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2021 London Theatre Preview

Culture Calling looks ahead to 2021’s most anticipated plays and musicals, and lets you know what’s available right now to watch from home.

2021 should, and we do stress should, see the return of live theatre. While most venues outside of the West End are tentatively planning for the Spring, big commercial operators and producers have already announced the shows they intend to open this year. 


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For fans of musicals, it doesn't get much bigger than the UK premiere of Disney’s Frozen, scheduled to open at Theatre Royal Drury Lane on 2 April. Based on the award-winning, smash hit animated film of the same name - arguably Disney’s most successful movie since The Lion King - the story revolves around the coming together of two estranged sisters, one of whom is endangering the world with her icy magical powers. The only thing bigger than a UK premiere is, naturally, a world premiere - so look no further than Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical, opening in June 2021 at the Lyric Theatre. This production - written by Lee Hall, of Billy Elliott fame, and starring Arinzé Kene (of Misty fame) as Bob Marley - has full access to Marley’s back-catalogue, which means one of the finest scores possible will accompany the story of Marley’s journey from rural Jamaica to the world stage. His message of peace and unity couldn't be more welcome. We’ve had to wait over a year longer than expected for Sunday in the Park with George, which sees Jake Gyllenhall play post-Impressionist painter George Seurat in the classic Sondheim musical, with the show moved back to an as-yet-unconfirmed date in 2021 at the Savoy Theatre, but that doesn't mean we’re any less excited.


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Play-wise, two productions scheduled for 2020 are set to open this year instead. Aaron Sorkin, the brains behind seminal US television series The West Wing, has adapted Harper Lee’s much-loved novel To Kill a Mockingbird for the stage, set to open on 27 May at the Gielgud Theatre, and we can't wait to immerse ourselves in the world of young Scout, who’s heroic father Atticus Finch battles ingrained racism in 1930s Alabama. Another literary translation arrives at the Duke of York’s Theatre in September 2021 in the form of Yann Martell’s Life of Pi, adapted by Lolita Chakrabarti. The story of a young boy surviving a shipwreck in the company of a tiger has already won awards for it’s beautiful puppetry and jaw-dropping aesthetics when it debuted at Leicester Curve. Finally, one of the greatest ever stage performances, in one of the finest productions in West End history, is set for a revival. Mark Rylance’s historic performance as Rooster Byron in Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem will return, but that’s all we know for now. Where, and when, are both yet to be confirmed.


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If all this has whet your appetite for theatre, we can recommend Graeae’s marvellously named Crips Without Constraints Part 2 festival, which sees a series of five plays from D/deaf and Disabled writers performed by actors including Sharon D. Clarke and Dame Harriet Walter. Or try a filmed adaptation of the afore-mentioned Arinzé Kene’s good dog, available to stream on Youtube, which depicts life in Tottenham on the eve of the 2011 riots. Finally, head to The National Theatre at Home, where you can rent shows from the theatre’s enormous back-catalogue to watch on your sofa.