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London Spotlight: July 2007

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Richard Matlby, Jr.
(© Joseph Marzullo/Retna)
The big musical comedy news this month emanates from the coming-on-strong Menier Chocolate Factory, where recent revivals of Sunday in the Park With George (due this season in Manhattan) and Little Shop of Horrors have scored heavily. The latest musical entry on the MCF list is a new one called Take Flight (July 13-September 22), written by Richard Maltby Jr., David Shire, and John Weidman, and directed by Sunday helmer Sam Buntrock. Among the characters involved are Orville Wright, his brother Wilbur, and Amelia Earhart.

Andrew Lloyd Webber is bringing back the first piece that he and Tim Rice gave to the world: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Adelphi, July 6-January 5). Playing the title role is Lee Mead, who got his musical training at Whitehall Performing Arts College, but who won the part by public vote in the you-cast-'em television show Any Dream Will Do, named after the popular song from the score.

In other tuner news: Steve Pemberton, one of the League of Gentlemen laugh getters, replaces Bob Martin as Man in Chair in The Drowsy Chaperone at the Novello on July 10. (Martin is leaving to be Man in Delivery Room, since his wife is about to give birth in Toronto.)

As for straight plays, David Suchet brings first-time playwright Roger Crane's religio-politico thriller The Last Confession to the Haymarket (July 2-September 15), which concerns the sudden death of Pope John Paul I after only 33 days on his papal seat. At the Hampstead is Glass Eels (July 5-21), which traces a young girl's sexual awakening. Simon Bent's Elling, adapted from the Norwegian movie of the same title, was such a hit at the minuscule Bush recently that it's transferring to Trafalgar Studios (July 6-October 6). And here's something to race the heart: At the Arts, Steve Harley, who fronted the '70s band Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, will introduce two previously unseen-in-England Samuel Beckett one-acts, Rough for Theatre I & II (July 10-15).

Love's Labor's Lost is being added to the Globe's summer William Shakespeare devotion (July 1-October 7). This is the one about four courtier pals who forswear attention to the ladies just as four lovelies round the bend. Meanwhile, at the National's Olivier, Marianne Elliott is directing a new production of George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan, with Anne-Marie Duff as the girl warrior and Oliver Ford Davies as the Inquisitor. At the Lyttelton, Ian Rickson is guiding a reprise of Harold Pinter's early work The Hothouse, with Lia Williams and Finbar Lynch.

Outside of London, the Peter Hall Company is presenting Molière's Don Juan at the Theatre Royal, Bath (July 6-August 14); and Alan Plater's Blonde Bombshells of 1943, a musical about a hep girl band, is at the Richmond Theatre (July 16-21). These are short trips well worth taking.

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