THE RUMOUR MILL: Musicals With an Eye on the West End

Theatreland seems to be heading into a new Golden Age of musicals. Already over the next year, we’ve had official announcements for the hotly anticipated transfers DEAR EVAN HANSEN and FROZEN from Broadway, new homemade British musicals have found London homes in & JULIET, LOCAL HERO and ADRIAN MOLE, and upcoming West End revivals of MARY POPPINS, JOSEPH, EVITA, and HAIRSPRAY only add to the excitement.

Add THE PRINCE OF EGYPT, ON YOUR FEET! JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR and THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY to the lineup for 2019 and 2020 and it’s easy to see that London’s musical theatre scene is absolutely thriving.

However, the constantly changing landscape of the capital’s theatres means that there are productions already eyeing London as a destination point. This week alone, there’s been six different instances of producers and creators sharing their intent (or letting slip) their plans to land in London. TheatreGB has compiled these statements to let you know which musicals might be coming to the West End very soon.

BACK TO THE FUTURE

Screenshot 2019-05-18 at 01.46.05Bet on this one. Producers have made themselves very clear that the premiere production taking place in Manchester in 2020 is serving as a tryout for a West End run. The lead producer of the project is Colin Ingram, who has form in premiering a show out-of-town prior to London as he did with GHOST THE MUSICAL in 2011. Add in it’s Tony and Olivier Award-winning creative team as well as the involvement from the original filmmakers and it seems a dead cert on this production arriving in theatreland very soon.

Ingram said: ‘This show has been six years in the making and we are delighted to be showing it to the people of Manchester first before the rest of the world gets to see it. As I did with GHOST, Manchester gets it first.’

Following the same trajectory as GHOST and BAT OUT OF HELL, its arrival at Manchester’s cavernous Opera House likely means it’s set for a big house in the West End. With THE PRINCE OF EGYPT set for a limited run in 2020, I’d bank on this one arriving at the Dominion Theatre in late-2020.

TOOTSIE

Screenshot 2019-05-18 at 01.47.12David Yazbek’s new musical adaptation of the 1982 comedy film has charmed Broadway on its arrival this season and looks set to do so in the West End if the producers are to be believed.

Hot off being nominated for 11 Tony Awards a few weeks ago, the producers have made a state of intent this week announcing plans for a US tour in autumn 2020 (with venues already booked in), an Australian engagement with intentions to tour to New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and a Japanese language production to open in Tokyo. These announcements were all made with independent producing partners included, making the likelihood of these productions even more plausible.

Broadway producers Scott Sanders and Carol Fineman also announced that they’ll be partnering with the UK based Michael Harrison and David Ian to bring the Scott Ellis-directed production to the West End in 2021. Harrison and Ian have between them recently produced JOSEPH, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, ANNIE and THE BODYGUARD in London and on tour, only furthering the probability of TOOTSIE making its way across the Atlantic.

Ultimately though, the transfer of TOOTSIE will only come based on its success on Broadway. Producers often claim plans for touring and international productions to help swing the voters at awards time, and if TOOTSIE fails to pick up any major awards this season, the cutthroat nature of the New York theatre scene seriously damages its chances to globetrot.

If TOOTSIE does make its way to the West End, it’ll be looking at midsize venues such as the Piccadilly, Savoy or Aldwych.

MY FAIR LADY

Screenshot 2019-05-18 at 01.48.44Also on New York’s Great White Way, the Lincoln Center’s acclaimed revival of Lerner and Loewe’s classic musical MY FAIR LADY set its closing date this week for July.

However, amongst the closing notice, the production announced plans for an engagement in the West End, with exact dates and venues to be announced.

This production seems likely for a number of reasons. First and foremost, Lincoln Center (and particularly the Bartlett Sher-helmed musical revivals) have form in bringing their productions to London. Most recently, their 2014 revival of THE KING AND I played the London Palladium in Summer 2018 with original New York leads Kelli O’Hara and Ken Watanabe reprising their roles in London. Going further back, Lincoln Center brought their Tony Award-winning revival of SOUTH PACIFIC to the Barbican followed by a UK tour. MY FAIR LADY, with its critical acclaim and solid US box-office figures, should be no exception to this trend.

The West End is also due a revival of the classic musical. MY FAIR LADY hasn’t been produced in the capital since the National Theatre’s production starring Jonathan Pryce and Martine McCutcheon played Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 2003, making it somewhat overdue for a London run. Brit actors Harry Hadden-Paton and Dame Diana Rigg also appeared in the New York production, making them more likely contenders for casting in London.

