Entertainment & Arts

The theatre shows you won't want to miss in 2020

From Hollywood stars to British heavyweights, from transferring Broadway hits to heartwrenching homegrown stories, there's a lot to look forward to at theatres around the UK in 2020.

Star attractions

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  • French-American heartthrob Timothee "Timotei" Chalamet makes his London stage debut opposite Dame Eileen Atkins, playing his 91-year-old grandmother, in Amy Herzog's Pulitzer Prize-nominated 4000 Miles (Old Vic, 6 April-23 May)
Image copyright Matthew Murphy/Oliver Rosser
  • Twenty-eight years after the Sister Act film, Whoopi Goldberg reprises her role as Deloris Van Cartier, with Jennifer Saunders taking Dame Maggie Smith's place as Mother Superior (Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, London, 29 July-30 August)
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  • After triumphant performances in Gypsy and Follies, London's leading lady Imelda Staunton takes on the title role in another classic musical, Hello, Dolly!, before reportedly taking over as the Queen in Netflix's The Crown (Adelphi Theatre, 11 August 2020-6 March 2021)
  • Mark Rylance came up with the idea for, and stars in, Semmelweis, about Hungarian 19th Century doctor Ignaz Semmelweis, who fought official obstruction to prove hand-washing could drastically reduce the number of women dying after childbirth (Bristol Old Vic, 13 June-25 July)
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  • Double Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain makes her West End debut as Nora in a new version of Ibsen's A Doll's House (Playhouse, London, 10 June-5 September)
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  • Following Maxine Peake, Ruth Negga and Michelle Terry, The Good Fight's Cush Jumbo plays a gender-swapped Hamlet in a version "reimagined for today" (Young Vic, 6 July-22 August)
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  • Josh O'Connor, currently Prince Charles in The Crown, and Jessie Buckley, of Wild Rose, Chernobyl and Judy fame, play Romeo and Juliet (National Theatre, from August, dates TBC)

Screen to stage

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Image caption The Broadway cast of the Frozen musical
  • If you can't let Anna and Elsa go, the Frozen musical comes to the West End from Broadway, with Samantha Barks as Elsa (Theatre Royal Drury Lane, from October, dates TBC)
  • Sleepless, A Musical Romance, based on Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks' 1993 rom-com Sleepless In Seattle, gets its world premiere (Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre, from 21 March)
Image copyright Phil Tragen
Image caption Roger Bart (left) and Olly Dobson (right), who star in the Back To the Future musical, with Christopher Lloyd, who was in the original film
  • Great Scott! The Back to the Future stage show also has its world premiere, led by Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis, who made the original 1985 film (Manchester Opera House, 20 February-17 May)
  • Director Mira Nair reworks her 2001 Bafta-nominated India-set film Monsoon Wedding as a stage musical (Leeds Playhouse, 22 June-11 July; London Roundhouse, 17 July-29 August)
  • In Night of the Living Dead: Remix, seven actors attempt to recreate George A Romero's classic 1968 horror film shot for shot (Leeds Playhouse 24 January-15 February, then tours)
  • David Mitchell brings his Will Shakespeare to the West End in Upstart Crow by Ben Elton, based on his BBC sitcom (Gielgud Theatre, 7 February-25 April)
  • DreamWorks' 1998 animation The Prince of Egypt comes to life, as do Moses and Rameses, with music from Stephen Schwartz, who won an Oscar for the film (Dominion Theatre, 5 February-12 September)
  • From Strictly Come Dancing to Strictly Ballroom, Craig Revel Horwood directs a new tour based on the 1992 Baz Luhrmann film that inspired the BBC dance show's title (Nottingham Theatre Royal 26 September-3 October, then tours)

Page to stage

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Image caption To Kill A Mockingbird has already been at The Shubert Theatre in New York
  • The West Wing mastermind Aaron Sorkin adapts Harper Lee's 1960 masterpiece To Kill A Mockingbird, with Rhys Ifans as justice-seeking lawyer Atticus Finch (Gielgud Theatre, 21 May-8 August)
  • La Belle Sauvage, the hotly anticipated first instalment in Philip Pullman's The Book of Dust trilogy, is directed by Sir Nicholas Hytner, who brought His Dark Materials to the stage 16 years ago (Bridge Theatre, London, 11 July-10 October)
  • For her first play, Zadie Smith reimagines Chaucer's The Wife of Bath's Tale as The Wife of Willesden to "raise important questions about the place of women in society" for Brent's year as London Borough of Culture (The Kiln, December, dates TBC)
Image copyright Johan Persson
  • After a rapturously-received run in Sheffield in the summer, Yann Martel's Life of Pi is likely to get a similar response in the West End (Wyndham's Theatre, 28 June-4 October)
  • The stage version of Louise O'Neill's hard-hitting 2016 novel Asking For It, about an Irish teenager who is gang raped and then has to deal with the photos going viral, makes its UK debut after becoming a hit in Ireland (Birmingham Rep, 29 January-15 February)
  • 101 Dalmatians, originally a book by Dodie Smith, becomes a musical in the very park where the story is set - although how they will train that many live dogs is anyone's guess (Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, 16 May-21 June)

