Theatres in London’s West End and around the UK are getting a new lease of life in 2019, with multiple shows opening or heading out on tour this year. From stunning new productions to the return of classics, and award-winning musicals to powerful plays, there’s plenty of reasons why you should make 2019 the ‘year of the theatre’.
You’ll also get the chance to witness Hollywood’s finest perform live on stage, with Sally Field, Bill Pullman, Cate Blanchett, Gillian Anderson, Lily James, Cillian Murphy, Wendell Pierce, and Tom Hiddleston all making appearances. Our guide to the best shows of this year also highlights which shows are due to close (don’t worry - there’s still just about time to catch Kit Harrington too).
So have a scroll and discover which theatre shows you should see in 2019.
Based on Doris Betts’ ‘The Ugliest Pilgrim’, this award-winning musical tells the tale of a young facially-disfigured woman living near Oklahoma in the sixties who wants to make it out of her hometown. The production features an original score by Tesori (‘Shrek the Musical’, ‘Caroline, Or Change’) as well as direction by Shuntaro Fujita, choreography by Cressida Carre and lyrics by Brian Crawley.
Where: Charing Cross Theatre
When: 14th Jan - 6th April
A provoking play that highlights the violence of desire. Martin Crimp used ‘Twelve Variations on Samuel Richardson’s Pamela’ to draw themes of virtue and seduction, where his play witnesses six characters play out a risky game of sexual domination and defiance. Cate Blanchett (‘Blue Jasmine’, ‘Carol’, ‘Talented Mr. Ripley’) takes center stage in her National Theatre debut as Katie Mitchell (‘Waves’, ‘Cleansed’) directs.
Where: National Theatre, South Bank
When: 16th Jan - 2nd March
Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke provides the soundtrack to this touching drama of a London-based young gay couple. Obi and Alex’s relationship is challenged by Alex’s visa, meaning they must decide whether to get married and ultimately confront their families. The show delicately draws on themes related to politics (Brexit) and homosexuality, starring Olivier-nominated Tyrone Huntley.
Where: Lyric Hammersmith
When: 18th Jan - 16th Feb
It’s hard to not want to burst into song by simply reading the title to this Dolly Parton musical, so imagine how you’ll feel by the end of the show. 9 to 5 features a multi-award nominated soundtrack created by Ms. Parton, as well as an interesting cast featuring Louise Redknapp and former Love Island winner Amber Davies. The musical of friendship, gossip and ‘taking care of business’ received great reviews when it toured the UK back in 2012/13, and now sets up home at the Savoy for seven months.
Where: Savoy Theatre
When: 28th Jan - 31st August
A much needed inspiration given contemporary political climates, the show is based on true events that saw locals in Newfoundland welcome 7,000 stranded passengers. It touches on concepts of trust and gratitude and cultures colliding, and helps grow new perspectives where audiences have left the theatre feeling touched from the stories of human kindness. The Broadway production received a handful of awards including a Drama Desk Award for ‘Outstanding Musical’.
Where: Phoenix Theatre, Covent Garden
When: 30th Jan - 25th May
Adapted from the 1950 film starring Bette Davis, Thelma Ritter and Marilyn Monroe, Ivo van Hove directs Gillian Anderson (‘X Files’, ‘The Fall’) and Lily James (‘Cinderella’, ‘Baby Driver’, ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’) as lead roles. In a story of jealousy, stardom and ruthless ambition, ‘All About Eve’ witness the betrayal of aspiring actress Eve, who after being befriended by Broadway star Margo Channing, devises a plan to catapult her own career at the expense of Margo.
Where: Noel Coward Theatre
When: 2nd Feb - 11th May
Following a run in Bath last summer to mark the 50th anniversary of Arthur Miller’s masterpiece, ‘The Price’ is back and once again features a stellar cast. Reprising their roles, David Suchet (‘All My Sons’) and Brendan Coyle (aka Mr Bates in ‘Downton Abbey’ bring Miller’s play to life as two brothers reunited after sixteen years to sell their family’s furniture. Their unison results in revelations and regrets, as we learn what tore them apart. Suchet’s performance in particular was met with rave reviews, exciting audiences for its run at the Windham this year.
