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Feature: This Week In The West End #WestEndWeek

This week sees everything go back to normal in London’s theatreland, following the busy festive season which saw Christmas shows come and go and normal performance schedules turned upside down.

There are no big openings this week, although Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black’s one-woman show Tell Me On A Sunday returns to London, starring original cast member Marti Webb, ahead of its transfer to the Duchess Theatre for a limited West End season from 17th February – 1st March.

Tell Me On A Sunday was originally released as an album in 1980 reaching #1 in the UK album charts whilst the single ‘Take That Look Off Your Face’ reached #2 in the UK singles charts.  The show was first staged in 1982 starring Webb and has since been revived countless times with various changes, but Robert Mackintosh (younger brother of Sir Cameron Mackintosh) and Barry Satchwell Smith are bringing back the original production.

The weekend just past was full of show closures to make way for new openings over the coming weeks. One of the biggest shows to close was Barking In Essex which ended its run at the Wyndham's Theatre ahead of Conor McPherson’s The Weir which transfers to the Wyndham’s from 16th January following a hugely successful sold out run at the Donmar Warehouse last year.  The Weir, which is often described as McPherson’s masterpiece, will star the original Donmar cast and marks the Donmar’s first West End transfer since Josie Rourke became Artistic Director.

The other big show to close over the weekend was Barry Humphries' Farewell Tour at the London Palladium. The production left the Palladium ahead of the premiere of Harry Hill and Steve Brown’s new musical I Can’t Sing – the X Factor Musical. The cast, featuring many West End regulars, officially begin rehearsals today ahead of the first preview on 27th February.

The cast of I Can’t Sing is led by Cynthia Erivo as X Factor hopeful Chenice. Last year Erivo won overwhelming critical and public acclaim for her heart wrenching performance in The Color Purple at the Menier Chocolate Factory. She is joined by Nigel Harman, who won an Olivier Award for his hysterical performance in Shrek The Musical, as Simon Cowell.

Also back to rehearsals this week is the cast of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. The production marks Jerry Mitchell’s (Director and Choreographer) return to the West End following the triumphant Legally Blonde. Whilst Dirty Rotten Scoundrels doesn’t begin previews at the West End’s Savoy Theatre until 10th March, the cast are already rehearsing ahead of two short regional runs prior to opening in the West End. This allows the creative team to see how audiences respond and gives them time to tweak the production and ensure everything is in top shape.

Too often I find myself commenting in reviews that shows simply are not ready for the West End and would have hugely benefited from ‘out-of-town try outs’. Bringing a new production straight to the West End is a huge risk so it is a very smart move for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels to have two short regional runs before coming to the West End, particularly as it marks the debut show from Jerry Mitchell productions.

Finally, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was scheduled to re-open at the Apollo Theatre tonight following the ceiling collapse on 19th December 2013. Coincidentally I had a ticket to see this evening’s performance, but the theatre owners have cancelled another week of performances. The National Theatre’s critically acclaimed must-see show is now scheduled to re-open on Monday 13th January 2014 and I am looking forward to seeing the show next Thursday!

Andrew Tomlins

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