A Few London Theater Picks for Fall

September 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

Old Vic, night

Image via Wikipedia

My London theater alerts and emails have been picking up of late, and I thought it was time to consolidate the most promising of the pack into a new post.  Here’s what’s on (or soon to be on) in the West End, and beyond.  That, and the now very affordable airfares to London courtesy of Continental Airlines.  Oh, and there’s the amazing Gauguin exhibition Tate Modern.  Definitely book tickets in advance, if you plan to go.  It opens today and runs through January 16, 2011 … as if you needed another reason to make the trip across the pond.  But, back to the main event, here’s what’s on:

Based on the Screenplay by David Mamet, story by David Mamet and Jonathan Katz, House of Games is running at the Almeida Theatre through November 6, 2010.  “This is a confidence game, not because you give me your confidence, but because I give you mine.” Next up is Ibsen’s The Master Builder, starring Gemma Arterton and Stephen Dillane.  The run is scheduled for November 12, 2010 through January 8, 2011.  And if you’re not familiar with the Almeida, it, like the Donmar Warehouse (see below), is an intimate theater (read: very small with limited seating).  Tickets are likely selling quickly, so if you’re interested, book early.

Stephen Sondheim’s musical, Passion, playing at the Donmar Warehouse.  Hailed “A masterpiece,” by the Daily Telegraph, and “A triumph,” by The Guardian, the limited run ends November 27, 2010.  It will be followed by William Shakespeare’s King Lear, December 3, 2010 through February 5, 2011.

Noel Coward’s Design For Living, running at The Old Vic Theatre through November 27, 2010.   “Coward comedy returns in style with a brilliant cast … three remarkable central performances … stellar acting.” — The Evening Standard .  To be followed by Georges Feydeau’s A Flea in Her Ear, beginning December 4, 2010.  “Starring Tom Hollander and Lisa Dillon, A Flea In Her Ear is a comedy of errors set against a backdrop of jealousy, misunderstandings and confrontation.”

Ghost Stories, staged at the Duke of York’s Theatre and booking through February 19, 2011.  This is an extended run and here’s why: ” ‘Ghost Stories’ is an immaculately crafted evening of entertainment, not a highbrow work for the ages. Play the game and you’ll have a scream.” — TimeOut London

Flashdance: The Musical at the Shaftesbury Theatre.  If you loved the movie, you’ll no doubt go for the musical, 27 years in the making.  It opens on September 27, 2010 and runs through February 26, 2011.

Martin Sherman’s new play based on material from the book, Nemesis, by Peter Evans, Onassis, opens today at the Novello Theatre.  Per TimeOut London, ” ‘Onassis’ is a savage account of the final years of Aristotle Onassis (Lindsay), the wealthy Greek businessman who wooed both Jackie Kennedy (Lydia Leonard) and Maria Callas (Anna Francolini).”  The play runs through February 5, 2011.

And, if you’re the true plan-ahead type, advance tickets are on sale for Ghost: The Musical which opens in June 2011.  You can save 5 GBP by ordering tickets by October 31, 2010.

For all things theatre, including the long-running musicals, visit LondonTheatre.co.uk.



The Bridge Project Travels Back Across the Pond

April 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

"As You Like It" and "The Tempest," Photo: The Bridge Project

If you missed these two plays in New York, or if you live in London, you’ve been given a second chance.  William Shakespeare’s The Tempest and As You Like It are moving across the pond from the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) to London’s Old Vic Theatre as part of The Bridge Project.

In case you’re not familiar, The Bridge Project is “a three-year transatlantic partnership uniting BAM, The Old Vic, and Neal Street Productions.”  Sam Mendes directs a group of highly accomplished actors from the U.K. and the U.S., including Michelle Beck, Christian Camargo, Ron Ciphas Jones, Stephen Dillane, Alvin Epstein, Juliet Rylance, and Thomas Sadoski, in this, his second season with the project.

Both plays will play in repertoire throughout the run at The Old Vic Theatre, scheduled for June 12 through August 21.  See the website for the complete performance schedule and to book tickets online or by phone.


A London Spring Fling

April 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

London Bridge, Photo: FreeFoto.com

London in springtime?  Absolutely lovely.  So here’ s the plan:


I have a preference for smaller, boutique hotels which, in London, tend to be in converted townhouses.  That the hotel has comfortable beds, high thread count sheets, flat-screen televisions, luxurious toiletries, a mean breakfast, a nice little cocktail bar, and excellent service go without saying.

