Broadway shows that premiered in London
Many of the hit plays and musicals on Broadway right now debuted in the West End.
You’ve heard of the “British Invasion” of the American rock and pop music scenes in the 1960s. Now, in the 2020s, it’s happening again — only this time in the theatre world. The past few Broadway seasons have all included the bows of productions that started in London’s West End.
Although some recent shows with origins across the pond, like Best Play Tony winner The Inheritance and Betrayal in the 2019-2020 season, had limited Broadway engagements, many productions that opened in past seasons are still enjoying success in New York today. Plus, some current West End hits are eyeing a Broadway transfer soon. Learn more about all the shows in New York that got their start onstage in London.
Way down … London Town? After premiering at New York Theatre Workshop in 2017, a new production of Hadestown opened at London’s National Theatre in November 2018 and ran through January 2019. That March, the production jumped back across the Atlantic and opened on Broadway with its West End cast in tow: Reeve Carney (Orpheus), Eva Noblezada (Eurydice), Amber Gray (Persephone), Patrick Page (Hades) and André De Shields (Hermes).The production won 8 Tonys out of 14 nominations in 2019, including Best Musical, and all five principal cast members have returned with the show.
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No way! In a rather unorthodox path for a show, Six didn’t just hit the West End before it hit Broadway — the musical played across the U.K. and U.S. first. After selling out its premiere run at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, Six enjoyed two U.K. tours and a North American tour, plus an Australian premiere and a Norwegian Cruise Line engagement. In 2019, Six began a West End run that has spanned three theatres and is still going strong. The show finally started performances on Broadway in 2020. Its opening night was scheduled for March 12, 2020, the day all Broadway theatres shut down due to the pandemic, but it restarted performances again in the fall 2021 season.
Stephen Sondheim’s classic musical has played on both the Broadway and West End stages more than once. The show’s 1970 Broadway premiere was followed by a 1972 West End premiere, and its 1995 Broadway revival came only one year before the West End one. A second Broadway revival opened in 2006, but a second West End revival did not occur until 2018 under the direction of Marianne Elliott. Her new production, in which the leading character Bobby is played as a female “Bobbie,” was nominated for nine Olivier Awards in 2019 and won four, including Best Musical Revival. When Elliott’s Company announced a Broadway transfer, only one West End cast member came with it: Patti LuPone, in her Olivier Award-winning role as Joanne. Katrina Lenk replaces Rosalie Craig in the leading role.
Caroline, or Change originated on Broadway in 2004. The musical first played in London two years later on the National Theatre’s Lyttleton stage and won the Olivier Award for Best New Musical. The show’s current revival, however, originated in London. Michael Longhurst directed a production for the Minerva Theatre in 2017, which transferred first to the Hampstead Theatre and then to the Playhouse Theatre in the West End.
In all these iterations of Longhurst’s production, Sharon D. Clarke starred in the titular role and was met with critical acclaim. Clarke beat out a formidable roster including Kelli O’Hara, Adrienne Warren, and Rosalie Craig for the 2019 Olivier Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. She once again reprises her role in Caroline, or Change on Broadway.
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The Lehman Trilogy has hopped back and forth across the Atlantic multiple times in the short three years since its English-language premiere. (It originally premiered in French.) The Royal National Theatre staged the English-language premiere in 2018, adapted by Ben Power and directed by Sam Mendes, who was nominated for an Olivier Award for his direction. The production then had a month-long stint at the Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan in spring 2019 before reopening on the West End and running for just under four months. Its next move, a Broadway run, started performances on March 7, 2020 and was shut down before officially opening, but it’s back on Broadway this fall.
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While Tina Turner originally hails from Nutbush, Tennessee, the jukebox bio-musical about her life has London roots. The world premiere was staged at the Aldwych Theatre on the West End in April 2018, and it was nominated for three Olivier Awards the following year, including one for Adrienne Warren as the rock ‘n’ roll icon. She also originated the role on Broadway when Tina started performances there in October 2019, earning her a Tony Award. The musical itself received extensive creative input from Turner, who helped develop the choreography and character portrayals.
Although Bob Dylan, whose songs form the basis of Girl From the North Country, hails from the States, the musical played two London venues before even one New York one. (The musical, however, features a book by Irish playwright Conor McPherson and takes its name from a song Dylan wrote after his first trip to England.) Girl From the North Country’s world premiere took place at the Old Vic in July 2017, and the show was transferred to the Noël Coward Theatre on the West End at the end of that year. The musical’s North American premiere was staged at The Public Theater in 2018. A West End revival, based on a 2019 Toronto production, went up at the Gielgud Theatre in December of that year, and six days after its February 1, 2020 closing, the Broadway production began previews. It returns to Broadway beginning October 13, 2021.
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Befitting of a franchise set in the U.K., Harry Potter and the Cursed Child had its premiere at the West End’s Palace Theatre in June 2016. The play moved to Broadway just under two years later, beginning performances in March 2018. Most of the original West End cast transferred to New York with the production, though a new cast is currently performing. The show was an awards favorite in both London and New York: The West End production won 9 Olivier Awards out of 11 nominations, and the Broadway production won 6 awards out of 10 nominations. At both ceremonies, the play won the coveted Best Play award.
David West Read and Max Martin’s retelling of the Shakespeare classic is playing a pre-Broadway tryout in summer 2022, potentially poising the musical for a Broadway transfer. & Juliet wonders what would have become of the title heroine had she not died at the end of the original play — and the alternative they offer is her riotous coming-of-age set to contemporary pop music. The show, which was nominated for nine Olivier Awards and won three, premiered in the West End at the Shaftesbury Theatre in November 2019. The pre-Broadway engagement will mark the show’s North American debut, taking place at the Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto, Canada. Perhaps in fair New York will & Juliet soon lay its scene.