, a third-rate politician went to see a first-rate musical and got a rather unfriendly reception, and thereafter a fat-fingered, short-fingered misogynistic vulgarian, with whom we are becoming increasingly familiar, tweeted that the theatre should be a safe space. This is what we now know of an alternative fact. It also raised the alarming prospect of his building the fourth wall and getting the Brechtian’s to pay for it.” He quickly added, “To give credit where credit is due, that is not actually my joke.”
And then he said, “The point is that the theatre can be dangerous, should be dangerous. But sometimes one is bowled over by just how dangerous the theatre feels. When I came out of [Yerma] after seeing this performance at its heart, I was physically shaking—I couldn’t speak. ... This was a performance of exceptional rawness, it was shattering and indelible.”
Olivier Awards announce media partnerships and new global plans.
Still on the subject of awards, this year’s Olivier Awards, to be presented April 9, will see the red carpet arrivals at Royal Albert Hall broadcast live internationally beginning at 4:30 PM GMT, via Facebook. The awards ceremony will be broadcast by ITV and Magic Radio; timings and details are still to be announced. The March 6 nominations event will also be broadcast live via a variety of online channels.
Reviews: The Glass Menagerie
Even as Broadway readies for a new production of The Glass Menagerie starring Sally Field, its last one—seen in 2013—has just made the transatlantic crossing with Cherry Jones reprising her performance as Amanda Wingfield and making her long overdue West End debut in John Tiffany's production. When I interviewed Jones for The Stage recently at New York’s Cafe Un Deux Trois restaurant, before she came over, she told me that she had first visited London as a schoolgirl, aged 14, with her family and that she had started a scrapbook then that she intended to fill: “I got a folder and wrote on the cover: ‘My life on the British stage’. But it has remained empty until my 60th year.”
Now she can start filling it with interviews like mine, and reviews like she’s just got for the play that opened February 2 at the Duke of York’s Theatre, joined by New York actor Michael Esper as her son, Tom, and British actress Kate O’Flynn as her daughter, Laura. In The Times, Dominic Maxwell writes, “Jones’s performance could light up Missouri. Chewing out her children, half stuck in a grand past that led to this thwarted present, this grand Southern dame offers tone-deaf advice to the delicate Laura that she should cultivate ‘charm, or vivacity.’ Yet, mother of overbearing mothers though her Amanda may be, the teasing intimacy between her and Esper is where Jones goes from formidable to fascinating.”
And in the Daily Telegraph, Dominic Cavendish comments, “It’s her keeping up of decorous appearances that breaks your heart. Hers is a wonderfully animated performance too: she holds court at the dinner table like some visionary political orator, later tight-rope walks across the carpet in histrionic excitement, arms flailing. You sense that she’s as confined as the son she goads and nags.”
Production and casting news…
The RSC currently enjoys its residence at the Theatre Royal Haymarket with a West End season of their Stratford-upon-Avon double bill of Much Ado About Nothing and Love’s Labour’s Lost in rep. The Company will return to the same theatre for a summer run, transferring Helen Edmundson’s Queen Anne from Stratford to begin performances June 30. The play explores the life of one of England’s little-known sovereigns (to be played by Emma Cunniffe) and her intimate friendship with her childhood confidante Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough (Romola Garai). Meanwhile, in Stratford-upon-Avon, the RSC will premiere Imperium: The Cicero Plays, a new stage adaptation in two parts of Robert Harris’ Cicero trilogy, beginning performances November 16.
Jason Robert Brown’s 2015 Broadway musical Honeymoon in Vegas is to receive its U.K. premiere March 12, for a one-night only concert staging at the London Palladium. It will be presented by the London Musical Theatre Orchestra under the baton of the composer himself.
For further news…
Stay tuned to Playbill.com and follow me on Twitter @shentonstage, for rolling news updates as they happen.