If you are visiting London in 2016 you will be faced with a fantastic array of theatrical events to choose from. Remarkably, 2016 is not even an especially busy year. To be honest, most years in London are like it. New plays, musicals and a smattering of stardust – both home-grown and imported from around the world – are constantly lined up to entertain London’s residents and guests alike.
So on the day that we announce yet another star name on his way to the West End (more of that later) I thought it would be a good idea to see what entertainment is available to us, just on our doorstep.
The Montcalm’s closest West End theatre is the world famous London Palladium just by Oxford Circus in Argyl Street. From the moment you walk up the steps to be greated by liveried doormen you know you are somewhere special. With a string of iconic productions (including the Royal Variety Show) probably its most famous has been Sunday Night at the London Palladium which was originally aired each Sunday 1955 to 1969 before being revived three times since. The biggest audience for the TV show (which featured Bruce Forsyth, Cliff Richard and the Shadows),was watched by more than 20 million people!
Currently the theatre is hosting Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats” but that is due to close shortly after Christmas when the London Palladium will revert to variety, hosting a series of music and entertainment superstars including Symphonic Floyd, Joe Jackson, Leona Lewis, Elvis Costello, Britain’s Got Talent winners, Attraction, folk powerhouse Bellowhead, Beverley Knight and Il Volo.
At the far end of Oxford Street sits the Dominion Theatre. Like the Palladium it is one of London’s biggest theatres, boasting an auditorium seating over 2000. During much of 2015 it was closed for refurbishment, so 2016 is an exciting year.
During the Christmas period the Broadway family musical “Elf” is delighting audiences with the story of how Buddy, the largest elf in Santa’s crew, decides to find his real mum and dad. That show finishes, like “Cats” at the Palladium) on 02 January and will be followed by a true extravaganza: Jeff Wayne’s musical version of “The War of the Worlds” starring a 3D holocast of Liam Neeson and actually conducted on stage by the man himself: Jeff Wayne!
The War of the World’s runs from 08 February to 09 April 2016. Tickets are £29 to £99.
Instead of carrying straight on along Oxford Street from the London Palladium and Oxford Circus, if you turn right down Regent’s Street you get to Piccadilly Circus. This famous intersection is surrounded by theatres.
The Piccadilly Theatre hosts the long running hit “Jersey Boy”s. It transferred from the Prince Edward Theatre in Soho where it opened in March 2008 and is currently booking to the end of 2016. There is no sign of the show, which tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and features their amazing back catalogue of hit songs, closing any time soon!
Actually on Piccadilly Circus, at the beautiful Criterion Theatre, “Close To You” is a celebration of the music of Burt Bacharach. Famously, for a man who has written such beautiful melodies as Magic Moments, Walk On By, Raindrops Keep Falling, Alfie and Say a Little Prayer he has a terrible singing voice! So be thankfrul that the songs are bought to us by Broadway star Kyle Riabko and his talented group of musicians. The only downside to the show is that they can’t fit all of his hit songs in one evening!
Just along from the Criterion, the Prince of Wales Theatre is playing host to one of the most controversial musicals in recent times: “The Book of Mormon”. Written by the team that gave us the animated TV comedy South Park “The Book of Mormon” is about two new Mormon recruits who are sent off to introduce the book to an African village living under the brutal regime of a local Warlord. This unlikely scenario is the basis of a rather brutal, yet hilarious, lampooning of both organized religion AND musical theatre. One to avoid if you are easily offended (there is an advised minimum age of 17+ so that might give you a clue as to its rumbustuousness), but one to enjoy for everyone else.
The last theatre to mention on our theatrical odyssey around the nearer reaches of London’s Theatreland is Her Majesty’s theatre where the granddaddy of all musicals continues its remarkable run: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera”.
Just south of Piccidilly Circus, on Haymarket, “The Phantom of the Opera” has been entertaining London audiences since 1986 and the current booking period will take it just one week shy of its 30th birthday on 09 October 2016.
The story is of the masked man who lives below the Paris Opera and takes Christine, a young singer from the chorus, under his wing, to train as his Protégé. More than a staggering 100 million people have seen the show since it first came to London and there is no sign that the show will stop entertaining us any time soon!
But wait – I promised you news of a new show. Obviously if you discover this friendly blog in the months to come you will probably already know, but today, as I write, this is big news. Because, you see, London’s Theatreland is like that: today’s news is tomorrow’s reviews.
You will probably know what the reviews for “Aladdin” and “Funny Girl” and “Sunset Boulevard” and “Motown” and “Mrs Henderson Presents” and all the other shows opening in 2016 are like, whereas I can only guess. But as long as great writers, producers and performers continue to make London’s Theatreland their home, London will continue to be the world’s theatrical capital and worthy of a visit at any time of year.
So the news? TV sitcom “Friends” star Matthew Perry will star in his own play “The End of Longing” – a sharply written and hilarious dark comedy directed by the award-winning director, Lindsay Posner. It will open at the Playhouse Theatre in February and run for 14 weeks.
Perry is just one of a run of big star names who have come to or are promised to come to London recently including Nicole Kidman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Bradley Cooper, Kristin Scott Thomas, Judi Dench, Timothy Spall, Pixie Lott, Glenn Close, David Tenent…
You see – London’s Theatreland is an exciting place to visit!