The best London theatre opening in 2021 that you can book now, from Cinderella to Frozen the Musical

·10-min read
<p>The bard is back - Shakespeare’s Globe is one of the many theatres to announce a reopening season</p> (Shakespeare#s Globe)

The bard is back - Shakespeare’s Globe is one of the many theatres to announce a reopening season

(Shakespeare#s Globe)

After months of closures, theatres can now reopen for live performances.

It’s no secret that the industry has been battered by the pandemic - last year, several theatres staged new productions only to have them scuppered by new restrictions forced by rising case numbers. But the success of the vaccine rollout and the declining case numbers means producers feel much more confident this time round.

That means that - hurrah! - there’s lots that you can book tickets for right now. Of course, all of the below is subject to change, but we’re crossing our fingers and counting down the days that all will go according to plan this time. Here’s our guide to what’s coming up now that theatres have reopened. (For returning West End shows, all the latest reopening dates can be found here.)

Cruise

After It’s A Sin so brilliantly and poignantly brought the legacy of the 1980s Aids crisis into the mainstream, Jack Holden’s new play tackles it from one man’s perspective. Holden himself will play Michael, diagnosed with HIV and told he only has four years left to live. His partner has already died and Michael believes this is his last night on earth - but then, he survives. Featuring an electronic score performed live, the show promises us both a tribute and a joyous night out. May 18 - 13 June, Duchess Theatre

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

It just isn’t summer without the chance to watch the course of love well and truly not running smooth. Shakespeare’s twisted romantic comedy is always best enjoyed in the open air, so we’re glad the Globe is reopening with a restaging of Sean Holmes’s 2019 production. If you need us we’ll be at the back, necking love potion and rooting for Helena. May 19 - October 30, Shakespeare’s Globe; shakespearesglobe.com

Amélie the Musical

Are we excited? Oui (Pamela Raith Photography)
Are we excited? Oui (Pamela Raith Photography)

J’adore! This charming musical version of the 2001 cult classic French film is coming to the West End. After the year we’ve had, there’s nothing we can recommend more than booking to a show where a giant depressed goldfish sings ‘Amélie - pourquoi? Au revoir’. You’ll giggle yourself silly and feel Parisian chic at the same time. From May 20, Criterion Theatre; ameliethemusical.com

The Death of a Black Man

A prestigious award for black playwrights is named after Alfred Fagon - so why don’t we see more of his work? Hampstead Theatre is setting that right by reviving his play about a man who thinks he has the world at his feet, in a production directed by Dawn Walton. It’s a fitting that the play had its debut at the very same venue in 1975. May 28 - 10 July, Hampstead Theatre; hampsteadtheatre.com

After Life

If you could bring only one memory from your life with you after you die, what would it be? That’s the premise of the Japanese film by Hirokazu Kore-eda that this play is adapted from. Written by Jack Thorne, it’s a co-production with Headlong that will be directed by Jeremy Herrin and designed by Bunny Christie. June 2 - July 24, National Theatre; nationaltheatre.org.uk

Happy Days

In one of Samuel Beckett’s most affecting works, Winnie is trapped up to her waist in sand and acting as though she’s totally okay with it. Not the day at the seaside we’ve been dreaming of, we’ll admit. But this production is not to be missed: Winnie will be played by Lisa Dwan, leading Beckett performer of her generation. June 11 - July 25, Riverside Studios; riversidestudios.co.uk

Raya

A new play by Deborah Bruce follows two former flames reconnecting - what’s 30 years between friends? The production will be staged in the theatre’s downstairs space and directed by Hampstead boss Roxana Silbert. June 11 - July 24, Hampstead Theatre; hampsteadtheatre.com

Under Milk Wood

Michael Sheen takes on a Welsh epic (Getty Images for SXSW)
Michael Sheen takes on a Welsh epic (Getty Images for SXSW)

