The London theater is never complete, it seems, without something by Stephen Sondheim, and the latest example is Sam Buntrock‘s upcoming revival of “Sunday in the Park With George,” which starts previews Nov. 18 at the Menier Chocolate Factory and opens Nov. 29.
Daniel Evans, an Olivier Award winner for the Donmar’s 2000 “Merrily We Roll Along,” will play Georges Seurat, with Sheridan Smith among those in the frame to play the artist’s muse, Dot. (Smith’s Little Red Riding Hood was one of the high spots of the Donmar’s poorly sung “Into the Woods” in 1998.)
Show marks a reunion between Buntrock and Menier impresario David Babani, who were both college boys when they collaborated in 1997 on a tiny Fringe production of “Assassins” that got strong reviews. Since then, Babani has co-produced current Chocolate Factory entry “Tick, Tick … Boom!,” whose score includes an affectionate pastiche of “Sunday.”
The programming, then, seems to be no coincidence. “I like to think of (‘Tick Tick’) as a nice little prologue for our audience,” Babani says. “The two shows at heart have the same argument: the need for art in life.”
Speaking of the Jonathan Larson musical, star Neil Patrick Harris departs the show July 10 for L.A. to start filming his new CBS sitcom, “How I Met Your Mother.”
Christian Campbell, a veteran of the show’s tour Stateside, takes over the lead role.
The National Theater has lost Katie Mitchell and Jonathan Kent and added Marianne Elliott and Edward Hall to its mix of helmers for 2005, which is now complete. Elliott moves on from accomplished work at the Royal Court (“The Sugar Syndrome”) and the Donmar (“The Little Foxes”) to make her NT debut with Ibsen’s rarely seen “Pillars of the Community,” in a new version by Samuel Adamson opening Nov. 1 in the Lyttelton.
That slot satisfies the Ibsen requirement that was to have been met by a Kent-helmed revival of “Ghosts.” Also absent from a Lyttelton lineup, which will include the return in September of Alan Bennett‘s “The History Boys”: an intriguing restaging of Martin Crim‘s “Attempts on Her Life” from Mitchell, who has bowed out, at least for now, because she is pregnant.
In the Olivier, the slot taken for the last two years by “His Dark Materials” will this year go to director Melly Still‘s production of JamilaGavin‘s acclaimed children’s book “Coram Boy,” in repertory with helmer Hall’s take on the boisterous Broadway comedy “Once in a Lifetime.” Kaufman & Hart’s 1930 comedy was famously revived by the Royal Shakespeare Co., with Zoe Wanamaker, in 1979.
The Cottesloe will host a touring production from Sean Holmes of Brian Friel‘s “Translations” (to complement, no doubt, the same writer’s imminent Lyttelton revival of “Aristocrats”); “Paul,” Howard Brenton‘s new play directed by Howard Davies; and, topping the curiosity list, Mike Leigh‘s National Theater debut. That project, still untitled, will open Sept. 15 after an astonishing 18-week rehearsal.
Watch the “Birdie”
There’s something particularly sweet about the annual summer musicals at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, which make up in excitement and enthusiasm what they may sometimes lack in polish and finesse. What’s more, their choices often allow an early glimpse of non-mainstream Broadway shows: “Merrily We Roll Along” first played London here 20-plus years ago, with “My Favorite Year” and “Rags” among more recent offerings.
This year’s title was the hardly obscure “Bye Bye Birdie,” but the student cast was, as usual at this address, worth catching, as was the musical direction of Michael Haslam, who, like director Martin Connor, is an established pro.
Among the peppy cast were two standouts who should have no problem attracting agents, if they don’t have them already. As the lovesick Rose Polly Conway made a strong-voiced inhabitant of Sweet Apple, Ohio. And playing the bespectacled Hugo Peabody, who experiences the pain of cuckoldry at a painfully young age, Welshman CarwynJones was a real find: funny, agile and very sweet, indeed.