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Theatre to look out for in 2021, from Frozen to To Kill a Mockingbird

With 2020 being near-catastrophic for the industry, the theatre fightback starts next year. The show must go on and Isobel Lewis takes a closer look at the best productions set for playhouses

Wednesday 30 December 2020 06:32 GMT
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‘Get Up, Stand Up!’ is the latest in a long line of jukebox musicals to hit the West End
‘Get Up, Stand Up!’ is the latest in a long line of jukebox musicals to hit the West End (Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical)

You’d struggle to find an industry that has done well out of 2020, but few have been as negatively affected as the world of theatre. We’ve seen shows cancelled and postponed, while the ever-changing system of tiers and lockdowns has allowed some productions to reopen for as little as two weeks, only to shut again.

But there are good things on the horizon, and with the rollout of the vaccine across the UK having kicked off already, we can hope that 2021 will be the year the recovery begins.

Naturally, this list comes with a massive disclaimer. We don’t know what will happen with the tier system across the UK, or whether another national lockdown will follow in the New Year. But at the time of writing, these productions are all scheduled to take place.

The UK’s regional theatres have been hit extremely hard by the pandemic, making programming new content difficult in a time of such uncertainty, so this list is, by necessity, fairly London-centric. When things get back to normal, please visit your local theatres: they need your support more than ever.

That said, here’s to 2021 and our top 10 productions to look out for next year. Whenever theatres reopen, we know that the show will go on.

Frozen the Musical: Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London, opens 2 April

Samantha Barks performs as Elsa at the Royal Variety Show (Rex Features)

This news will either fill you with joy or dread (probably dependent on how much time you’ve spent around Disney-obsessed children in lockdown), but the Frozen musical is finally coming to the West End in 2021. Les Misérables star Samantha Barks will be playing ice queen Elsa, and Hamilton’s Obioma Ugoala is Kristoff, with the production including all the songs from the film plus some new ones from writers Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. Sing it with me: “Let it goooo, let it go...”

Good: Harold Pinter Theatre, London, 21 April – 17 July

David Tennant returns to the stage for the first time since 2017’s Don Juan in Soho in this new production from Follies director Dominic Cooke. Tennant stars as a professor living in Germany in the 1930s, trying to understand what separates good from evil as he attempts to rationalise his decision to join the Nazi party. The play also stars Fenella Woolgar and Elliot Levey.

Anything Goes: Barbican Theatre, London, 8 May – 22 August

One of Cole Porter’s best-loved musicals, Anything Goes first came to the West End in 1935 and has been performed there multiple times over the years. In 2021, it returns to London with a reimagined production from director and choreographer Kathleen Marshall, starring Will and Grace actor Megan Mullally (making her West End debut) and Robert Lindsay.

Moulin Rouge!: Piccadilly Theatre, London, autumn 2021 (dates TBC)

Moulin Rouge! opened on Broadway in 2018 (ATG Productions)

Based on Baz Luhrmann’s film, the 14-time Tony-nominated stage show of Moulin Rouge! comes to the West End next year. It tells the story of Christian, a young writer, and Satine, the courtesan with whom he falls in love, with the musical bringing hits such as “Your Song” and “Roxanne” to the stage in a riotous blur of can-can dancing and colour.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks: UK and Ireland tour, various venues, 14 August 2021 – 23 January 2022

Even pre-Covid, Disney’s stage musical about three orphaned children sent to live with a witch during the Second World War faced delays, after director Rachel Rockwell died ahead of the show’s intended opening in Chicago in 2018. Three years later, Bedknobs and Broomsticks will finally have its world premiere at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal, ahead of a UK and Ireland tour including a five-week residency at Leeds’ Grand Theatre next Christmas.

Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical: Lyric Theatre, London, 28 May – 19 December

The world loves a jukebox musical, and in many ways, it’s surprising nobody’s got to Bob Marley sooner. Written by Billy Elliot creator Lee Hall and directed by Clint Dyer, Get Up, Stand Up! stars Arinze Kene as Marley, with the show including songs such as “No Woman No Cry”, “Could You Be Loved” and “Three Little Birds”.

To Kill a Mockingbird: Gielgud Theatre, London, 27 May – 6 November

Aaron Sorkin’s production of To Kill a Mockingbird (AFP via Getty Images)

After a Tony-winning run on Broadway in 2019, The West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin’s take on Harper Lee’s classic story opens at the Gielgud in May. This adaptation puts lawyer Atticus Finch at the heart of the story, focusing on his growth as he defends Tom Robinson, a black man falsely accused of rape.

The Magician’s Elephant: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford, 14 October 2021 – 1 Jan 2022

Adapted from Kate DiCamillo’s novel, the RSC’s new musical The Magician’s Elephant has more than a touch of War Horse about it. Using giant puppets, it tells the story of a young boy who watches a magician conjure an elephant from thin air before his eyes, changing his life forever.

Happy Days: Riverside, London, 16 February – 28 March

Celebrating the 60 years since Beckett’s play was first performed, this production of Happy Days stars Irish actor and Beckett scholar Lisa Dwan as Winnie, a married woman living a monotonous life in existential limbo. Sound familiar, anyone?

Sister Act the Musical: Eventim Apollo, London, 20 July – 29 August

In casting that seems too good to be true, Whoopi Goldberg – yes, the Whoopi Goldberg – will be returning to Sister Act in 2021 for London audiences. She’ll be reprising her role as lounge-singer-turned-fake-nun Deloris from the 1992 film, with the new production set in 2021 and comedy legend Jennifer Saunders starring as Mother Superior.

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