Day 1: Musical choices for 2020

The cast and company of The Prince of Egypt
Photo credit: Darren Bell

It looks like it’s going to be a bit of a bumper year for musicals, both in London and across the country. The usual big hitters are still around, including the new production of Les Misérables which has recently begun performances at the Sondheim Theatre (formerly Queen’s Theatre), and a few imports will be making their way over from Broadway in due course. Plus several favourites will head out on the road for new UK tours.

West End hits BeautifulWaitress, and The Phantom of the Opera will begin touring at various points this year, and Pretty Woman (with music from Bryan Adams), Sunday in the Park with George (starring Jake Gyllenhaal), and Disney’s Frozen will all arrive from Broadway. The Prince of Egypt will make its UK debut at the Dominion Theatre, cult favourite Be More Chill comes to The Other Palace, and Imelda Staunton stars in a West End revival of Hello, Dolly! at the Adelphi.

The new Troubadour at Wembley Park Theatre welcomes Kevin Clifton in the starring role of Robbie Hart for a limited run of The Wedding Singer, followed by a full run of new musical Sleepless. Alexandra Burke will star in a new musical adaptation of My Best Friend’s Wedding, which kicks off a UK tour in Plymouth, RAGS The Musical will play at the Park Theatre, and Josie Rourke’s City of Angels will receive a West End revival later this year, with several members of the previous cast confirmed to return.

Meanwhile, Katy Lipson will bring Zorro the Musical and Jewish Hollywood to the Hope Mill Theatre, and there will be different opportunities to see Hairspray: Michael Ball stars in a version at the London Coliseum, and Drew McOnie will choreograph another version which is due to tour the UK. There have also been rumours of a transfer for hit Broadway show Beetlejuice, which shutters in June purely to make way for The Music Man, though whether a transfer would be this year (should it indeed happen) is debatable.

However, if you’re struggling with all that choice, I’ve come up with my top five musicals you do not want to miss in 2020…

5. Local Hero, Old Vic
Based on the 1983 film, this musical adaptation features compositions from Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler and a book by Bill Forsyth (who wrote the film) and David Greig (The Lorax). It made its debut last year at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh, extending its limited run due to high demand for tickets, and will have a summer run at the Old Vic; the cast has yet to be confirmed, but presumably many of the original ensemble will transfer with it. The show is about a representative of an American oil company being sent to a village in Scotland to buy the town and the surrounding property for the company – all because his surname sounds Scottish…

Local Hero runs at the Old Vic from 18 June – 22 August 2020. Tickets are available online or from the box office.

4. Strictly Ballroom (UK tour)
I’ve seen both iterations of this show, based on the Baz Lurhmann film; it began as a musical with original songs at West Yorkshire Playhouse, before morphing into a jukebox musical which hit the West End. Whilst I loved the originality of the first version I saw, by changing it meant most of the actors could focus on the dancing (brilliantly choreographed by Drew McOnie) and it was a real breath of fresh air. This new tour will be directed by Strictly Come Dancing‘s Craig Revel Horwood, so I’ll be intrigued to see what it ends up looking like – but I’m sure it will be as entertaining as ever!

Strictly Ballroom begins its tour at Nottingham Theatre Royal on 21 September 2020. Tickets are available online or from individual box offices.

3. West Side Story, Royal Exchange Theatre
One of last year’s big hits, which I missed out on, will return as part of the new season at Manchester’s Royal Exchange. I finally made my first visit to this extraordinary venue in the autumn, and I recommend the trip for that alone – plus I’ve somehow never seen West Side Story before, so I need to rectify that. Andy Coxon and Gabriela Garcia are confirmed to return as Tony and Maria, as the Sharks & the Jets face off in 1950s Manhattan; based on Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, the Bernstein & Sondheim classic features songs such as MariaAmericaSomewhere and Tonight.

West Side Story runs at the Royal Exchange Theatre from 18 April – 30 May 2020. Tickets are available online or from the box office.

2. Romantics Anonymous, Bristol Old Vic
One of Emma Rice’s finest works, Romantics Anonymous is based on the Belgian film Les Émotifs Anonymes and originally ran at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse during her final season at Shakespeare’s Globe. Its long awaited comeback is courtesy of Rice’s new company, Wise Children, and finds it at the beautiful Bristol Old Vic for a criminally short two-week run before it heads over to America for a tour. There are hopes of adding some more UK venues, but as nothing has been confirmed I’d advise you to make plans to get over to Bristol as soon as possible! It is an absolute delight, telling the story of chocolatiers Jean-René (Marc Antolin) and Angélique (Carly Bawden), who attempt to find love in spite of their incredible social anxieties and awkwardness.

Romantics Anonymous runs at Bristol Old Vic from 18 January – 1 February 2020. Tickets are available online or from the box office.

1. Sunny Afternoon (UK tour)
It could only be one show at the top of this list! Four years after the final Harold Pinter Theatre performance, and three years after the first UK tour ended, the Olivier Award-winning Kinks biography is heading back out on the road for a new tour. There has now been enough time for me to come at this show anew, and the time feels right for it to hit the stage again – you won’t be surprised to hear that I’ve booked my front row seat for its very first performance in Manchester this August. I’ll be intrigued to see how it’s cast – I’d love to see a completely brand new company, though there will obviously be no complaints if any of the three casts decide to return! I can’t wait to head back to the 60s again.

Sunny Afternoon begins its tour at Manchester Palace Theatre on 7 August 2020. Tickets are available online or from individual box offices.

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