March brings the advent of spring after a frigid London winter, and what better time for the city’s theater to spring into overdrive? This month’s London Datebook finds two thespian Dames (Helen Mirren and Judi Dench) returning to the stage, along with the opening of one Tony-winning musical (The Book of Mormon) and the start of previews of another (Once). All that, and a beloved Broadway songstress (Kristin Chenoweth) in concert, too? Read on!
Is Everybody Listening? Dame Helen Mirren reprises her Oscar-winning screen role as HRH Elizabeth II in The Audience, Peter Morgan’s first play since his acclaimed Frost/Nixon. Opening night is March 5 at the Gielgud Theatre, with a supporting cast that includes Edward Fox, Richard McCabe, and 2009 Tony nominee Haydn Gwynne (Billy Elliot) as Margaret Thatcher. Two-time Tony winner Stephen Daldry directs his first London stage outing in eight years.
ALSO: The Hampstead Theatre in north London opens William Boyd’s Longing on March 7, adapted from two Chekhov stories and directed by playwright Nina Raine (Tribes); Iain Glen and Tamsin Greig co-star. Last performances for the ornately titled Royal Court entry If You Don’t Let Us Dream, We Won’t Let You Sleep, from neophyte dramatist Anders Lustgarten (closes March 9).
An American Songbird: Kristin Chenoweth launches her first UK concert tour on March 11 at the London Coliseum (home of the English National Opera) prior to one-nighters in Manchester, Edinburgh, and Cardiff. Known on this side of the pond primarily for her TV work (The West Wing, Pushing Daisies, Glee), Chenoweth promises an evening of opera, pop, and musical theater—plus, perhaps, a bit of dish about working it at this year’s Oscars?
ALSO: Henry Goodman previews the Old Vic revival of Terence Rattigan’s The Winslow Boy, prior to a March 19 opening. The West End transfer of the National Theatre’s smash hit The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (rumored to be Broadway-bound) opens at the Apollo on March 12; Luke Treadaway (War Horse) remains in the demanding lead role of an autistic boy.
“Hello!” The Book of Mormon arrives in London with American tour leads Gavin Creel and Jared Gertner as bright-eyed missionaries to Uganda. (The show marks Creel’s third West End venture following Mary Poppins and Hair.) Do the Brits know what Mormonism is, and do they care? An enthusiastic “yes” would seem to be the answer on both fronts, given the overwhelming buzz surrounding opening night on March 21.
ALSO: Not to be outdone in the Tony-winning trans-Atlantic sweepstakes, 2012 Best Musical winner Once starts previews March 16 at the Phoenix Theatre; Declan Bennett inherits Steve Kazee’s role as the music-making Boy. Last performances on March 23 of the Royal Court Theatre’s A Time to Reap, a Polish play featuring fast-rising Max Bennett and A Doll’s House Tony winner Owen Teale.
A Living Legend: Dame Judi Dench symbolically defines the British theater, which makes every play she does an event, especially now that she is 78. That her latest, Peter and Alice, co-stars her Skyfall colleague Ben Whishaw and is written by Tony winner John Logan (Red) should ensure sellout status for Michael Grandage’s world premiere production, which opens March 25 at the Noel Coward Theatre.
ALSO: Nominations will be announced on March 26 for the 2013 Olivier Awards in advance of a gala ceremony to be held on April 28 at the Royal Opera House. Look for last year’s co-hosts, Imelda Staunton and Michael Ball, to be frontrunners for acting trophies this year for their work in Sweeney Todd.