2004 UK Roundup!

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What a year! Though I can by no means provide a comprehensive roundup – there's just so much to cover, from Richard Dreyfuss dramatically leaving The Producers to under 16s being banned from theatreland on their own(!) – I've rounded up many of the year's exciting highlights..

In January we saw Andrew Lloyd Webber's Tell Me on a Sunday reworked for its original star, Marti Webb, and The National Theatre lead the Olivier Award nominations with a whopping 20 awards. Cameron Mackintosh got himself into hot water over using a virtual orchestra in Les Miserables and Laura Michelle Kelly bagged the part of Mary Poppins.

February opened with Alyson Hannigan and Luke Perry giving us the orgasmic When Harry Met Sally. Despite winning the Olivier, Critics' Circle, Evening Standard and Whatsonstage.com awards for best new musical, Jerry Springer – the Opera didn't set the box office alight quite as it had done at the National. Thoroughly Modern Millie got nothing at the Oliviers and Anne Hathaway was strongly rumoured to star in The Woman in White.

In March Gillian Anderson returned to the London stage after What The Night Is For to star in a play about baseball at the RoyalCourtTheatre. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang incorporated changes to its script in order to test audience reactions ahead of a Broadway production, Bombay Dreams announced closure and so did long runner Stones in His Pockets.

April welcomed the transfer of Les Miserables from the Palace Theatre to the Queen's Theatre, as Andrew Lloyd Webber's Woman in White would take up residence at the show's former residence. Mamma Mia celebrated its fifth anniversary, Jailhouse Rock – a musical based on Elvis' film - opened, Kevin Spacey unveiled his plans for the OldVicTheatre and Oleanna with Julia Stiles opened to positive reviews.

May should have embraced Baz Lurhmann's international tour of La Boheme, but sadly it never materialised. A bad month for the West End, three plays closed and the entire Savoy Opera Company closed down. A new musical based on F Scott Fitzgerald opens, only to close after poor houses in a matter of months. Two 'Hollywood' plays open – Matthew Lilliard in Fuddy Meers and Alicia Witt in The Shape of Things. Both follow the closing trend just one month later.

In June Marti Pellow ended his return run as Billy Flynn in Chicago before heading to Broadway with it. Michael Grandage announced his plans for a production of Guys and Dolls – later in the year Ewan McGregor signs on to star. Charlotte Church is rumoured to star in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on Broadway.

July saw more star casting in Chicago – this time with David Hasselhof as Billy. Cult American musical Bat Boy enjoyed a successful run at the West Yorkshire Playhouse before opening in London in August. The Trevor Nunn directed We Happy Few, a production of his wife's play, closes early.

Every August Edinburgh plays host to the annual Fringe festival, this year was a triumph with Christian Slater taking the lead in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. It transferred to London, extending several times until January.

September was the start of an exciting few months ahead. With Lloyd Webber's The Woman in White in previews, another high-profile event was taking place in the form of David Hare's new play Stuff Happens – a play with a character list comprising everyone from George W Bush to Condoleeza Rice. Jason Robert Brown also came to town in September with four concerts featuring special guests from the West End world. Theatre veteran Patricia Routledge returned to the stage in Sold Gold Cadillac.

October brought the most exciting news of the year – Richard Dreyfuss was sacked from The Producers just days before first preview and original Max Nathan Lane flew in to save the day. The critics went mad for both him and the show.. it is now a sell-out smash. Bizarrely, despite suffering poor houses of under 100, Bat Boy extended until February, whilst Kevin Spacey's inaugural play Cloaca did not receive warm critical reception. Murderous Instincts, a salsa musical, closed the same week as opening - its star, Nichola McAuliffe, had previously criticised the show in a newspaper.

November saw the opening of Pulitzer Prize winning Anna in the Tropics at The Hampstead Theatre whilst Michael Grandage's production of Don Carlos announced a West End transfer. A reality TV show, Musicality, offered five amateurs the chance to appear in Chicago - since transmission two have had West End offers and accepted, including Mama Morton in Chicago.

December went out with a bang, or to be more precise, a flying nanny. Mary Poppins, after an acclaimed out-of-town tryout, opened at the PrinceEdwardTheatre, again – like with The Woman in White and The Producers – to sell-out houses. Ian McKellen faced critics as Widow Twankey in Aladdin, with Maureen Lipman in a supporting role. Acorn Antiques, a musical starring Julie Walters and Victoria Wood, decided to sell tickets at £65 ($124), causing agencies to ban selling it, and a play in Birmingham closed down after Sikh audiences riot.

London is at the beginning of another theatrical revolution. The champions of the 1980s revolution were two men named Cameron Mackintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Now Sir Cameron and Lord Lloyd Webber, they're behind the next one twenty years later. The Woman in White, Mary Poppins and Mel Brooks' The Producers have changed the landscape of the West End. Hats off to all involved.

After a troubling time earlier in the year, everyone is happy to say that theatre - at last - is a phenomenon once more.



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From This Author Jake Brunger

Jake is currently studying at Bristol University and hopes to eventually pursue a career in the theatre industry as a writer/director. His favourite writers include (read more...)