Two major musical revivals—a modern British classic and an enduring American one—would already mark out May as a big month for London theater. Add in star turns by two Tony-nominated actresses and a Tony-winning actor and it looks like theatrical boom time in the British capital. Read on for more details.
A Shaw Thing: Fiona Shaw electrified those who caught her solo turn on Broadway last year in The Testament of Mary, and now the 2003 Tony nominee for Medea is bringing the controversial (to some) Colm Toibin play about the Virgin Mary to the Barbican for a limited run opening May 7; Shaw’s longtime colleague Deborah Warner once again directs.
ALSO: The Almeida seems to be in the transfer business big-time these days, between Ibsen’s Ghosts scoring big at the Oliviers and their current show, King Charles III, rumored for a commercial run later this year. Now comes a West End season opening May 8 at the Playhouse Theatre of their sellout adaptation of 1984, inspired by the grimly compelling George Orwell novel and featuring Mark Arends as the iconic (if doomed) Winston Smith.
Hey There: Director Richard Eyre seems barely to pause for breath, between helming the aforementioned Ghosts, Pirandello’s Liola, and the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Stephen Ward all in a single season. Now, the onetime head of the National Theatre brings his scene-stealing co-star of Stephen Ward, Joanna Riding, back to the musical stage to play Babe in the beloved 1954 musical The Pajama Game alongside Michael Xavier as Sid Sorokin. Opening night is May 13 at the Shaftesbury.
ALSO: 2014 Olivier nominee Anna Francolini (London’s Caroline, or Change) appears at the St. James Theatre Studio for one night only May 14 in an evening of chat and song devoted to the great Richard Rodgers. May 17 sees the all-day opening of the transfer to the Aldwych Theatre of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s marathon stagings of Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies, adapted from the Hilary Mantel books and starring Ben Miles of Broadway and London's The Norman Conquests.
The Heat is On: Miss Saigon returns to London 25 years after it opened, this time to the Prince Edward Theatre with Jon Jon Briones inheriting Jonathan Pryce’s role as The Engineer and 17-year-old Eva Noblezada as Kim. Expect a gala opening night May 21 as is the norm of producer Cameron Mackintosh.
ALSO: West End star Ryan Molloy shows that there’s life after Frankie Valli and Jersey Boys, shifting gears to star in a rare revival of the little-known 1960 Lionel Bart musical Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be, set amid the early days of rock ‘n’ roll and opening May 20 at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East. Don’t miss the final performance of the Kinks musical Sunny Afternoon at the Hampstead Theatre on May 24.
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Kathleen's Turn: Few American theater and film names have played the UK stage as often as Kathleen Turner. Following turns in The Graduate and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Turner will star alongside Tony winner Ian McDiarmid in Stephen Sachs’ Bakersfield Mist, opening May 27 at the Duchess Theatre.
ALSO: May 31 marks the end of several high-profile new plays, among them James Graham’s thrilling Privacy at the Donmar, featuring 2014 Tony nominee Paul Chahidi (Twelfth Night) among its expert cast. Closing as scheduled at the Royal Court the same night is Birdland, starring Andrew Scott (TV’s Sherlock) and written by Simon Stephens, whose The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time reaches Broadway in the fall.