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London Spotlight: March 2008

Let's Hear It For the Boys logo
Stephen Ashfield, Glenn Carter, Philip Bulcock,
and Ryan Molloy in Jersey Boys
(© Hugo Glendinning)
The big news this month on the local Rialto is that the Tony-winning New York hit Jersey Boys bows at the Prince Edward (through October 18). For those who need to be told, it's the stage biography of Top 40 chartbusters Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

At the Gielgud, Yasmina Reza, the French dramatist who seemingly can do no wrong, turns up with her latest, God of Carnage (March 7-open-ended). Ralph Fiennes, doing a new play for a change, is the headliner along with Janet McTeer, Ken Stott and Tamsin Greig. They'll be directed by Matthew Warchus, who has a mutual admiration society going on with playwright Reza. Christopher Hampton is the translator.

Already, there's talk of a Broadway transfer for the unusual adaptation for the stage of Noel Coward's 1944 classic film of frustrated romance, Brief Encounter (through June 22 at Cinema Haymarket). The Kneehigh Theatre production outfit, with director Emma Rice overseeing, have come up with an entry that not only brings Coward's script back to trembling life but also has something cogent to say about the era in which it was created.

Tuner lovers may get excited about a solo show at the Menier Chocolate Factory: Maria Friedman: Re-Arranged (March 19-May 4) is an evening of the three-time Olivier winner's versions of theater songs she likes a lot. The King's Head's 2008 in-house season opens with the world premiere of Black and White Ball, (March 25-May 4) The musical, a murder mystery set in the 1960s, is built around existing Cole Porter ditties including "What Is This Thing Called Love?", "After You, Who?", "All of You," and "Please Don't Make Me Be Good."

In a very different vein, Rupert Goold, whose Macbeth is about to hit Broadway, is directing the London premiere of Stephen Adly Guirgis' brash comedy, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot at the Almeida (March 29-May 10). The cast boasts Ron Cephas Jones (of the Manhattan-based LAByrinth troupe for which the play was written), Gawn Grainger, and Douglas Henshall.

The prolific Roy Williams' Days of Significance, about modern warfare, comes to the Tricycle (March 12-29) from the Swan in Stratford, where it was a 2007 wow. Then there's Winsome Pinnock's 75-minute work Mules at the Young Vic (March 8-15). Women who smuggle drugs in their bodies are the protagonists. At the Royal Court, it's new play month, as it is almost every month. Quebec writer Olivier Choiniere's Bliss, as translated by Caryl Churchill, is in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs (March 28-April 26). Debbie Tucker Green's Random is in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs (March 7-April 12). At the Lyric Hammersmith, David Rosenberg's Contains Violence settles in (March 27-April 26). It's described as part thriller and part peepshow and is evidently set right there in bustling, slightly down-scale Hammersmith.

An Edinburgh Fringe Festival attention-getter called Into the Hoods is invading the Novello (March 14-May 10). Director-choreographer Kate Prince's dance-theater piece is about two lost truants and includes music by any number of high-profile rappers as well as James Brown and Janet Jackson. Park Avenue at Sadler's Wells (March 30-April 27), is a 1946 entry which Ian Marshall Fisher has dusted off for his Lost Musicals concert-reading series. The collaborators were Ira Gershwin, Arthur Schwartz, Nunnally Johnson, and George S. Kaufman -- in other words, Broadway's creme de la creme.

Interested in day trips out of London? The Orange Tree in Richmond, where artistic director Sam Walters is drawn to forgotten pieces, is presenting the English premiere of Susan Glaspell's Chains of Dew (March 12-April 5). It's a 1920's comedy about birth control. At the Rose Theatre Kingston is a new treatment of David Harrower's prize-winning Blackbird (March 27-April 5), directed by hotshot David Grindley and starring Robert Daws and Dawn Steele. Touring companies occupying the Theatre Royal, Bath are intriguing no matter what week it is. Helen Edmundson's London-bound War and Peace adaptation is on March 5-9, and from March 17-22 Patricia Hodge shows up in Sarah Ruhl's play, The Clean House. In between the two is an old reliable, Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None (March 10-15).

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