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James Earl Jones Romances Vanessa Redgrave and Sheridan Smith Reigns in This Month’s London Datebook

James Earl Jones Romances Vanessa Redgrave and Sheridan Smith Reigns in This Month’s London Datebook
James Earl Jones & Vanessa Redgrave, Sheridan Smith & David Walliams, Lesley Manville and Dennis Kelly
Plan a super September of London theatergoing with the help of our Datebook.

September’s here, which means it’s all systems go on London stages, on and off the West End. The lineup ranges from visiting American stars (James Earl Jones, Colman Domingo) to homegrown notables (Vanessa Redgrave, Sheridan Smith). Onetime Wicked leading lady Rachel Tucker tackles a non-musical role, while the brilliant Lesley Manville lays into Ibsen. Read on for all the details.

A Post-Tony Premiere: Dennis Kelly, who won a 2013 Tony Award for his surpassingly smart Matilda book, is back on the London stage with a new play, The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas, starring Tom Brooke and opening September 11 at the Royal Court. Billed as an “electrifying dark morality tale,” the production inaugurates director Vicky Featherstone’s first full season heading up London’s most exciting venue for new writing. Bring it on, say we.

ALSO: A pair of Tony nominees take London stage bows on September 9: Kevin Colson (Aspects of Love) stars in J.B. Priestley’s rarely seen Summer Day’s Dream (Finborough Theatre) and Colman Domingo (The Scottsboro Boys) headlines his autobiographical hit A Boy and His Soul (Tricycle Theatre); Phantom devotees will flock to the Crazy Coqs cabaret September 10-12 to catch Dave Willetts, Michael Crawford’s West End successor.

Legally Bard: Sheridan Smith (Legally Blonde) brings singular style whatever she does, so hopes are high for her star turn as Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, opening September 17 at the Noel Coward Theatre, with TV favorite David Walliams at Bottom. Michael Grandage’s production marks the fourth in his five-play lineup at this address, to be followed by Henry V, starring Jude Law.

ALSO: Thark, the Ben Travers farce adapted by and starring Clive Francis, closes September 22 at north London’s Park Theatre, the day after the Ruby in the Dust troupe’s musical adaptation of Bonnie & Clyde (unrelated to the Broadway entry of the same name) shutters at the King’s Head; actor-turned-writer Rory Kinnear’s eagerly awaited play The Herd bows September 18 at the Bush.

Love Story: In the most startlingly cast classic of the season, Driving Miss Daisy leads James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave are set to play Benedick and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, at the Old Vic, directed by two-time Tony-winner Mark Rylance. So what if the sparring would-be lovers are usually played by actors decades younger than these legends? As Shakespeare never said, what’s in an age?

ALSO: Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, in a non-musical version by the mighty team of Terence Rattigan and John Gielgud, opens September 25 at the King’s Head; one-time bad boy Steven Berkoff begins a five-week season of one-acts under the banner title Steven Berkoff: Religion and Anarchy on September 24 at the Jermyn Street Theatre.

Ghost Story: Forget the musical: This fall’s Ghost is the Ibsen classic, which brings the wondrous Lesley Manville back to the stage as Mrs. Alving in a new Almeida Theatre production, adapted and directed by Sir Richard Eyre. Will Keen and Jack Lowden join Manville in a staging that opens on October 3.

ALSO: Last performances for the American play Farragut North (basis for the film The Ides of March) at Southwark Playhouse, with a starry cast headed by Max Irons (The White Queen) and Wicked alumna Rachel Tucker, and Arthur Miller’s The Last Yankee at The Print Room, starring Andy de la Tour and Kika Markham.

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