An unusually prolific summer season in the West End sees numerous openings of new shows both this month and next, ranging from popular classics like John Osborne's Look Back in Anger (opening tonight at the National) and yet another revival of Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, transferring to the Theatre Royal, Haymarket from Chichester, to musical revivals (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park) and transfers from Off-Broadway (I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change at the Comedy and Forbidden Broadway at the Albery). There are also West End bows for a new production of Julian Barry's play about the late Lenny Bruce, entitled Lenny (at the Queen's) and a return season of the popular Peter O'Toole vehicle, Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell (at the Old Vic).
But it is as the fall approaches, of course, that things really start to hot up as the weather cools down. September sees the premiere of the latest play by Ronald Harwood, author of The Dresser and Taking Sides, both of which were seen on Broadway. Entitled Quartet, the play is, appropriately, a vehicle for four vintage actors, including Donald Sinden and Alec McCowen (opening at the Albery on September 8). It continues with a new production of Sean O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock at the Donmar Warehouse (opening September 20); Katie Mitchell directing a new version of The Oresteia, previewing at the Natinoal's Cottesloe from September 24; and a new production of the classic 1954 Broadway musical comedy, The Pajama Game, which Simon Callow directs at the Victoria Palace, opening September 21.
October brings three more musicals: Great Balls of Fire is a revue celebration of Jerry Lee Lewis (Cambridge Theatre, opening October 6), Spend, Spend, Spend is a new British musical based on the true story of a lottery winner who quickly spent her entire winnings (Piccadilly Theatre, opening October 12); and Disney's The Lion King (opening at the Lyceum on October 19). Meanwhile on the legit front, there's a new Ayckbourn (Comic Potential, opening at the Lyric on October 13) and, at the other extreme, a new Mark Ravenhill play (author of Shopping and F***ing, his latest is called Some Explicit Polaroids and opens at the Ambassadors on October 14).
October also sees the launch of the RSC's London winter season, with new productions of King Lear (with Nigel Hawthorne in the title role) in the Barbican Theatre and The Taming of the Shrew in the Barbican Pit, opening respectively on October 27 and 28. At the National's Cottesloe Theatre, Ron Daniels directs the world premiere of a play by Stephen Poliakoff, Remember This, opening October 14. At the Old Vic, Declan Donnellan directs a new production of Antigone at the Whitehall there's a new production of John Whiting's A Penny for a Song, both also scheduled for October bows.
In November, the Donmar Warehouse reprise their hit production of Richard Greenberg's Off-Broadway play, Three Days of Rain, opening on November 9 with its original London cast reunited: Colin Firth, Elizabeth McGovern and David Morrisey.
In December, Zoe Wanamaker and Simon Russell Beale are scheduled to star in a new play by Nick Stafford, Battle Royal, which Howard Davies is directing at the National's Lyttelton.
Mark Shenton, What's On Stage.