What’s Hot in London: June 11-17

News   What’s Hot in London: June 11-17
Hamilton officially announces a London run, Aladdin flies into the West End on a magic carpet of rave reviews for the Genie, and Ramin Karimloo will star in Murder Ballad.
What’s Hot in London
What’s Hot in London

They’re not throwing away their shot.
In the immediate wake of its 11 Tony wins, Hamilton officially announced that it will come to London—as had long been tipped—to open at the Victoria Palace Theatre in October 2017. West End producer and landlord Cameron Mackintosh will partner with its original Broadway producer Jeffrey Seller in bringing it to London. In a press statement, Mackintosh commented, “The moment I saw Lin-Manuel’s remarkable Hamilton, I knew that this was a musical with a phenomenal story and score which will be performed somewhere in the world as long as people want to go to the theatre. To be working with my friend Jeffrey Seller again is an added bonus. My major redevelopment of the Victoria Palace will bring new life to a much loved building, and I have no doubt Hamilton will do the same for the musical theatre.”

Casting is still to be announced, but Hamilton’s creator Lin-Manuel Miranda has said, “The support Hamilton has received from our British fans has been incredible—I have been reminded of their love, which is just as our King George would want it to be! I’m thrilled the show will be shared with U.K. audiences starting in the fall of 2017 at the beautiful Victoria Palace Theatre.”

Aladdin’s magic carpet flies into the West End.
Hamilton is yet to arrive, but this week another titular character did from Broadway: namely, Disney’s Aladdin, which opened officially at the Prince Edward Theatre June 15.

Trevor Dion Nicholas (Genie),  Jade Ewen (Jasmine) and Dean John-Wilson (Aladdin)
Trevor Dion Nicholas (Genie), Jade Ewen (Jasmine) and Dean John-Wilson (Aladdin) Helen Maybanks/Disney

As Aladdin is best known as a story that is featured in annual Christmas pantomimes in Britain, more than one critic alluded to the similarities. In a four-star review for The Guardian, Michael Billington noted, “Imagine a Christmas panto minus the dame and with a budget of zillions and you get some idea of this musical extravaganza. At first, I resisted the corporate zeal that has taken the 1992 Disney animated feature and turned it into a live show, but I gradually found myself won over by the blend of spectacle, illusion and a greater supply of corn than you will find in the Kansas wheatfields.”

In another favourable four-star notice in the Daily Mail, Quentin Letts wrote, “Panto season has begun early this year with the arrival of Aladdin in the West End. It’s only June but we already have lamp-rubbing, pops of smoke, plasticky romance and a magic carpet (more a magic mattress) which floats around like a flying saucer.”

But the true star of the show is Broadway’s standby Genie, Trevor Dion Nicholas, who gets to originate the role for himself here. In Time Out London, Andzrej Lukowski noted, “The role could have been something of a poisoned, er, lamp, given Robin Williams’ iconic turn in the 1992 film. But glitter-doused Nicholas makes it his own with a kinetic mix of fabulousness and physicality. He’s the dame, basically, and he’s staggeringly good. In fact, his big showstoppers ‘Friend Like Me’ and ‘Prince Ali’ briefly make Aladdin the best musical in the West End, a heroically overextended, all-singing, all-dancing, multi-costume-changing spectacle. If Nicholas doesn’t win an Olivier next year I will eat a metal lamp.”

Ralph Fiennes returns to the London stage for the third time in 16 months.
One of the most prolific film actors around, Ralph Fiennes has been seen on cinema screens recently in such features as Hail Caesar!, A Bigger Splash, Spectre and Grand Budapest Hotel. He’s also currently prolific on the London stage, too, where his acting career began. In the last 16 months alone, he’s starred in Shaw’s Man and Superman at the National and Ibsen’s The Master Builder at the Old Vic.

Now he returns to the Almeida to star as Shakespeare’s Richard III, where he’s previously played the title roles of Chekhov’s Ivanov, Hamlet (for the Almeida at Hackney Empire, and subsequently transferring to Broadway) and Richard II and Coriolanus (for the Almeida at the temporary Gainsborough Studios).

As Matt Wolf noted in a review for The Arts Desk, “Fiennes may be older than most modern-day Richards but he cuts more deeply as well, his Almeida return coupling flashes of the charm this actor brought last year to Man and Superman with liberal dollops of the gathering psychosis in which Schindler’s List’s Amon Goeth trafficked all too well. The result makes for a restlessly exciting evening.”

In the Daily Telegraph, Dominic Cavendish wrote of Fiennes, “About the anti-hero’s nastiness there can be no doubt: the actor’s face has hardened with age, and playing those big-screen bad-guys—from that Schindler’s List psychopath Amon Göth through to Harry Potter’s Voldemort—has served him well. He can dehumanise his gaze, chill with a reptilian smile. Vein-popping fury is a muscle-memory. He ambles across the iambic pentameters in a halting, vulpine way, scenting unusual emphases. When he sports with the two young princes, cantering towards them with his sword-stick unsheathed, then laughs off the manoeuvre in a mechanical fashion, he skewers the dark comedy of the moment.”

Fiennes is joined by Vanessa Redgrave, returning to the London stage to play Queen Margaret at the age of 79. In The Guardian, Michael Billington dubbed her the most surprising of the strong performances in the production: “She turns this relic of the Lancastrian regime from a scolding harridan into a soft-spoken, pathetically demented figure clutching a baby doll whom she proceeds to feed from the bottle.”

More production and casting news

Ramin Karimloo
Ramin Karimloo

It was announced this week that Nathan Lane will join the previously announced Andrew Garfield, Denise Gough and Russell Tovey in the National’s revival of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, set to premiere in May 2017.

Ramin Karimloo has joined the previously announced Kerry Ellis to headline the U.K. premiere of Murder Ballad, at the Arts Theatre from September 29. Also in the cast will be Norman Bowman and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt.

The current West End revival of Alan Ayckbourn’s 1969 comedy How the Other Half Loves, which was the first of his plays to have a Broadway run when it played there in 1971, is set to continue in the West End. It moves from the Theatre Royal Haymarket (where it runs until June 25) to the Duke of York’s, where it will resume performances July 7.

The Olivier Award-winning Sunny Afternoon, a jukebox musical celebrating the lives and music of Ray Davies and the Kinks, will shutter at the West End’s Pinter Theatre October 29 after a run of over two years. But ahead of that, it launches a U.K. tour in August.

For further news…
Stay tuned to Playbill.com—and follow me on Twitter here, @shentonstage, for rolling news updates as they happen.

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