While in London recently, I took advantage of the city’s amazing theatre scene, seeing a few shows in the West End (the UK’s Broadway) as well as a few “Fringe” shows at a few of London’s amazing smaller theatre companies. This week and next I will present a few highlights. This week – a couple of musicals.

FF: Tina – The Tina Turner Musical

There are two types of what they call “jukebox musicals” these days, shows that use the catalog of a popular musical act as the score. First, a show that uses the music to tell the story of said act, ala Jersey Boys which tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons; and, two, an original story told with the music of an act, ala Mama Mia which uses ABBA’s music with a story unrelated to them.

Of course the new West End musical, Tina – the Tina Turner Musical is an example of the former, and it as wonderful as the subject herself.

About Tina – the Tina Turner Musical:

“From humble beginnings in Nutbush, Tennessee, to her transformation into the global Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Tina Turner didn’t just break the rules, she rewrote them. This new stage musical reveals the untold story of a woman who dared to defy the bounds of her age, gender and race. One of the world’s best-selling artists of all time, Tina Turner has won 12 Grammy Awards and her live shows have been seen by millions, with more concert tickets sold than any other solo performer in music history. Featuring her much loved songs, TINA – The Tina Turner Musical is written by Olivier Award-winning playwright Katori Hall and directed by the internationally acclaimed Phyllida Lloyd. Presented in association with Tina Turner.”

Miss Tina’s story is one of perseverance and redemption and it is told beautifully from her childhood, her struggles with Ike, to her taking her rightful perch at the top of the pop music heap as a solo artist. You end up cheering for Tina and the ultimate payoff is as emotionally charged as it is joyous.

Tina – the Tina Turner Musical continues its open run at London’s Aldwych Theatre through at least summer 2019. And there are rumors the show will make its way to Broadway soon.

FF: Company

Meanwhile, revivals of classic musicals are also a mainstay of the West End and Broadway. New this season in London is an all new production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company – one of my all-time favorite shows.

The original Company tells the story of an aging bachelor on his 35th birthday contemplating whether he should be settling down as told through vignettes by the various married couples and the various conquests in his life. In this wonderful new staging, the gender of the protagonist is swapped, and we have the story told from the perspective of a woman facing the same fork in life’s road and this new telling is a revelation.

About Company:

“Marianne Elliott directs COMPANY, Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s legendary musical comedy about life, love and marriage. At Bobbie’s (Rosalie Craig) 35th birthday party all her friends are wondering why isn’t she married? Why can’t she find the right man and Why can’t she settle down and have a family? Featuring Stephen Sondheim’s award-winning songs Company, You Could Drive a Person Crazy, The Ladies Who Lunch, Side by Side and the iconic Being Alive. Starring Rosalie Craig as Bobbie, Patti LuPone as Joanne, Mel Giedroyc as Sarah, Jonathan Bailey as Jamie, George Blagden as PJ, Ashley Campbell as Peter, Richard Fleeshman as Andy, Alex Gaumond as Paul, Richard Henders as David, Ben Lewis as Larry, Daisy Maywood as Susan, Jennifer Saayeng as Jenny, Matthew Seadon-Young as Theo and Gavin Spokes as Harry.”

Everything about this production is top notch, from the imaginable staging to the stellar cast which includes Rosalie Craig as the lead Bobbie, and the divine Miss Patti LuPone in a featured role that lets her sink her teeth into the classic The Ladies Who Lunch – and delivers beyond your wildest dreams.

Side note: Miss LuPone also delivers the pre-show recorded message reminding folks to turn off mobiles and the ban on photography – playing off her reputation for stopping shows to have scofflaws removed from the theatre. She ends it with “trust me” – and cheers from the audience.

Company continues its limited run at London’s John Gielgud Theatre through March 30, 2019. No word on whether this production will make it stateside, but one can always hope.