18 Dec 2013

2013 London Theatre Roundup

2013 London Theatre Roundup

1. JANUARY: The Michael Grandage Season

The Noël Coward Theatre continued to pack in the crowds as the West End was treated to yet more celebrity names in a season of fantastic plays. The newly formed Michael Grandage company took over the venue with a season of hit plays. 

Dame Judi Dench came face to face with the boy who never grew up in ‘Peter and Alice’ which proved to be the most popular pairing of the season. 


Sheridan Smith got back in the game, showing how excited she was to interact lovingly with David Walliams’ Bottom eight times a week in a bold production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. 


And the boy wizard himself made the stage door look like the Selfridges Boxing Day Sale  in ‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’. 


noel coward stage door











Without his powers of apparition he was forced to fight his way through the crowds in order to make the half.


2. MARCH – The Broadway Takeover Begins

Whilst new British musicals certainly dominated the second half of the year, the first six months was all about the American invasion. Three hit Broadway musicals took over the West End, all appealing to different audiences. Their presence was certainly felt throughout London, thanks to takeovers and viral marketing, raising the bar of expectation on how to sell a show.

The Book of Mormon became an overnight sensation, thanks to a thousand dollar marketing campaign which saw the show blazoned across newspapers, Twitter and even the floor…

2013 - Mormons are Coming

The Tony Award winning musical Once was somewhat overshadowed by the Mormons, but managed to inject its Irish charm into the West End and draw audiences to its beautiful story and simple yet effective premise. Besides, who doesn’t love a stage that also doubles as a bar?

The 2006 Broadway revival of A Chorus Line had its first ever West End revival at the London Palladium. Bob Avian and Baayork Lee directed this exciting new production which starred John Partridge as Zach and saw Scarlett Strallen recreating Donna McKechnie iconic leg lift…

3. APRIL: Olivier Awards Broadcast on TV

After years of campaigning, the Laurence Olivier Awards returned to our screens, albeit in a special ‘highlights’ edition on ITV. Whilst many found complaint in the edited telecast as well as the abundance of American performers, it did provide many memorable moments, making it a key event of the year:

Michael Ball proved that being the previous host of the event by no means gave him an unfair advantage as he took home the Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical for ‘Sweeney Todd’. 


We also got to hear some extremely wise words from the first Green Lady of musical theatre, Idina Menzel

4. MAY 2013: Helen Mirren Drummers Battle

Whilst Peter Morgan’s ‘The Audience’ proved to be the sell out hit of the summer, the biggest event was a mid-show assault on a group of drummers who had assembled outside the Gielgud Theatre. 

Helen Mirren Drummers











Dressed in full costume, Oscar winner Helen Mirren bounded out of stage door and yelled at the drummers to “shut the **** up”.


 The story made headlines and became one of the most talked about events of the year. Although her reaction could have been worse…



Mirren continued making headlines at the end of the year as she won the Evening Standard Award for Best Actress, only to find out that the award had been fixed, leading to three members of the panel resigning.

5. JUNE: West End Live

The annual event organised by the Society Of London Theatre was bigger than ever this year with a wide selection of popular shows performing to packed crowds for FREE across the two day weekend. Long running shows such as Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera joined brand new musicals such as The Color Purple and we were even given a sneak peak of a song from Tim Rice’s new musical From Here to Eternity.



Following on from the news that Rufus Norris is to takeover as Artistic Director of the National Theatre, the venue put on a 50th birthday bash like no other.

NT50 gave us the perfect answer to the age old question, originally set down by Lord Olivier: “Why would Britain be lost without a National Theatre?”


The sleeves were rolled up and Britain’s finest acting talents got ready for their close up…

Our biggest divas took to the stage to prove there really is nothing like a dame….


And the Southbank venue took a collective bow in showing the world just how lucky we are to have a National Theatre. 

7. DECEMBER: The Sound of Musicals

December was all about The Sound of Music(als) taking over the television on both sides of the Atlantic. NBC broadcast a live version of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical ‘The Sound of Music’ to an audience of over 18 million in a lavish production starring Carrie Underwood as Maria and Audra McDonald as Mother Abbess.

2013 - Sound of Music Live

The show wasn’t without its critics, and thousands of fans took to Twitter to complain about Carrie Underwood’s bad acting. She had the final word however, as she simply replied: “Mean people need Jesus. They will be in my prayers tonight…”

Back in the UK it was left to Channel 4 to launch a behind the scenes look at the West End theatre industry in a four part documentary ‘The Sound of Musicals’. Following the highs and lows of a number of hit musicals, this fantastic programme tracked the progress of shows such as ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ and ‘Top Hat’ as well as upcoming shows such as ‘Happy Days’. 

Newbie producer Amy Anzel found herself in hot water after asking a dancer during auditions to “strip away the gay” in order to butch up his dancing. Theatre folk jumped onto Twitter to complain about the comment, finding it offensive.

2013 - Strip Away the GAy

Far from being  ‘homophobic’, Anzel’s show is set to embark on a nationwide tour and will certainly help say goodbye to grey skies and hopefully land in London in the near future.

2013 - Anzel

What were your theatrical highlights of 2013? Add them below! 



Dom is the editor of SeatPlan.com - a new online resource for London theatre goers reviewing theatre seats. He works as a Director and Musical Director and frequently reviews West End and fringe shows. Follow on Twitter: @dom_ohanlon or @seat_plan


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