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London Spotlight: March 2011

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Joanna Riding and company in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
(© Steve Tanner)
Jacques Demy's fabulously romantic French musical flicker The Umbrellas of Cherbourg comes to the Gielgud stage (March 5-October 1) with Joanna Riding and the sultry Meow Meow. The music is from Michel Legrand, and none other than Sheldon Harnick has done the English translations.

High hope is held out for Betty Blue Eyes at the Novello (March 19-October 22). It's an adaptation by Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman of the Alan Bennett-scripted movie A Private Function. The timing could not be better, since a royal wedding is the backdrop about a fest at which a pig is to be slaughtered. This is Cameron Mackintosh's first original tuner in a decade, and his favorite songwriters, Anthony Drewe and George Stiles, supply the score. Richard Eyre directs, while Stephen Mear choreographs. This one might amuse the kids, too.

At the Barbican, Tony Briggs' The Sapphires gets a brief run (March 2-12). It's about a Vietnamese Supremes cover-act that takes off during the 1960s-'70s conflict. Also at the Barbican, Mozart's A Magic Flute gets a Peter Brooks shake-up for a brief run, March 23-27. The Hurly Burly Show will strut into the Garrick (March 3-May 1) and honor burlesque. William Baker directs and Ashley Wallen choreographs. And for Gilbert and Sullivan lovers, Iolanthe will be at Wilton's Music Hall (March 30-May 7) in an all-male production.

On the new play roster, there's Neil LaBute's In a Forest Dark and Deep at the Vaudeville (March 3-June 4). A brother and sister, played, respectively, by Matthew Fox and Olivia Williams, confront their shared pasts. LaBute also directs. Another premiere is David Eldridge's drama The Knot of the Heart (March 10-April 30), which the Almeida commissioned. Artistic director Michael Attenborough helms a script about a woman rising high in television ranks who develops a drug habit. Lisa Dillon is in the cast.

In the National's Cottesloe will be Ryan Craig's The Holy Rosenbergs (March 8-June 24), with the great Henry Goodman as a London patriarch in a drama about conflict over Israeli politics. Laurie Sansom is the director. Tim Firth's Sign of the Times, concerning a man who puts up signs and his dream of becoming a literary great, is stopping at the Duchess (March 7-May 28). Peter Wilson directs. Vivienne Franzmann's Mogadishu, about a white teacher reluctant to report a troublesome black student in a repressive regime, comes to the Lyric Hammersmith (March 3-April 12) from the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.

The ever-active Royal Court has Simon Stephens' Wastwater bowing at the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs (March 31-May 7). Linda Bassett heads a cast in a drama about three couples hashing out problems somewhere near Heathrow airport. At the Royal Court's Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, they're inserting Remembrance Day by Aleksey Scherbak. Involving a young political activist and her father, it's translated from the Latvian by Rory Mullarkey, with Michael Longhurst at the helm. The also-always-active Trafalgar Studio 2 gets current with Lidless (March 10-April 2) by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig. The subject is a former Guantanamo Bay interrogator who's visited by a former interrogatee.

As for revivals, there's Noel Coward's back-from-the-dead comedy, Blithe Spirit at the Apollo (March 2-June 18) with Alison Steadman and Ruthie Henshall decorating the ensemble. Another revival worth looking into is Mike Leigh's Ecstasy at the Hampstead. Rarely has a negative word been spoken about this entry.

Also check out Terence Rattigan's all-but-forgotten Flare Path at the Haymarket (March 4-June 4). Sienna Miller stars as the wife of an RAF pilot having marital problems. Trevor Nunn guides her through the travails. Add Clifford Odets to the revived mix for his Rocket to the Moon at the National's Lyttelton (March 23-June 21). Seen rarely, this one commands special attention, too. Caryl Churchill's Fen shows up (March 29-April 23) at the Finborough, which seats very few but was recently and deservedly handed the Fringe Theatre of the Year Award from Stage 100.

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