Though by no means comparable in scale, a show in London has been quietly previewing now for over two months — and they've just announced their official opening in over another one's time for Sept.7. Just as well that Dusty — a new multi-media celebration of the late, great Dusty Springfield that is now playing at the Charing Cross Theatre — has also announced a booking extension for performances through Nov. 21; it was originally only booking through Aug. 22, so it would have closed without ever opening.
Two billing changes also seem to have crept in since the show was first announced, too, with direction now attributed to Ben Woolf (replacing the previously billed Chris Cowey), and lighting to Richard Williamson (replacing the previously billed Eugene O’Connor). I wonder what's been happening there...
Mack and Mabel opens to mixed U.K reviews
Jerry Herman's 1974 Broadway musical, previously seen in the West End in 1995 and 2005 in productions that transferred from Leicester and Newbury respectively, is currently getting an all-new outing at Chichester Festival Theatre, where it opened officially 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. Will it follow such previous Chichester hits as Gypsy (currently at the Savoy) and Guys and Dolls (next up at the same address) to the West End?
That depends partly on how West End producing partners feel about the reviews. Labelling it a "defiantly feel-bad" musical, Fiona Mountford in the Evening Standard still feels pretty good about it: "It's one of the classiest producers of musical theatre in the country, so it comes as no surprise that Chichester is offering yet another slick and stylish show, to dance and tap in the footsteps of current West End hit Gypsy." In the Daily Telegraph, Dominic Cavendish also draws attention to problems — "Obviously, you can’t wholly turn a blind eye to the evening’s deficiencies" — but then adds, "One should cherish the warmth of spirit reflected in Herman’s characteristically lush score and charming lyrics." Cavendish is also full of praise for LaChance. whom he labels "a beautiful fit for an accidental starlet who instinctively knows how to widen her eyes in exaggerated terror at moustachioed villains but refuses to play the part of obliging wall-flower in real-life. Brought over from the States, she feels like a find in her own right."
In The Times, Sam Marlowe praises LaChance as having "bags of kooky charm",and concludes, "The show can’t cut it; but there are moments of sheer, swooning movie and musical magic."
Opening this Week
Three musicals and an all-star cast in a Russian classic at the National feature:
- 7 Brides for 7 Brothers: Rachel Kavanaugh directs Alex Gaumond and Laura Pitt-Pulford in a summer outdoor production of the 1954 film musical, opening tonight (July 23) at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park
- Songs for a New World: Jason Robert Brown's song cycle — 20 years on from its original Off-Broadway premiere — is now an institution, and gets all-star London revival, opening July 24 at the St James Theatre, with the soon-to-be Broadway-bound Cynthia Erivo (who'll be reprising The Color Purple there opposite Jennifer Hudson) and Jenna Russell (seen on Broadway in Sunday in the Park with George) starring alongside Damian Humbley (Russell's co-star in the Menier's Merrily We Roll Along that transferred to the West End) and Dean-John Wilson
- The Spitfire Grill: The 2001 Off-Broadway musical, based on the 1986 film of the same name, receives its UK premiere at the tiny Union Theatre, opening July 24
- Three Days in the Country: Patrick Marber — who recently premiered The Red Lion, his first original play in over a decade, at the National — now irects his own adaptation of Turgenev, opening on July 28, with a cast that includes John Simm, Mark Gatiss and John Light
- Casting for the previously announced Royal Court world premiere of the Martin McDonagh play Hangmen (running from Sept. 10 prior to an official opening Sept. 17) will include David Morrissey, Reece Shearsmith and Johnny Flynn, while Kim Cattrall, last seen on the London stage in Sweet Bird of Youth at the Old Vic in 2013, will star in Penelope Skinner's Linda (previewing Nov. 25, opening officially Dec. 8)
- James Phillips's McQueen, a play about the late British fashion designer Lee Alexander McQueen that was premiered at the St James Theatre in May, is to transfer to the Theatre Royal, Haymarket from Aug. 13, prior to an official opening Aug. 27, with Stephen Wight reprising his performance in the title role, newly joined by Carly Bawden in the role originated by Diana Agron
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