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I’ve learnt about two exciting new London shows this week: the Broadway musical Fela! – about Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti – comes to the National Theatre in November this year; and Ditch, which comes to the tunnels under Waterloo Station next month.
The first, Fela!, comes with a pretty impressive pedigree: associate producers on the project include Jay-Z, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. Written by Tony Award-winner Bill T Jones it tells the story of the Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, the Nigerian-born artist, musician, polygamist, commune founder and political activist, who died in 1997, through a winning blend of jazz, funk and African rhythms, dance, theatre and music.
Ditch is a new play by Beth Steel, and is being co-produced by HighTide in the Old Vic’s Tunnels 228-332 under Waterloo Station. It tells of a near-future Britain where much of the country is underwater. The government has been reduced to a group of fascist fighters, and dwindling numbers of men patrol the moors for “illegals” in a rural outpost of the state. Ditch is the first of the Old Vic’s tunnel-based plans for 2010, which also include productions, installations, pop-up events and film screenings, with tickets either free or pretty damn cheap.
Americans are celebrating lots of success on the London theatre scene at the moment. After all the top reviews the Broadway revival of Hair got earlier today, it’s more good news from across the pond: an all-American cast for the Menier Chocolate Factory’s production of Paradise Found. The new musical is based on Joseph Roth’s novel The Tale Of The 1002nd Night, and is about the exploits of the Shah of Persia. The Tony Award-winning Mandy Patinkin is joined by more US names: Kate Baldwin, Shuler Hensley, Judy Kaye, George Lee Andrews (The Phantom Of The Opera, A Little Night Music), Lacey Kohl, John McMartin (Grey Gardens, Into The Woods), and Nancy Opel (Toxic Avenge, Urinetown).
In a more British show, A Thousand Stars Explode In The Sky at the Lyric Hammersmith features three of the UK’s finest writers: David Eldridge, Robert Holman and Simon Stephens. It’s a show about the family secrets that are revealed before the world comes to an end… Cast member Jemma Redgrave has sadly pulled out for personal reasons, but the cast remains strong. I really like Nigel Cooke and Ann Mitchell, and it’ll be good to see Harry McEntire back on the London stage after his appearance in the hit musical, Spring Awakening.