More musicals

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  • Rodgers & Hammerstein - who wrote The Sound of Music, South Pacific and more - also penned a version of Cinderella for Julie Andrews in 1957 (above), and it's being revived at an intimate Manchester theatre (Hope Mill Theatre, 9 May-6 June)
  • The name alone is enough to endear Milky Peaks, Seiriol Davies' new musical set in a north Wales community (Snowdonia's Twin Peaks?) that encounters "a dark right-wing agenda" when it is nominated for Britain's Best Town (Theatr Clwyd, Mold, 20 March-11 April)
Image copyright The Young'uns
Image caption The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff uses music from the album of the same name by folk group The Young'uns
  • The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff is the rediscovered story of a working class hero who went on 1930s hunger marches, was at the Battle of Cable Street and fought fascism in the Spanish Civil War - told with songs by folk band The Young'uns (Northern Stage, Newcastle, 4-22 February)
  • Rather than a jukebox musical, Message in a Bottle is a jukebox dance show using the songs of The Police and created by Kate Prince, who was behind Some Like It Hip-Hop and Into The Hoods (Sadler's Wells, London, 6 February-21 March, then tours)

New plays

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  • Tom Stoppard's first new work for five years, Leopoldstadt, which follows a Jewish family in Vienna through the first half of the 20th Century, is billed as his "most humane and heartbreaking play" (Wyndham's, 25 January-26 May)
  • Our Lady of Blundellsands is a "twisted comic drama" about two ageing sisters and some family secrets. It's written by Gimme Gimme Gimme and Coronation Street's Jonathan Harvey (Liverpool Everyman, 6-28 March)
  • Alistair McDowall's inventive imagination brings us The Glow, about a woman in a 19th Century asylum who has lost her memory but gains strange powers when a medium picks her to be her assistant (Royal Court, London, 29 May-3 July)
  • Testmatch, which switches between an imagined Women's Cricket World Cup at Lord's in 2020 and Kolkata circa 1800, curiously had its world premiere in San Francisco - that cricketing hotbed - in the autumn (Theatre Royal Bath, 2 April-9 May)
  • A Merthyr Tydfil pupil claims to have the wounds of Christ in The Merthyr Stigmatist - surely 2020's best premise for a play (Sherman Theatre, Cardiff, 2-17 October)

Black British history in the spotlight

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Image caption Sarah Forbes Bonetta with her husband James Davies
  • Several remarkable true stories are being told in 2020 - including that of Joseph Knight, an African man brought to Scotland as a slave, who challenged his status as a slave in a landmark legal case. May Sumbwanyambe's Enough of Him started as a BBC Radio 4 drama in 2018 (Pitlochry Festival Theatre, 16 October-1 November, then Perth and Glasgow)
  • In Janice Okoh's The Gift, two Sarahs - an African girl who was sold into slavery before being gifted to Queen Victoria (above) and a middle-class black woman in modern-day Cheshire - meet Queen Victoria for tea (Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, 18-25 January, then tours)
  • Rockets and Blue Lights by Winsome Pinnock switches between the 19th Century and the present day to examine Britain's role in the slave trade, staged in what was once the country's biggest cotton trading hall (Royal Exchange, Manchester, 12 March-4 April)

For children

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  • Crongton Knights by author Alex Wheatle (above), about a group of teenage friends on a fictional estate who get in too deep when they set out on a quest to help a girl, won the Guardian children's fiction prize in 2016 (Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, 8-22 February, then tours)
  • A "radical afro-futurist reimagining" of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's classic story The Little Prince is the first work for children by Inua Ellams, known for his hit The Barbershop Chronicles. (Stratford Circus Arts Centre, London, 17 January-1 February)
  • Tim Crouch gives Shakespeare's poet Cinna, who briefly appears in Julius Caesar before being viciously killed, his own show about "words and actions, art, power and protest" in I, Cinna (Unicorn Theatre, London, 5-29 February)

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