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    This Week in the West End #WestEndWeek - The Only Way Is Downton

    London Theatre Direct's Andrew Tomlins gives us the lowdown of everything noteworthy in Theatreland this week.

    This week Luke Kempner brings his one man impressions comedy show The Only Way Is Downton to Trafalgar Studios 2 direct from last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Sadly I didn’t see the show during my festival visit last year, but during my stay in Edinburgh it was one of the most talked about shows and sold out.


    The Only Way Is Downton has been extended for its London run and now features exclusive new material. Luke’s comedy journey began when he uploaded videos of himself performing hilarious impressions whilst appearing in various musicals including Les Miserables, Avenue Q and Lift.


    The Royal Opera House’s production of The Wind in the Willows closes this Saturday (1st Feb) at the Duchess Theatre. The show, which marks the Royal Opera House’s first commercial West End transfer, has been a huge success and is an absolute must-see.


    I didn’t have a clue what to expect from Will Tuckett's production, but I was left utterly blown away and in some sort of trance. The show, which has huge wide appeal, features a ridiculously talented cast and the most stunning, imaginative design. Let’s hope it’s the first of many commercial transfers from the Royal Opera House.


    The West End production of Let It Be enters its final weeks ahead of its closure at the Savoy Theatre on 8th February to make way for the West End premiere of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Nobody could have predicted the success of Let It Be which has now been seen by almost 400,000 people. Let It Be originally opened at the Prince of Wales Theatre in September 2012, before transferring to the Savoy Theatre in February 2013.


    Whilst Let It Be isn’t a traditional musical, it has certainly proved itself as one of the best concert tribute shows to run in the West End with many reviews stating that the show is the closest thing you can get to seeing The Beatles performing live. Let It Be is packed with more than forty of The Beatles’ greatest hits including: I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Hard Day’s Night, Day Tripper, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Strawberry Fields, When I’m 64 and Get Back.


    Also entering its final weeks is Ian Rickson’s all-star production of Jez Butterworth’s play Mojo which stars Brendan Coyle (Downton Abbey, The Weir), Rupert Grint (Harry Potter, Driving Lessons), Tom Rhys Harries, Daniel Mays (Made in Dagenham, Mrs Biggs, The Winterling), Colin Morgan (Merlin, Doctor Who) and Ben Whishaw (Skyfall, The Hour, Peter and Alice).


    Mojo opened at the Harold Pinter last year to huge critical acclaim and has proven hugely popular with audiences. When I saw the show a few weeks ago I overheard several people who had already seen it four or five times. Mojo is funny but also very dark and gruesome. The cast are terrific with Ben Whishaw giving one of the most mesmerising performances I have ever seen on stage.


    Thriller Live and War Horse continue performances at the Lyric and New London Theatres respectively having both celebrated landmark performances last week.  Kieran Alleyne became the first of Thriller Live's young West End MJs to return to the show. He performed as the adult Michael Jackson to celebrate the show’s 5th birthday and the start of its 6th year at the Lyric Theatre where it holds the record for the longest ever run in the theatre’s 125-year history having completed over 2,000 performances.


    Meanwhile The National Theatre’s production of War Horse celebrated its 2000th performance. War Horse author Michael Morpurgo said: “When I saw the first preview of War Horse, a while ago now, l thought it unlikely it would run for 20 shows, let alone 2000, and I wasn't the only one. The pieces of the jigsaw were brilliant, extraordinary, the design, the script, the music, the costumes, everything; but they simply didn't fit together.


    “Somehow, and I shall never know how, the directors, Tom Morris and Marianne Elliot waved their magic wands, with the help of Adrian Kholer and Basil Jones from the Handspring Puppet Company and all the pieces fell into place. 2000 performances later, this iconic show goes on, and has been seen now by millions.”


    Both Thriller Live and War Horse are more popular than ever and show no sign of slowing down any time soon.


    Andrew Tomlins

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