After the success of THE KING AND I at the London Palladium and in its subsequent UK tour, I fully expect Lincoln Center and Bartlett Sher to repeat this move. I’d bet on seeing MY FAIR LADY run for a limited engagement at the Palladium in summer 2020 before embarking on a national tour.

MONSOON WEDDING

Screenshot 2019-05-18 at 01.49.08Now this one came out of nowhere!

MONSOON WEDDING, based on the 2001 romantic drama film, is slated to play a limited 8-week engagement at Camden’s Roundhouse in the summer of 2020.

The musical, directed by original film director Mira Nair, was originally announced for a Broadway bow in 2014 that never materialised. The musical finally got legs in 2017 when it made its world premiere at California’s Berkeley Rep, and once again, producers publicly made an announcement that a Broadway transfer was to follow, although dates and venues were left unclear. This transfer never materialised and things went quiet on MONSOON WEDDING.

Until this week! In an article written by ScreenDaily on Mira Nair’s new BBC series ‘A Suitable Boy’, it was casually referenced in the article that MONSOON WEDDING has definite plans for a London run.

From ScreenDaily: ‘Other major projects on the horizon, (Nair) said, was a stage musical adaptation of 2001 hit MONSOON WEDDING, which will open for an initial eight-week season at the Roundhouse in London on August 1 2020.’

With a venue seemingly booked in and an opening date confirmed, it seems only a matter of time before we get an official announcement on this one.

TAMMY FAYE – A NEW MUSICAL

Screenshot 2019-05-18 at 01.50.21On the press tour for his upcoming musical biopic ‘Rocketman’, British music legend Elton John confirmed to Baz Bamigboye for the Daily Mail that he’s working on a stage adaptation of the life of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker.

John told Bamigboye that he and Scissor Sister’s frontman Jake Shears have spent the last 8 years studying the life and times of Tammy Faye Bakker, who, along with her husband Jim, founded the hugely popular religious PTL Club in the 1970s, before Jim was arrested on conviction of fraud and conspiracy in the 1980s in a huge public scandal. Known for her glamorous personality and her acceptance of the LGBT community in particularly troubled times, her life seems perfect for adapting to the stage.

Tentatively titled TAMMY FAYE – A NEW MUSICAL, John and Shears are partnering with the Olivier Award-winning playwright James Graham (THIS HOUSE, INK) to bring her story to the theatre. Graham reportedly delivered the script six weeks ago.

John’s husband David Furnish partnered with Joseph Smith to produce a reading of the musical recently. Additionally, the Daily Mail reports that ‘a full workshop will be staged later in the year, and that they’re working towards a production opening in London in the second part of 2020.’

This musical will mark the second attempt to bring the life of Tammy Faye Bakker to the stage. In 2011, a reading of a Tammy Faye musical was held in the US with a score by DREAMGIRLS’ Henry Krieger, and a script by Australian playwright Anthony Crowley. Tony Award-winner Kristin Chenoweth led the readings as Tammy Faye.

With a team as strong as Elton John, Jake Shears and James Graham behind it, it seems that this version of the Tammy Faye musical is dead set on a West End bow in the not-so-distant future.

CINDERELLA

Screenshot 2019-05-18 at 01.50.44In the final piece of musical theatre gossip, a new musical adaptation of CINDERELLA from legendary theatre composer Andrew Lloyd Webber showcased to producers at The Other Palace in London this week.

According to Michael Reidel for the New York Post, the piece was shown to Broadway powerhouses this week with ‘the Shuberts, the Nederlanders, producer Scott Rudin, Disney Theatrical head Tom Schumacher, actor Michael Caine and various producers and theater owners’ coming to see the private performances held Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week.

Lloyd-Webber has this time collaborated with writer (and actor) Emerald Fennell and lyricist David Zippell to bring a new twist on the classic story. In this version of CINDERELLA, ‘the title character doesn’t need a Prince Charming to fulfill her needs. In this retelling, Prince Charming is gay and runs off with a duke. Cinderella falls in love with Sebastian, an adorable oddball.’

Reidel described the score as ‘Lloyd Webber at his most melodic’, which, coupled with Zippell’s funny lyrics and Fennell’s witty script, evoke ‘the best of the classic Disney movies.’

The New York Post remains unclear on the next move for the new musical, with productions in the West End and Broadway almost certain with the backing of theatrical icon Lloyd-Webber, but they’re also shopping the idea as a Netflix series. Either way, given the success of its performances this week, keep a close eye on this one for any future announcements.

 

 

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