With grown-up child wizards, genies, hand puppets, monsters and already acclaimed performances, 2016 is shaping up to be a spectacular year of London theatre. Here are our tips for what to book for now.
The End Of Longing – from 2 February
They promised they would be there for you and Friends’ Matthew Perry wasn’t lying, returning to the West End after more than a decade to star in this "fast-paced and bittersweet comic new play". And the most exciting part? It’s written by the US screen star as well. A tale of four friends entering their 40s, the sharply witty tale will take audiences along with them on one raucous night in downtown LA.
Book tickets to The End Of Longing here.
Nell Gwynn – from 4 February
From one screen star to the next, Bond girl and Olivier Award nominee Gemma Arterton is back treading the boards this winter in the transfer of Shakespeare’s Globe’s critically acclaimed tale of the legendary actor’s life and times. The play is the latest from Globe favourite Jessica Swale and celebrates all the eccentricity and colour of the theatrical showbiz world with tongue firmly placed in cheek.
Book tickets to Nell Gwynn here.
Hand To God – from 5 February
This makes our list for three reasons. Firstly, Robert Askins’ brilliantly eccentric play about a Texas teenager who finds himself ruled by a scandalous, truth-speaking hand puppet (yes really, stay with us here) has already wowed Broadway audiences, bowling over critics with its wickedly funny script. Secondly, its reputation has attracted an incredible British cast including Olivier Award-winning Janie Dee, the always compelling Jemima Rooper and Harry Potter’s Harry Melling. And lastly? It’s about a boy taken over by a hand puppet. Come on, it’s not every day you see that.
Book tickets to Hand To God here.
Mrs Henderson Presents – from 9 February
There is nothing quite like a musical to brighten up the new year and this winter you need not look further than Tony Award winner Terry Johnson’s stage adaptation of this much loved film starring two-time Olivier Award winner Tracie Bennett. Telling the story of the Windmill Theatre and a very unique type of entertainment, the production has already been adorned with more stars than a constellation following its triumphant Theatre Royal Bath premiere.
Book tickets to Mrs Henderson Presents here.
Motown The Musical – from 11 February
If you prefer your musicals packed with hits you know all the words to already, Motown The Musical will likely be just your (Papa’s Got A Brand New) bag. This Broadway Tony Award nominated hit is a must for all music fans, telling the fascinating story of Motown founder Berry Gordy and his journey from the boxing ring to launching the careers of seminal artists from Michael Jackson to Marvin Gaye. As you’d hope and expect, it comes complete with a score of world famous tracks including Dancing In The Street, I Heard It Through The Grapevine and My Girl.
Book tickets to Motown The Musical here.
People, Places And Things – from 15 March
There are some performances that leave you feeling as if in 20 years’ time you’ll be able to say “Yes, I was there. I saw that.” Denise Gough in Duncan Macmillan’s startling rehab drama is inarguably one of those. First seen at the National Theatre, this West End transfer of director Jeremy Herrin’s staggering production will give you another chance to see the actor revive arguably the performance of 2015. Raw, brave, compelling and so affecting it’ll stay under your skin for weeks to come, you’d be wise to start placing your award bets now…
Book tickets to People, Places And Things here.
The Comedy About A Bank Robbery – from 31 March
The Play That Goes Wrong fans rejoice! Following this winter’s Peter Pan Goes Wrong, the haphazard crew are back with the slightly differently titled but equally shambolic (in the best way possible) The Comedy About A Bank Robbery. Take one enormous diamond, a snoozing security guard and eight wonderfully incompetent crooks and you have a recipe for (brilliantly entertaining) disaster.
Book tickets to The Comedy About A Bank Robbery here.
Funny Girl – From 9 April
Unsurprisingly, when Sheridan Smith was announced as the star of the Menier Chocolate Factory’s revival of this much-loved musical tickets sold out quicker than you could sing “don’t rain on my parade”. Theatre lovers let out a collective sigh of relief and did a quick jazz hand when the news was finally announced that a West End transfer had been confirmed. You can still snap up tickets to see the double Olivier Award winner and bona fide national treasure make the role of Fanny Brice her own in the five star hit. Move over Barbra Streisand, nobody does it like our Sheridan.
Book tickets to Funny Girl here.
Jekyll And Hyde – from 20 May
We could have picked any of The Old Vic’s 2016 season – Ralph Fiennes in The Master Builder or Timothy Spall in The Caretaker anyone? – but this production has one thing the others don’t: Drew McOnie. If you don’t already know the name, we can guarantee you soon will. This choreographer’s star is rising faster than Jekyll’s personality switches. He has devised, directed and choreographed this new dance thriller following his sensational work on the Lyric Hammersmith’s Bugsy Malone and we for one can’t wait to see what he has up his talented sleeve.
Book tickets to Jekyll And Hyde here.
Disney’s Aladdin – from 27 May
It’s a new Disney musical. Need we say more? Oh go on, okay then. Flying carpets, The Book Of Mormon’s director Casey Nicholaw, all the songs you love from the Disney film classic alongside some newbies by Alan Menken, Sir Tim Rice and Elf’s Chad Beguelin, Broadway’s Trevor Dion Nicholas as the Genie, and all the spectacle, colour and magic of the heart-warming story. We predict the West End might just have a new family hit on its hands for 2016.
Book tickets to Aladdin here.
Harry Potter And The Cursed Child Parts I And II – from 7 June
Unless you’ve been trapped in the Chamber of Secrets, you’ll be well aware that arguably the most famous children’s book characters of all time will find their way on to the stage this summer for this brand new story penned by JK Rowling alongside theatrical wonder duo Jack Thorne and John Tiffany. Told in two parts and set 18 years after the final book, Harry Potter will be played by Jamie Parker alongside Noma Dumezweni and Paul Thornley as Hermoine and Ron. The play – unsurprisingly – sold more than 200,000 tickets in its first eight hours of sales but if you head over to the official website you can still snap up tickets without having to resort to any illegal geminio curses.
The Entertainer – from 20 August
The inaugural Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company season continues throughout the year with Adrian Lester reprising his role in Red Velvet, Richard Madden and Lily James set to reunite as the stage's most famous lovers in Romeo And Juliet, and Kenneth Branagh and Rob Brydon team up for Francis Veber's classic French farce The Painkiller. The Entertainer is the final production announced for the Garrick Theatre tenure and will see Branagh star under the direction of Robert Ashford in this modern music hall-set classic, in the role Laurence Olivier originated. We predict a few more familiar names will crop up in this cast so snap up tickets while you can…