2013 was a stellar year for London’s theatre business. The Book of Mormon transferred from Broadway smashing box office records on its way, Bond director Sam Mendes brought another Roald Dahl classic to the stage in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Jude Law, Adrian Lester, Richard Tennant and Tom Hiddleston all took on Shakespeare and Helen Mirren was the queen of the West End in The Audience. Successful revivals included Passion Play, A Dolls House and The Weir and new writing also shone, particularly in Lucy Kirkwood’s Chimerica at the Almeida. 2014, you should be quaking in your boots. Here’s the THN picks of the productions to see in 2014.
1) Miss Saigon
It’s been fifteen years since Miss Saigon has been in the West End and such is the anticipation for this new production of Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil’s epic musical that when the box office opened back in September it took £4.4 million. That’s £4.4 million in one day. Compare that to last year’s monster hit The Book of Mormon which only managed £2.1 million. Producer Cameron Mackintosh and director Laurence Connor certainly won’t want to disappoint and their casting of experienced West End star Alistair Brammer (Les Mis, War Horse, Taboo) alongside a West End newcomer, 17-year-old Eva Noblezada, as the leads of the show is a choice they will hope pays off. Miss Saigon, based on the opera Madame Butterfly, tells the tragic tale story of a love-affair between an American GI and a Vietnamese bar girl whose lives are torn apart by the fall of Saigon. This production will be a complete re-imagining of the classic musical with a grittier look at the designs and operations involved and will feature a brand new song for the character of Ellen which English speaking audiences will be hearing for the first time.
Miss Saigon opens at the Prince Edward Theatre in May 2014 and you can book tickets here.
If 2013 ‘belonged’ to anyone on the theatre circuit it might just be director Jamie Llloyd. As Artistic Director of the phenomenally successful Trafalgar Transformed he brought three outstanding plays to the West End in a matter of months and finished the year with the opening of The Commitments, the Roddy Doyle best-selling novel musical adaptation. His next project is the transfer of the Tony-Award winning Urinetown to the West End stage. A social and political comedy satire, the show is set in a fictional future where a 20-year drought has reeked havoc on the city’s water supplies and enforced a ban on all private toilets; citizens must use public pay-per-use amenities owned by an evil corporation. Try to relieve yourself elsewhere and you’ll find yourself in the mysterious ‘Urinetown’; one place you won’t be coming back from. Nominated for a massive nine Tony Awards and winning three of the big four (Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score and Best Direction of a Musical) the show has been described as a hilarious and pertinent tale of greed, corruption, love and revolution in a time where water is worth its weight in gold.
Urinetown opens at the St James Theatre in February 2014 and you can book tickets here.
Playwright Simon Stephens and The Royal Court go back a long way, all the way back to 1998 in fact where his first play outside the festival circuit debuted. He’s back at the theatre where he taught on the Young Writer’s programme for many years in 2014 with Birdland; a new play that takes a deeper look at what fame really costs and what happens when it’s not yours anymore. Irish actor Andrew Scott, perhaps best known for playing arch-villain Moriarty in BBC’s Sherlock, will play rock-star Paul who is facing the inevitable come-down as his international tour comes to a close. Stephens directed the incredible Olivier Award-winning adaptation of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time for the National Theatre, now playing in the West End and is known for presenting confrontational material in a thoughtful and masterful way. Also debuting at The Royal Court later this month is THE IRON LADY screenwriter Abi Morgan’s The Mistress Contract which documents a remarkable decades-long affair between a US couple and the contract that binds them.
Birdland opens at The Royal Court in April 2014 and you can book tickets here.
4) Fatal Attraction
We all know the story; married boy meets girl, starts affair, tries to end the relationship and discovers girl is a psychopath who doesn’t take well to being dumped. Cue obsessive phone calls, stalking, kidnapping and suicide attempts. All the ingredients of a classic thriller are lined up for the stage adaptation of the six-time Academy Award winning 1987 hit. Original screenwriter James Dearden is adapting his screenplay for the stage and legendary Sir Trevor Nunn will direct. Nunn is a three-time Oliver winner and the man behind Broadway hit Cats and London’s longest running musical Les Miserables. A cast is yet to be announced for the production but bunny-boiling live on stage is something we cannot wait to see!
Fatal Attraction opens at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in March 2014 and you can book tickets here.
5) A Streetcar Named Desire
Gillian Anderson is back on the London stage this summer in the Young Vic’s new production of Tennessee Williams’ 1947 play A Streetcar Named Desire. Anderson will play Blanche Dubois, one of literature’s most famous women whose problems with alcohol and her mental health lead her into a downward spiral that explodes onto the stage when she faces sexual confrontation with her primal brother-in-law Stanley. The original Broadway production landed actress Jessica Tandy with a Best Actress Tony Award and Vivian Leigh took on the role in London in 1949 so Anderson is following in some pretty spectacular footsteps. Having been nominated for the Olivier for Best Actress for her role in A Doll’s House at the Donmar Warehouse in 2009 we’re looking forward to seeing Anderson take on this incredible role. She will be directed by Australian theatre director Benedict Andrews whose 2012 version of Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters, also staged at the Young Vic, won him critical acclaim. The theatre is hosting a fantastic-looking season in 2014 with other works including Juliet Stevenson starring in Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days for the season opener and, later in the year, a Simon Stephen’s version of another of Chekhov’s works, The Cherry Orchard, will also debut.
A Streetcar Named Desire opens at the Young Vic in summer 2014. Tickets are not yet on sale but more information can be found here.