West End Season Preview: The American Invasion

By Johnny Fox Last edited 17 months ago

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West End Season Preview: The American Invasion

With so much of the West End drowning in jukebox and Disneyfied musicals, we've spotted some new imports crossing the pond this autumn that you might actually want to see — and some that may not cost you £100 a ticket.

Let's get the blockbusters out of the way: the much-anticipated School of Rock arrives, without Jack Black but with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and book by Lord Julian Fellowes of Downton Abbey. It opens at the New London Theatre with previews from October 25.  In New York, the good reviews were mostly four-stars although some critics thought the show didn't actually 'rock' in the musical sense, and characters were stereotyped. No big names in the cast, yet, but the kids look like they're ready for Hogwarts.

One payday later, and you'll be queuing for Dreamgirls which starts at the Savoy Theatre from 19 November.

Websites have crashed under the weight of demand for this show to come to London, and 35 years after opening on Broadway, it arrives over here with the gorgeous Amber Riley in the lead and a strong ensemble of black British actors and singers. This is bound to be the premier Girls' Night Out for months to come. NOBODY is telling you they're not going.

Tickets vary enormously from £20 to £120 but a good view should cost about £70.

Some of London's fringe venues sound like the less glamorous stops on the Monopoly Board when you're really collecting the yellow set around Leicester Square, but Charing Cross has two American shows which won audiences 'over there'. And tickets are all under £40.

First, a revival of Ragtime the all-American migration musical on 17 October with long-time Phantom, Earl Carpenter.

This is followed in January by Death Takes A Holiday, a remake of a remake of the movie that inspired Brad Pitt's Meet Joe Black. Scored and directed by the creatives behind Titanic and Grand Hotel which recently had great success here, it's another curiosity which did only moderately in the US (11 Drama Desk nominations but no wins) and may thrive better with a more intimate treatment in London.

Finally, Murder Ballad sounds enticing for anyone hooked on Fatal Attraction — it's a sharp and seedily satirical piece focusing on the soft-core seductions of Sara and the uptown/downtown men who fall for her.

Juliana Nash's music is remarkable, a loud and through-sung blend of rock and bluegrass with smart-mouthed lyrics in the ballads and the narration: "Sara and Tom were good in bed/Naïve, ambitious and underfed”.

Hunky Ramin Karimloo will be taking his shirt off, and in a part that might have been written for her Kerry Ellis will be letting things rip as Sara: from 5 October at the Arts Theatre.

Last Updated 05 September 2016