Danny DeVito, Zach Braff, Laurie Metcalf, Cate Blanchett and Juliette Binoche are amongst the international roster of stars heading to London theatre this year, while homegrown returning stars include Mark Rylance, Simon Russell Beale, Jonathan Pryce, David Suchet, Lindsay Duncan, Jeremy Northam, Imelda Staunton, Michael Ball, Antony Sher, Richard Griffiths, David Haig, Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith, Katherine Kelly and Tara Tointon.
On the musicals front, a bunch of new homegrown commercial musicals are in development, though all are waiting until after the summer Olympics before daring to show their hand. Amongst them are Viva Forever that seeks to do for the Spice Girls what Mamma Mia! did for ABBA, and is being developed with a book by Jennifer Saunders. Musical versions of Bridget Jones' Diary and the films "The Bodyguard" and "The Commitments" are also on the cards, while the much-lauded Broadway hit The Book of Mormon is looking to land in London, too.
But this side of the Olympics, there are not one but two transfers from the last Chichester summer season: Singin' in the Rain comes to the Palace (from Feb. 4) with Adam Cooper, Daniel Crossley, Scarlett Strallen and Katharine Kingsley; and Sweeney Todd, starring Michael Ball in the title role with Imelda Staunton as Mrs. Lovett, heads to the Adelphi (from March 10). The stage premiere of Top Hat comes to the Aldwych (from April 19), starring Tom Chambers and another Strallen sister (Summer, not the season but the person), following a hugely successful regional tour.
|photo by Catherine Ashmore|
Another Broadway classic, Wonderful Town, with a score by Leonard Bernstein (music) and Comden and Green (lyrics), will be seen at the Lowry in Salford Quays; they are joining forces with the Hallé Orchestra and Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre to present a run from March 31 to April 14. Connie Fisher, who won the 2006 TV contest "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" to star in the London Palladium revival of The Sound of Music that year, will lead the cast, and then go on an 11-week nationwide tour with the production.
Also embarking on a U.K. tour is a new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's roller-skating musical Starlight Express that ran for nearly 18 years in the West End (kicking off at New Wimbledon Theatre from May 10), joining the ongoing touring production of Lloyd Webber's Evita. A re-designed, newly staged production of The Phantom of the Opera is going on a big U.K. tour, too, kicking off in Plymouth in March 2012, with a cast that will see the current London Phantom John Owen-Jones share the title role at different dates with Earl Carpenter. Featuring a new design and staging that retains Maria Björnson's original costumes, the production is directed by Laurence Connor, with choreography by Scott Ambler and set design by Paul Brown.
Also in the regions, Susan Boyle will appear herself in the finale of I Dreamed A Dream, a new touring musical based on her life story, kicking off at Newcastle's Theatre Royal March 23; a new production of Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim's Broadway classic Gypsy will be staged at Leicester's Curve beginning March 13, starring Caroline O'Connor as Rose; and the premiere of a brand-new musical Loserville will run at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds from June 16. On the fringe, Adam Guettel and Tina Landau's 1994 Floyd Collins will be revived at Southwark Playhouse from Feb. 28, with Glenn Carter (Jesus in the 2000 Broadway revival of Jesus Christ Superstar) in the title role.
Ayckbourn's 1974 play Absent Friends will be revived at the Harold Pinter Theatre (from Feb. 9), with a cast that includes Reece Shearsmith (last seen in Betty Blue Eyes), Kara Tointon, David Armand and Katherine Parkinson. Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys is eyeing a West End return in April, starring Danny DeVito and Richard Griffiths at a theatre to be announced.
A play by Noël Coward will come to the Coward Theatre for the first time since that theatre took his name, for a production of Hay Fever that will star Lindsay Duncan and Jeremy Northam (from Feb. 9). It will be followed in August by back-to-back runs for the RSC's new Stratford productions of Julius Caesar (re-set to modern Africa, and with a cast that includes Ray Fearon and Paterson Joseph), and Much Ado About Nothing (relocated to an Indian setting, with Meera Syal as Beatrice).
|photo by Aubrey Reuben|
Elsewhere, the World Shakespeare Festival will include Simon Russell Beale appearing in the title role of Timon of Athens for director Nicholas Hytner at the National in July, and Jonathan Pryce starring in the title role of King Lear at the Almeida (from Aug. 31). Shakespeare's Globe will present Globe to Globe, a season of all 37 plays presented in 37 different languages by visiting companies from around the world, over a six-week season (from April 23). The Globe's own season that follows will see the return of Mark Rylance to the theatre he previously ran for its first decade, to both reprise his award-winning performance as Olivia in Twelfth Night that he previously gave there (from Sept. 22), and star in the title role of Richard III (from July 14). The Globe season will also include Henry V with Jamie Parker in the title role (from June 7), and The Taming of the Shrew (from June 23). At the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park, there will be a return to what used to be an annual staple there with a new production of A Midsummer Night's Dream (from June 2).
|photo by Hugo Glendinning|
Director Nicolas Kent's final season at the helm of North London's Tricycle Theatre, after 28 years in charge, will follow the current return run of Stones in His Pockets (running through Feb. 4) with the two-part play The Bomb (from Feb. 9), a partial history of the nuclear bomb from 1940 to the present day, by commissioned playwrights Lee Blessing, Zinnie Harris and Ron Hutchinson.
At the Royal Court, the main house season in the Jerwood Downstairs features David Eldridge's new play In Basildon (from Feb. 16), an epic family drama whose cast will include Linda Bassett, Debbie Chazen and Ruth Sheen; the London premiere of the prolific Mike Bartlett's Love Love Love (from April 27), and the Royal Court's second Joe Penhall premiere within six months, his latest play Birthday (from June 22), with a cast that includes Stephen Mangan. In the studio Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, the season will comprise Nick Payne's Constellations (from Jan. 13, with Sally Hawkins and Rafe Spall), Luke Norris' Goodbye to All That (from Feb. 23), Hayley Squires' Vera Vera Vera (from March 22), Bola Agbaje's Belong (from April 26) and Vivienne Franzmann's The Witness (from June 1).
At the Almeida, as well as the aforementioned King Lear with Jonathan Pryce, the season will include new productions of Lorca's The House of Bernarda Alba, with the action relocated to Iran and featuring Iranian stage and screen star Shohreh Aghdashio making her British stage debut (from Jan. 19), Eduardo de Filippo's Filumena, starring Samantha Spiro in the title role (from March 15) and the world premiere of Matthew Dunster's Children's Children (from May 17).
To keep up to date with everything that is happening in the U.K. theatre, visit Playbill.com's International section daily.