Where: Windham Theatre
When: 5th Feb - 27th April
What do you get when you unite a member of JLS, a member of The Wanted, a member of McFly and an Olympic champion together? The ultimate boy-band meets theatre experience of a lifetime. Aston Merrygold, Jay McGuiness, Harry Judd and Louis Smith come together for this ‘explosion of song, dance, acrobats and amazing visuals’. Expect to hear songs from Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys and many other incredible artists performed in a breathtakingly-exciting production.
Where: Garrick Theatre
When: 7th Feb - 2nd June
Fresh from Broadway, ‘Waitress’ makes its West End debut this February. Created by an all-female team, including music from Sara Bareiles and direction from Tony Award-winner Diane Paulus, the musical is all-empowering and all-enjoyable. The plot surrounds Jenna, a waitress who dreams of escaping her job, marriage and town and creatively bakes her way through troubled situations. She then enters a baking contest in the hope of making her dreams come true. A recipe for a great time; Waitress begins its London run in February.
Where: Adelphi Theatre
When: 8th Feb - 25th May
News of the nation’s iconic sitcom being adapted for stage made headlines back in October 2018. But now the time has finally come to watch beloved characters Del Boy and Rodney hit up Haymarket Theatre with their classic broken French and Cockney slang. The musical produced by Paul Whitehouse and Jim Sullivan (son of the TV show’s creator) vowed to retain the legacy and incorporate the best moments of the TV show. But this time, there’ll be music!
Where: Haymarket Theatre Royal
When: 9th Feb - 22nd June
Swapping Hollywood for the West End, Tom Hiddleston (‘Loki’ in the ‘Avengers’ franchise) returns to London’s theatreland for the first time since ‘Coriolanus’ five years ago. The actor claimed the play was a ‘masterpiece’ and was delighted to be involved: “Jamie Lloyd Pinter at the Pinter season is terrific and I am so pleased that he’s asked me to be part of it”. Betrayal tells the story of two marriages and a seven year affair in reverse order, inspired by Pinter’s real life, and Hiddleston is cast alongside Zawe Ashton and Charlie Cox.
Where: Harold Pinter Theatre
When: 5th March - 1st June
Tony Award-winners James Lapine and William Finn come together in this hilarious musical based on the Oscar-winning film starring Steve Carell and Toni Collette. The Hoover family is forced to overcome their differences as they embark on an interstate road trip for daughter Olive to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty contest. The musical comically hones in on the typical family behaviours, making it relatable and enjoyable to watch this Spring.
Where: Arcola Theatre
When: 21st March - 11th May
After successful runs in Galway and Dublin in 2018, Enda Walsh’s adaptation of the novel by Max Porter arrives in London. Cillian Murphy (‘Peaky Blinders’) has been praised for his ability to take on the role of ‘Dad’, with a heart-wrenching story that follows two young boys who must deal with their mother’s sudden death. Murphy is joined by David Evans, Taighen O’Callaghan, Felix Warren and Hattie Morahan.
Where: Barbican Theatre
When: 25th March - 13th April
Forget the Montagues and Capulets, it’s all about the Jets and Sharks in this retelling of Shakespeare’s classic ‘Romeo and Juliet’. With an infamous range of songs such as ‘Maria’, ‘America’, ‘Tonight’ and more, Manchester is transformed into Manhattan as the setting of Tony and Maria’s love affair. The production has been adapted for the round, and makes for a romantically-charged evening for audiences.
Where: Royal Exchange Manchester
When: 6th April - 25th May
Based on the five-time Oscar-nominated and two-time BAFTA Award-winning film, the musical revolves around a young woman who performs small acts of kindness to strangers and watches them unfold before her. But finding love for herself isn’t so simple. After opening on Broadway in 2017, Amelie The Musical makes its UK debut for a month at the Watermill, before touring the nation and internationally.
