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BWW Feature: Five London Shows That Got Away

Gone missing have been two high-powered musical revivals and some exciting plays

BWW Feature: Five London Shows That Got Away

London holds out the ever-tantalising promise of theatrical bounty ahead, from large-scale musicals like Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest, Cinderella, to Megan Mullally and Robert Lindsay reinvigorating Cole Porter's Anything Goes.

But an ever-mutating virus has led to general uncertainty on and off the West End about the start-up of live performance. That shifting scenario in turn brings to mind some of the titles from this time last year that were sounding especially promising and that, with luck, will reappear at some point to make good on their potential. Below are five among the very many keenly missed shows from 2020 that got away and that we wish to see back with us very, very soon.

City of Angels, Garrick Theatre

The director Josie Rourke revived Cy Coleman's glorious private eye musical in 2014 as a cornerstone of her tenure running The Donmar Warehouse. So there was excitement aplenty when previews began last March for a commercial transfer of that same production to the Garrick Theatre, with a beefed-up cast including screen name Theo James (Divergent) and Broadway powerhouse Vanessa Williams joining such established West End pros as Hadley Fraser, Jonathan Slinger, and the wonderful Rosalie Craig, not long after she closed here as Bobby in Company. The West End feels like nothing without City of Angels, to rewrite a David Zippel lyric from the show itself.

"Daddy" A Melodrama, Almeida Theatre

Prior to making Broadway history toward the end of 2020 with 12 Tony nominations for the seriously witty and searing Slave Play, Jeremy O. Harris was deep into London rehearsals for the Almeida Theatre bow of his 2019 Off Broadway play, "Daddy" A Melodrama - one of two exciting American titles that were scheduled to open within weeks of one another last April at correspondingly heavyweight venues (Suzan-Lori Parks's In the Blood, at the Donmar, was the other). So one can only wonder what was being concocted with a cast headed by Olivier winner Katie Brayben, of Beautiful renown, and Martins Imhangbe, who can be seen as the boxer Will Mondrich onscreen in Bridgerton. Watch Harris's 10 questions taped as "Daddy" was getting ready to open below.

Manor, National Theatre

Playwright Moira Buffini garnered plentiful attention with her curious, challenging Dinner, which opened in 2002 at the National prior to a West End transfer. So there was every reason to be excited about the thriller-ish appeal, on paper anyway, of her new play Manor, which was to bow at the National last April with a killer cast headed by Ben Daniels and Olivier winner Nancy Carroll (After the Dance). Neither of those star names has exactly been sitting idle since: Daniels was subsequently announced to lead a National revival of Larry Kramer'sThe Normal Heart while Carroll went on to star in Harold Pinter's Betrayal last autumn in Bath and can be seen on January 31 heading up an online reading for charity of the 1671 William Wycherley comedy Love in a Wood.

Hairspray, London Coliseum

It seems you just can stop the beat, at least as far as this reboot of a beloved Broadway and West End title that was to return Michael Ball to his Olivier Award-winning role as Edna Turnblad. Already scuppered several times, the show's latest incarnation has now been announced for late-April - not far, in fact, behind the scheduled first preview of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cinderella. This effervescent paean to inclusion can't be back too soon, not least for the chance to see popular TV personality Paul Merton (see below) in his West End debut as Wilbur Turnblad: a star turn that could well be timeless, indeed.

Habeas Corpus, Menier Chocolate Factory

Alan Bennett's 1973 play, with its Latin title meaning "you shall have the body," has entered Broadway trivia books for hosting a then little-known Richard Gere in the cast when it opened in New York late in 1975. Darkly comic and offering the opportunity for many an outsized performance, the play was near-definitely revived by Sam Mendes at the Donmar in 1996. But if any director could rival Mendes, it's Patrick Marber, who staged a truly definitive Travesties at the Menier Chocolate Factory several years ago and was on track to give Bennett's play a fresh lease on life that, should justice be served in accordance with the legal terrain of the title, will one day happen. (Clip from the Broadway transfer of the Marber-Menier Travesties below.)

Which shows promised for 2020 do you most wish to see during 2021, or beyond? Let us know @BroadwayWorldUK!


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From This Author Matt Wolf