Special Reports

Snapshots From London: Sondheim Sees Double, and Leading Ladies Share Tips

6 photos from this month’s theatrical goings-on in the West End.

Our sister site in London, WhatsOnStage.com, rounds up some key stories from the past few weeks, including the unveiling of the Olivier Award nominees and a surprise announcement from Les Misérables.

1. Sondheim saw double with Sweeney Todd.

Stephen Sondheim with producers Michael Linnet, Michael Grade, and star Emma Thompson at the ENO opening of Sweeney Todd.
(© Dan Wooller)

Stephen Sondheim has been over in London recently enjoying the opening of not one, but two West End revivals of Sweeney Todd. And the productions could hardly be more different. One is a site-specific interpretation being staged in a "pop-up pie shop" on Shaftesbury Avenue (having originated in an actual pie shop in south London); the other is the star-laden concert production starring Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel, first seen in New York last year and now showing at the London Coliseum.

2. Nicholas Hytner bid farewell to the National Theatre.

Nicholas Hytner and former History Boy James Corden in 2011.
(© Dan Wooller)

There are few people who can claim to have influenced British theater in the past few years more than Nicholas Hytner. During a 12-year tenure as artistic director of the flagship National Theatre, he has staged hit after hit (from The History Boys to War Horse) and overseen a golden era for the venue that has seen it reach millions of people worldwide thanks to the NT Live initiative. So it was fitting that a star-studded party was laid on for him at the venue last month, attended by actors, writers, National staff, and journalists including our own Michael Coveney.

3. Our mystery Box Office Manager shared more secrets.

Who is our mole in the box office?

One of our most popular features recently has been the monthly "Confessions of a Box Office Manager," in which a (mystery) member of staff at a real West End theatre spills the beans on some of his more testing customers. This month, he's faced with a lady who doesn't know that "stalls" are seats and that a "signed performance" is not one that involves the cast signing autographs at the end. Sigh…

4. We found out the Olivier Award nominees.

Katie Brayben as Carole King in Beautiful, which has eight Olivier nominations.
(© Brinkhoff/Moegenburg)

This year's Olivier Awards — our equivalent of the Tonys — are announced on April 12 in a star-studded ceremony at the Royal Opera House. But first we need to know who's in the running, which was duly revealed last month. It's a strong year for musicals — especially those that originated in New York — with Memphis and Beautiful leading the short lists with nine and eight nominations, respectively. Actors in the running for honors include Angela Lansbury, who could win her first Olivier Award following her nomination for Blithe Spirit, as well as Mark Strong, Gillian Anderson, James McAvoy, and Kristin Scott Thomas. Look out for our coverage of the ceremony!

5. Les Mis "announced" a sing-along performance.

The West End cast of Les Misérables.
(© Johan Persson)

OK, OK, hands up, this isn't actually happening, but our April Fools' prank this year managed to convince a lot of readers. The story was that Cameron Mackintosh was planning a "sing-along" performance of Les Misérables, that would allow audiences to eat sweets and make merry while belting out their best versions of "I Dreamed a Dream" and "Master of the House." So in other words the cast really would hear the people sing! Judging from the response on social media, we think there's definitely a market for it…

6. We got some top tips for International Women's Day.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown stars Tamsin Greig and Haydn Gwynne.
(© Dan Wooller)

To mark this year's International Women's Day, which had as its slogan "Make It Happen," we approached a range of the West End's leading ladies to find out their top tips for success. And the results were hugely inspiring. Here's Miss Saigon star (and recent WhatsOnStage Award winner) Rachelle Ann Go: "I believe that anyone regardless of gender has to believe in his or her talent, work hard, never give up, and constantly find ways to improve himself or herself. With faith and hard work, you can achieve your dreams! Everything is possible."

For more on London theatre, visit WhatsOnStage.com