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BWW Feature: Five 2021 London Performances We Can't Wait To See

Everything from a Beckett specialist to a new Lloyd Webber leading lady

BWW Feature: Five 2021 London Performances We Can't Wait To See

It's often said that the play's the thing, but very often the player is, too. Who can forget the original Dreamgirls divested of Jennifer Holliday's stratospheric performance? Or, this side of the Atlantic, the revelatory force of Janet McTeer in A Doll's House or Mark Rylance in Jerusalem, to cite just two British actors who won Tony Awards when they took these same plays to Broadway?

It's not clear as of this writing quite when live theatre will return in force, so in the interest of casting as wide a net as possible, what follows are five performances to whet the appetite, culled from offerings both online and, in due course, inside an actual playhouse.

Janie Dee, All On Her Own (streaming from Feb 16)

Lockdown hasn't hampered the tireless Janie Dee, who emerged into the roaring wind and rain last summer to play Desiree in an alfresco concert performance of A Little Night Music that represented a theatrical coup for the ages. Next month, she joins the online world to stream a solo performance of All On Her Own, the Terence Rattigan solo play that Zoe Wanamaker previously delivered on the West End in 2015, as part of Kenneth Branagh's season. A two-time Olivier Award winner at home in classics as well as new plays, Sondheim (see trailer from Dee in Follies below) alongside Shakespeare, Dee live or online promises an event worth watching.

Lisa Dwan, Happy Days (Riverside Studios, dates tbc)

Samuel Beckett's great play testifies to human endurance and strength against the odds, both of which should strike a resonant chord just now. And here it is again in the sterling hands of Irish performer Lisa Dwan, who has made a career out of acting Beckett very much in the venerated tradition of the late, great Billie Whitelaw, who herself was a celebrated Winnie in Happy Days in her time. The two-hander is due to open in a Covid-safe environment under the direction of the veteran Trevor Nunn and we'll be there to watch Dwan's Winnie do playful, and poignant, battle with this difficult thing called life.

Josh O'Connor, Romeo and Juliet (filmed)

Shakespeare's immortal tragedy was due to be revived onstage last year by the director Simon Godwin, who is a dab hand at Shakespeare and at much else as well. But proving very much that a virtue can be made of necessity, the same production has been reconceived for the small screen, which has been the chosen habitat of late for this version's fast-rising Romeo, Josh O'Connor, known the world over as Prince Charles from The Crown (see below). R&J is often assumed to be Juliet's play, and Godwin has a superb actress, Jessie Buckley, in that role, but O'Connor is no slouch either in a pairing that should make these "star-crossed lovers" doubly worth our attention. Check it out in due course via Sky Arts in the UK or on PBS States-side.

We can't yet say just when Dominic Cooke's stage revival of Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart will open at the National, given that its original February dates are now unlikely. But any delay only amplifies a sense of anticipation surrounding this production's leading man, Ben Daniels, who was a Tony nominee in 2008 for his Broadway debut in Les Liaisons Dangereuses (see clip below), having previously won an Olivier at the National for his blistering supporting turn alongside Julie Walters in Arthur Miller's All My Sons. An English actor fully at home in the American repertoire, Daniels seems made to order to play the fiery Ned Weeks and, with luck, before very long he will.

Carrie Hope Fletcher, Cinderella (Gillian Lynne Theatre, previews from April 30)

Social media phenomenon and musical theatre powerhouse Carrie Hope Fletcher has built an astonishing CV stepping into long-running shows (Les Miserables, on multiple occasions) and premiering American titles on the West End (Heathers, for one). But there's nothing quite like anchoring the year's biggest new homegrown musical, Cinderella, music from which has already been made available by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber to start spreading the melodic word. Does this show qualify Fletcher as a 21st-century Elaine Paige, given that stage veteran's inimitable starring presence in both Evita and Cats first time round? Time, as it always does, will tell.

Which performances are you most excited to see in 2021? Let us know @BroadwayWorldUK!

Photo credit: Romeo and Juliet image, Sebastian Nevols

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