Taking the stage: 7 West End theatre shows to see in 2018

A whole cast of new and exciting stars are taking to the stage in London’s West End this season – and these shows are set to be the hottest tickets in town…

42nd Street

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42nd Street is a musical based on the novel by Bradford Ropes featuring iconic songs such as ‘We’re in the Money and ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’. The show follows director Julian Marsh (played by Tom Lister) as he attempts to put on a brand new musical production during the height of America’s Great Depression of the 1930’s. Peggy Sawyer (Clare Halse), an unknown chorus girl, gets her big break and goes out on the stage a ‘youngster’ and comes back a ‘star’. Lulu is set to return to the West End for the first time in 30 years to take over the role of veteran leading lady, Dorothy Brock, replacing Sheena Easton. The pop singer will appear for a 16 week run.
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, from March 19

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Chicago

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The hit American musical [it first opened on Broadway in 1975] is set in Chicago in the 1920s. It’s about two showgirls, Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, who find themselves on trial together for murder. American actor Cuba Gooding Jr. will make his UK stage debut, taking on the role of unscrupulous lawyer Billy Flynn (played by Richard Gere in the 2002 film version) with Ruthie Henshall playing corruptible prison warder Mama Morton. The soundtrack features showstoppers such as ‘All That Jazz’ and ‘Razzle Dazzle’.
Phoenix Theatre, Charing Cross Road from 26 March.

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Tina – The Musical

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The show will explore the life of rock ‘n’ roll legend, Tina Turner, following her origins in Nutbush, Tennessee to international singing superstar. American actress Adrienne Warren will make her West End debut taking on the role of Turner whose hits include ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It’, ‘(Simply) The Best’ and ‘River Deep – Mountain High’. Cast includes Kobna Holdbrook-Smith as husband Ike Turner and Tom Godwin as record producer Phil Spector. The new musical is directed by Mamma Mia director Phyllida Lloyd.
Aldwych Theatre, Covent Garden, previewing from 21 March.

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Strictly Ballroom: The Musical

Getty/David M. Benett

Promising to be a sequin-clad extravaganza, Strictly Ballroom: The Musical mixes familiar songs such as Love is in the Air and Time After Time with new numbers and is based on the Baz Luhrmann film of 1992 about a young ballroom dancer, Scott Hastings who follows his heart, breaks the rules and upsets the Australian ballroom dance community. Newcomer Jonny Labey will make his West End debut as Scott, Zizi Strallen will play Fran, his left-footed dance partner, and Will Young will play the new role of bandleader Wally Strand. Young has appeared in several theatrical productions, most notably the West End revival of Cabaret, for which he was nominated for an Olivier Award in 2013.
Piccadilly Theatre, Denman Street from 29 March.

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Chess

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The political musical Chess will be returning to London for its first major revival in the capital for over 30 years. It’s about the one-upmanship between a Russian and an American chess master, set against the backdrop of the Cold War. Michael Ball will play Russian chess grandmaster Anatoly Sergievskym, Alexandra Burke will play Anatoly’s wife Svetlana Sergievsky and Tim Howar will play the American Freddie Trumper. The 1984 music by ABBA songwriters Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, and Tim Rice (Evita, The Lion King) includes the songs ‘One Night in Bangkok’, ‘I Know Him So Well, and ‘Heaven Help My Heart’.
London Coliseum, St Martin’s Lane previewing from 26 April and running until 2 June.

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The King and I

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Set in 1860s Bangkok, the musical tells the story of the unconventional relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna, a British schoolteacher whom the King brings to Siam to teach his many wives and children. Following acclaimed performances on Broadway and making their West End debuts, Kelli O’Hara will reprise the role of Anna, and Ken Watanabe the The King of Siam. Based on the Margaret Landon novel Anna and the King of Siam, Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote the musical for Broadway in 1951 (Songs include ‘ Getting to Know You’ and ‘Shall We Dance’). A film version in 1956 famously starred Yul Brynner as the King and Deborah Kerr as Anna.
London Palladium, Argyll Street from 21 June to 8 September.

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The Lieutenant of Inishmore

Johan Persson

Poldark star Aidan Turner will make his West End debut in the black comedy The Lieutenant of Inishmore set in County Galway, Ireland in 1993 as the Northern Ireland peace process gets underway. Turner, joining an all-Irish cast, plays the deranged terrorist Mad Padraic.
Noel Coward Theatre, St Martin’s Lane, London from 23 June to 8 September.

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Company

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Company, a musical comedy with songs and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, is set in New York in the 1970’s. It’s about Bobbie and her friends – five married couples who gather to offer her advice on love and marriage, and this year’s version will be the first time the main character has been portrayed by a woman. Bobbi is played by Rosalie Craig, and former Great British Bake Off presenter Mel Giedroyc and American actress Patti LuPone will play some of Bobbi’s married friends.
Gielgud Theatre from 26 September.

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Feature by Susan Hope