‘To begin at the beginning…’ A new staging of Dylan Thomas’s masterpiece starring Michael Sheen is the epic return to the National Theatre’s Olivier stage that we’ve been dreaming of. Originally written as a radio drama, this ‘play for voices’ is an intimate study of the characters that populate a small Welsh community. We’re already imagining the hush as the lights go down. June 16 - July 24, National Theatre; nationaltheatre.org.uk

seven methods of killing kylie jenner

The Royal Court reopens with Jasmine Lee-Jones’s award-winning debut play, which had a sold out run in 2019. It explores the friendship of two young women of colour alongside their lives online, and won Lee-Jones the Most Promising Playwright at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards the year that it opened. June 16-July 27, Royal Court Theatre; royalcourttheatre.com

and breathe...

Industry star David Jonsson appears in this theatrical adaptation of Yomi Sode’s debut poetry collection, Manorism. Directed by Miranda Cromwell, who was behind the Young Vic’s recent groundbreaking revival of Death of a Salesman with Marianne Elliott, it explores grief, loss and family. June 16-July 10, Almeida Theatre; almeida.co.uk

J’Ouvert

Yasmin Joseph’s debut play about Notting Hill Carnival opened at Theatre503 in 2019 and picked up a nomination at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards for Most Promising Playwright. Now it returns, this time in the West End as part of Sonia Friedman’s Re:emerge season, which is putting the spotlight on fresh voices. June 16-July 3, Harold Pinter Theatre; sfp-reemergeseason.com

Out West

Been missing new plays? Well, here are three at once. The Lyric is offering three short one-person shows all based in London, exploring race, belonging and identity, written by Tanika Gupta, Simon Stephens and Roy Williams. June 18 - July 24, Lyric Hammersmith; lyric.co.uk

Hairspray

Paul Merton and Michael Ball return to Hairspray (Handout)
Paul Merton and Michael Ball return to Hairspray (Handout)

You genuinely *cannot* stop the beat, because this revival of Hairspray will finally go ahead after being delayed for a year. It will now run at the London Coliseum this summer, with Michael Ball and Paul Merton in the cast. June 22 - Sept 29, London Coliseum; hairspraythemusical.co.uk

Bach & Sons

Nina Raine’s previous plays have explored the inside world of the NHS and the private lives of barristers. This time round, she’s turning her attention to a historical figure: Johann Sebastian Bach. The Bridge Theatre will reopen with her comedy about the composer, to be directed by Nicholas Hytner. June 23 - September 11, Bridge Theatre; bridgetheatre.co.uk

Cinderella

The team behind Cinderella: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Carrie Hope Fletcher and Emerald Fennell  (Handout)
The team behind Cinderella: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Carrie Hope Fletcher and Emerald Fennell (Handout)

Cinderella has had her opening date moved so many times she is in danger of turning into a pumpkin but she’ll hopefully be going to the ball at last next year. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s updated version, starring Carrie Hope Fletcher and co-written with Killing Eve writer (and The Crown star) Emerald Fennell, will finally make it to the stage in June. A new musical from the Lord is occasion enough in a normal year, but after 2020, it’s monumental. From June 25, Gillian Lynne Theatre; andrewlloydwebberscinderella.com

The Comeback

Comedy duo The Pin kept us laughing all of last year with their Zoom sketches - and, briefly, in the West End with their first play. The show only managed a few performances in December before having to close due to London being placed into tighter Covid restrictions, but it’s back this summer for a three-week run. July 7-25, Noel Coward Theatre; thecomebackcomedy.co.uk

Life Live!

Is it a pop concert? Is it a theatre show? Is it performance art? As this is the new show from the daringly uncategorisable Lucy McCormick, it’s probably all three. It will be Battersea Arts Centre’s first live performance with audiences for a year - the venue recently stepped up to become a temporary vaccination centre. July 8-15, Battersea Arts Centre; bac.org.uk

Changing Destiny

The Young Vic reopens with something pretty extraordinary: Booker Prize winner Ben Okri has adapted one of the earliest known literary texts, a 4,000 year old work of Ancient Egyptian poetry. The production will be designed by celebrated architect Sir David Adjaye, with Kwame Kwei-Armah directing. July 9-21 August, Young Vic; youngvic.org

Anna X

Emma Corrin, break-out star of The Crown, will appear opposite Nabhaan Rizwan in this Anna Delvey-inspired play from Joseph Charlton. It explores social elites and constructing a new identity in the digital age.

