London Theatre Weekly Round-up: Matt Lucas and Hayley Tamaddon are in, Rhys Ifans is out

Your weekly London theatre news round-up is here! Find out why 2017 was the best year ever, who’s in, who’s out (of Mood Music, that is), and what critics are saying about The Old Vic’s much anticipated Fanny & Alexander.

2017 was apparently the best year ever. For London theatre, anyway. According to The Society of London Theatre (SOLT), 15 million theatre tickets sold last year in the West End. Keep it up, theatre patrons.

The 2018 tour of Thoroughly Modern Millie announces full casting – headlined by Hayley Tamaddon in the title role. Michael Colbourne plays Jimmy Smith, and Lucas Rush returns as David Krumpler/Mrs Meers.

Comedic star Matt Lucas will make his Chichester Festival Theatre debut this summer as Bill Snibson in Me and My Girl. Caroline Quentin will star alongside him as the Duchess, with Chichester artistic director Daniel Evans directing.

Citing family reasons, Rhys Ifans withdraws from the Old Vic’s production of Mood Music, which opens in April. He’ll be replaced by Ben Chaplin.

A miracle! Matilda The Musical announces its first ever online lottery! Starting 5 March, two tickets for each performance will be available at £25 each. And some new Matildas are joining the cast. From 13 March, Sara Munday and Olivia Wells will share the role with Lily-Mae Evans and Savannah Read.

In other casting news, the UK tour of Miss Saigon gets shaken up a bit: From 30 April, Elana Martin will play Ellen and Aicelle Santos will play Gigi.

Downstate, Bruce Norris’ new play about sex offenders in Illinois, will play the National Theatre in 2019. Pam MacKinnon will direct a cast that includes K. Todd Freeman, Francis Guinan, and Tim Hopper.

Rehearsal shot for Fanny & Alexander
The cast of Fanny & Alexander in rehearsals at The Old Vic

The reviews for The Old Vic production of Fanny & Alexander are in! Critics note the cast’s strong performances, especially Penelope Wilton’s as the family matriarch. But overall impressions are more mixed. The Evening Standard gives it four stars, The Times only two. The general consensus seems to be that although it’s a show full of superb performances, as a whole it can’t measure up to Ingmar Bergman’s classic film.

Another show with mixed reviews is Pippin – which opened this week at the Southwark Playhouse (transferring from Manchester). The critics can’t seem to agree what to make of it. Doling out a five-star review, Mark Shenton calls it the most successful British production of Pippin he’s ever seen. But Alice Saville of Time Out is less enthusiastic in her two-star review, which calls Pippin “musical theatre for hardcore musical fans.” Then again, what’s wrong with hardcore musical theatre? Sounds pretty good to us.

Weird Al Yankovic jumps on the Hamilton bandwagon. He and Lin-Manuel Miranda have collaborated on a lovely/bizarre little mashup called “The Hamilton Polka.”

Harvey Schmidt, composer of The Fantasticks (the longest running musical in the world), has died at 88. We’ll try to remember, Harvey.