The World of Musicals in 2012
Mark Shenton looks forward to some of the theatrical highlights promised in London and elsewhere this year
2011 was a great year for musicals, with Broadway hits like Shrek (Drury Lane) as well as locally-produced ones – including The Wizard of Oz (London Palladium), Ghost (itself now Broadwaybound, opening in April with original London stars Richard Fleeshman and Cassie Levy reprising their roles) and Matilda (which transferred from Stratford-upon-Avon to the Cambridge).
And with 2012 now under way, there’s a new bunch of commercial musicals already in development and which may reach fruition this year (though all are waiting until after the Summer Olympics before daring to show their hand). Among them is Viva Forever – producer Judy Craymer’s first musical since the global success of Mamma Mia!– that seeks to do for the Spice Girls what the earlier show did for Abba, and whose script is being written by none other than Jennifer Saunders. Musical versions of Bridget Jones’s Diary and the films The Bodyguard and The Commitments are also lining up for West End productions, while the much-lauded Broadway hit Book of Mormon is looking to land in London too. This side of the Olympics, however, includes two transfers from last summer in Chichester: while Singin’ in the Rain comes to the Palace (from 4 February) with Adam Cooper, Daniel Crossley, Scarlett Strallen and Katherine Kingsley once again donning their raincoats in a stage version of the celebrated MGM movie musical, Sweeney Todd – Sondheim’s musical masterpiece, featuring Michael Ball in the title role as well as Imelda Staunton as Mrs Lovett – heads to the Adelphi (from 10 March).
The stage premiere of another famous film title, Top Hat , is also set to grace London at the Aldwych (from 19 April); starring Tom Chambers and the other Strallen sister, Summer, it will follow a regional tour that plays two more dates in the new year – first Woking, then Bristol (visit www.tophatonstage.com for more information). Preceding this, the theatre will play host to the touring dance show Midnight Tango, starring Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace – stars of TV’s Strictly Come Dancing . Running from 20 January to 31 March, the show then resumes an extensive national tour that takes it from Newcastle in April to Aberdeen in July – further details can be found at www.midnighttango.co.uk.
From 18 May there’s a new production of Ahrens and Flaherty’s musical Ragtime at the Open Air Theatre, Regent ’s Park (www.openairtheatre.org). And following the success of last year ’s Rodgers and Hammerstein entry at the Barbican with South Pacific, these two musical masters will make a welcome return later in the summer with Opera North’s production of Carousel. Currently touring is the Lincoln Center ’s production of South Pacific, which visits London in May (southpacificonstage.com), as well as the Leicester Curve production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I – with Ramon Tikaram as the King, and Josefina Gabrielle as Mrs Anna.
Another Broadway classic, Wonderful Town, with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Comden and Green, is set to play across the UK. Also embarking on a UK tour is a new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber ’s rollerskating musical Starlight Express, the original of which ran for nearly 18 years in the West End. Kicking off at New Wimbledon Theatre from 10 May, it joins the touring production of one of Lloyd Webber ’s other triumphs, Evita.
A re-designed, newly staged The Phantom of the Opera is also going on the road (www.thephantomoftheopera.com/uk-tour), beginning in Plymouth in March, and with a cast that will see the current London Phantom John Owen-Jones share the title role with Earl Carpenter. Retaining Maria Björnson’s original costumes, the production is directed by Laurence Connor, with choreography by Scott Ambler and set design by Paul Brown.
Also touring again is Monty Python’s Spamalot (details for which, together with Starlight Express , Evita and Dreamboats and Petticoats , can be found at www.kenwright.com), as well as the arena production of street of Dreams, which sees Paul O’Grady hosting a cast of Coronation Street alumni including Julie Goodyear, Kevin Kennedy, Brian Capron, William Roche and Katy Cavanagh. Directed by John Stephenson and with a score by Trisha Ward , it kicks off at the Manchester Arena on 22 March.
Meanwhile, Save the Last Dance for Me – a new musical from those behind the long-running West End (and still touring) hit Dreamboats and Petticoats – launches at Bromley’s Churchill Theatre in January (see page 9 for details) . Talking of West End Classics, we still have the record -breaking stage versions of Dirty Dancing (www.d irtydancingontour.com) and Legally Blonde (www.legallyblondethemusical.co. uk/tour) to enjoy, and there will be a new production of Jule Styne’s Broadway classic Gypsy (starring Caroline O’Connor as Mama Rose) at Leicester ’s Curve (13 March – 14 April, www.curveonline.co.uk) as well as the premiere of a brand-new musical Loserville at the West Yorkshire Play house in Leeds from 16 June to 14 July (www.wyp.org .uk).
Mark Shenton is a theatre critic for the Sunday Express, writing a weekly review column for the newspaper as well as a daily blog for The Stage (www.thestage.co.uk/shenton). You can follow him on Twitter (@shentonstage)