2003 West End

Trevor Nunn at the Olivier Awards (seanjamescameron)

The biggest news of 2003 came as Trevor Nunn stepped down from his position as Artistic Director of the National Theatre, handing over the glory to Nicholas Hytner. Nunn continued to be represented in the West End as his production of Anything Goes found a home north of the river at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Starring John Barrowman and Sally Ann Triplett, the production set sail in September, featuring the same set, cast and creative team.

Hytner was keen to prove his worth, mounting a string of new productions at the Southbank venue. These included a modern dress production of Hamlet starring Adrian Lester. In December he directed the world premiere of Nicholas Wright’s adaptation of Phillip Pullman’s fantasy series His Dark Materials. The show contained the narrative of all three books in the series, and was performed in two parts at alternative performances. This mammoth venture utilised puppetry to help the tale come to life, and was well received by critics and audiences.

Jerry Springer the Opera (wikipedia)

Controversy came about by the World Premiere of Jerry Springer – The Opera which was staged at the Theatre in April, before transferring to the West End’s Cambridge Theatre. The musical, written by Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee became notable for its use of profanities and edgy subject matter including tap dancing members of the Ku Klux Klan and accusations of Jesus being gay. It wasn’t long before Christian’s began to picket the performances, warning audience members that they would go to hell for watching.

Over at the Donmar, Michael Grandage kicked off his residency with an inspired production of Sondheim’s little known Pacific Overture which won much critical acclaim.

Comedian Dawn French starred in a one woman play My Brilliant Divorce which opened at the Apollo Theatre to mainly positive reviews, proving she can succeed without her usual partner Jennifer Saunders.

Ratime the Musical (Wikipedia)

One of the most anticipated events of the year was the West End transfer of Ragtime, the musical based on the epic 1975 novel of the same name by EL Doctorow featuring music by Stephen Flaherty and Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens. Opening at the Piccadilly Theatre the show enjoyed none of the extravagance of the Broadway production, and failed to impress audiences. The real triumph was shared by Maria Friedman as the mother, delivering an outstanding vocal performance.