What’s Hot in London: November 19-25

News   What’s Hot in London: November 19-25
Amber Riley stops Dreamgirls in London, Alfie Boe will star in Carousel, Imelda Staunton says Gypsy will come to Broadway, and more.
What’s Hot in London
What’s Hot in London

Dreamgirls previews get an ecstatic reaction.
The arrival of Dreamgirls in London—some 35 years on from its original Broadway outing in 1981—has been long-awaited. But now that it is in previews at the Savoy, prior to an official opening on December 14, it has been getting ecstatic reactions. In the Daily Mail, influential show business writer Baz Bamigboye remarked that he had attended the first preview on November 26 “and it is now on my list of most memorable nights in the theatre.”

Amber Riley
Amber Riley Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Writing of star Amber Riley, who plays Effie White, he said, “Riley’s performance was so phenomenal that twice the audience rose and cheered before she’d finished a song. It’s called stopping the show and it happens a lot on Broadway, but rarely here.” He also said he’s already been back since.

Long-awaited shows finally arrive in London.
Henry Krieger, the composer who made his Broadway debut with Dreamgirls, has also been represented in London by the U.K. premiere of his 1997 show Side Show (currently at Southwark Playhouse through December 3), which took 19 years to get here. Soon, too, there's Maury Yeston’s Death takes a Holiday (coming to the Charing Cross Theatre, five-and-a-half years on from its 2011 Off-Broadway premiere), and beyond London, Big (20 years on from its 1996 Broadway premiere) is now touring and The Addams Family is due to launch in April in Edinburgh (seven years on from its 2010 Broadway opening).

Opera stars line-up to headline ENO’s Carousel.
Following the Broadway-bound Sunset Boulevard that began at the London Coliseum over the summer, the next musical to play in the partnership between English National Opera and the GradeLinnit Company will be Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic Carousel, running for 41 performances from April 7 to May 13.

Alfie Boe
Alfie Boe Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Lonny Price, who directed Sunset Boulevard and Sweeney Todd that preceded it, will direct a cast led by opera stars Alfie Boe (seen on Broadway in La Boheme, Les Misérables and Finding Neverland) and best-selling recording artist Katherine Jenkins. They will be joined by the ENO's award-winning 40-piece orchestra and chorus. Further casting is still to be announced.

Imelda Staunton urges food ban in theatres and confirms Gypsy heading to Broadway
In an interview in the Radio Times, Imelda Staunton said, “I don’t know why people can't engage in just one thing. I don't understand this obsession with having to eat or drink something at every moment of the day.” She stated she would be in favour of a food ban in theatres, and said that she and actor husband Jim Carter (best known for Downton Abbey, in which he plays Carson) don’t eat in front of the television, either. “There might, at one point in the evening, be a very small, very naughty bowl of ice cream. But that’s not noisy.”

In a separate interview on a new series called Stage Lives, presented by Digital Theatre and The Stage, she also confirmed plans to reprise her performance as Mama Rose in Gypsy on Broadway in 2018.

Ronald Harwood objects to political theatre and receives hate mail.
Veteran playwright Ronald Harwood, whose play The Dresser is currently running in the West End, has spoken out against plays that carry a political message. “I cannot bear being lectured at in the theatre and there is a sort of political will that dominates the theatre—‘I am going to change the world by telling them they are all doing this wrongly.’ I don’t like it so I don’t go,” he said in a public event for the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts.

Glenda Jackson
Glenda Jackson Manuel Harlan

Earlier this year he also ignited a controversy when he spoke out against cross-gender casting, objecting specifically to Glenda Jackson being cast as King Lear (which she is currently playing to great acclaim at the Old Vic) and saying that he was going to state in his will that women were forbidden from playing the male roles in his own plays. Speaking of this, he said, “I brought the world down on my shoulders [saying that]. I’ve never known anything like it—emails and hate mails.”

Glenda Jackson’s Lear could hit the West End and Broadway.
In further news on the Glenda Jackson King Lear, it has been announced that a radio version of the production will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 December 26. Jackson, who returned to the London stage after a 25 years absence during which time she represented the Labour Party in parliament, commented, “It will be very interesting to see how the play transfers from stage to microphone [and radio]. I look forward to it.” Jackson has been reported to be in discussion for taking King Lear on to a further life in the West End and on Broadway.

Review: Harriet Walter as Prospero in The Tempest
In more unconventional casting, Harriet Walter is currently playing three Shakespearean leads in the Donmar Warehouse’s productions of Julius Caesar, Henry IV, and The Tempest in a new temporary theatre at King’s Cross, where they opened officially November 23. The first two were previously seen respectively at the Donmar in 2012 and 2014; The Tempest is new, and will transfer to New York’s St. Ann’s Warehouse from January 13 to February 19 after it concludes its run here.

In a five-star review in The Guardian, Lyn Gardner wrote, “Harriet Walter is mesmerising in one play after another, bringing her classical training to bear as a conflicted Brutus, then a Henry IV who wears his crown heavily, and finally a Prospero who knows that the steel bars of prison are resistant to all magic.” Writing of her performance in The Tempest, Henry Hitchings in the Evening Standard commented, “Harriet Walter is the magician Prospero, wounded by years of exile. Instead of being portrayed as a refined and cerebral figure, as tends to be the case, the character here becomes sinewy and rugged. There’s a weariness about her, too—for while she may keep others confined, she’s also uncomfortably aware of her own status as a captive.”

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

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