Dean Street Townhouse – Located in Soho.  Hip, busy, reasonably-priced, popular restaurant and bar.

myhotel Bloomsbury – Centrally located, near Covent Garden, Oxford Circus, and Soho.  “Stylish interior design from Conran & Partners.”  mysnug.  PINCHITOtapas.

myhotel Chelsea – Near Brompton Cross, one of the best Chelsea locations.  Comfortable, eclectic rooms.  mybar.

One Aldwych – This one breaks my “boutique” rule, but with good reason.  A fantastic location – in the heart of Covent Garden, between the West End and the City – a fabulous lobby bar, two great restaurants, exceptional service, Frette linens and down duvets, health club … need I go on?  It’s a bit of a splurge, but it’s worth it.

Portobello Hotel – “On a quiet street in Notting Hill, stands this converted neo-classical mansion. It hardly looks like a hotel, yet it enjoys a worldwide reputation as the most exclusive hideaway hotel in London.”

Sydney House Chelsea – Owned and operated by ABode Hotels, this Chelsea property is a find.  Boutique townhouse hotel.  Located near the King’s Road.   Great breakfast.

The Zetter – Located in Clerkenwell, a hip, fashionable London neighborhood on the edge of the City.   Loft-like, high tech rooms.  Bistrot Bruno Loubet and the  Atrium Bar.


Amaya – If you like Indian food, you need to make a night of it in London.  Located in Knightsbridge, “Amaya focuses uniquely on sophisticated Indian grills, seasoned with subtle complex marinades using time honoured Indian grilling methods.”

E & O – “Set in the buzzing area of Notting Hill, a stone’s throw from Portobello market, its pan-Asian cuisine and vibrant bar are sure never to disappoint.”  The menu includes dim sum, salads, sushi and sashimi, a couple of curries, and some great sides (like green beans with xo sauce).  Add a happening bar.  Yes, it’s a hot spot.

Electric Brasserie – “Open daily with indoor and outdoor seating all year round. It is a place to meet your friends for a snack, a long lunch, a cozy dinner or just for a drink at the bar.”  This is another Notting Hill mainstay.  Great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Hix and Hix Oyster & Chop House – Both are from restauranteur Mark Hix.  Located in Soho, “The ground floor restaurant called HIX seats around 80 diners and serves Mark’s signature British food with a wide selection of meat and fish dishes. The basement bar, Mark’s, which has a clubby-type feel, has a more informal feel, serving small British dishes and cocktails by Nick Strangeway.”  Hix Oyster & Chop House is situated on Green Hill  Rents, near London’s Smithfield Meat Market.  “At the Oyster and Chop House we’ll always have an assortment of oysters on the menu and a range of chops, cutlets and steaks on the bone such as Porterhouse and Hanger steak with baked bone marrow. Fish dishes also feature, including whole grilled fish, and all the ingredients will be carefully sourced in the UK.”  Gwyneth Paltrow is a fan of both.

Locanda Locatelli – Giorgio Locatelli has been wowing diners with his superb Italian food and outstanding service.  Time Out gives the restaurant 5-out-of-5 stars, and says  of the experience, “The decadent, almost louche 1970s atmosphere, the softly lit dining room and the almost pampering service may be a draw. But it’s the spectacular cooking and astounding attention to detail that keep the booking lines busy here, and the dining room packed every day.”  It’s a splurge, but absolutely worth it.

Nobu – No matter the city, if you’re in the mood for Japanese food(sushi or a fabulous steak, for that matter) Nobu is the spot.  In London the restaurant is  located in tony Mayfair.  Like Locanda Locatelli, it’s a splurge, but consider it a “bucket list” item.  You won’t be disappointed.

Notting Hill Brasserie – “…you’d never find us by accident – a neighbourhood Restaurant nestling in the heart of Notting Hill.”  So true.  But now you know.  There’s live jazz each night in the cocktail bar (and during their Sunday lunch).  Their ingredients are seasonal and sourced locally, and are prepared in “Modern Mediterranean” cooking style.

Tate Modern Restaurant – If you’re visiting Tate Modern, which I highly recommend (see below), plan on having lunch or a drink.  Located on the 7th floor of the museum, it boasts one of the best views in London.  The “menu [is] based on fresh, seasonal produce together with an exciting wine list focusing on innovative producers.”  Book ahead.

