The best seats in the house in 2020!

A bumper year of drama and musicals awaits you – here’s Richard Barber’s preview of the pinnacle of performances in London and around the country.


The King & I

Starting with something old, not to say enduring, the UK tour of The King & I is in Birmingham until 4 January, visits the Millennium Centre in Cardiff on 8-18 January then pops up in Glasgow, Hull, Milton Keynes, Liverpool, Bristol and Woking, finally coming to rest in Southampton from 4 April to 2 May. With the greatest respect to the actors, it doesn’t much matter who plays the King or Anna. That Rodgers and Hammerstein score remains the star of the show.

Sister Act

A somewhat recast Sister Act is in Leicester, Manchester and Leeds before taking up residence at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith from the end of July. Whoopi Goldberg is back, reprising her acclaimed Palladium performance, this time joined by the slightly bonkers Jennifer Saunders.


Michael Ball is also reprising his Olivier award-winning role as Edna Turnblad at the London Coliseum in Hairspray for a season from 23 April to 29 August. So convincing is he in drag that – and he swears this is true – a couple who went to see the show demanded their money back at the close. They’d paid to see Michael, they said, and he hadn’t been in it.

Hello, Dolly!

The mighty Imelda Staunton, recently announced to take over the mantle of Olivia Colman as the Queen in series five and six of The Crown, will play Dolly Levi in a 30-week season at the Adelphi in London in Hello, Dolly! from 11 August. Jenna Russell co-stars. 

Sunday in the Park with George

There’s also considerable excitement about the prospect of Hollywood A-lister Jake Gyllenhaal as painter Georges Seurat in the revival of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Sunday in the Park with George at the Savoy in London for a season, from 11 June to 5 September. 

Pretty Woman

An equally hot ticket will surely be the musical version of the hit film Pretty Woman, starring our own Samantha Barks, who was praised to the skies when she originated the role on Broadway. With         original music by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, it debuts at the Piccadilly Theatre in London for a 46-week season from 13 February. 

Back to the Future

Another vehicle, also ‘borrowed’ from the silver screen, is the stage musical of Back to the Future, which opens at the Opera House in Manchester on February 20 and then moves to London.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Jason Donovan, meanwhile, is on both sides of the curtain. He’s the producer of a new staging of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, starring Strictly winner Joe McFadden and touring the UK and Ireland now and well into 2020. 

Joseph and THE AMAZING Technicolor Dreamcoat

And he’s back as Pharaoh in a reprise of Joseph and THE AMAZING Technicolor Dreamcoat at the London Palladium from 2 July, with young Jac Yarrow in the title role bringing the house down on a nightly basis with his spine-tingling rendition of Close Every Door.

The Prince of Egypt, Sleepless, Dreamgirls and Frozen 

There’s just room to mention The Prince of Egypt (originally a Disney animated film) at the Dominion in London from 5 February, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, who wrote Wicked and Godspell; Sleepless, based on the hit film Sleepless in Seattle, starring Michael D Xavier and Kimberley Walsh, at the new Troubadour in Wembley Park from 31 March; Dreamgirls, loosely based on Sixties soul sensations the Supremes, which begins a UK tour in Bristol in September; and, for those younger female members of your family, the irresistible prospect of Frozen, due at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane at a date yet to be announced.



Uncle Vanya

Harold Pinter Theatre 
Toby Jones and Richard Armitage star in
the West End revival of the Chekhov masterpiece, in a new adaptation by Conor McPherson. In the heat of summer, Sonya (Aimee Lou Wood) and her uncle Vanya (Jones) spend their days on a crumbling estate in the countryside, occasionally visited by their local doctor Astrov (Armitage). When Sonya’s father, Professor Serebryakov (Ciarán Hinds), appears with his much younger wife Yelena (Rosalind Eleazar), the polite facades crumble and repressed feelings start to emerge, with devastating consequences. 
From 14 January: 0844-871 7622,

Kunene & the King

Ambassadors Theatre 
Antony Sher and John Kani star in this RSC production of Kani’s powerful drama about famous actor Jack Morris (Sher) and his live-in carer Lunga Kunene (Kani), who discover they share a love of Shakespeare. Set in present-day South Africa, 25 years after the first democratic elections, the pair begin to consider their backgrounds.
From 24 January: 0843-904 0061,


Wyndham’s Theatre
Tom Stoppard, whose four Jewish grandparents and much of his family from his parents’ generation died in Nazi concentration camps, returns to the West End with Leopoldstadt, his first play in five years. It is set in 1900 in Vienna, then one of the most vibrant cities in Europe, where about a tenth of the population was Jewish. ‘It took a year to write,’ says Stoppard, ‘but the gestation was much longer. Quite a lot of it is personal but I made it about a Viennese family so that it wouldn’t seem to be too obviously about me.’ 
From 25 January: 0844 482 5151,


Old Vic Theatre
Alan Cumming, Daniel Radcliffe, Jane Horrocks and Karl Johnson star in Endgame, as part of a Samuel Beckett double bill with Rough for Theatre II, in Matthew Warchus’s fifth season as the Old Vic’s artistic director. Endgame follows the bleakly funny double act of Hamm, a blind tyrant, and his servant Clov, who are locked in an argument as they cling stubbornly to their routine of casual savagery and mutual dependence. 
From 27 January: 0344-871 7628,

Upstart Crow 

Gielgud Theatre
Ben Elton brings his critically acclaimed BBC sitcom to the stage, with David Mitchell making his West End debut as Will Shakespeare and Gemma Whelan as Kate, an aspiring actress trying to get into one of the Bard’s plays. Will is searching for inspiration for his latest work but his personal life is encountering more dramatic twists and turns than any theatrical story he can conjure. 
From 7 February: 0344-482 5138, 

John Gabriel Borkman 

Bridge Theatre
Once an illustrious entrepreneur, Borkman has been brought low by a prison sentence for fraud. At home, alone, bankrupt and disgraced, he is obsessed by dreams of a comeback, while his estranged wife plots the restoration of the family name. When her sister arrives unannounced, she triggers a showdown with the past. Simon Russell Beale stars in an adaptation of Ibsen’s masterpiece by Lucinda Coxon. Nicholas Hytner directs. 
From 11 February: 0333-320 0051,

Blithe Spirit 

Duke of York’s Theatre
Jennifer Saunders reprises her acclaimed performance, first seen in Bath, as Madame Arcati in Noël Coward’s effervescent comedy, directed by Richard Eyre. Novelist Charles Condomine (Geoffrey Streatfeild) and his second wife Ruth (Lisa Dillon) are hosting
a dinner party, which is disrupted when clairvoyant Arcati inadvertently summons the ghost of Condomine’s first wife, Elvira (Emma Naomi), who then refuses to leave. 
From 5 March: 0844-871 7623,

Life of Pi 

Wyndham’s Theatre 
Yann Martel’s extraordinary, Booker prize-winning novel has been adapted by Lolita Chakrabarti and comes to the West End from the Sheffield Crucible. Charting a young boy’s progress when left to fend for himself on a boat with a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan and a tiger for company, Pi’s heroic journey of endurance and hope features amazing visuals and breathtaking puppetry. 
From 28 June: 0344-482 5138,