While West End theatre isn’t going to draw in an audience to rival entertainment from other media forms such as television, it does have its own unique brand of appeal; one that clearly seems to be working for it. In figures released by the Society of London Theatre (SOLT) last January, it was revealed that West End box office sales had topped £528.3m in 2011, which marked a 3.1% increase. While figures for 2012 have yet to be released, eight consecutive years of record sales bode well for the past year, which is sure to have benefitted greatly from the presence of such popular musicals as Sweeney Todd and Singin’ in the Rain, and not forgetting plays like Constellations, The Effect and Hedda Gabler. On reflection, West End theatre for 2012 has given a nice variety of productions, some of which have been immensely successful, but what of 2013? There is a selection of incoming shows for this year which have got theatre fans very excited and already stating that 2013 is going to be a good year for theatre. Looking ahead at what we already know it is going to bring, I can’t help but agree. There is the transfer of the National Theatre’s hit play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time to the Apollo Theatre in March and Hustle star Adrian Lester’s stage turn as the title character in Shakespeare’s Othello at the Olivier, National Theatre in April. There’s also the revived production of 1975 musical A Chorus Line at the London Palladium in February and The Sound of Music at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre in July. Further highlights at the Open Air Theatre come in the form of straight stage productions of classics like To Kill A Mocking Bird in May and Pride and Prejudice in June, and not forgetting the production of Great Expectations at the Vaudeville Theatre in February, which is likely to be bolstered by the film version which was recently released in cinemas. Of course, long-runner successes such as The Phantom of the Opera are sure to continue bringing audiences to the West End, especially the longest running musical of all, Les Miserables, which I expect will experience intense ticket demand following the release of Tom Hooper’s film adaption, which hits UK cinemas on 11th January 2013.
There are three musicals coming to the West End in 2013 which are generating the majority of theatre goer’s excitement however. The first of these is the long-awaited transfer of Broadway’s biggest hit of last year: The Book of Mormon.
The Book of Mormon is the brain-child of South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, with the contributions of Robert Lopez. The religious satire follows two Mormon missionaries who are sent to a remote village in northern Uganda and features a wealth of hilarious filth and profanity, along with unforgettable musical numbers such as ‘Hasa Diga Eebowai’, ‘Man Up’ and ‘Spooky Mormon Dream Hell’. Directed by Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker, the West End production will star American performers Gavin Creel and Jared Gertner as the mismatched Mormon duo ‘Elder Price’ and ‘Elder Cunningham’ respectively, alongside a host of West End talent which includes Stephen Ashfield, Alexia Khadime, Olivia Phillip and Matt Krzan. Guaranteed to be the hottest ticket in town, The Book of Mormon comes to the Prince of Wales Theatre on 21st March 2013 (previews from 25th Feb 2013).
Shortly after, another Broadway hit transfers to our shores with the stage adaption of Once. Based on the 2006 film by John Carney, Once explores the relationship of an Irish busker and a young Czech mother, whose shared love of music sparks a deep connection and leads to an longing romance that neither expected. Featuring a book by Enda Walsh and music/lyrics by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, the musical includes such songs as ‘Gold’, ‘If You Want Me’ and the Academy Award-winning ‘Falling Slowly’. The cast of the London production are yet to be announced, but that hasn’t stilted the eager anticipation of theatre fans for this musical, which opens at the Phoenix Theatre on 9th April 2013 (previews from 16th March).
Completing the trio is a very British classic, the stage adaption of author Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Dahl’s beloved story follows the impoverished Charlie Bucket into the mysterious Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory for a mouth-watering adventure beyond his wildest imagination. Directed by Sam Mendes and with a book by David Greig, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory features new songs from Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman. So far, the only cast role to be announced is that of eccentric chocolate maker, Mr Willy Wonka, to be played by Douglas Hodge. The musical opens at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane on 25th June 2013 (previews from 18th May) – coincidentally, which is also this writer’s birthday!
With such a rich array of forthcoming productions already set for the West End this year, led by these three musical giants, it really is looking promising for London theatre in 2013. It could also be the year for new writing. A high profile workshop of new Welsh musical My Land’s Shore begins on Monday 7th January, culminating in a showcase performance on Friday 18th January. Written by Christopher Orton (music/lyrics) and Robert Gould (book/lyrics), it is a story set amongst the background of the Merthyr uprising of 1831; a passionate tale of conflict, social injustice, moral dilemmas and heartbreak which centres on the true life figure of Dic Penderyn, Wales’ first working class martyr. The musical created quite a stir last year with SimG Records’ release of the studio cast recording, which featured the vocal talents of such West End stars as Jonathan Williams, Kelly-Anne Gower, Killian Donnelly, Alexis James, Sarah Lark and Gareth Richards. Perhaps 2013 will finally see My Land’s Shore make it to the stage.
Only three days into this new year, it’s impossible to predict how West End theatre will fare in 2013. If you look at what it has to work with however, then I think that it can only go onwards and upwards.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)