What’s Hot in London: July 16-22

Special Features   What’s Hot in London: July 16-22
Will critics #KeeptheSecrets of Harry Potter? Plus, Amber Riley reveals a powerhouse Effie, Jesus Christ Superstar returns to London, and seats with no view at all are offered for sale for the Edinburgh Festival.
What’s Hot in London
What’s Hot in London

Harry Potter is finally opening to the press
In a real break from theatrical tradition in London, reviews for the hottest show of the year, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, will appear ahead of the scheduled gala opening—by invitation of the producers. The opening has long been set for July 30, but critics have been seeing the show already, and reviews will be published at 00.01 British summer time on Tuesday July 26.

Jamie Parker (Harry Potter), Sam Clemmett (Albus Potter) and Poppy Miller (Ginny Potter)
Jamie Parker (Harry Potter), Sam Clemmett (Albus Potter) and Poppy Miller (Ginny Potter) Charlie Gray

How much will they reveal about the show? Audiences have been implored to #KeeptheSecrets, and so far it seems to be working. As Sonia Friedman said in a recent interview in The Guardian, “It’s extraordinary that, six weeks into previews, the story still isn’t out.” But then, as her co-producer Colin Callender tells it, why would anyone want to spoil the surprise? He quotes John Tiffany, the show’s director, saying, “Why would you open a kid’s Christmas present in November? Which is a lovely metaphor.” Let's hope there are no Scrooges amongst the critical fraternity, either.

Dreaming about Dreamgirls
This year London is finally getting Side Show (the 1997 cult Broadway show that received a Main Stem revival in 2014), as previously reported here, with a score by Henry Krieger, but it is another Krieger show that is even more overdue: his 1981 hit Dreamgirls. Finally, 35 years later, the show will receive its U.K. premiere at the Savoy in November.

Last week Amber Riley, the Glee star who has been cast as Effie White, gave a taster of what to expect with a video release of her singing “I Am Changing.” She also speaks to director Casey Nicholaw about what attracted her to the role: “I think the thing that excites me about Effie is that it is challenging—vocally it’s challenging, emotionally it’s challenging. She has this full arc and evolution that happens for this character, and I haven't really got to experience that, so being able to tell that story and also be the first person to bring it to London, it’s an extreme amount of pressure but it’s wanted pressure—pressure makes diamonds.”

Jesus Christ Superstar rises from the cross again
The last time Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s 1970 rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar was revived in London in 2012, it used a reality TV casting programme to find it an actor to play the title role—the competition was won by Ben Forster, who has now graduated to playing the title role in another Lloyd Webber show, The Phantom of the Opera, in the West End.

Now the show is back in town for a summer season at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park—and Timothy Sheader’s production is like a giant TV talent show. In The Stage, Tim Bano writes, “When Jesus takes centre stage, guitar in hand, the lighting and the look of it is pure The X Factor—as is the thick fog of haze that emanates from the giant cross lying on its side like a fashion runway.”

Bano also finds high praise for Tyrone Huntley: “Jesus Christ, they’ve found a superstar in Tyrone Huntley as Judas, played with a twisted, tortured ferocity. His almighty voice is electrifying and his searing anger makes him the most fleshed out character in the production.”

In the Daily Telegraph, Dominic Cavendish—who admits to having grown up with the score—writes, “Each song is sung with such feeling that the soul of the piece, as embodied in the restless whirl of sounds, so volatile in tempo, comes roaring through. Superstar’s youthful potency and its Christ-like radicalism—courting sacrilege, achieving an essence of spiritual intensity—is reborn in the nick of time. Hallelujah!”

The seats with no view… at all
At least they’re being honest. But the Edinburgh International Festival has ignited controversy for its three-night run of the opera Norma, starring Cecilia Bartoli, at the Festival Theatre next month by offering “restricted view” tickets for £90, “very restricted view” tickets for £60 and “no view” seats for £30.

A spokeswoman told The Stage, “The seats are described as ‘no view’ as they are at the very sides of the stalls and the production’s set will severely restrict the audience view from these areas. We are open and honest about what customers can expect and as it is such a rare opportunity to hear world renowned singer Cecilia Bartoli, people still wish to purchase these seats.”

As playwright and academic Dan Rebellato tweeted:

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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