Us boys aren’t particularly known for being big lovers of sport – but like the rest of the Nation, Olympic mania has gripped us too, in an unprecedented fashion. There are reports that bums on seats in the west-end are down at the moment, and certain shows are slashing prices to attract the attention of tourist here for the Games. However, despite all of that, there’s still a healthy batch of new productions taking the plunge and opening this month in theatreland and beyond.
Since the demise of Priscilla, there’s been a noticeable lack of truly camp, over-the-top, in-your-face cheesy-ness in the west-end. Well that could be about to change. Simon Gross and John Moore (of Snow White and the Seven Poofs fame) have written and directed Drag Divas, which opens on August 9 at the Arts Theatre. With choreography from the man behind Priscilla and La Cage, Steven Cleverly, and music by Andrew Sackett; this limited run promises to be exactly what the west-end is gagging for. Taking control of this gabble of divas will be the hilarious Mrs Moore. Expect songs from legends past and present including Aretha Franklin, Liza Minnelli, Dame Shirley Bassey, Whitney, Madonna and Amy Winehouse.
Drag Divas isn’t the only new show dominated by guys in gowns either. To coincide with Brighton’s later-than-usual Pride party, everyone’s favourite dame; Christopher Biggins has put his name and directing skills behind the ground-breaking play The Boys in the Band. It’ll be a show of two halves, with the same seven characters performing as guys in the first – only to return in drag for the second. This part is aptly named The Girls in the Band, and is directed by the wonderful Dave Lynn. It all opens on August 22 at the Theatre Royal Brighton until the end of the month. First written in the sixties, this timeless comedy promises to have people creasing in their seats as a New York birthday involving seven drama queens turns bitchy. Producer Kevin Wood hopes this new production will capture the hearts of a new generation.
Soul Sister is a brand new musical inspired by the life and times of Tina and Ike Turner. Many will know the story of this couples turbulent – and sometimes abusive – relationship. Despite her rocky home life, Tina Turner continued to create iconic music, which has gone on to inspire a generation. Emi Wokoma steps into Tina’s heels and will belt out all of the classics during this short run at the Savoy Theatre from August 20. Chris Tummings will play Ike Turner in this musical which has been devised by John Miller and Pete Brooks.
As part of his tenth year as Artistic Director at the Almeida Theatre up in North London, Michael Attenborough will direct Jonathan Pryce in King Lear from August 31. Tony and Olivier award winning actor Pryce will star alongside Phoebe Fox (Cordelia) Jenny Jules (Regan) and Zoe Waites (Goneril). This production is part of the World Shakespeare Festival, set up to showcase the very best of UK and international talent, and of course to celebrate the works of the great man himself.
Also in north London at the Kings Head Theatre, the world premiere of The Great Gatsby Musical takes place on August 10. Directed by Young Vic Genesis director Linnie Reedman, this new work is set in the heat of 1920’s New York. To the outside world Jay Gatsby has it all – but behind the façade, he’s hiding a secret desire that can never be fulfilled. Can the great Gatsby keep it all together?
Southwark Playhouse welcomes Harry Potter star Harry Melling to its stage next month, where he plays Christopher Isherwood in I am a Camera. He’s better known as Dudley Dursley in some the Harry Potter movies, but this very different role will be his latest since being last seen in When Did You Last See My Mother at the Trafalgar Studios. This classic first premiered on Broadway back in 1951, and went on to inspire the 1966 musical Cabaret and 1972 movie of the same name starring Liza Minnelli.
From one Harry Potter star to another. Matthew Lewis – best known for playing Neville Longbottom – will make his west-end debut this autumn when he joins Cian Barry, Arthur Darvill and Laurence Fox in Our Boys at the Duchess Theatre. When an unwelcomed authority figure arrives fresh on camp from Sandhurst, the relationship between five soldiers who’ve bonded is tested when charges of misconduct and scathing accusations begin to fly.
One of the most popular and triumphant west-end musicals is on the move. After thirteen years, the award winning The Lion King will embark on its first ever UK tour from September. Over 65 million people have already seen this phenomenal extravaganza worldwide, but now more of us will be able to catch it at one of ten stops planned for this tour across the UK and Ireland, over the next two and a half years. First stop will be the Bristol Hippodrome on September 6, with other stops yet to be announced. The only other venue confirmed is the Palace Theatre in Manchester where it will be over Christmas. But, don’t fret if you still haven’t caught the London performance, as the show will also continue at the Lyceum Theatre.