Since last March, the answer to the popular question ‘do you hear the people sing?’ has been a very firm ‘no’. The closures forced on the theatre world by the coronavirus pandemic mean some of London’s most popular West End shows, from Les Mis to Mamma Mia!, have been out of action since last year.
However, after several false starts, theatres finally have a ‘no earlier than’ opening date of May 17 as part of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown. This means that producers can now start planning with more confidence to get the West End and beyond up and running again. It’s no easy feat: large scale productions with big casts and lots of backstage crew are not easy to remount quickly. But with the vaccine programme now being rolled out, there’s hope that theatres may be able to get back to relative normality before the year is out, particularly once they get the go-ahead to perform to non-socially distanced audiences again.
Reassuringly, a number of the capital’s biggest shows - and some of the most eagerly awaited new openings - are starting to announce when they plan to return in 2021. Setbacks and spanners in the works are no longer surprising, so these may be subject to change - but, for now, these are the dates to put in your diary.
When will London’s West End shows reopen?
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie will reopen at the Apollo Theatre from May 20
Les Misérables: The Staged Concert will return to the Sondheim Theatre from May 20
SIX the Musical is booking at the Lyric Theatre from May 21
Magic Mike Live reopens at the London Hippodrome from May 21
The Play That Goes Wrong returns to the Duchess Theatre on June 18
Come From Away reopens at the Phoenix Theatre on June 21
Mamma Mia! at the Novello Theatre is scheduled to reopen on June 21
Heathers the Musical will run at Theatre Royal Haymarket from June 21, tickets available from Evening Standard Tickets
Hairspray will open at the London Coliseum on June 22
Tina - The Tina Turner Musical at the Aldwych Theatre returns on June 24
Cinderella, the new musical from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Emerald Fennell, starring Carrie Hope Fletcher, opens on June 25
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat is booking at the London Palladium from July 1
The Prince of Egypt returns to the Dominion Theatre from July 1
The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre is booking from July 21
Jersey Boys is booking at the new Trafalgar Theatre from July 28
The Lion King will reopen at the Lyceum Theatre on July 29
Frozen will open at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in August, with tickets going back on sale on April 15
Back to the Future: the Musical will open at the Adelphi Theatre on August 20
& Juliet returns to the Shaftesbury Theatre on September 24
The opening of Sister Act the Musical has been postponed until 2022, meaning that Whoopi Goldberg will no longer appear in the production.
Sunday in the Park with George, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford, will no longer open at the Savoy Theatre this year as previously planned. However, producers say that “everyone involved remains 100 per cent committed to making the show work when conditions and schedule align to make it possible”.
What is the current guidance for theatres?
A limited number of socially distanced productions reopened in London in December last year, but the move into Tier 3, and subsequently Tier 4, meant that all performances were cancelled. This continued into 2021 when the country went into a national lockdown. It has still been possible for theatres to livestream work in empty auditoriums, but many are now working towards the ‘no earlier than’ date of May 17 when venues are allowed to reopen for indoor performances.