The Anchor & Hope – One of the best gastropubs in London.  Located on The Cut, near the Southwark tube and not far from Waterloo station, it’s a great option if you’ve got tickets for the Old Vic Theatre.  Creative pub food served in a bustling atmosphere.  Note, they do not accept reservation Monday through Saturday, but do (and are advisable) on Sunday.

The Ivy – This is a West End institution.  Pre- or post-theater, book well in advance to secure a table.  Time Out gives it 4-out-of-5 stars and says, “For all its enduring popularity with celebrities and the music industry – and there are often paparazzi hovering outside – the Ivy isn’t the sort of place to go and be seen; it’s the kind of restaurant folk visit to enjoy their time off. The long menu is curiously old-school British, with globe-trotting recipes picked up along the way.”

A quick update … Daily Candy London announced the opening of The Summerhouse by The Waterway pop-up restaurant.  I’d heard of pop-up shops before and thought this looked interesting.  It’s open for six months – from April to October.  “Since 2002 The Waterway has established itself as one of Maida Vale’s best local restaurants and one of London’s greatest outdoor terraces with spectacular views overlooking the beautiful Grand Union Canal. Voted as the best terrace in London, this is the closest to Venice London has.”  They serve fresh seafood and even fresher cocktails.  Definitely part of the plan.


Love Never Dies – Here it is at last … the long-awaited sequel to Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera.  Here’s the story: “Ten years after the mysterious disappearance of The Phantom from the Paris Opera House, Christine Daae accepts an offer to come to America and perform at New York’s fabulous new playground of the world – Coney Island.   Christine arrives in New York with her husband Raoul and their son Gustave.  She soon discovers the identity of the anonymous impresario who has lured her from France to sing.”  Currently running and booking through October 23.   Book tickets with Albemarle of London online or by phone at +44 207 3791357.

Mrs. Warren’s Profession – This latest production of a George Bernard Shaw classic has garnered rave reviews: ‘Felicity Kendal…superb, Lucy Briggs-Owen…brilliant. A witty and gripping production of one of Shaw’s greatest plays’ Daily Telegraph  The Ambassador Ticket webiste says that “Shaw’s ultimate test of a mother-daughter relationship is one of his most witty and provocative plays. Written in 1894 but banned from performance until the racy 1920s, Mrs Warren’s Profession lays bare the rampant hypocrisy of Victorian society and its constrained morals.”  The play is running from April 10 – June 19.  Order tickets online or call +44 844 871 7644.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical – “tells the heart-warming, uplifting adventure of three friends who hop aboard a battered old bus (Priscilla) to take their show to the middle of the Australian outback.” Albemarle-London  The Daily Telegraph hails the musical as “insanely euphoric – wildly contagious,” and The Times as “energy, fun … wisecracks galore.”  To book tickets online, visit Albemarle-London.com or call +44 207 3791357.  Booking though February 2011 at the Palace Theatre.

The Real Thing – A new drama by Tom Stoppard is pretty much always a reason to celebrate.  This time he’s written about love.  The play is produced by The Old Vic Theatre, who had this to say: “Deeply moving and startlingly funny, Tom Stoppard’s razor sharp drama brilliantly examines the complex nature of love, art and reality. Anna Mackmin directs an outstanding cast including Barnaby Kay, Hattie Morahan, Toby Stephens and Fenella Woolgar in this multi-award winning modern classic.”  The run is scheduled for April 10 – June 5.   Opening night is April 20.  Book online or by calling +44 844 8717628.

War Horse – This is one of the tougher tickets in town.  Produced by London’s National Theatre, this award-winning play has been wowing audiences for months.  “War Horse is a thrilling and spectacular production based on the celebrated novel by Michael Morpurgo.  The First World War is the backdrop for this tale of bravery, loyalty, and the extraordinary bond between a young recruit and his horse.  Actors, working with astonishing life-sized puppets by the internationally renowned Handspring Puppet Company, take audiences on an unforgettable journey through history.”  One friend who saw it recently said she was awestruck and unbelievably moved.  The play is running indefinitely at the Drury Lane Theatre in London’s West End.  Buy tickets online or by telephone at +44 844 7550017.


