2024 culture guide

The best theatre to see in 2024: from Sarah Jessica Parker’s West End debut to Sarah Snook’s one-woman show

A-listers are treading the boards in force and your favourite films are being transformed for the stage. Jessie Thompson brings you our ultimate guide to what to see at the theatre in 2024

Sunday 31 December 2023 06:30
<p>Centre stage: (clockwise from left) Sarah Jessica Parker, Sarah Snook, Matt Smith, Keeley Hawes, Sheridan Smith, Steve Coogan</p>

Centre stage: (clockwise from left) Sarah Jessica Parker, Sarah Snook, Matt Smith, Keeley Hawes, Sheridan Smith, Steve Coogan

The next year of theatre reads like the cast list of the best film ever made. Sarah Jessica Parker, Sarah Snook, Keeley Hawes, Matt Smith, Ian McKellen, Sheridan Smith, Brian Cox, Michael Sheen, Steve Coogan and Dominic West are all heading to the stage. Plus, some actual films are heading to the stage too: Starter for Ten, Mean Girls, The Devil Wears Prada, Dr Strangelove. It’s shaping up to be a very good year.

Plaza Suite

Major star power is on its way to the West End, with Sarah Jessica Parker (aka Carrie Bradshaw) teaming up with Matthew Broderick (aka Mr Sarah Jessica Parker) for Neil Simon’s 1971 romantic comedy. The pair play three different couples in different situations, which all take place in the same hotel suite. John Benjamin Hickey (who was so extraordinary in Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance a few years ago) is directing – and it’s SJP’s West End debut. Savoy Theatre, 17 Jan to 31 March

Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick in ‘Plaza Suite’ on Broadway

Just For One Day

My friend Emma once came up with a fun Christmas party game – listening to every version of Live Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and shouting out who is singing each line (don’t forget Dido in Band Aid 20). It was actually surprisingly enjoyable, so maybe this musical will be too. It tells the story of Live Aid, and how, in the Eighties, it brought together the world’s biggest stars for a massive concert all in the name of a good cause. It will feature songs from as vast a catalogue as David Bowie, U2, Bob Dylan, Diana Ross and Paul McCartney, but is it just going to feel like a strange concert of tribute acts? Let’s see – the team behind it (Mrs Doubtfire musical writer John O’Farrell and & Juliet director Luke Sheppard) know what they’re doing. Old Vic, 26 Jan to 30 March

The Hills of California

A new Jez Butterworth play is always a special occasion, and this time, he’s teaming up again with director Sam Mendes. The pair created magic with The Ferryman in 2017, and The Hills of California once again stars Butterworth’s wife and apparent muse, Laura Donnelly. Set in Blackpool in 1976, it takes us into the lives of the Webb sisters, who return home to meet their mother on her deathbed. Harold Pinter Theatre, 27 Jan to 15 June

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Quick succession: Sarah Snook isn’t the only star from Waystar RoyCo we’re looking forward to seeing

After the Succession finale left us all shook, we moved on from questioning whether Shiv and Tom even liked each other, to a different question: “What will the magnificent Sarah Snook do next?” Well, she probably could have done anything, but what the Australian star has chosen is this: a one-woman play of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. Fair enough! We’ll watch anything she’s in. A pre-stardom Snook was excellent opposite Ralph Fiennes’ in The Master Builder at the Old Vic in 2016, and Andrew Scott has just had rave reviews for playing all the roles in a new version of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya so the signs are strong. Theatre Royal Haymarket, 6 Feb to 11 May

An Enemy of the People

Do you have something to get off your chest? You may want to book a ticket for Thomas Ostermeier’s production of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People. The Schaubuhne Berlin production was seen at the Barbican back in 2014; if you caught it, you’ll know that it devolves into a real-time interactive episode of BBC Question Time (kind of). Like a grungy Robert Icke, Ostermeier dragged the play right up to the moment – and now Matt Smith will star in an English language version. Duke of York’s, 6 Feb to 6 April

The Human Body

Keeley Hawes, TV queen of our hearts, takes to the stage in a new play by Lucy Kirkwood at the Donmar. Starring opposite Jack Davenport, Hawes plays a GP and Labour Party councillor who is trying to kickstart Nye Bevan’s ambitious National Health Service Act. But her life as a dutiful wife and mother changes when she meets George Blythe – once a local boy, now a Hollywood star. Kirkwood’s clever twist on Roald Dahl’s The Witches opened to glowing reviews at the end of the year, but it’s exciting to see the Chimerica writer – who created such bold work recently with Maryland and That Is Not Who I Am – bringing audiences a new play. Donmar Warehouse, 16 Feb to 13 April

A View From The Bridge

From a crown to Eddie Carbone: Dominic West will star in A View From The Bridge

Blink and you’ll miss it: fresh from the end of The Crown, Dominic West will play Eddie Carbone in Miller’s masterpiece for just 23 performances. Directed by Lindsey Posner in the Theatre Royal Bath’s intimate Ustinov Studio, it will be The Wire star’s first time on stage since his performance opposite Janet McTeer in Les Liaisons Dangereuses at the Donmar in 2015. Theatre Royal Bath, 16 Feb to 16 March


