Here's a look at London's theater scene
Immediately after the Broadway season ended and the Tony nominations were announced, I took off to London to check out the newest musicals in the West End as well as some long-running hits.
This inventive, very entertaining musical adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic children's story about an intelligent young girl who takes on her illiterate, television-obsessed family and a monstrous headmistress (played by a man in pantomime style) recently won the Olivier Award for Best Musical and is set to open on Broadway next season. Although very British in style, it has all the makings of a family-friendly Broadway hit. Imagine "Billy Elliot" with girls.
2. Sweeney Todd
Even if you've already seen Stephen Sondheim's dark masterpiece about the demon barber of Fleet Street or Tim Burton's brilliant film version, you do not want to miss Jonathan Kent's stunning revival, which resets the story from Victorian times to a shadowy factory in the 1930s. Michael Ball, who is best remembered as the original Marius in "Les Miz," shines as a determined Sweeney alongside Imelda Staunton as his partner in crime Mrs. Lovett. Here's hoping it soon transfers to New York.
3. Globe to Globe
In honor of the upcoming 2012 Olympics, the Globe Theatre is performing each and every Shakespeare play in different translations. The day I attended, the theater hosted the Q Brothers' hip-hop adaptation of "Othello." The contemporized, condensed, all-male adaptation bursts with ingenuity and clever, lyrical language. The Public Theater ought to consider adding it to its upcoming Off-Broadway season.
4. Singin' in the Rain
London theatergoers must really love classic movie musicals, as stage adaptations of "The Wizard of Oz," "Top Hat" and "Singin' in the Rain" are all now running. "Singin' in the Rain" is essentially just the 1952 film, with almost no changes made to the script or score, but without the irreplaceable Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds. Although it's amusing when some of the rain is splashed onto the front few rows, watching the film is far more pleasurable.
5. The Wizard of Oz
Andrew Lloyd Webber's stage version of the Judy Garland classic uncomfortably combines the film's classic songs with his own inferior new ones. Despite a gorgeous scenic design, which includes a sparkling, revolving yellow brick road, this proves to be a clunky piece of entertainment. If not much else, it makes you long to see "Wicked" again.
6. We Will Rock You
It's never played New York, but this jukebox musical using famous Queen songs, which images a dystopian future where a group of outlaws opposes cyberspace tyrants and longs to create live music, just celebrated its 10th anniversary in the West End. Even if the concept is strange and puzzling, it at least offers a framework to enjoy a whole lot of Queen songs. "Bohemian Rhapsody" is performed at curtain call in its entirety. Guitarist Brian May is known for occasionally joining the cast.
7. Blood Brothers
It didn't succeed on Broadway, but "Blood Brothers" is one of the most successful musicals in London history, having run at the Phoenix Theatre for nearly two and a half decades. A melodramatic but touching story of two brothers separated at birth, a superstitious mother and class differences, Willy Russell's rock score features songs that, like it or not, will stay in your head for weeks.