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London Spotlight: January 2007

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Eileen Atkins
(© Joseph Marzullo/Retna)
These days, the London theater news stories almost always carry on about the abundance of musical comedies. And, yes those tuneful things are all over the place -- from the long-running Phantom of the Opera to the Trevor Nunn-reworked Porgy and Bess, the American hit The Musical of Musicals-The Musical, the Sound of Music revival starring reality-show discovery Connie Fisher, and the London production of the mega-hit Wicked.

But the month's big news on the musical front concerns the Donmar Warehouse's much-admired production of Frank Loesser's classic musical Guys and Dolls at the Picadilly. American film and television star Don Johnson will take over the role of loveable gambler Nathan Detroit on January 8.

Fortunately, play lovers have no reason to despair, with some very star-studded offerings coming into London. January brings the world premiere of Frank McGuinness' There Came a Gypsy Riding, about a West Ireland family reunion, at the Almeida (January 11-March 3), The play features two of England's finest actors, Eileen Atkins and Imelda Staunton, and is directed by Michael Attenborough.

Looking for more great actors? The gorgeous Kristen Scott Thomas heads a new production of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull as adapted by the silken-tongued Christopher Hampton at the Royal Court (January 18-March 17). Meanwhile, Samuel Beckett's Happy Days at the National (January 18-March 1) marks the re-teaming of the magnificent Fiona Shaw (as the indomitable Winnie) and director Deborah Warner.

If that's not enticing enough, the wonderful Patrick Stewart and Harriet Walter will be lending their seasoned talents to the title roles in the Royal Shakespeare Company's Antony and Cleopatra at the Novello (January 11-February 17).

Indeed, Shakespeare fanciers have plenty to keep them satisfied. Edward Hall brings his Propeller Company versions of Twelfth Night and The Taming of the Shrew to The Old Vic (January 5-March 17, in repertory). Finally, the lively Kneehigh Company is tackling Cymbeline at the Lyric Hammersmith (January 17-February 3).

Also on the dramatic front: the late playwright Sarah Kane's tense, taut 45-minute play Blasted is being revived at the Soho (January 16-February 3); Alan Bennett;s The History Boys is back on the West End at Wyndham's (January 3-April 14); and Neil LaBute's three-monologue work, Bash, turns up at the Trafalgar Studios (January 10-February 3).

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