Where: Watermill Theatre
When: 11th April - 18th May
Arguably some of the biggest stars to return to the West End, Oscar-winning Sally Field (‘Forrest Gump’, ‘Mrs Doubtfire’) and Bill Pullman (‘Casper’, ‘Independence Day’) star in this classic drama by Arthur Miller. The pair play husband and wife, who are shaken by the death of their eldest son, a soldier at war. But with the return of their second son, secrets are exposed and the truth unravels. A great twist and a great cast - what’s not to love?
Where: Old Vic, Southwark
When: 15th April - 8th June
Proving he’s suited to the stage, Wendell Pierce (‘Suits’, ‘The Wire’) makes his UK stage debut as the lead character Willy Loman in this revamp of Arthur Miller’s classic. He performs opposite award-winning Sharon D. Clarke and Arinze Kene and under the direction of the reputed Marianne Elliot. The plot centres around Loman, who returns from an unsuccessful sales trip and must find a way to provide for his family.
Where: Young Vic, Southwark
When: 1st May - 29th June
Gloria and Emilio Estefan have been married for over forty years. The multiple Grammy Award-winning pair are two of the most famous names of Cuban-American music, and this musical celebrates the legacies of their love and careers. With impossible-to-stand-still-to songs such as ‘Conga’ and ‘Rhythm is Gonna Get You’. and the direction of Tony Award-winning Jerry Mitchell, ‘On Your Feet’ guarantees an unforgettable theatre experience.
Where: London Coliseum
When: 14th June - 31st August
The Olivier Award-winning ‘Best Musical’ is resurrected at the Barbican again, following two mega sell-out seasons at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. Intended as a rock opera album, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice unforgettable musical features unforgettable songs, choreography and stunning creative designs, accompanied by an emotional plot - all which contribute to the musical’s ability to consistently draw in the crowds.
Where: Barbican Theatre
When: 4th July - 24th August
Continuing an impressively strong season this year, the Young Vic welcomes the work of Idris Elba over the summer. ‘Tree’ The play was created by the ‘Luther’ star and Young Vic’s Kwame Kewi-Armah, taking audiences on a musical journey to South Africa. The plot, drawn from Elba’s album ‘Mi Mandela’, explores the country’s past, present and future through the eyes of a young man. Elba reflected “We’ve (himself and Kewi-Armah) both experience personal moments of healing connected with the country and we’re starting to explore that together.” So expect talent, inspiration and emotion with this new and original production.
Where: Young Vic, Southwark
When: 29th July - 24th August
If the cinematic sequel to the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious movie had you nostalgic to relive the original, why not head to the Prince Edward Theatre this Autumn for Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s delightful stage musical. Mary Poppins returns to the West End, with music and lyrics by the Sherman Brothers and George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. A spoonful of sugar helps sweeten the end of summer, ensuring a chim-chim-cheerful night out.
Where: Prince Edward Theatre
When: Autumn 2019
The award-winning musical journeys across the pond from Broadway to the West End this November. The protagonist Evan, is a boy with social anxiety disorder who craves acceptance of his peers. After the death of a classmate, Evan fabricates a friendship between himself and the boy, only to encounter turmoil and controversy. Touching the hearts of audience and critics alike, Dear Evan Hansen is the winner of both a Tony Award (2017) and Grammy Award (2018).
Where: Noel Coward Theatre
When: November 2019
Some huge shows are making the journey around the UK this year, meaning you don’t have to be a West Ender to enjoy some top theatre productions. From the controversial and highly anticipated Book Of Mormon branching out of London on a UK tour for the first time starting at Manchester, to Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show, the revival of Whitney in the Bodyguard, the reunion of Take That in The Band, and more Ghostly sightings of Ghost the Musical, all stopping at the UK’s leading theatres in 2019.
Take a look at the list below:
The curtains are closing on these productions with their final showings in sight. The dazzling Dreamgirls opening in February 2016, but must now make way for Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5, while Aladdin concludes for the opening of Mary Poppins, and Kit Harrington bids farewell to True West at the Vaudeville Theatre.
Sadly the show can't always go on, so don’t miss your chance to see these top productions before they close!
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