Towards the end of the last Broadway season, there were increasingly vociferous complaints about the domination of Broadway by British actors, from Judi Dench (in Amy's View, opposite another British performer, Samantha Bond) and Zoe Wanamaker (in the title role of Electra) to the ensemble casts of Closer, The Weir and the now departed The Lonesome West.
In the West End, however, that debt is currently being repaid in spades. While Chicago eagerly anticipates the arrival of Chita Rivera (returning to the role of Roxie that she originated in the original production of the show in 1975, and more recently played in Las Vegas) and Valarie Pettiford (direct from Broadway's Fosse) from August 16, the long-running Art sees the departure on July 25 of the Broadway line-up of Judd Hirsch, Joe Morton and George Wendt (the latter in his second West End stint in the same play; his co-stars last time were Stacy Keach and David Dukes). Also packing away his cards (or 52 assistants, as he calls them) is Ricky Jay, who departs from the Old Vic this week (July 17).
Meanwhile, Christine Pedi - an alumnus of the Off-Broadway company - leads the otherwise British company in the West End transfer of Forbidden Broadway from the tiny Jermyn Street Theatre to the Albery, from July 29. Lenny, Julian Barry's play about the late subversive comic Lenny Bruce, comes to the Queen's Theatre from July 27 with American actress Elizabeth Berkeley (from the sitcom Saved by the Bell and Paul Verhoeven's infamous film Showgirls) starring as 'Honey', opposite Eddie Izzard in the title role, the British stand-up who has played several seasons in New York at PS122 and the Westbeth Center.
At the National Theatre, Olympia Dukakis is currently performing the title role of Martin Sherman's monologue, Rose (in rep at the Cottesloe until September 8) . At the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, Charlton Heston and wife Lydia Clarke Heston are performing A.R. Gurney's Love Letters (to August 1). Headlining the Donmar Warehouse's Divas at the Donmar cabaret summer season are Patti LuPone (August 9-21) and Audra McDonald (August 23-28). And in September, an all-American cast will present a fully-staged production of the Gershwin classic, Porgy and Bess, at the Royal Festival Hall (from September 13-18).
Also, London productions are in prospect for numerous long-running Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, including I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change (at the Comedy from July 22), Disney's The Lion King (at the Lyceum from September 24) and Fosse (at the Prince of Wales from January 24, 2000). On the London fringe, Adam Guettel's musical Floyd Collins (originally seen at New York's Playwrights Horizons) has just opened for a run to July 30 at the Bridewell Theatre, where it will be succeeded by a revival of the rarely seen Gershwin musical, Of Thee I Sing (August 4 to September 4). At Jermyn Street Theatre, Maltby and Shire's off-Broadway revue, Starting Here Starting Now, has a run from July 23 to August 14.
Also on the London fringe, Tony Kushner is currently premiering his latest play, Home Body/Kabul, written specially for Kika Markham who performs it at Chelsea Centre Theatre, to July 31.
Mark Shenton, What's On Stage