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London Spotlight: January 2009

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A scene from Thriller -- Live
Something to make eyes widen this month is Thriller -- Live, a stage tribute to Michael Jackson's smasheroo career. It's at the Lyric (January 2-April 12), directed by Adrian Grant and choreographed (does that mean mucho moonwalking?) by Gary Lloyd, LaVelle Smith Jr. and Kerys Nathan. The Manhattan prize-winner Spring Awakening shows up at the Lyric Hammersmith (January 23-February 28) with a local cast, directed by Michael Mayer, singing the Steven Sater-Duncan Sheik score.

Certainly worth a close gander is the revival of the 65-minute Tom Stoppard-Andre Previn Every Good Boy Deserves Favour with Toby Jones, that Truman Capote lookalike making his name in films these days. Also, a couple of musicals around for awhile are having major cast changes. On January 19, no less than Graham Norton takes over the Albin role in the Menier Chocolate Factory La Cage Aux Folles revival now transferred to The Playhouse. Lee Mead, who got himself into Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by winning the Any Dream Will Do reality show, leaves and Ricky Rojas takes over for a month.

On the new-play docket is Joe Sutton's Complicit at the Old Vic (January 7-February 21). Richard Dreyfuss stars in and Kevin Spacey directs a script about a Pulitzer Prize winner in hot water before the Supreme Court. There's Andrew O'Hagen's Be Near Me at the Donmar Warehouse (January 22-March 14). Ian McDiarmid heads the cast in a drama about a Catholic priest in a Scottish town who befriends two problem teens.

Samuel Adamson has taken Henrik Ibsen's Little Eyolf as inspiration for Mrs. Affleck at the National's Cottesloe (January 20-February 28), with Claire Skinner playing the title character under the direction of the usually dazzling Marianne Elliott. Alia Bano unfurls Shades at the Royal Court (January 28-February 21). The story involves a young woman looking for Mr. Right in a world of Mr. Wrongs. Particularly hot-sounding is Roaring Trade by Steve Thompson at the Soho Theatre (January 7-February 7), which examines stock-market jockeys at this dicey time on the global economy.

Anyone looking for top-flight acting can expect to see it in the Almeida revival of Tom Kempinski's Duet for One (January 22-March 14) with Juliet Stevenson and Henry Goodman pairing off. It's about a violinist diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and is meant to be about cellist Jacqueline du Pre. Also check into Richard Greenberg's Three Days of Rain at the Apollo (January 30-May 23) with James McAvoy, who's also been making a splash on film recently.

Arthur Miller's A View From the Bridge at the Duke of York's (January 24-May 16) features the terrific Ken Stott playing confused longshoreman Eddie Carbone. He's joined by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and the turning-up-everywhere Hayley Atwell. Pay attention as well to the rediscovery of Alan Bennett's 1980 Enjoy at the Gielgud (January 27-May 2) with the always on-target Alison Steadman and David Troughton toplining. Wonderful Imelda Staunton is part of the Trafalgar Studios Entertaining Mr. Sloane re-view (January 22-April 11). That's the Joe Orton comedy about middle-aged sibs battling for the same interloper.

For Noel Coward lovers and those who should be, the Hampstead has skedded a Private Lives (January 22-February 28) with Lucy Bailey directing Jasper Britton as Elyot and Claire Price as Amanda. Lee Hall's play The Pitman Painters is being brought back at the National (January 27-February 17) and maybe should be caught up with.

Off-the-beaten track explorers may want to go to the Barbican for Plonter (January 27-February 7) where the Cameri Theatre of Tel Aviv will be studying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from many angles. Will Shakespeare explorers should head to the Novello for Gregory Doran's RSC production of A Midsummer Night's Dream (January 15-February 2). Further Bard exploration can be done at the Young Vic, where King Lear (January 29-March 28) gets a going-over from Peter Postlethwaite and John Shrapnel. Crackerjack Rupert Goold is the director. For even farther-afield trekking: Go to Richmond's Richmond Theatre for William Douglas Hume's Lloyd George Knew My Father (January 27-31) with Claire Bloom and Edward Fox.

Actor-singer Mandy Patinkin comes to Duke of York's with Mandy Patinkin: In Concert (January 8-18) to sing his favorite ditties from the pens of Stephen Sondheim, Oscar Hammerstein II and others. At the above-mentioned Lyric Hammersmith is playwright/performer Lemn Sissay's Why I Don't Hate White People (January 22-February 14).


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