Catching a West End show in London is always a special experience, but it becomes even more thrilling when you have the opportunity to see your favorite celebrities live on stage. As theater producers strive to attract audiences back to the theater after the challenges of the pandemic, they have enlisted big names from the world of acting to draw in the crowds. This winter, London’s West End will be home to a range of star-studded plays and musicals that are definitely worth traveling for. From Sarah Jessica Parker’s West End debut in “Plaza Suite” to Kenneth Branagh’s reprisal of the title role in “King Lear,” these celebrity-led shows promise unforgettable performances and unforgettable memories. Whether you’re a fan of classic plays or modern adaptations, this winter season is filled with a lineup that is sure to captivate theater enthusiasts from around the world.
Plaza Suite: Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick
At the Savoy Theatre from January 17 to March 31, you can catch the married couple, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, in Neil Simon’s “Plaza Suite.” This romantic comedy, which had a successful run on Broadway last year, marks Parker’s West End debut and a return for Broderick after his performance in “The Starry Messenger” in 2019. In “Plaza Suite,” 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
From October 21 to December 9, you can witness the legendary Kenneth Branagh take on the iconic role of King Lear at the Wyndham’s Theatre. Branagh, an Oscar winner and one of cinema’s greatest champions of Shakespeare, has directed six feature films inspired by the Bard. With an impressive resume starring in numerous adaptations on stage and screen, Branagh’s portrayal of King Lear is highly anticipated. This new production will launch with a 50-performance run on the West End before transferring to New York in fall 2024.
Frank and Percy: Ian McKellen
Ian McKellen, known for his role in “The Lord of the Rings,” joins three-time Olivier Award winner Roger Allam in “Frank and Percy” at The Other Palace. Running until December 17, this touching play explores the story of 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. “Frank and Percy” promises to be a tender portrait of love and desire after middle age.
Lyonesse: Lily James and Kristin Scott Thomas
Harold Pinter Theatre presents “Lyonesse” from October 17 to December 23, starring Lily James and Kristin Scott Thomas. These English stars, last seen acting together in Netflix’s 2020 adaptation of Rebecca, 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. Described as a “traditional revenge tragedy flipped,” “Lyonesse” turns its focus on the person upon whom revenge was inflicted, adding an intriguing twist to the narrative.
Backstairs Billy: Luke Evans and Penelope Wilton
Duke of York’s Theatre presents “Backstairs Billy” from October 27 to January 27, featuring Luke Evans and Penelope Wilton. 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, this new comedy by Marcelo Dos Santos explores a critical point in the duo’s 50-year relationship against the backdrop of widespread strike action and Margaret Thatcher’s rise to power. With a winning double act and an intriguing historical context, “Backstairs Billy” promises to entertain and engage audiences.
Ulster American: Woody Harrelson and Andy Serkis
Woody Harrelson and Andy Serkis star in “Ulster American” at the Riverside Studios from December 4 to January 27. Harrelson, known for his roles in American films, 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. Louisa Harland, known for her turn in Derry Girls, plays a young writer in this thought-provoking production.
Macbeth: David Tennant
From December 8 to February 10, David Tennant, fresh off his return to Doctor Who for its 60th-anniversary specials, will tackle the Scottish Play at the Donmar Warehouse. Joining him as Lady Macbeth is Cush Jumbo, known for her role in The Good Fight. Although currently sold out, you can sign up for the mailing list for alerts about future ticket releases. Alternatively, you can try your luck with Donmar Daily passes online seven days before performances or opt for one of the £15 standing tickets on the day of the show. With Tennant’s renowned acting abilities and the timeless appeal of Shakespeare’s tragedy, “Macbeth” is a must-see for theater enthusiasts.
Sunset Boulevard: Nicole Scherzinger
At the Savoy Theatre until January 6, you can experience Nicole Scherzinger’s portrayal of the doomed film star Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard.” Directed by Jamie Lloyd, known for his work in A Doll’s House starring Jessica Chastain, this production offers a stripped-back, blood-soaked revival of the scathing Hollywood satire. Scherzinger’s performance as Norma Desmond has already garnered attention, with many tipping her for an Olivier nomination. Don’t miss the opportunity to witness her star power live on stage.
An Enemy of the People: Matt Smith
Starting in February, catch Matt Smith, known for his role in House of the Dragon, in “An Enemy of the People” at the Duke of York’s Theatre. This visionary retelling of Henrik Ibsen’s play marks the English-language premiere of a bold production by German director Thomas Ostermeier. The play invites the audience into a debate with its whistleblowing protagonist Dr. Stockmann after he discovers that a local spa, which has brought prosperity to his town, is poisoning its patrons with contaminated waters. Smith’s performance promises drama and thought-provoking discussions on ethics and accountability.
The Picture of Dorian Gray: Sarah Snook
From February 6 to April 13, Theatre Royal Haymarket presents Sarah Snook in the West End transfer of Sydney Theatre Company’s critically acclaimed adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” Best known for her role in the TV series Succession, Snook will undertake a whopping 26 parts in this innovative production. Utilizing multiple live cameras and pre-recorded footage, the play allows Snook to shape-shift through her many transformations. This modern adaptation updates the story’s meditations on youth and beauty, incorporating elements of modern music, Botox, selfies, and Facetune.
London’s West End winter season is filled with star-studded productions featuring renowned actors from both the stage and screen. From comedic romances to intense tragedies, there is something for every theater lover. Don’t miss the opportunity to see these incredible performances up close and personal!