Some of the best shows on the London stage hail from across the pond, and more American delights are expected in the coming months. This has always been the case, ever since Oklahoma! stormed into Drury Lane in 1947, followed a couple of years later by A Streetcar Named Desire. Since then, American talent has inspired and provoked British theatre to emulate its achievements. Of course, at the moment the big one is Hamilton, but this hip-hop musical about one of the founding fathers is obviously travelling across the Atlantic by wooden ship because it’s not expected to dock until October 2017. In the meantime, there’s a flotilla of musicals arriving from Off-Broadway: David Kirshenbaum and Jack Heifner’s Vanities, Joshua Schmidt and Jason Loewith/Joshua Schmidt’s The Adding Machine, Julia Jordan and Juliana Nash’s Murder Ballad, David Bowie’s Lazarus, and Maury Yeston and Peter Stone/Thomas Meehan’s Death Takes a Holiday. Similarly, there are revivals of Ragtime and The Last Five Years on the horizon. At the Old Vic theatre, Broadway star Andy Karl is currently delighting audiences by playing the central role of TV weatherman Phil Connors in Tim Minchin and Andy Rubin’s musical Groundhog Day.
Likewise, a handful of American plays this autumn promise to enliven the new writing scene. Suzan-Lori Parks’s Father Comes Home from the Wars, an epic drama that centres on a slave who fought on the Confederate side in the American Civil War, arrives at the Royal Court in September, and looks set to replicate its New York success. Tony Kushner’s 2009 play, The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, comes to the Hampstead Theatre a month later, and, last but not least, Kemp Powers’s One Night in Miami…, a drama about 22-year-old Cassius Clay (soon to become Muhammad Ali), makes a topical visit to the Donmar Warehouse. It will be directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah, the British playwright, and director who has been Artistic Director of Center Stage in Baltimore since 2011. Once in a Lifetime, the Moss Hart and George S Kaufman 1930 classic gets a new production at the Young Vic.
Wherever you look in the West End there are other American connections. Patrick Steward and Ian McKellen reprise their Broadway magic in a revival of Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land at the Wyndham’s theatre in September, while Kenneth Branagh stars in John Osborne’s The Entertainer, playing the central character of Archie Rice, the washed-up vaudevillian, a role created by Sir Laurence Olivier in 1957. The fun fact is that Branagh has already played Olivier in the 2011 film My Week with Marilyn, the story of Monroe’s work on the ill-fated film The Prince and the Showgirl. This particular American connection is, I admit, a bit tenuous, but I still look forward to seeing the stars and stripes flying high over the West End in the coming months.
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.