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Kenneth Branagh, Toby Stephens & the British Debut of The Color Purple Make for a Lively London Datebook

Kenneth Branagh, Toby Stephens & the British Debut of The Color Purple Make for a Lively London Datebook
Anna Changellor & Toby Stephens in 'Private Lives,' Kenneth Branagh in 'Macbeth,' Alice Walker and Emily Taafe in 'The American Plan'
July highlights across the pond include 'The Color Purple' and 'Titanic.'

At last, warm weather has come to London, and the theater season continues to sizzle, as well. This month’s pickings include new projects from 2013 Olivier Award winner Imelda Staunton (Sweeney Todd), Tony-winning director John Doyle and London stage favorite Toby Stephens, the latter in a play once famously performed by his mother and father. Read on.

JULY 1-7
Stepping Up: Toby Stephens was a young boy when his parents, Maggie Smith and Robert Stephens, co-starred in Noel Coward’s Private Lives. Now the next generation steps up to the plate in Jonathan Kent’s Chichester Festival production, opening its West End transfer on July 3 at the Gielgud Theatre with Toby as Elyot opposite Anna Chancellor (Four Weddings and a Funeral, TV’s The Hour) as his once and maybe only love, Amanda.

ALSO: Up in Manchester, all eyes will be on Kenneth Branagh in the title role of Macbeth opposite Alex Kingston as Lady M, co-directed by Branagh and Rob Ashford (in his Shakespeare debut); Edward Hall’s brilliant all-male Propeller troupe comes to the Hampstead Theatre on July 3 with Twelfth Night and The Taming of the Shrew.

JULY 8-14
Making a Plan: Richard Greenberg’s mother-daughter play The American Plan (seen on Broadway in 2009 with Mercedes Ruehl and Lily Rabe) opens July 8 at the St. James Theatre, starring Diana Quick and directed by David Grindley (Journey’s End). The production began at Theatre Royal in Bath, the spa town west of London that has emerged as the country’s leading incubator of American work.

ALSO: Olivier Award nominee Cush Jumbo plays jazz legend Josephine Baker in a self-penned cabaret-style show, beginning July 12 at west London’s Bush Theatre, directed by Phyllida Lloyd of Mamma Mia! and The Iron Lady fame; last chance to see the National Theatre’s triumphant production of Maxim Gorky’s Children of the Sun, closing July 14.

JULY 15-21
Color it Purple: John Doyle, the English director associated with the work of Stephen Sondheim, shifts gears to stage the British debut of the 2005 Broadway musical The Color Purple, opening July 15 at the Menier Chocolate Factory with Cynthia Erivo and Nicola Hughes in leading roles. Look for a longer life for the show if the response is strong, since the Menier’s track record with American musicals is second to none.

ALSO: Last performance July 20 for Simon Reade’s stage adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice at the Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park, with Jane Asher, Barnaby Sax, and David Oakes heading the cast.

JULY 22-29
All Aboard: The 1998 Tony-winning musical Titanic begins performances on July 26 at south London’s Southwark Playhouse. Reconceived as a chamber piece, Maury Yeston’s score will be sung by a cast led by Simon Green, Celia Graham and Philip Rham; Thom Southerland directs the six-week run.

ALSO: Annie Baker’s wonderful off-Broadway comedy Circle Mirror Transformation ends a month-long run (July 5- August 3) at a site-specific east London venue, produced by the Royal Court and starring Imelda Staunton and Toby Jones; Amen Corner leads Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Sharon D. Clarke lead a conversation about the play at the National Theatre’s Olivier Theatre on July 26.

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