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When the ABA last landed in London in 1985, the city’s West End was something of a musical factory, offering visitors a sneak preview of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Cameron Macintosh spectaculars that would dominate the New York theatre scene for much of the following decade. These days, the creative traffic seems to run in the opposite direction with U.S. hits like Chicago, Fosse, and The Lion King, as well as revivals of The King and I, Carousel, and West Side Story. Although the city is still the world’s center for “serious” plays, the current crop of theatricals offers some Hollywood star power. Far from the West End, Ralph Fiennes is mesmerizing audiences through July in both Richard II and Coriolanus, performed in the converted gloom of the old Gainsborough Film Studios. Across town, Donald Sutherland is returning to the stage after a 20-year absence in Enigmatic Variations, a new play about a reclusive author, while Kathleen Turner is pulling in crowds by “getting her kit off” (as the locals say) each night in The Graduate. For a comprehensive list of what’s on in London this summer, pick up a copy of the entertainment weekly Time Out at a foreign newsstand, or view it on the Web at www.timeout.comondon. What follows is my own list of current highlights: QUEEN’S THEATRE: (Tel. 7494-5040). Alan Bennett’s new play, The Lady in the Van, is arguably London’s hottest ticket. Maggie Smith stars as the homeless eccentric who took up residence in the playwright’s Camden Town front garden for almost a decade. Two similarly dressed actors play “Bennett,” one the younger persona who had to live with his crazy tenant, and the other the older and wiser writer looking back on the experience. ROYAL NATIONAL THEATRE:(Tel. 7452-3000). A true highlight of the current season is the flowering of the ensemble at the Royal National Theater. The actors and actresses of the troupe move easily between musicals (Singing in the Rain) and heavy-duty drama (Albert Speer). The latter two shows currently play in rep, along with Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, throughout the ABA convention. Opening day for Russell Beale’s long-awaited Hamlet is July 20, with previews beginning July 17. Tickets top out at �30 ($45). SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE: (Tel. 7401-9919). For more than 30 years, expatriate American actor Sam Wannamaker pursued his dream of building a replica of the open-air Elizabethan theatre on the South Bank. He didn’t live to see the finished product, but the Globe, now in its third year, is fast becoming a prime landmark under artistic director Mark Rylance. Vanessa Redgrave is now doing a gender-bending star turn as Prospero in The Tempest, through September. Tickets top out at �26 ($39), though you can usually buy standing-room-only “penny stinker” tickets in the pit for �5 ($7.50) on the day of performance. THE OLD VIC: (Tel. 7369-1722). Dolly West’s Kitchen is the new tragicomedy by Irish playwright Frank McGuinness and comes direct from Dublin’s Abbey Theater. Set in the closing days of World War II, the play examines Ireland’s stubborn neutrality throughout the conflict. Critic Sheridan Morley considers Dolly West’s Kitchen to be “the first real Irish classic since the 1920s.” ALBERY THEATRE: (Tel. 7369-1730). Sir Michael Gambon is something of a cult figure in America, thanks to his role in The Singing Detective. In Cressida, he plays John Shank, a seedy seventeenth-century theater manager who tutors young boys to play the female roles in Shakespearean plays. This new comedy provides a true star turn for a great actor. To guarantee a seat before you arrive, book through Ticketmaster (Tel. 7344-4444) or First Call (Tel. 7420-0000). Both handle tickets for most major London events. Ticket prices range from �10 to �40 ($15-$60) for top shows, though service and handling fees will add about 10 percent to the bill. Once in town, visitors can take their chances at the discount ticket booth in Leicester Square. The office is open Monday to Saturday from 12:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. Available tickets are half their face value plus a �2 service charge. Dialing London To call a London telephone number from within London, use the number listed here. To call London from the U.S., dial 011-44-20 first. (When calling elsewhere in England, dial 011-44 and the number listed.) David Ellis is an editor atThe Wall Street Journal Europe

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