2013 West End

ACL_ENC 600 pxw x 900 pxhAfter the excitement in London throughout 2012 thanks to the Diamond Jubilee and Olympic Games, normal service was resumed and the focus was once again on West End theatre. After quite a sorry season for new musicals last year, 2013 offered an influx of shows transferring to London riding on the back of their Broadway success. The first show to arrive was the 2006 Broadway revival of A Chorus Line which marks the first ever London revival of the show. Opening at the London Palladium in February, the show reunited director Bob Avian with Baayork Lee, and the pair battled to keep the spirit of both Michael Bennett and Marvin Hamlisch alive in the West End. Featuring a talented cast, including John Partridge and Scarlett Strallen, the show received solid notices, but only managed to draw in the crowds for a six month period. With the X Factor musical I Can’t Sing not scheduled in until 2014, Barry Humphries Farewell Tour: Eat Pray Laugh played a limited season, along with a number of smaller productions to fill the gap.

The battle of the Tony Award winners began as 2011 show The Book of Mormon went head to head with 2012 winner Once, and it was clear from the marketing efforts which was going to come out on top. Both received stellar reviews on Broadway, as well as the Tony Award for Best Musical. Whereas one was highly commercial and thrived off its own success, the other is simple and follows a simple love story in an intimate setting. The Book of Mormon was highly anticipated after it premiered on Broadway and its careful marketing plan resulted in a sell out first few months. Gavin Creel and Jared Gertner headlined the cast, drafted in from the US National Tour. The show opened at the Prince of Wales Theatre officially on March 21. Once is based on the Irish independent film of the same name that became successful due to its soundtrack. The show features two musicians who come together to tell a love story in an intimate, actor-musician environment. It opened at the Phoenix Theatre from 16 March, starring Declan Bennett and Zrinka Cvitesic.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 200x300The big summer musical of the year was Sam Mendes’ brand new production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the Musical which had its world premiere at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Featuring a brand new score from the composers of Hairspray, Roald Dahl’s classic story is brought to life onstage, with a cast that features Nigel Planner as Grandpa Joe and Douglas Hodge as Willy Wonka. Tim Rice provided the lyrics for a new musical at the Shaftesbury based on the famous film From Here to Eternity. The show featured a score by newcomer Stuart Brayson and was hoping to become as iconic as the original source material. Rice’s one time partner Andrew Lloyd Webber opened his latest musical offering Stephen Ward at the Aldwych Theatre in December. Starring Alexander Hanson in the lead role, the show explored the life of osteopath Stephen Ward and his role in the Profumo Affair – the sex scandal that threatened to close down the government. The Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre produced a new version of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music, reverting back to their more traditional roots after last year’s experimental production of Ragtime. 

Cameron Mackintosh had a busy year once again as he finally announced that Miss Saigon would return to the West End in a new production at the Prince Edward Theatre. He was also busily working on Barnum at the Chichester Festival Theatre, but Tim Sheader’s production failed to entertain critics, and plans for a West End transfer were shelved.

Dance shows also featured heavily thanks to the success of TV shows such as ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. Midnight Tango opened at the Phoenix Theatre whilst Burn the Floor filled the gap at the Shaftesbury Theatre, giving audiences a choice of commercial dance shows in the West End, alongside the traditional venues of Sadler’s Wells and the Peacock Theatre, which brought back productions of West Side Story and The Snowman. 

The Cripple of Inishmaan 200x300Plays are continuing to grow on both the commercial front and in fringe venues. Celebrity appearances onstage are already causing quite a stir, as the newly formed Michael Grandage Company and the Jamie Lloyd Company brought classic plays to the forefront starring familiar faces. The Michael Grandage Season saw  Judi Dench, Daniel Radcliffe, Ben Wishaw, David Walliams and Jude Law treading the boards at the Duke of York’s Theatre in production such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Henry V. Jamie Lloyd gave us a new production of Hamlet at the Trafalgar Studios, starring Scotsman James McAvoy in the lead role as well as The Hothouse and an excellent production of The Pride. 

Helen Mirren returned to her Oscar winning role of Queen Elizabeth II in Peter Morgan’s new play The Audience which opened at the Gielgud Theatre on 15 February, just as Rowan Atkinson returned to the West End in Quatermaine’s Terms at the Wyndham’s. Revivals once again featured prominently, with Harold Pinter’s Old Times at the Harold Pinter, Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Bird of Youth, Rattigan’s The Winslow Boy both at the Old Vic Theatre. Blithe Spirit enjoyed a summer run, along with Alan Ayckbourn’s Relatively Speaking finishing the year at the Wyndham’s.

2013 was an incredibly exciting year!

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