Michael Sheen will play one of the biggest figures in modern political (as well as Welsh) history: Aneurin “Nye” Bevan. But don’t expect Tim Price’s play to be a dusty political drama. Billed as “an epic Welsh fantasia”, it takes audiences to Bevan’s deathbed, as he reflects on his life, from his mining-community childhood to his battle for the NHS, to his fights with Winston Churchill. National boss Rufus Norris, who is set to depart the building in 2025, directs. Wales Millennium Centre, 18 May to 1 June; National Theatre, 24 Feb to 11 May

Starter for Ten

A lot of new musicals are coming to our stages in 2024, but if you want to know the one I’m personally most excited about, it’s this. David Nicholls’ charming debut novel about Brian Jackson, who heads to Bristol Uni dreaming of a place on the University Challenge team, was made into a lovable film starring a pre-Hollywood James McAvoy in 2006. Now a musical version is opening – fittingly – at Bristol Old Vic, and an early preview of the soundtrack suggests they’ve got the yearning 80s loverboy mood just right. Bristol Old Vic, 29 Feb to 30 March

Player Kings

He might be 84 years old, but Sir Ian McKellen is doing more theatre than ever. He will follow his stint in charming comedy Frank and Percy by playing Falstaff in a new version of Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part I and II by Robert Icke (the man behind Oresteia, the Andrew Scott Hamlet, 1984, and all the other brilliant adaptations you saw in the last 10 years). The production has early runs in Wimbledon and Manchester before heading to the West End’s Noel Coward Theatre. New Wimbledon Theatre, 1-9 March; Opera House Manchester, 14-23 March; Noel Coward Theatre, 1 April to 2 June

Opening Night

Sheridan Smith returns to the West End in 2024

Sheridan Smith, auteur European theatre director Ivo van Hove and singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright? Staging John Cassavetes’ 1977 film Opening Night as a musical? Not the creative team or project we ever thought we’d see, but a good prospect nonetheless. The story is that a theatre company are planning to stage a show – until, behind the scenes, the leading lady is derailed by a personal tragedy. Smith looked more at home than ever in her West End sell-out run of Shirley Valentine in the summer, and this is one of the most enticing openings of the year. Gielgud Theatre, 6 March to 27 July

MJ the Musical

When this Broadway musical about Michael Jackson opened in 2022, many critics were uncomfortable at what they saw as a sanitised gloss on his life. “In MJ, no one’s looking at the Man in the Mirror,” said the headline from The New York Times. The show, with a book by acclaimed playwright Lynn Nottage, is a co-production with Jackson’s estate – so it’s unsurprising that it ignores the allegations of child sexual abuse that dogged the star throughout his life. The hits, however, are all here. Sondheim Theatre, from 6 March

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Another Succession star takes to the stage: Brian Cox will play patriarch James Tyrone, who is worrying about what will become of his sons (sound familiar?), in Eugene O’Neill’s epic family drama. Widely regarded as one of the great American plays, it’s also a bum-number, usually clocking in at least three hours. Cox has stellar castmates too, starring alongside Patricia Clarkson, Anthony Boyle and Daryl McCormack in Jeremy Herrin’s production. Wyndham’s Theatre, 19 March to 8 June

Spirited Away

Take your seats: the original Japanese production of ‘Spirited Away’

When the RSC announced a stage adaptation of beloved Studio Ghibli film My Neighbour Totoro, it broke records as their fastest-selling show, transferred to London’s Barbican, and was nominated for lots of Olivier awards. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that another Studio Ghibli favourite – Spirited Away – will open in London in 2024. This production has already been a hit in Japan, and will be presented here in Japanese with English subtitles – plus a live orchestra and puppets. London Coliseum, 30 April to 24 Aug

Mean Girls

The rumour of a West End opening for the Mean Girls musical has hung around for such a long time that by the time it actually arrives, we’ll also have a film version of the musical of the film. We know teen movies on stage can be popular – the Heathers musical was a massive fan-driven success – but it will be intriguing to see if audiences are still invested in Cady Herron’s struggle to befriend queen bee Regina George and pals. When the show first opened on Broadway in 2018, it received 12 Tony nominations – although won none (none for you, Glen Coco). Savoy Theatre, from 6 June to 27 Oct

The Devil Wears Prada

Another camp Noughties film, being made into a musical? Groundbreaking. In the autumn, a musical adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada with songs by Elton John will arrive in the West End. The fact that it’s happening at all is something of a surprise, given an early 2022 run in Chicago was critically panned (“Every song is lousy, and there is nothing here worth fixing,” wrote one critic). But presumably since then lots of work has been done to justify this staging of a film that mentally scarred anyone who thought working at a fashion mag might be fun. It’ll have an early run in Plymouth before it heads to the West End. Theatre Royal Plymouth, 6 July to 17 Aug; Dominion Theatre, October 2024


Edna loves Harry. But Edna is 14, and Harry is an international boy band superstar. Yve Blake’s new musical, which had sellout runs at the Sydney Opera House, could be the new Six the Musical, turning the Lyric Hammersmith into a pop concert and exploring the power of teenage girls. Lyric Hammersmith, 13 July to 24 Aug

Dr Strangelove

This is the first time Stanley Kubrick’s work has ever been adapted for the stage. Armando Iannucci is on writing duties. Steve Coogan is in the lead role. Interested yet? This satire on Cold War anxieties, regarded by many as one of the greatest films of all time, will be one of the hottest tickets of the year. Noel Coward Theatre, 8 Oct to 21 Dec

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