What We're Looking Forward To In The West End 2011!
OK, so last year wasn't that enthralling (Love Never Dies and its long, neverending saga of off-stage drama notwithstanding), but 2011 looks like it's shaping up to be pretty exciting with all sorts of new - or newish - musicals making their way to the stage.
After last year's search for Dorothy, she'll finally get chance to don the ruby slippers on stage as winner Danielle Hope (and her understudy and runner-up Sophie Evans) seek The Wizard Of Oz (played by Michael Crawford) at the Palladium from February. Also next month, Steve Pemberton stars in the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at the Donmar, and Broadway import Million Dollar Quartet opens at the Noel Coward Theatre.
Amanda Holden may have announced that she's six months pregnant but she's still intending to perform as Princess Fiona in Shrek the Musical, opening at Drury Lane in May as Oliver! moves out this week.
After her truncated turn as Miss Adelaide, Sarah Lancashire returns to musical theatre in Betty Blue Eyes, and then we've got Ghost coming to the Piccadilly in June once Grease finally closes - there are already previews out there with leads Richard Fleeshman, Caissie Levy and Sharon D Clarke showcasing the work.
The other big summer smash is bound to be the Open Air Theatre's production of Crazy For You - they're having a good run with musicals and there's no reason that this shouldn't do just as well as multiple Olivier-winning Hello, Dolly! or the critically-acclaimed Into The Woods. That's what our reviewer Kathryn Pintus thinks: "The Open Air season at Regent's Park is always a must-see. I have to admit that I've only ever been to musicals there, but will be making an effort to catch a play this year too. The atmosphere is unique and truly magical. Hello, Dolly! and Into the Woods were both great productions, so Crazy For You is most certainly on my list of shows to see in the summer! I just hope the weather holds out!"
Off West End, I'm also looking forward to By Jeeves at the Landor from the end of January - one doesn't see this Ayckbourn/Lloyd Webber collaboration very often, and though it's never done particularly well I'll be very interested to see what the brilliant team down at this little theatre in Clapham have done with it.
On the straight drama front, the National's forthcoming season programme includes Clifford Odets' Rocket to the Moon, Frankenstein (for grown-ups only), and Rebecca Hall and Simon Callow in Twelfth Night.
Our reviewer Ian Foster adds: The Barbican looks like the place to keep an eye on: Toneelgroep Amsterdam, a highly exciting and innovative Dutch theatre company return in February, with their Antonioni Project which promises much; Deborah Warner takes on Sheridan's The School for Scandal and for the more adventurous, Duckie's Lullaby offers a bed for the night and tries to soothe us to sleep (breakfast is included at the end though!) The Hampstead Theatre looks to have a strong programme too: the fast-upcoming Nina Raine takes on the modern NHS in Tiger Country, Enda Walsh's New York success Penelope and Mike Leigh revisits his own Ecstasy, taking on directorial duties too.
"Fans of Shakespeare have much to look forward to: Peter Hall returning to the National Theatre with daughter Rebecca Hall heading up a strong cast in Twelfth Night; John Heffernan taking on Richard II at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol and Propeller touring the UK and beyond with their Richard III and The Comedy of Errors. And whilst Harriet Walter may have been the one made a Dame this year but future dames-to-be Juliet Stevenson and Penelope Wilton will be treading the boards at the Royal Court in The Heretic and at the Almeida in A Delicate Balance respectively."
What are you looking forward to in the next 12 months?