It’s spring and with the warmer (we hope) weather comes theatrical bounty on both sides of the Atlantic.
At the capital’s flagship National Theatre, in May, previews start for an eagerly anticipated production of a time-ripened title, The Threepenny Opera. There are any number of reasons to await with bated breath a reimagining by the Olivier Award-winning playwright Simon Stephens (of The Curious Incident in the Night-Time renown) of one of the defining theatre collaborations of the 20th-century, premiered in 1928 and regularly revived the world over.
Pairing the composer Kurt Weill with the playwright and lyricist Bertolt Brecht, Threepenny, if done well, manages to be tuneful yet astringent, satiric, yet dead-on in its portrayal of the kind of societal underclass that wasn’t shown onstage at the time. Throw in the National’s onetime Hamlet and Iago, Rory Kinnear, marking a major about-face as an actor-singer to play the predatory Macheath, alongside the sublime Rosalie Craig (most recently seen at the National as Rosalind in As You Like It) as the spouse who falls under his spell, and you have the ingredients for a considerable success. Small wonder that the National’s artistic director, Rufus Norris, has given himself the task of making Threepenny worth a modern-day audience’s thruppence.
Across the Thames on the commercial West End, several already-opened musical revivals will be furthering their runs—the Jewish-American director Gordon Greenberg’s Chichester Festival Theatre staging of Guys and Dolls, at the Phoenix Theatre, and the veteran UK producer Sonia Friedman, herself Jewish, with her (possibly Broadway-bound) reclamation of the little-seen Funny Girl, starring two-time Olivier Award-winner Sheridan Smith in the defining role of New York-Jewish comedienne and songstress Fanny Brice. Friedman’s even larger venture, starting previews late-May at the Palace Theatre, is a pairing of Harry Potter-themed plays, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, that bring literature’s beloved, bespectacled student into (presumably) adult life: onetime History Boy (in Alan Bennett’s play) Jamie Parker plays the now-grown Hogwarts alum.
A starry West End couple of months finds Game of Thrones star Kit Harington returning to the stage to head up director Jamie Lloyd’s revival of Christopher Marlowe’s centuries-old play Doctor Faustus (previews from April 9 at the Duke of York’s), while three-time Tony–winner Glenn Close recreates her legendary Broadway performance as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, this time at the London Coliseum running April 1 through May 7. Those wanting a more specifically Jewish night out may opt for the intriguingly titled NotMoses (yes, all one word), running through May 14 at the Arts Theatre and written and directed by Gary Sinyor, best known perhaps for the film Leon the Pig Farmer. Shakespeare’s Globe from June 16 brings in Daniel Jamieson’s The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, a piece influenced visually by Marc Chagall and steeped in the Russian-Jewish tradition.
Across the Atlantic, a second show from the remarkable Fiddler on the Roof team of Jerry Bock (composer) and Sheldon Harnick (lyricist)—their bijou 1963 collaboration She Loves Me—will be the late-spring attraction at the Roundabout Theatre, with a glorious cast headed by Zachary Levi, Laura Benanti, and Jane Krakowski in a timelessly endearing tale of clandestine courtship: the production runs through June 12 at Studio 54. The British director Rupert Goold—already represented on Broadway this season with the Mike Bartlett play King Charles III—has an April 20 opening at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre set for his audacious musical theatre adaptation of American Psycho, as eye-openingly nihilistic an entry as Broadway has seen in an age. And a huge question mark hangs at present over the New York season’s most curious-sounding project—a new musical called, yes, Nerds and telling in song of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, the Michael Fassbender film portrait of Jobs presumably still fresh in playgoers’ minds. Will these most singular of entrepreneurs make for exciting theatre? Time, as it always does, will tell.