Catching a West End show is always a treat on trips to London. And theatergoing can be even more exciting when you get to see one of your favorite actors live and up close.
As producers continue their attempts to grow theater audiences in the wake of the pandemic, they have approached big names – most with serious acting chops – to draw crowds in. In the coming months, you’ll find plenty of celebrities treading the boards of London theaters.
Here are 10 star-studded plays and musicals to watch out for this winter.
Plaza Suite: Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick
Savoy Theatre, from January 17 to March 31
After a successful Broadway run last year, the romantic comedy comes to London – marking Parker’s West End debut and a return for Broderick after 2019’s The Starry Messenger. The real-life husband-and-wife pair will portray three very different couples within the titular hotel room, delving into various stages of a relationship, from pre-wedding jitters to marital crisis to the spark of an old flame.
King Lear: Kenneth Branagh
Wyndham’s Theatre, from October 21 to December 9
The Oscar winner is one of cinema’s greatest champions of Shakespeare, having directed six feature films inspired by the Bard, along with his impressive resume starring in numerous adaptations on stage and screen. Now, Hollywood’s reigning Hercule Poirot will helm and play the titular role in a new production of King Lear, launching with a 50-performance run on the West End before transferring to New York in fall 2024.
Frank and Percy: Ian McKellen
The Other Palace, until December 17
The Lord of the Rings star joins three-time Olivier Award winner Roger Allam in an odd-couple romance about two grumpy dog lovers who meet in the park. As their conversation meanders from pets and the weather to past loves, the poignant comedy follows the pair as their friendship evolves into something more. Expect a tender portrait of love and desire after middle age.
Lyonesse: Lily James and Kristin Scott Thomas
Harold Pinter Theatre, from October 17 to December 23
Last seen acting together in Netflix’s 2020 adaptation of Rebecca, these English stars reunite on stage in this brand-new play by Penelope Skinner. The story follows a reclusive actor (Scott Thomas) who enlists a young film executive (James) to plan her return to public life after 30 years. Skinner has described the story as a “traditional revenge tragedy flipped” – turning its focus on the person upon whom revenge was inflicted. We’re intrigued.
Backstairs Billy: Luke Evans and Penelope Wilton
Duke of York’s Theatre, from October 27 to January 27
Another winning double act: Wilton, best known as Downton Abbey’s Lady Isobel, will play the Queen Mother opposite Evans as her long-time aide William “Billy” Tallon. Set in 1979, the new comedy by Marcelo Dos Santos will explore a critical point in the duo’s 50-year relationship, against the backdrop of widespread strike action and Margaret Thatcher’s rise to power.
Ulster American: Woody Harrelson and Andy Serkis
Riverside Studios, from December 4 to January 27
The American film star returns to the West End for an uproarious social satire that tackles the tricky subjects of the #MeToo movement, gender and identity politics. In a meta moment, Harrelson will take on the role of an Irish-American actor alongside Serkis’ English theater director, as they stage a new show from a young writer played by Louisa Harland, known for her turn in Derry Girls.
Macbeth: David Tennant
Donmar Warehouse, from December 8 to February 10
Fresh off his return to Doctor Who for its 60th-anniversary specials, the Time Lord is bringing the Scottish play to the Donmar Warehouse. Joining him as Lady Macbeth is Cush Jumbo, known for The Good Fight. While it’s currently sold out, you can sign up for the mailing list for alerts about future ticket releases, try your luck with Donmar Daily passes online seven days before performances, or line up for one of the £15 standing tickets on the day of the show.
Sunset Boulevard: Nicole Scherzinger
Savoy Theatre, until January 6
The Pussycat Doll is already being tipped for an Olivier nomination for her portrayal of Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical version of the classic 1950 film noir. Directed by Jamie Lloyd – who recently received acclaim for his Broadway production of A Doll’s House starring Jessica Chastain – this is a stripped-back, blood-soaked revival of the scathing Hollywood satire.
An Enemy of the People: Matt Smith
Duke of York’s Theatre, from February 6 to April 6
While you wait for the second season of House of the Dragon, catch Daemon Targaryen on stage in a visionary retelling of Henrik Ibsen’s play. It marks the English-language premiere of the bold production by German director Thomas Ostermeier, which invites the audience into a debate with its whistleblowing protagonist Dr Stockmann, after he discovers a local spa that has brought prosperity to his town is poisoning its patrons with contaminated waters.
The Picture of Dorian Gray: Sarah Snook
Theatre Royal Haymarket, from February 6 to April 13
Succession’s Shiv Roy is set to undertake a whopping 26 parts in the West End transfer of Sydney Theatre Company’s critically acclaimed adaptation of the Oscar Wilde novel. The play utilizes multiple live cameras and pre-recorded footage to allow its star to shape-shift through her many transformations, while updating the story’s meditations on youth and beauty with modern music, Botox, selfies and Facetune.