I get that January is a long, hard, cold month and you’re still catching up with some of the life-changing productions 2017 had to offer (i.e. Hamilton), but it’s never too early to get excited about the next twelve months of theatre. So we’ve compiled a list of productions for you to anticipate; no matter your taste, from ratchet jukebox musicals to highbrow one-woman plays, there’s definitely a 2018 production out there that you’ll love – or two, or three…
Disclaimer: Before we get started it’s important to note that most of the productions generating hype this early in the year have resources to spare and it’s worth checking out your local theatre’s programme and A Younger Theatre’s reviews page as 2018 progresses.
New in London
Fun Home, Young Vic (18th June)
This vivid musical take on Alison Bechdel’s biographical graphic novel Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic nabbed no less than five Tony Awards in 2015 and is finally crossing the Atlantic for our viewing pleasure this summer. The show tears through three stages of Alison’s life, her childhood in a funeral home, her college love life and her eventual coming out as a gay woman – all the while chronicling her complex relationship with her identity and her father who (spoiler alert) is also gay.
Tina, Aldwych Theatre (1st March)
Yes, the queen of rhythm, Tina Turner herself has been sneaking in and out of London throughout 2017 to attend workshops for her new musical Tina, based on her life story and featuring a soundtrack comprised from her iconic and extensive backlog of songs. Tina’s turbulent life has already been made into an Oscar-nominated biopic and her back catalogue of hits include What’s Love Got To Do With It and of course Proud Mary. Director Phyllida Lloyd has reunited with the creative team behind Mamma Mia! to design what is bound to be a box office bonanza, but can a jukebox musical ever really be theatrically ground-breaking? After last year’s Bob Dylan musical Girl from the North Country and Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell, it feels like anything is possible for Tina…
Girls & Boys, Royal Court (8th February)
Boys & Girls; it’s an epic one-woman show opening at the Royal Court and starring none other than Hollywood starlet Carey Mulligan who you’ll recognise from big-movies like Suffragette, The Great Gatsby and last year’s Netflix hit Mudbound. This newest piece of writing from Dennis Kelly will examine a couple’s journey as their relationship takes a “disturbing turn” – if that doesn’t float your boat, it will at least be a rare opportunity to see Mulligan’s acting skills live and in the Royal Court, where she made her stage debut all the way back in 2004.
Sylvia, The Old Vic (1st September)
Fresh off the Hamilton hype-train comes Sylvia, a ‘modern’ new musical that will utilise hip hop, soul and funk music to shed light on the Suffragette movement – 100 years after British women were first granted the vote. Hip hop and Sylvia Pankhurst may seem an unlikely mix but I have high hopes for this one, especially since the creative team includes Kate Prince (Into The Hoods) and original music by Josh Cohen and DJ Walde (The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party). This year, The Old Vic’s programme is carrying extra weight while it celebrates its bicentenary; Sylvia and a new adaptation of Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls are the early standouts.
Coraline, Barbican (29th March)
Yep, there really is an ‘operatic’ adaptation of Coraline opening at London’s Barbican! I (for one) am super excited, having loved both Neil Gaiman’s original novella and Henry Selick’s 2009 stop-motion movie adaptation to boot. This reformulated piece is helmed by Mark-Anthony Turnage, who Barbican describes as a “leading light” in British opera. The original story is spilling over with astonishing imagery tenderly weaved through a coming of age, fantasy story – throw some opera in the mix and we should have ourselves a party but we’ll have to wait ‘til March to know for sure.
Punchdrunk’s next production (1st of who knows when)
Okay – so I’m getting a little fast and loose with my predictions here, but as one of the lucky few that experienced 2017’s six-hour immersive extravaganza Kabeiroi, I’m shipping a major new Punchdrunk show in 2018. Only around 800 lucky audience members got to experience Kabeiroi, which felt more like an insane, half-formed trial-run for the cross-London formula than a real thing. The mysterious company which currently has long-running immersive productions in New York and Shanghai have advertised new jobs for their London team indicating that something is up… The plot thickens. If Punchdrunk does put on a proper show in London it will be their first major European production in over three years and the most hyped ticket in town.
Revivals in London
Chess, ENO (26th April)
With music from ABBA songwriters Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus set to the palpable drama of an international chess championship, it’s no wonder Chess was one of the most iconic musicals of the 80s. Chess will be the fourth of Michael Linnit and Michael Grade’s collaborations with ENO; the same glorious partnership that brought you Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard and Emma Thompson in Sweeney Todd. Casting is yet to be announced but I expect the coliseum to be blessed with some serious star power.
Caroline, Or Change, Hampstead Theatre (12th March)
Sharon D. Clarke! Do I even need to say more? Seeing Ms Clarke in anything is a mind-altering experience but this is bound to be a particularly special treat for London audiences. Following a critically acclaimed and sold out run at Chichester Festival Theatre, the queen of everything Sharon D. Clarke (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) reprises her show-stopping role in Tony Kushner (Angels in America) and Jeanine Tesori’s (Fun Home) cult musical, Caroline, Or Change – telling the story of a formidable black maid living with a white family at the height of the civil rights era.
