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Jerusalem, Mark Rylance, 2009
Photo by Simon Annand

The best new London theatre for 2021 – shows not to miss

Our pick of the best new plays, shows and musicals coming to London’s theatres in 2021

By Andrzej Lukowski
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If 2020 was a disaster for theatre, 2021 should be the year the battered industry gets back on its feet, albeit not immediately. Despite theatres being open on and off for much of the second half of last year, the third lockdown means none will open until at least mid February.

However, with vaccination predicted to get things back to something like normal by Easter, the industry is generally allowing itself the hope that non-socially distanced theatre will be possible after that point, with a slew of major shows due to open in April and May (although don’t be shocked if some of the earlier shows get pushed back). So with those caveats in place – let’s get excited for London theatre in 2021.

Please note: these are ‘new’ productions (some are revivals and transfers) that you wouldn’t have been able to see in London when the theatres closed in March 2020. For a list of the return dates of long-running shows and musicals, see when will London’s big, long-running shows and musicals return?

Unmissable theatre shows coming to London in 2021

Frozen Broadway
Frozen Broadway
© Deen van Meer

Frozen

Theatre Musicals Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Covent Garden

It didn't happen in 2020 for obvious reasons, but it could still be the biggest show of 2021, all being well: it’s Michael Grandage’s lavish musical adaptation of Disney’s ‘Frozen’, aka the most successful animated film of all time. April 2 feels optimistic for a non-socially distanced opening in a 2,200-seat theatre, but it’ll surely be with us at some point this year.

Doctor Who: Time Fracture, Immersive London, 2020
Doctor Who: Time Fracture, Immersive London, 2020
Photo by Doctor Who: Time Fracture

Doctor Who: Time Fracture

Theatre Interactive Immersive | LDN, Mayfair

This official immersive ‘Doctor Who’ adventure starts in London at the heart of the Blitz, when a weapon of unknown origin creates a rift in space-time – and it would appear that it’s your job to step in and investigate. Details beyond that are scarce, but it seems like a safe bet to assume that a mild peril-filled journey to alien worlds and distant timezones awaits. It has been designed to run socially distanced, so it feels like a fairly safe bet. 

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David Tennant
David Tennant
Photograph: Georgia Tennant

Good

Theatre Drama Harold Pinter Theatre, Leicester Square

David Tennant’s near-obsessive latter-day penchant for playing antiheroes continues with Dominic Cooke’s revival of Scots playwright CP Taylor’s great 1982 play ‘Good’. It charts the moral downfall of John Halder, a decent German professor with a Jewish best friend, Maurice, as he slowly internalises and accepts the ideology of the Third Reich.

Carrie Hope Fletcher will star in Andrew Lloyd Webber's new musical 'Cinderella'
Carrie Hope Fletcher will star in Andrew Lloyd Webber's new musical 'Cinderella'
Photograph: StoryHouse PR

Cinderella

Theatre Musicals Gillian Lynne Theatre, Covent Garden

Carrie Hope Fletcher is set to star in the latest musical from Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. ‘Cinderella’ will presumably be a bit grittier than yer average bedtime tale, thanks to a book by ‘Killing Eve’ writer Emerald Fennell (and judging by the amount of eyeliner in the grungy-looking publicity snaps).  

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Megan Mullally, Anything Goes, Barbican Centre, 2021
Megan Mullally, Anything Goes, Barbican Centre, 2021
Photo by Ramona Rosales

Anything Goes

Theatre Musicals Barbican Centre, Barbican

The Barbican’s usually lively programme of international touring appears unlikely to resume anytime soon following the well-documented events of 2020, but the venue is hopefully getting back on its feet enough to pull off this lengthy 15-week run for classic Cole Porter musical ‘Anything Goes’. Robert Lindsay and Megan Mullally – aka Karen from ‘Will & Grace’ – head up the cast as Moonface Martin and Reno Sweeney.

Back to the Future: The Musical, Adelphi Theatre, 2021
Back to the Future: The Musical, Adelphi Theatre, 2021
Photograph by SEAN EBSWORTH BARNES

Back to the Future: The Musical

Theatre Musicals Adelphi Theatre, Strand

Long-delayed by you-know-what, this is hopefully the first big musical of the post social-distancing era. Of course, you know what ‘Back to the Future’ is: ’80s highschooler Marty McFly goes back to the 1950s in Doc Brown’s time-travelling DeLorean and gets up to sundry delightful time-travelling antics, including almost having it off with his mum.

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101 Dalmations, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, 2020
101 Dalmations, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, 2020
Photograph: Feast Creative & Oliver Rosser

101 Dalmations

Theatre Musicals Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park

Rescheduled from last year for obvious reasons, here comes this all-singing adaptation of Dodie Smith’s iconic kids’ novel which is, astonishingly, the theatre’s first-ever original musical commission. 

To Kill a Mockingbird

Theatre Drama Gielgud Theatre, Soho

Aaron Sorkin’s stage adaptation of Harper Lee’s civil rights classic ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ took Broadway by storm – and caused a fair amount of controversy after the producers aggressively tried to shut down productions of other adaptations of Lee’s 1960 masterpiece. And now Bartlett Sher’s production is coming here, under the auspices of Sonia Friedman Productions. 

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Bob Marley, Get Up, Stand Up! musical
Bob Marley, Get Up, Stand Up! musical
Photograph: Adrian Boot

Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Story

Theatre Musicals Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue

Actor Arinzé Kene has been hovering in the neighbourhood of West End leading man status for a while. He technically accomplished that with his own, gloriously leftfield ‘Misty’, but where that felt like a cult show, ‘Get Up, Stand Up!’ sees him really hit the big time as he plays Bob Marley in a handsome new musical based upon the reggae legend’s life and songs.

Whoopi Goldberg and Jennifer Saunders star in 'Sister Act'
Whoopi Goldberg and Jennifer Saunders star in 'Sister Act'
Photograph: Matthew Murphy and Oliver Rosser

Sister Act

Theatre Musicals Eventim Apollo Hammersmith, Hammersmith

Oh happy day! Assuming we’re pandemic-free, Whoopi Goldberg will finally be jetting into London to reprise her second-to-nun performance in ‘Sister Act’. She’ll get back into the habit in ‘Sister Act – The Musical’, which will be her first ever live performance as Deloris. Jennifer Saunders will play Mother Superior.

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Life of Pi, 2020
Life of Pi, 2020
© Johan Persson

Life of Pi

Theatre Drama Wyndham's Theatre, Charing Cross Road

This spectacular puppet-driven stage adaptation of Yann Martel’s bestselling novel was a massive success when it premiered in Sheffield in 2019. Festooned with five-star-reviews, a West End transfer looked inevitable, and Cameron Mackintosh is doing the honours, with the promise that Wyndham’s Theatre will be ‘transformed’ to accommodate Max Webster’s production, which is adapted by Lolita Chakrabarti and has puppets by Finn Caldwell.

Manuel Harlan

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Theatre Children's Duke of York’s Theatre, Covent Garden

The National Theatre’s dazzling Neil Gaiman adaptation had its original transfer scuppered by the pandemic – these are the new dates.

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Mark Rylance in Jerusalem
Mark Rylance in Jerusalem
Photograph: Simon Annand

Jerusalem

News Theatre & Performance

There are no official dates or venue for the return of Jez Butterworth’s epochal masterpiece with original star Mark Rylance. And a lot has changed since it was announced in spring 2020. But with the general view being that theatres can reopen from spring onwards, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that it goes ahead.

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