It’s easy to overlook, but entry into all of the national museums is free.  However, even a couple of pounds donated at the collection box when you arrive makes a difference.

Borough Market – A short walk from the London Bridge train/tube station, the market is undoubtedly worth a visit, even if you’re staying at a hotel and won’t be able to cook.  The market is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  Check with website for times and plan accordingly.  In other words, go hungry.

Kensington Gardens & Hyde Park – Go for a walk, a long walk … the gardens and park are a world unto their own.  And visit Kensington Palace while you’re there.  A new temporary exhibit, “The Enchanted Palace,” has just opened.  According to WWD, “the show combines art, fashion, performance and sound, and is based on the lives of princesses including Mary, Anne, Caroline, Charlotte, Victoria, Margaret, and Diana, all of whom lived within the estate from 1689 until today.”  British designers such as Vivienne Westwood, Norman Hartnell, and Bruce Oldfield are featured.  Much of the rest of the property is undergoing an extensive renovation.

National Portrait Gallery –   Located in Trafalgar Square, this is a favorite.  The Gallery Collection represents works from every major era and portrait artist.  The current exhibition is the Irving Penn Portraits, running through June 6.  If your spring fling happens to turn into a summer sojourn then make sure to visit during the BP Portrait Award exhibition (June 24 – September 19).  This annual event showcases up-and-coming artists, and I’ve never been disappointed by the variety and talent on display.

Tate Britain – The original Tate, it housed the entire collection until Tate Modern opened across the Thames.  Tate Britain houses the collection of international painting pre-1900 and includes works by Hogarth, Gainsborough, Henry Moore, Francis Bacon, and Barbara Hepworth.  The Tate operates a boat between Tate Modern and Tate Britain (tickets can be purchased online or at either museum).  The current exhibition is of Henry Moore sculptures.  The museum hosts the annual Turner Prize competition.  A visit to Tate Britain is a must.  The Tate operates a boat between Tate Modern and Tate Britain (tickets can be purchased online or at either museum).

Tate Modern – “Created in the year 2000 from a disused power station in the heart of London, Tate Modern displays the national collection of international modern art. This is defined as art since 1900.”  The space itself is a work of art.  Their collection includes works by Picasso, Matisse, Giacometti, Magritte, Rothko, and Warhol, to name a few.  Check the website for current exhibitions.  The Tate operates a boat between Tate Modern and Tate Britain (tickets can be purchased online or at either museum).

Victoria & Albert Museum – Located in South Kensington, “the V&A is the greatest museum of art and design, a world treasure house with collections of fabulous scope and diversity. The Museum holds over 3000 years worth of artefacts from many of the world’s richest cultures … including ceramics, fashion, furniture, glass, metalwork, paintings, photographs, prints, sculpture and textiles.”  Beginning April 17, the featured exhibition is “Grace Kelly: Style Icon.”


Eco Age – “The Green Hub” … and happening.  “Eco is an exciting new retail concept and the first of its kind – a store, showroom, consultancy and green hub that offers inspiration, ideas and specific domestic solutions for all those who want to lead a greener and more energy efficient life.”  Add some star power to the ownership, Colin Firth, his wife Livia Giuggioli, and her brothers, Nicola and Alessandro, and some unique finds, and you’ve got an original shopping experience.

Harvey Nichols –  A Knightsbridge staple: the best designer clothing, shoes, handbags, cosmetics, not to mention the 5th Floor where you’ll find the Foodmarket, Restaurant, Bar, and Cafe and Roof Terrace.  Shop, eat, drink, be merry.

Liberty of London – Another London hip shopping experience.  The best labels, and central location near Oxford Circus.  If you’re in the buying mood, this is a must.

Portobello Market & Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill – Portobello Market is one of the world’s most famous street markets made famous by the movie of the same name.  Stretching roughly two miles from the Notting Hill Gate tube, you’ll find antiques, second-hand and new merchandise, and fruit and vegetable markets.  On or near Westbourne Grove, look for The Cross, Virginia, Dinny Hall, Emma Hope Shoes, Paul & Joe, Brora Cashmere, and Smythson.  Both are a great for a day’s walking and shopping.

