This week promises to be the most exciting week of the year so far in the West End as some of the most highly anticipated productions of 2014 begin previews and officially open.
The West End transfer of The Full Monty officially opens on Tuesday (25th February 2014) following a week of previews at the Noel Coward Theatre. I popped backstage at The Full Monty last week, the day before the first preview, and there was so much excitement in the building. The cast, led by Kenny Doughty and Coronation Street’s Craig Gazey, can’t wait to open in the West End after receiving tremendous audience reactions throughout the play’s recent UK Tour. The Full Monty has been adapted by Oscar-winning writer Simon Beaufoy from his own screenplay about a group of unemployed steel workers who form a troupe of male strippers.
The other big show to officially open this week is the West End return of Ghost Stories which will open its doors to the press on Thursday (27th February 2014). With producers claiming the terrifying theatrical event contains ‘moments of severe shock and tension’, is not suitable for those under 15 and that those of a ‘nervous disposition’ should ‘think very seriously before attending’ I couldn’t be more scared or excited to see the production.
Simon Callow’s Being Shakespeare returns to the West End on Wednesday (26th February) for a limited run of just 22 performances at the Harold Pinter Theatre, marking the play’s third West End season. Running through to Saturday 15th March, Being Shakespeare brings to life Shakespeare’s unforgettable characters as well as the real man behind the legend.
Also opening this week is The Act which transfers to Trafalgar Studios 2 following two sell-out runs at the Ovalhouse Theatre. The Act has been described as a ‘ground-breaking cabaret-style production’ and I’m sure it will feel at home in the more intimate space at Trafalgar Studios (which is also currently home to Ghosts) which offers a theatrical experience like no other.
Two of 2014’s hottest and most talked about shows begin previews this week. Firstly Harry Hill and Steve Brown’s new I Can't Sing! The X Factor Musical begins previews on Saturday (1st March 2014). The show doesn’t officially open until Wednesday 26th March giving the creative team plenty of time to ensure I Can’t Sing is in tip top shape.
After watching the cast’s recent terrific preview on the Royal Variety Performance I can’t wait to see the show. If all the numbers match the standard of the title song and ‘Please Simon’, I Can’t Sing could be a contender for best new musical of 2014! Plus, let’s face it, you can’t go wrong with a cast led by Nigel Harman and Cynthia Erivo - the God and Godess of London Theatre.
Secondly, Blithe Spirit, starring the legendary Angela Lansbury, also begins previews on Saturday (1st March 2014) at the Gielgud Theatre before its official opening on Tuesday 18th March 2014. Noël Coward’s sharp comedy of social mores couldn’t have a stronger cast, with West End regulars Janie Dee and Charles Edwards starring alongside Lansbury who is reprising the role she played to critical acclaim on Broadway in 2009, winning a Tony Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Play. The cast also features Jemima Rooper, Sandra Dickinson, Simon Jones and Patsy Ferran.
Following her recent stint in the all-star final series of ITV’s Dancing On Ice, Bonnie Langford returns to the West End production of Spamalot at the Playhouse Theatre as the Lady of the Lake tonight (Monday 24th February 2014). Langford will be reunited with her friend and former Dancing On Ice co-star Joe Pasquale who is hysterical as King Arthur. Any Dream Will Do contestant Daniel Boys joins the Monty Python musical from tonight as Sir Lancelot.
Also this week West End stars, creatives and producers celebrate winning WhatsOnStage Awards. The Book of Mormon picked up four awards (including Best New Musical) whilst winners also included: Les Miserables’ Carrie Hope Fletcher who won Best Takeover in a Role and Once which picked up Best Original Music. Matilda The Musical was named Best West End show and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory triumphed in the set design and choreography categories.
Finally, this week Eric and Little Ern ends its successful run at the Vaudeville Theatre on Sunday (2nd March 2014) whilst Ghosts at Trafalgar Studios and Tell Me On A Sunday at the Duchess Theatre enter their final weeks. Jersey Boys also prepares to end its six year run at the Prince Edward Theatre ahead of its transfer to the Piccadilly.
Photo Credit: Hugo Glendinning