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‘Movin’ moves in

The coming year looks set to be the one in which current and recent Broadway musicals reach Blighty en masse. Though deals are not yet confirmed in all cases, the year is likely to see the U.K. arrival of “Movin’ Out,” “Avenue Q,” “Wicked,” “Monty Python’s Spamalot” and “Caroline, or Change.”

Lineup marks the most concentrated trans-Atlantic convergence of tuners in many years, especially since success in New York by no means confers the same in London. The April 18 preem of “Movin’ Out” at the Apollo Victoria — the very theater set to house “Wicked,” aiming for a late-September bow — is especially intriguing, since “Dancin’,” “Contact” and “Fosse” have all flopped in London to varying degrees.

On the other hand, the appetite for dance-theater pieces along the lines of Matthew Bourne may prep local auds for the Twyla Tharp/Billy Joel collaboration, even if those Americans aren’t necessarily U.K. household names. And London in some ways is more friendly to the “greatest hits”-type music-driven entertainment that has kept shows like “Buddy” and currently “We Will Rock You” running for years; all “Movin’ Out” has to manage is three months.

“Movin’ Out” will play a limited West End season through July 17 before traveling on to the Continent. Casting already has the U.K. dance community buzzing, with several prominent London crix saying privately that Britain lacks the sorts of dancers needed to perform Tharp’s work. Paging John Selya & Co.?

Out of the Gate

Out with the old and in with the new: That’s the mouth-watering array of fare on tap during 2006 for 2005’s headline-grabbing Gate and Donmar theaters, which will see at least one significant overlap in the coming year — the Donmar debut of Gate a.d. Thea Sharrock. Helmer will stage a rare revival, opening June 13, of John Mortimer‘s autobiographical “A Voyage ‘Round My Father,” which marks the Donmar bow of Derek Jacobi.

“It’s a kind of dream come true,” says Sharrock of the assignment, which will follow by some months a more personal debut: the birth in January of her first child. To that end, Sharrock is limiting her Gate directing chores for early ’06 to a seven-minute play, “Precisely,” by Harold Pinter. “You can do that in your kitchen, can’t you?” she laughs.

“Precisely” will be part of a Pinter triple-bill opening March 30 that includes two 30- to 40-minute plays: “A Kind of Alaska” and “A Slight Ache,” both directed by Claire Lovett. The 2006 Gate season kicks off Feb. 13 with an unusual sighting of Strindberg’s final play, “The Great Highway,” directed by Wally Sutcliffe. To follow in May is a South African play, “Hear and Now,” in a co-production with the Baxter Theater of Cape Town, and, if plans pan out, a London preem for American scribe Charles Mee.

Across London at the Donmar, Mark Ravenhill‘s already announced “The Cut,” starring Ian McKellen, will be followed by a Frank McGuinness adaptation of “Phaedra,” starring Clare Higgins. Then comes the Mortimer play followed by a new play, TV and film scribe Peter Morgan‘s “Frost/Nixon,” directed by Donmar a.d. Michael Grandage and starring Michael Sheen; that one opens Aug. 15.

Party time

It’s always gratifying when a play’s title tells the truth. And so it was Dec. 1-3 with three performances only of a dazzling staged reading at the West End’s Albery Theater of the Gate Theater of Dublin’s production of Pinter’s “Celebration.” The starry event preceded directly the separate Off Broadway opening at the Atlantic of the same play on a double-bill with Pinter’s early work, “The Room.”

But it’s not every night in London that a single stage hosts the likes of Michael Gambon, Stephen Rea, Penelope Wilton, Jeremy Irons, Sinead Cusack, Kenneth Cranham, Joanna Lumley, Charles Dance and Janie Dee — the last-named in particularly spry form as a svelte dinner companion reflecting on her plump past. Roaring his desire for osso buco, Gambon was primus inter pares as well, playing a celebrant who can’t be bothered to remember the name of the ballet he’s just seen. (Only Rea, in the crucial role of the name-obsessed waiter, seemed in less than sparkling form.)

The evening was hilarious and, as expected from Pinter, hurtful, too, not least as it coincided with an apparent turn for the worse in the 75-year-old writer’s health.

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