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The U.K. theater scene was vibrant, with a box office breaking £1 billion ($1.4 billion) annually, until coronavirus struck in 2020.
Of this, London’s famed West End theater district contributed nearly £800 million in 2019 with more than 15 million admissions annually, according to data from industry body Society of London Theatre.
Now, as the U.K. appears to have put the worst of the virus behind it and indoor arts venues are set to open from next week, the West End is back — albeit in stages.
Performances will be socially distanced from the May 17 reopening, until June 21 when theaters can have more capacity, unless the latest COVID-19 variant has other ideas.
Some productions have opted to stay ultra cautious. For example, “The Prince of Egypt,” due to open at the Dominion Theatre July 1, is proceeding with socially distanced screenings until Sept 4. If legal limits on social contact are removed from June 21, and full capacity is allowed, then they will proceed accordingly “at the earliest practical opportunity.”
Appropriately enough, the world’s longest running play “The Mousetrap” will be among the first to reopen for business at the St Martin’s Theatre on May 17. “Cruise” plays at the Duchess Theatre from May 18.
Shakespeare’s Globe is returning with a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” from May 19, the date on which “Death Drop” opens at the Garrick and “Love Letters” at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. “Les Misérables The All-Star Staged Concert” plays the Sondheim from May 20 and “Amélie The Musical” at the Criterion Theatre on the same date.
For audiences in two minds whether to brave the inside of a theater or not, Channing Tatum’s smash hit “Magic Mike Live” returns to The Theatre at the Hippodrome Casino From May 21 with the offer of complimentary bottomless Prosecco during the show. Tickets are priced at £79.00 ($111) and £96.00 ($135).
Gemma Arterton stars in “Walden” at the Harold Pinter Theatre from May 22, while “Here Come The Boys” is booking from May 25 at the London Palladium.
There is a heavy rush of marquee titles booked from June through December with more than 50 new or returning productions.
These range from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cinderella” in June, “Anna X,” starring “The Crown'”s Emma Corrin in July, and Cole Porter and P.G. Wodehouse’s “Anything Goes” also in July, with Sutton Foster will reprise her Tony Award winning role.
Tom Stoppard’s “Leopoldstadt” opens in August, “The Last Five Years” in September, “The Ocean At The End Of The Lane” in October, “Life of Pi” in November and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Bring It On: The Musical” in December.
Across the Thames from the West End, the U.K.’s iconic National Theater is also set to reopen doors in June.
The year that has passed with shuttered theaters has taken its toll and most producers are mindful of this, including Stacey Mindich, producer of “Dear Evan Hansen.” The London production of the play, which won the 2020 Olivier Award for best musical, will reopen at the Noël Coward Theatre on Oct. 26, the Broadway production at the Music Box Theatre on Dec. 11 and the North American tour will relaunch Dec. 7.
Mindich has promised that, with the help of their mental health not-for-profit partners in the U.K. and the US, all three productions will hold a special night in their first weeks of performances to honor mental health care workers and volunteers, who will be invited to attend as guests.
“Mental well-being has become a core part of our show’s narrative over the years, and we hear from so many audience members about how the show has helped them on their own journeys to mental wellness,” Mindich said. “We have had long-standing relationships with some of this country’s and the U.K.’s mental health not-for-profits and we want to honor the mental health care workers and volunteers who have worked tirelessly through these trying times.”