July 10-August 4, Harold Pinter Theatre; sfp-reemergeseason.com

Anything Goes

Reviving a musical set on an ocean liner in 2021 is a great idea, because it’s probably the only way you’ll get anywhere close to being on one. This star-studded production of Cole Porter and PG Wodehouse’s jaunt on the SS American will star Robert Lindsay, Felicity Kendal and Gary Wilmot. Oh, jazz hands and shiny costumes, we’ve missed you. July 23 - Oct 17, Barbican; barbican.org.uk

Carousel

The Open Air Theatre is one the most gorgeous theatres in London (as long as it doesn’t rain), so we can’t wait to be back there for its summer reopening season. As well as a production of Romeo and Juliet, Open Air artistic director Timothy Sheader will stage a revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein classic Carousel, choreographed by Drew McOnie. July 30 - Sept 18, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre; openairtheatre.com

Singin’ in the Rain

A guaranteed crowd-pleaser, this stage adaptation of the Gene Kelly classic has already been a hit at Chichester and in the West End. The perfect evening of summer escapism. July 30 - Sept 1, Sadler’s Wells; sadlerswells.com

Frozen

Stephanie McKeon and Samantha Barks will play Anna and Elsa (Disney)
Stephanie McKeon and Samantha Barks will play Anna and Elsa (Disney)

The only way to truly let 2020 go is to go and see the biggest, glitteriest, belt-iest musical the West End can handle. Step forward, Frozen the Musical. Delayed from 2020, this Broadway import finally arrives on our stages in a newly refurbished Theatre Royal Drury Lane this August, with Samantha Barks playing Elsa. August (exact dates TBC), Theatre Royal Drury Lane; frozenthemusical.co.uk

Back to the Future: The Musical

Roger Bart as Doc Brown (Sean Ebsworth Barnes)
Roger Bart as Doc Brown (Sean Ebsworth Barnes)

The Flux Capacitator awaits you: 1985 cult movie classic Back to the Future has been turned into a musical. It opens in London in August, with Tony Award winner Roger Bart playing eccentric scientist Doc Brown. A must-see for nostalgia geeks. From August 20, Adelphi Theatre; backtothefuturemusical.com

Hamlet

Cush Jumbo will play Hamlet (Dean Chalkley)
Cush Jumbo will play Hamlet (Dean Chalkley)

We’ve been desperate to see Cush Jumbo play Hamlet since the production was first announced in 2019, so we’re delighted that it’s going ahead in September. It’s already very sold out, but keep your eyes peeled on the Young Vic website for any returns. From Sept 25 - Nov 13, Young Vic; youngvic.org

Life of Pi

Expect the theatrical magic you’ve been missing to feature heavily in this stage adaptation of Yann Martel’s Booker Prize-winning novel, a philosophical tale about a boy trapped on a raft with a tiger. It was due to open in the West End last year after an acclaimed run at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre; adapted by Lolita Chakrabarti, the production is full of big visuals and bold use of puppetry, a fitting way to bring this beloved book to life. From Sept 26, Wyndham’s’ Theatre; lifeofpionstage.com

Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical

Get Up, Stand Up! will be one of the year’s most anticipated musicals (David Corio)
Get Up, Stand Up! will be one of the year’s most anticipated musicals (David Corio)

Arinzé Kene will play reggae superstar Bob Marley in this musical based on the singer’s life, featuring all of his biggest hits. Directed by Clint Dyer with a book written by Lee Hall, it will be one of the year’s most anticipated new musicals in an already quite crowded field. From October, Lyric Theatre; getupstandupthemusical.com

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