HomeForexThe best shows to see in London this Spring

The best shows to see in London this Spring

By Sarah Rappaport, Bloomberg

IN February, when tickets went on sale for a new production of Romeo & Juliet starring Spider-Man’s Tom Holland, it took just two hours for the 12-week run to sell out. The blockbuster engagement will be helmed by director Jamie Lloyd, fresh off his celebrated run of Sunset Boulevard, starring Nicole Scherzinger. If you couldn’t nab tickets, never fear: Many other shows in London are just as exciting. Take Nye, a fever dream produced on the National Theatre’s biggest stage; it spins the tale of Britain’s National Health Service in a riveting two hours. An evening spent watching Cruel Intentions could also serve as a spicy corrective to London’s gloomy spring weather.

If you’re still after a night with Hollywood, Succession star Sarah Snook is giving a mastterclass in physicality and stamina in a one-woman version of the Picture of Dorian Gray brought into the smartphone age. She plays 26 different characters with some of the best visual effects and camera work since Ivo van Hove’s Network debuted in London in 2017.

Model and actress Cara Delevigne also makes her stage debut as Sally Bowles in Cabaret, the long-running revival whose producers have kept the show fresh and in the headlines long after initial leads Eddie Redmayne and Jessie Buckley departed.

Some of our previous recommendations — such as Operation Mincemeat and Guys and Dolls — are still more than worth a visit. Both shows were nominated for a host of Olivier Awards, including Best New Musical and Best Musical Revival respectively; tune into the awards ceremony in mid-April to find out who and what will take home this year’s trophies. It will be hosted by Ted Lasso’s Hannah Waddingham.

In the meantime, here are our recommendations for best new and newly transferred plays and musicals to see in London this spring, both in and beyond the West End, as well as some highlights from the most anticipated impending shows. Several will have limited runs, so start planning your spring theatergoing soon.

WHAT’S ON NOW

Stranger Things: The First Shadow
Where: Phoenix Theatre
When: Through Dec. 15

Netflix, Inc.’s first stage show is a prequel to the streamer’s wildly popular sci-fi series set in the 1950s, with familiar characters like Joyce Byers and James Hopper presented at a younger age. Audiences, drawn by the creepy mysteries they know from the show, inevitably cheer when the theme song’s familiar synthesizer notes begin to play. Still, there’s real heart behind all the visual wizardry, guts and gore. The direction is sharp and the acting world-class, especially from newcomer Louis McCartney, who plays a younger version of Season 4 villain Vecna. The opening set piece presents some of the most ambitious technical theater I’ve seen, a triumph of imagination and technical execution.

Nye
Where: The National Theatre
When: Through May 11

Welsh treasure Michael Sheen takes on the role of fellow homeland hero Aneurin “Nye” Bevan, the politician behind the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), in a show largely about the creation of the NHS and the welfare state. Sheen fires a production that darts between traditional bio-drama and more fantastic elements to encompass all aspects of Nye’s life, from schoolhood to his final days. Set in a hospital, its staging and thoughtful nature shows London’s National Theatre at its very best.

Cruel Intentions
Where: The Other Palace
When: Through May 19

The 1990s cult classic film that starred Ryan Phillippe, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Reese Witherspoon makes for a supremely fun jukebox musical that was originally staged in 2015 in the US. The show comprises some of the decade’s catchiest songs, including “Bittersweet Symphony,” “No Scrubs,” and “Genie in a Bottle,” with a plot loosely inspired by Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Daniel Bravo shines in the Ryan Phillippe role of manipulative sibling Sebastian, and Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky is clearly having a great time as the scheming Kathryn. Expect to leave smiling with a 25-year-old song stuck in your head.

The Picture of Dorian Gray
Where:  Theatre Royal Haymarket
When: Through May 11

Sarah Snook — best known for her Emmy-winning performance as Shiv Roy in HBO’s Succession — plays 26 roles in this one-woman show based on Oscar Wilde’s 1890 novel. The show relies heavily on live camera work. Every inch of Ms. Snook’s face is projected onto a myriad of screens that explode every tiny shard of feeling into an emotive assault as Dorian descends into darkness. Modern technology plays a role, too: In a clever update, the character’s aging portrait undergoes live editing using Instagram-type filters as Ms. Snook holds a smartphone to her face and manipulates the image. Such characters as the hedonistic Lord Wotton get on-screen Botox to stop the ticking clock. As Ms. Snook flexes more acting muscles portraying another complex character, it’s possible she’ll add an Olivier to her trophies at this month’s awards ceremony.

A Mirror
Where: Trafalgar Theatre
When: Through April 20

This is a play about a play that’s set within a play. It takes place in an authoritarian country where it’s against the law to stage shows: no Shakespeare drama allowed. This production starts with a wedding, which is really meant to cover rehearsals for an illegal performance. Playwright Sam Holcroft was inspired by his experience visiting North Korea in 2011 and by chatting with artists who have lived under repressive regimes. Jonny Lee Miller (Elementary, Trainspotting) is brilliant in this dystopian satire as he plays a complicated deputy culture minister. Rising star Tanya Reynolds (Sex Education) nearly steals the show with comedic timing and her character’s increasing boldness.

An Enemy of the People
Where: Duke of York’s Theatre
When: Through April 13

This punchy version of a Henrik Ibsen drama stars Matt Smith (The Crown) as a doctor who tries to shut down a town’s contaminated spa but gets pushback from townspeople whose livelihoods depend on it. This production includes David Bowie songs and a hilarious, part-improvised town hall debate with audience participation. This supremely insightful 140-year-old play is updated expertly for modern times, even if it occasionally becomes self-righteous. There’s even a Taylor Swift reference.

WHAT’S COMING UP

Spirited Away
Where: London Coliseum
When: April 30-Aug. 24

Following its great take on My Cousin Totoro, Studio Ghibli’s stellar London stage run continues with this adaptation of the beloved Miyazaki film about a girl who falls into a fantastic world of spirits. The original Japanese cast will be performing in this production, which will feature the film’s score and imaginative use of puppetry. Directed by Olivier Award-winner John Caird, the show will be in Japanese with English subtitles.

Bluets
Where: Royal Court Theatre
When: May 17-June 29

For his first big production as artistic director at West London’s celebrated Royal Court Theatre, David Byrne has brought out an uber-talented cast that includes Ben Whishaw (James Bond, Paddington), Emma D’Arcy (House of the Dragon), and Kayla Meikle. The show is an adaptation of Maggie Nelson’s book about depression and the arts, with a meditation on the color blue.

Slave Play
Where: Noël Coward Theatre
When:  June 29-Sept. 21

Jeremy O. Harris’s controversial, multiple Tony Award-winning Broadway show is finally coming to the West End, starring Kit Harrington from Game of Thrones and Fisayo Akinade from Netflix’s Heartstopper. A harsh examination of race and sexuality in modern America, the play follows three couples undergoing “antebellum sexual performance therapy” to save their relationships. The play is already making headlines in the United Kingdom: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has condemned the theater’s plan to host Black-only audience days.

Romeo and Juliet
Where: Duke of York’s Theatre
When  May 11-Aug. 3

There never was a tale of greater woe than of theatergoers trying to get tickets to a limited run featuring a popular movie star. It’s likely there will be returns or a ticket lottery for this show, as there were for such blockbuster Jamie Lloyd-directed shows as Sunset Boulevard and the (wondrous) James McAvoy-led version of Cyrano. Watch this space for news as to who will play Juliet alongside Tom Holland’s Romeo.

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