Theatre News

Opening: Sister Act, Law Hamlet, Arcadia & Tonys

Amongst the major London openings – in the West End and further afield – this week are:
OPENING TONIGHT, Monday 1 June 2009 (previews from 25 May), Regent’s Park’s Open Air Theatre begins its summer season with Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, starring Samantha Spiro and Sean Campion as reluctant lovers Beatrice and Benedick and directed by Open Air artistic director Timothy Sheader (See News, 20 Apr 2009). It runs in rep until 27 June.

ALSO TONIGHT, after three years at the Noel Coward, the hit puppet musical comedy Avenue Q reopens at the West End’s Gielgud Theatre, with Daniel Boys and Julie Atherton continuing in the cast (See News, 9 Mar 2009).

ALSO TONIGHT, American chat show host Jerry Springer makes his stage debut playing super-slick lawyer Billy Flynn in long-running Kander and Ebb musical Chicago at the West End’s Cambridge Theatre, where he’s contracted for a limited six-week stint until 11 July (See News, 17 Feb 2009).

ALSO TONIGHT, Agatha Christie Theatre Company’s revival of Spider’s Web visits Richmond Theatre as part of a national tour.

OPENING TUESDAY, 2 June 2009 (previews from 7 May), the new big-budget musical version of screen comedy Sister Act receives its West End premiere at the London Palladium (See News, 14 Nov 2008). American newcomer Patina Miller stars as Deloris Van Cartier, the part played in the original 1992 film by Whoopi Goldberg, who is co-producing the West End premiere (See News, 14 Nov 2008). The cast also features Sheila Hancock as the Mother Superior and Ian Lavender as Monsignor Howard.

Transplanted to 1970s Philadelphia, Sister Act tells the story of disco diva Deloris, who, after witnessing a murder and being put in protective police custody in a convent, brings some soul to the church choir, much to the initial consternation of the Mother Superior. The musical has an original score by Alan Menken with lyrics by his long-time collaborator Glenn Slater. The book is by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner.

OPENING WEDNESDAY, 3 June 2009 (previews from 29 May), the year-long Donmar West End season at Wyndham’s Theatre concludes with Hamlet, starring Jude Law as the great Dane, with Penelope Wilton and Kevin R McNally as Gertrude and Claudius (See News, 30 Jan 2009). The production is directed by Donmar artistic director Grandage – who took over from Kenneth Branagh, the season’s artistic associate (See News, 14 Oct 2008) – and designed by Christopher Oram. The cast also features Peter Eyre, Ron Cook and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. It continues until 22 August 2009.

OPENING THURSDAY, 4 June 2009 (previews from 27 May), David Leveaux directs the first major revival of Tom Stoppard’s 1993 modern classic Arcadia, with a cast including Samantha Bond, Jessica Cave, Neil Pearson, Dan Stevens and the author’s actor-son, Ed Stoppard, at the West End’s Duke of York’s, where it’s booking for a limited season until 12 September 2009 (See News, 16 Mar 2009). The story begins in April 1809 at a stately home in Derbyshire where Thomasina, a gifted pupil, proposes a startling theory. Two hundred years later, two academics piece together a puzzle that recalls those earlier events.

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ALSO ON THURSDAY, Jackie Skarvellis’ James Dean Is Dead! Long Live James Dean opens at the fringe Above the Stag theatre in Victoria, where it runs until 20 June 2009.

ON SUNDAY, 7 June 2009, at the National Theatre, Colin Firth, Eileen Atkins, Alan Rickman, Michael Sheen are amongst the myriad stars taking part in Harold Pinter: A Celebration, a tribute to the Nobel Prize winner, who died last Christmas. It takes place at the NT Olivier, directed by former Royal Court artistic director Ian Rickson (See News, 8 May 2009).

ALSO ON SUNDAY, the Tony Awards, Broadway’s biggest prize, are announced in New York (See News, 5 May 2009). The transfer of Billy Elliot leads the field with a whopping 15 nominations – only the second production to ever receive so many nods, after The Producers in 2001 – with strong turnouts from other British exports including the Old Vic’s revival of Alan Ayckbourn trilogy The Norman Conquests and the Donmar Warehouse production of Schiller’s Mary Stuart, which have received seven nominations apiece.