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OLT’s 15 must-see autumn shows

Published August 28, 2014

People are queuing around the block to get into Clarks, the Great British Bake-Off is down to just eight contestants – and one very controversial pedal bin… – and Stylist magazine has officially announced this season’s hottest hue (forest green, FYI). It can only mean one thing, autumn is here.

While that may mean it’s time to start stockpiling cold and flu tablets and 60 denier tights, it also means a whole heap of incredible new shows are arriving in town. From brand-spanking new topical comedies to a healthy dose of West End transfers that already have the critics’ stamp of approval, the choice is huge.

To help you plan your autumn viewing, Official London Theatre has neatly condensed the most exciting openings into a list of 15 shows not to be missed.

1. King Charles III / Wyndham’s Theatre / From 2 September

Islington’s Almeida Theatre is on a roll. Following hugely successful West End transfers of Ghosts, Chimerica and 1984 – boasting a booty of eight Olivier Awards between them – Mike Bartlett’s controversial play imagining the future of the monarchy rounds up the year’s transfers to four. Tim Pigott-Smith reprises his role as the title character. Book tickets

2. One Stage Season / St James Theatre / From 3 September

Three emerging producers won the opportunity from theatrical charity Stage One to put on a season of work at the St James Theatre and the results look set to be spectacular. Procreation comedy – yes really – Breeders kicks proceedings off with a stellar cast including Jemima Rooper and Tamzin Outhwaite under the leadership of director of the moment Tamara Harvey. The creative team behind Southwark Playhouse’s Three Sisters and The Seagull – writer Anya Reiss and director Russell Bolam – follow with Chekhov’s classic Uncle Vanya, before Blanche McIntyre offers audiences another chance to catch the lost classic Accolade following her 2011 smash-hit fringe production. Book tickets

3. The Play That Goes Wrong / Duchess Theatre / From 3 September

Never before has a show deliberately printed an ad upside down or told audiences to save their money, but this Off West End hit is proving it doesn’t do things by halves with a brilliantly funny marketing campaign reflecting the show’s chaotic spirit and slapstick humour. Don’t expect anything to go right when you take your seat to watch this farce, other than your evening. Book tickets

4. Great Britain / Theatre Royal Haymarket / From 9 September

Another show that has been doing things differently is Richard Bean’s National Theatre satire. Announced just days before its opening at the Southbank venue, Great Britain is taking a more conventional route, now following in the footsteps of Bean’s previous NT comedic giant, One Man, Two Guvnors, to head to the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Screen star Lucy Punch takes over as Paige Britain, a ruthlessly ambitious newspaper editor with a dubious moral code. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental, blah blah blah. Book tickets

5. Forbidden Broadway / Vaudeville Theatre / From 9 September

Finally this cult musical comedy takes a bow in the very place it has found much of its deliciously silly and affectionately mocking inspiration, the West End. If you know your Miss Saigons from your Miss Elphabas or have ever wanted to see Anna-Jane Casey as a Jersey Boy, this is for you. As an added bonus, YouTube sensation Christina Bianco joins the cast for its limited West End run. Book tickets

6. Evita / Dominion Theatre / From 16 September

Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, Another Suitcase In Another Hall, On This Night Of A Thousand Stars… the list of iconic songs in this musical is bigger than the wardrobe Eva Perón amasses by the end of Act One.  Returning to the West End for seven weeks only, Wet Wet Wet star Marti Pellow stars as the khaki jacket-donning narrator Che. Book tickets

7. Electra / Old Vic / From 22 September

Olivier Award winner Kristen Scott Thomas makes her Old Vic debut in acclaimed playwright Frank McGuinness’ version of Sophocles’ revenge-filled tragedy. For theatre fans, Jerusalem’s Ian Rickson adds to its hot ticket weight by directing; for music fans, the incredible PJ Harvey has provided the soundtrack. We predict it will be dark… Book tickets

8. Speed-The-Plow / Playhouse Theatre / From 24 September

In possibly the most surprising casting news ever, tabloid favourite and child star Lindsay Lohan joins The West Wing’s Richard Schiff and London regular Nigel Lindsay in David Mamet’s Hollywood tale. While her stage debut may overshadow all else about this production, let’s not forget just how great a play this is; Mean Girl or no Mean Girl, Mamet’s story of two film producers and a manipulative secretary is already a firm London stage favourite. Book tickets

9. Urinetown The Musical / Apollo Theatre / From 29 September

Weirded out by the name? In the words of the show’s awesome star Jenna Russell: “Say it! URINETOWN THE MUSICAL! See? No-one has met some grisly pee-induced end and the world is indeed still turning.” The same cannot be said for the show’s characters, various members of whom do indeed meet “grisly pee-induced ends” in this genius dark, hilarious and musically inspired show that finds a West End home following its hit run at the St James Theatre earlier this year. Book tickets

10. East Is East / Trafalgar Studio 1 / From 4 October

It has been far too long since Jane Horrocks has graced the stage so we are thrilled she is taking the lead alongside Ayub Khan Din in the revival of his wonderfully funny and moving auto-biographical play. As successful on screen as it was on stage when it premiered 17 years ago, rising star Sam Yates directs the tale of a multiracial family in 1970s Salford. Book tickets

11. The Scottsboro Boys / Garrick Theatre / From 4 October

For people who think musicals are all the same, The Scottsboro Boys is a case in point that the genre can be as provocative and inventive as any play. Kander and Ebb’s acclaimed Olivier Award nominated show tells the true story of nine black men falsely accused of a violent crime. Challenging, audacious and brave. Don’t miss it. Book tickets

12. Sunny Afternoon / Harold Pinter Theatre / From 4 October

You may not think you’re a fan of The Kinks but after seeing Ray Davies’ rousing musical tale of the band’s rise to fame, I reckon you may just have changed your mind. Cleverly incorporating hit after hit from the band – often performed in a completely new and brilliant way – watch out for star in the making George Maguire who really got the critics going after its Hampstead Theatre premiere. Book tickets

13. Made In Dagenham / Adelphi Theatre / From 9 October

Star director? Check. High profile playwright to write the book? Check. Hollywood actress for the lead? Check. This show couldn’t have more going for it. Rupert Goold, Richard Bean and Gemma Arterton collaborate alongside a talented company to bring the story of the 1968 Ford Dagenham strikes to the stage in a brand new musical extravaganza. We can’t wait. Book tickets

14. Memphis / Shaftesbury Theatre / From 9 October

Following her stage debut in The Bodyguard, the hugely talented Beverley Knight returns to take the lead in Broadway import Memphis. At the industry launch earlier this year, Knight gave us goosebumps as she performed an extract from Bon Jovi keyboard player David Bryan’s soulful score. She’ll be joined in the real life story about a white 1950s disc jockey who collaborates with a black singer by The Commitments’ leading man Killian Donnelly. Book tickets

15. Dance ‘Til Dawn / Aldwych Theatre / From 23 October

Last but not least, Strictly Come Dancing fans – all several million of you out there – rejoice! Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace head back to the West End with their glamourous 1940s-set Dance ‘Til Dawn. It promises to be packed with romance, comedy and, of course, scintillating footwork. Book tickets