Monday 10th December

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Claire Machin, Sophie-Louise Dann, Joanna Riding, Claire Moore and Debbie Chazen in The Girls
Claire Machin, Sophie-Louise Dann, Joanna Riding, Claire Moore and Debbie Chazen in The Girls

The Girls – If you’re going to see one musical this year, it has to be Barlow’s!

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Hotly anticipated musical The Girls is now being performed at Phoenix Theatre until July 2017.  Based on the hit 2003 film Calendar Girls, Tim Firth (who wrote the film) and national treasure Gary Barlow have joined forces to return this heart-warming story to the stage.  In doing so, as Shannon Rawlins writes below, they have produced the best British musical since Billy Elliot.

Film, play, musical – Phoenix Theatre’s brand new production The Girls has been on quite the journey.  Now, in the heart of the West End, you can hear sung the true tale of a Yorkshire Women’s Institute group’s fundraising efforts of producing a nude calendar to raise money for a memorial sofa.

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Category: Theatre
The Kite Runner © Wyndhams Theatre
The Kite Runner © Wyndhams Theatre

The Kite Runner: A remarkable stage production

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Written by Sandip Kana

Matthew Spangler’s stage production of Khaled Hosseini’s best-selling novel, The Kite Runner, makes an astonishing West End debut at Wyndham’s Theatre.  Its limited run lasts until 11th March 2017.

Given the popularity of Khaled Hosseini’s novel upon its release in 2003, and its highly successful movie adaptation four years later, it always seemed likely that The Kite Runner would become a stage production. However, given the complexity of the narrative, playwright Matthew Spangler faced numerous barriers and concerns that his efforts would fall short.  Those concerns are unfounded: what was undeniably an epic novel, scripted into an epic film, has been adapted into an epic play.

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Category: Theatre
An Inspector Calls © The Playhouse Theatre
An Inspector Calls © The Playhouse Theatre

An Inspector Calls: A remarkable spectacle and timeless debate

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Written by Sandip Kana

Stephen Daldry’s multi-award-winning production of An Inspector Calls has returned to the West End, exactly 70 years after the play was first staged in the UK.  Daldry’s adaptation of J.B. Priestley’s classic piece of theatre – showing at Playhouse Theatre until February 2017 – brings a mixture of emotion, laughter and surreal moments.  Infused with fewer dark undercurrents than the original script, this version can still be regarded as a great contemporary piece of theatre.

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Category: Theatre
© Tracey Moberley
© Tracey Moberley

Mark Thomas: The Red Shed review

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Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

The Red Shed is an intense and moving masterpiece, representing the very best of Mark Thomas’ talents as a comedian, actor and journalist.

Mark Thomas begins by recounting an interview he gave to NME in 1989.  He rattled through his answers, before being asked: “Where do you get your politics from?”  Thomas knew it stemmed from his time at ‘The Red Shed’, a Labour Club in Wakefield, where he became involved in the 1984 Miners’ Strike.  Before realising, Thomas had delivered a rant to the unsuspecting reviewer – which he repeats now – about a march he joined through the heart of a pit village and past a school playground where children ran forward crying to sing “Solidarity Forever” at their fathers and sons, supporting them in their fight against injustice.  Then Thomas goes silent, sweating and teary.  Finally, he injects some levity: “I’ve told that story so many times, that I’ve no idea whether it’s even true.”

During the rest of the performance, Thomas reports on his quest to test his memory was true: to track down that village and those children “without sounding like a paedophile”.

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Category: Comedy
L-R Noma Dumezweni (Hermione Granger), Jamie Parker (Harry Potter) and Paul Thornley (Ron 
Weasley). Photo by Manuel Harlan
L-R Noma Dumezweni (Hermione Granger), Jamie Parker (Harry Potter) and Paul Thornley (Ron Weasley). Photo by Manuel Harlan

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Stupendous proof that J.K. is still rollin’

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Sold out until December 2017, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has proved a huge success even before the reviews started rolling in – and with very good reason.   A further 250,000 tickets will be released on Thursday 4th August and What’s On London cannot recommend enough snapping them up while you can.  

This superb J.K. Rowling / Jack Thorne / John Tiffany two-part collaboration officially opened on 30th July at The Palace Theatre and Shannon Rawlins was lucky enough to catch the previews on consecutive nights earlier on in the week.  She reports below in a spoiler-free review.

As soon as the play opened, it was full steam ahead.  Packed from the get-go, I forgot I was flying solo at the theatre, completely and utterly immersed in Rowling’s universe.  Initially nervous at the thought of a five-hour play, by the end of Part One I dreaded having to wait a whole day to see the culminating part!

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Category: Theatre
Jesus Christ Superstar © Open Air Theatre
Jesus Christ Superstar © Open Air Theatre

Jesus Christ Superstar: A fragmented production that astonishes

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The iconic Jesus Christ Superstar, adapted by Timothy Sheader, is the penultimate production of the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre season.  Sandip Kana saw the show on behalf of What’s On London.  

Since being created by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Jesus Christ Superstar has enjoyed many chapters to its production life and here another was added.  Sheader’s version, though it fragments at times and may be too dark for some, stuns in a way that few Open Air Theatre productions have in recent years.  Its message is unique and as a musical it astonishes.

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Category: Theatre
Aladdin-Prince-Edward-Theatre-Jade-Ewen-Jasmine-and-Dean-John-Wilson-Aladdin-Photographer-Deen-van-Meer-©-Disney-2-238x357

Disney’s Aladdin flies into the West End

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Two years after its Broadway debut, Disney’s Aladdin has arrived in London’s West End to run at The Prince Edward Theatre until 11th February 2017.  The magical musical – based on the timeless Middle Eastern folk tale – stars former Sugababe Jade Ewan, Dean-John Wilson and Trevor Dion Nicholas.

On its opening Arabian night, Disney pulled out all the stops by laying on a surprise purple – but non-flying – carpet for the arriving audience.  There on the carpet was Shannon Rawlins to report back for What’s On London.

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Category: Theatre
Running Wild © Open Air Theatre
Running Wild © Open Air Theatre

‘Running Wild’ at Regent’s Park: production and puppetry to rival Morpurgo’s ‘War Horse’

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Written by Sandip Kana | @sandipkana

The launch of Open Air Theatre at Regent’s Park typically heralds the start of the summer season.  This year it kicked off with Running Wild Samuel Adamson’s stage adaptation of the book of the same name – which is performed for the last time in its present run later today.  

What’s On London was invited to the media night of the play, based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo, who also brought us the fantastic and critically-acclaimed War Horse.  And once again Morpurgo pulls at the heartstrings with an extraordinary story of bravery in the face of the greatest of all perils.

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Category: Theatre