Correspondents: London Curtain Call
Photos in Order (1, 3, 4, and 6) by Tristram Kenton, (2, 5) by Catherine Ashmore,
Story by John Kelly
Frequent travelers to London will already know that this dramatic city always puts on a show, but the capital’s current West End roster of musical premieres, camp classics and British masterpieces means that this summer is a perfect time for theater lovers to make an encore visit.
Has it really been 17 years? Time may have taken its toll on all of us since Sister Act’s 1992 debut (except a seemingly ageless Whoopi Goldberg—divine intervention perhaps?), but the appeal has endured. The recently-premiered stage version of Sister Act sees newcomer Patina Miller play Doloris Van Cartier, the singer who witnesses a murder and is ensconced in a convent as part of a witness protection program. However Whoopi’s absence isn’t the only noticeable divergence from the original production—the musical features an entirely new score composed by eight-time Oscar winner Alan Menken.
Sister Act, London Palladium, June 2 – Feb 12 2010, tickets £17.50 - £60
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Just as in the original film version of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, a giant, spangled stiletto mounted on a bus sets the tone of this camp classic. As with the film, the plot focuses on three flamboyant drag queens who traverse Australia’s arid outback in a battered old bus named Priscilla. Yet it’s the soundtrack and costumes that take center stage—invigorating disco classics such as I Will Survive and the remixed Downtown are delivered with a flourish, while the iridescent cast is bedecked in enough feathers and sequins to elicit admiration from even the most extravagant drag queen in the audience.
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Palace Theatre, until 13 Feb 2010, tickets from £20 - £64.25
The John Waters classic has undergone many permutations since it first emerged over 20 years ago, but the tale of ‘pleasantly plump’ Tracy Turnblad still strikes a chord with audiences today. Originally an award winning Broadway production, this story of Tuirnblad's efforts to win acceptance from her slender peers while contesting racial segregation in 1960s Baltimore is now one of the most popular shows playing in the West End.
Hairspray, Shaftesbury Theatre, until April 2010, tickets from £22.50 - £62.50
This devastating tale of murder and vengeance may not hold the same light-hearted appeal as some of the West End’s more carefree productions, but the current interpretation of Shakespeare’s masterpiece is this summer’s must-have ticket of the discerning London theatergoer. The appeal is not just the show’s limited two-month run, or the opportunity to witness a home-turf performance one of the Bard's most defining works: Jude Law fulfills a long-held ambition by taking to the boards as the brooding Danish prince.
Hamlet, Donmar at Wyndham’s Theatre, until 22 August 2009, tickets from £32.95 - £42.75
Even the most ardent theater aficionado will be emotionally—and financially—spent after a vacation on London's West End, but alternatives to big-budget, large-scale productions abound. Local listing-magazines provide comprehensive information on what performances are taking place at any given time. Additionally, two venues frequently showcase gay-interest performance: Rich Mix, a cultural center and performance space, and Bistrotheque, a bar, restaurant and performance space that occasionally hosts ‘bearlesque’-style dance troupes and subversive cabaret acts presided over by legendary London performer Jonny Woo.
John Kelly is part of Out Traveler's international team of Correspondents, reporting from around the world on items of LGBT travel interest. Raised in Ireland and now London-based, Kelly is a freelance travel and lifestyle journalist specializing in European destinations. If you would like to become a Correspondent, e-mail us here after checking out our guidelines.