This state of mind is reflected in the feel-good musicals and plays that hit our theaters in an attempt to counter the non-profit prophets of doom and the social and commercial chaos we now face. Here is my selection of what is offered.
Of the great beasts of the West End, Madam. doubtfire (mrsdoubtfiremusical.co.uk starting May 12) is undoubtedly the biggest, drawing rave reviews from Broadway and Manchester. It opens at the massive Shaftesbury Theater after an extensive refurbishment.
Later in the year, The Wizard of Oz flies from its original home at Leicester’s Curve to land at the London Palladium (lwtheatres.co.uk June 23-Sept 3) as Chichester Theater’s triumphant Gershwin-based musical Crazy for You is installed at the Gillian Lynne Theater (lwtheatres.co.uk June 24-Jan 20, 2024).
I anticipate queues for me to see Sheridan Smith inherit the role of shirley valentine Pauline Collins as Smith is sure to bring her magic touch to Willy Russell’s celebrated one-man show at Duke of York’s (shirleyvalentineonstage.com February 17 to June 3).
There is a feeling of deja-vu with the return of the musical groundhog day to the Old Vic, where it was a huge success seven years ago. (oldvicteatro.com May 20-August 12).
Meanwhile, Paddington Bear’s biggest rival arrives at Riverside Studios in the form of Disney’s new musical adaptation. winnie the pooh (winniethepoohshow.com March 17-May 21, then UK & Ireland tour from May 31).
Daniel Mays leads the cast as Nathan Detroit in Nicholas Hytner’s new staging of boys and dolls in a production that promises to immerse the audience at the Bridge Theater in the gaming environments of Manhattan and Havana (bridgetheatre.es March 3 to September 2).
Fans of the original Star Trek series will be among those traveling to Charing Cross to see George (Mr. Sulu) Takei’s revealing autobiographical musical. Loyalty (Charingcrosstheatre.es January 7 to April 8).
As if to show that you can make a musical out of anything. The Great British Musical Bake-Off comes out of the oven onto the stage of the Noel Coward Theater (Bakeoffthemusical.com February 25 to May 13).
Even crazier the musical sounds Berlusconi at the Southwark Playhouse Elephant (Southwarkplayhouse.com March 25 to April 29).
The enterprising and infinitely inventive people of the Original Theater have devised The Time Machine: A Comedy – a stage version of HG Wells’ science fiction novel which opens at the New Wolsey Theater in Ipswich before going on tour. (theateroriginal.com UK tour from February 23 to April 29)
Expect plenty of star wattage in Bath for a revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (theatreroyal.org.uk January 13-February 11) as Dougray Scott and Elizabeth McGovern battle in Edward Albee’s play on matrimonial war games.
For a softer, nostalgic experience, I recommend the theatrical version of the hit movie. steel magnolias (steelmagnoliasplay.com tour of the UK and Ireland from January 19 to July 22), which will likely leave a trail of smiles, tears and tissues in its wake.
Finally, for the adventurous theater goer, a visit to at least one of the 15 shows in the London International Mime Festival it is sure to bring unexpected and delicious rewards. (mimelondon.com January 16 to February 5).