What's Hot in London: July 17: Miss Saigon's Helicopter Flies Away, Plus a Director Takes an Axe to the Theatre

News   What's Hot in London: July 17: Miss Saigon's Helicopter Flies Away, Plus a Director Takes an Axe to the Theatre
It is an almost universally recognised truth that revivals never run as long as the originals. (The glorious exception, of course, is Chicago, whose 1996 revival — still running on Broadway now at the Ambassadors — has so far not only surpassed the original run by over 17 years so far, but is now the second-longest running show in Broadway history, behind the ongoing The Phantom of the Opera, having played its 7,486th performance last November to eclipse Cats which previously held the second position).

Now, the current London production of Miss Saigon at the Prince Edward Theatre is not only playing in a much more intimate theatre than its original 1989 production (which opened at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and became the longest-running show in that theatre's history, closing a full decade later), but is also closing a lot sooner. As reported here, it will shutter Feb. 27 after a run of less than two years.

Yet it opened to a lot of buzz, reportedly setting the record for West End pre-opening single day sales, and also recouping its full investment by the time it opened. According to producer Cameron Mackintosh at the time, "The show's budget was £4.5 million – which is not a huge amount. I didn’t need to spend more than that and I think it looks every penny. We have recouped already." So it obviously didn't need a long run but is quitting while it is ahead, with Mackintosh now announcing his intention to roll out the show to Germany, Australia and Broadway "in the next two years."

Baz Bamigboye, showbusiness reporter for the U.K's Daily Mail, has previously already revealed that the Prince Edward's next tenant is to be the West End transfer of Aladdin with Disney's theatre chief Thomas Schumacher telling him, "The theatre is confirmed."

Responding to bad reviews: a director takes a pick-axe to the theatre
"Some day, I'm going to take a pick-axe and rip up Broadway from end to end," says Sister Sarah Brown in Guys and Dolls, as her mission to convert the souls of its miserable sinners fails. Last week one British theatre director decided to take the advice literally and took a pick-axe to rip up the theatre where his production of Neck of the Woods (starring film actress Charlotte Rampling) is currently running (though July 18) after it received bad reviews.

As reported here, the Turner prize winning artist turned director Douglas Gordon not only caused damage to the walls of the brand-new venue Home in Manchester, but added to his catalogue of wrongs by then adding graffiti to the result by signing and dating what he'd done.

Alex Poots, artistic director of the Manchester International Festival, has labelled his actions "wholly inappropriate", and added, "This is totally unacceptable and the artist involved will be paying for repairs."

Opening this Week

Big openings this week include:

  • Sinatra, The Man and His Music — a brand-new version of the tribute show that first played at the London Palladium in 2006 — returns to the same venue, opening July 20. Frank Sinatra Jr has commented, "2015 is the year of my father’s centennial. One of the most exciting events we have planned is this London show. My father first played the Palladium in July 1950, so it is fitting that the show will debut in the historic venue, as London was one of his favourite cities in the entire world."
  • Mack and Mabel Jerry Herman's 1974 musical gets an all-new outing, opening at Chichester Festival Theatre July 21, starring West End musical theatre veteran Michael Ball (the original Marius in Les Miserables) as Mack Sennett, with Broadway's Rebecca LaChance as Mabel Normand.
  • Michael Ball and Rebecca LaChance
    Photo by Manuel Harlan
  • American Idiot, based on the Green Day album of the same name, returns to London in a new production at the intimate Arts Theatre, opening July 22. It was previously seen in London in a production that featured the US touring cast in 2012. It now stars Amelia Lily, a singer who finished third on the British "X Factor" TV competition in 2011.

News headlines of the week

  • Martin McDonagh, whose most recent play A Behanding in Spokane premiered on Broadway in 2010, is returning home to Britain for his first new play in over a decade here. The Royal Court — the theatre where he first came to prominence in the mid-1990s when The Beauty Queen of Leenan was premiered there and subsequently transferred to Broadway - is to stage the world premiere of Hangmen. As reported here, it will begin performances Sept. 10, prior to an official opening Sept. 17.
  • Also in the Royal Court's new season, Brooklyn-based the TEAM will return to Britain with RoosevElvis (beginning performances Oct. 21 prior to an official opening Oct. 26), in which the spirits of Elvis Presley and Theodore Roosevelt battle over the soul of Ann, a painfully shy meat-processing plant worker, and what kind of man or woman Ann should become.
  • With Hamilton now in previews on Broadway, Lin-Maneul Miranda's first Broadway musical In the Heights has announced a return London run for the production first seen at Southwark Playhouse last year. It will begin performances Oct. 3 at the King's Cross Theatre. Director Luke Sheppard has commented,"We were overwhelmed by the response at Southwark and it's a real privilege to be able to revisit this extraordinary musical. We've thought long and hard about the right way to bring the show back to London whilst keeping the experience up close and personal, and this is a brilliant space for us to take over and immerse our audience in the sounds and sweat of this passion-infused piece."
  • Recent Olivier winner John Dagleish (for Sunny Afternoon) and theatre veteran Zoë Wanamaker have joined the all-star line-up for the opening productions of the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company at the West End's Garrick Theatre. As reported here, Wanamaker will performa Ratttigan's one-woman play All on Her Own as a curtain raiser to Harlequinade, in which she will also star, while Dagleish will appear in both Harlequinade and The Winter's Tale.

For more updates
Follow me on Twitter here, @shentonstage, for rolling news updates as they happen! And keep checking the international section of Playbill.com for major stories.

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