Frozen, Theatre Royal Haymarket (9th February)
Returning to London for the first time since the National’s 2002 run and starring Suranne Jones fresh from all of that Doctor Foster madness, Frozen interweaves the stories of three main characters (a psychiatrist, a mother and a serial killer) as they reckon with an ‘unimaginable’ horror in present-day England. This is one for anyone who enjoys a good mindfuck and powerful female-led drama-mama.
Company, Gielgud Theatre (26th September)
Start your engines… Patti LuPone, yes, the Patti LuPone – Tony and Oliver-winning goddess-queen that originated roles in Evita, Les Miserables and Sunset Boulevard – is returning to the West End for the first time in 25 years (and probably for the last time). Sondheim’s beloved musical has undergone a major overhaul under the seasoned direction of Marianne Elliott (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time) with Rosalie Craig (The Ferryman) playing the lead role of Bobbi, reimagined for the first time as a female character.
Little Shop of Horrors, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre (3rd August)
It’s alive! Again! Featuring iconic Alan Menken (Aladdin, Pocahontas) songs like Suddenly Seymour and Somewhere That’s Green and a massive, lethal, talking plant from outer space – all staged in the heavenly surroundings of Regent’s Park – what could be more camp? Little Shop of Horrors is the highlight of Open Air’s summer programme which also includes new productions of Peter Pan and As You Like It.
Pippin, Southwark Playhouse (23rd February)
The Hope Mill’s contemporary production of Pippin is transferring from Manchester to the Southwark Playhouse, a venue which continues to astound and amaze (where you can currently catch Bananaman the Musical). With a bubbly score from Stephen Schwartz (Wicked), Pippin combines a tween-heartthrob, soul-searching prince with your most far-fetched vaudeville-circus-fantasy. Although the musical is much-loved across the pond it’s never quite penetrated the psyche of European audiences, here’s hoping this revival changes that.
An Officer and a Gentleman, Curve Leicester (23rd February)
Here comes a brand new musical developed by and world-premiering at the Curve, featuring an 80s inspired score syncing up perfectly with the slightly problematic 80s Richard Gere movie on which it is based. Directed by the Curve’s artistic director Nikolai Fostor who has unsurprisingly heralded his show as “entertaining, uplifting and original”. This could be a great piece of musical nostalgia if (and it’s a big if) it can modernize the problematic narrative of the original material for contemporary audiences. Fingers crossed.
Fleabag, UK Tour (26th April)
Soho Theatre’s Edinburgh Fringe hit is being sent across up and down the length and breadth of the UK before heading down under for an Australian tour, giving devoted fans of the BBC Three series a renewed chance to see the production on which it was based. After selling out previous stints at Soho Theatre and Edinburgh Fringe, Fleabag is floating on a cloud of hype and with good reason, regional audiences will not want to miss this.
Cilla, UK Tour (19th January)
Cilla – The Musical is a stage adaptation of Jeff Pope’s ITV series which starred Sheridan Smith, which in turn was based on the life and times of our beloved Cilla Black. Documenting Cilla’s life from her youth in Liverpool to national treasure and set to a soundtrack of Cilla’s 60’s classics including Anyone Who Had A Heart and You’re My World – fans of the late singer/entertainer/queen are bound to get a kick out of this biographical musical as it flits across the UK.
The Last Ship, UK Tour (12th March)
Inspired by Sting’s upbringing in the northeast of Engand and featuring a folksy score and lyrics by the man himself, The Last Ship is an indulgently personal musical that tells the story of an industrial town by the sea. Featuring stark imagery, a romantic love triangle and bucket loads of mournful melancholy music – this really has Sting written all over it. After receiving mixed reviews for its 2014 stint on Broadway, its going to be interesting to see if UK audiences will be more receptive to this earnest and surprisingly singular musical.
A Monster Calls, Bristol Old Vic (31st May)
You’ll want to pack some tissues for this one. A heroic, grief-stricken boy and the giant tree monster that comes to his rescue will take to the stage at the Bristol Old Vic (before hightailing it to London in the Summer). This new adaptation of Patrick Ness’ gothic-fantasy is in good hands; Sally Cookson has previously helmed the National Theatre’s nutty versions of Peter Pan and Jane Eyre. Fans of the original novel (or the 2016 Sigourney Weaver movie) will already be anticipating how the Old Vic are going to conjure up the aforementioned giant tree monster live on stage; sadly, we’ll all have to wait ‘til May to know for sure.
The Girl on the Train, West Yorkshire Playhouse (12th May)
No spoilers. The girl is riding her train all the way to Yorkshire! This may come too soon after the hilarious 2016 Emily Blunt movie but it’s coming none the less. West Yorkshire Playhouse are staging a brand new live adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ best-selling novel, The Girl on the Train – a story about an alcoholic woman who compulsively rides trains and gets embroiled in an immense murder-mystery. Bound to keep audiences guessing ‘til the curtain call!