Upper Street & Camden Passage, Islington – A bit off the beaten path, Islington’s Upper Street is lined with boutiques selling the cutting edge and the quaint.  Check out Neal’s Yard Remedies, Spice, Dinny Hall, SpaceNK, Diverse, Ghost, and Toast.  And don’t miss Camden Passage’s famed antique shops and market.   (Angel Tube Station)


Afternoon Tea at Claridges

Drinks at the Connaught or Claridges

Go for a walk along The River Thames

Take in some jazz at Ronny Scott’s

Check out ForbiddenLondon.com, if clubbing is your thing, and Time Out London for everything else that’s on.


Two Sold-Out Plays Make Their Way Across the Pond to Broadway

February 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

London’s West End, and beyond, has a tradition of exchanging productions with New York’s Broadway.  It goes both ways.

In keeping with that tradition, there are two British imports making their way to America.  Both should be on your list.

Red – Direct from a sold-out run at London’s Donmar Warehouse (Frost/Nixon, Mary Stuart, Hamlet) comes Red, a play written by John Logan, directed by Michael Grandage, and starring Alfred Molina and Eddie Redmayne.  “Master American expressionist Mark Rothko has just landed the biggest commission in the history of modern art. But when his young assistant gains the confidence to challenge him, Rothko faces the agonizing possibility that his crowning achievement could also become his undoing. Raw and provocative, with groundbreaking performances, RED is a searing portrait of an artist’s ambition and vulnerability as he tries to create a definitive work for an extraordinary setting.”  Performances begin March 11th; opening night is April 1st.  According to TicketWatch, tickets for all performances though April 18th are $79 (Orchestra and Front Mezzanine) and $59 (Rear Mezzanine, A-F).  Go to BroadwayOffers.com or call 212-947-8844 and use code RDNYT23.

Enron, a true story of false profits – “Based on real-life events and using music, dance and video, Lucy Prebble’s Enron explores one of the most infamous scandals in financial history, reviewing the tumultuous 1990s and casting a new light on the financial turmoil in which the world currently finds itself.”  The initial London run at the Royal Court Theatre sold out and the production has moved to the West End’s Noel Coward Theatre.  The reviews were nothing less than effusive: “Not to be missed. The political Theatre of the 21st century has arrived, in some style.” The Times; “An exhilarating mix of political satire, modern morality and multi media spectacle.  A fantastic theatrical event.” GuardianPreviews being April 8th and the production is scheduled to run through July 18th.  Tickets are currently available to American Express Cardmembers only (through February 19th).  Prices are $66.50 to $121.50.  For pre-sale tickets visit Telecharge.com or call 800-393-9465.  General sales begin on February 20th.


Planning a Trip to London This Winter? Here’s What’s On.

November 26, 2009 § Leave a comment

With great airfares and hotel deals, London in winter is within reach.  Here is a sampling of what’s on now and what’s coming up in Theatreland.  Because what’s a trip to London without a show, or two, or three.

Cat on a Hot Tin RoofNovello Theatre, through April 10, 2010.

Calendar GirlsNoel Coward Theatre, through January 9, 2010.

EnronNoel Coward Theatre, January 16, 2010 – May 8, 2010.

Inherit the WindThe Old Vic, through December 20, 2009

Six Degrees of SeparationThe Old Vic, January 8 – April 3, 2010.

La Cage Aux FollesPlayhouse Theatre, through January 2, 2010.

Dreamboats and Petticoats Playhouse Theatre, January 6, 2010 – May 29, 2010

Speaking in TonguesDuke of York’s Theatre, through December 12, 2009.

Twelfth NightDuke of York’s Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company production,  December 19, 2009 – February 27, 2010.

Sweet CharityMenier Chocolate Factory, through March 7, 2010.

The CaretakerTrafalgar Studios, January 12, 2010 – April 17, 2010.  Jonathon Pryce doing classic Harold Pinter.

The MisanthropeComedy Theatre, December 5, 2009 – March 13, 2010.  Damian Lewis, Tara FitzGerald, Keira Knightley, Dominic Rowan.  This is one of the hottest tickets in the West End.

Long-Running Musical  Favorites:

Jersey BoysPrince Edward Theatre, booking through October 24, 2010.

The Lion KingThe Lyceum Theatre, booking through August 29, 2010.

WickedThe Apollo Victoria Theatre, booking through April 10, 2010.  If you’re heading across the pond for Christmas, extra matinees have been added on December 22, 24 & 29 at 2:30.

And check out what’s coming up at the Almeida Theatre and the Donmar Warehouse.  There’s usually a gem or two to be found.


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