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West End Story: American Actors Abound in London

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While Broadway seems perpetually inundated with Brits, especially since the English actors seem to be the ones dominating awards categories and reaping the prizes in recent seasons, London's commercial West End, and even its hallowed subsidized stages, such as the Royal National Theatre, are welcoming their American cousins in impressive migratory numbers.

At the prestigious National Theatre, in rep at the Cottesloe until Sept. 8, Olympia Dukakis performs the title role in Martin Sherman's one-woman show, "Rose," the fictional memoirs of a Holocaust survivor.

The Donmar Warehouse, which sent us its stellar revival of "Cabaret" and risqu "Blue Room," is featuring American musical theatre goddesses Patti Lupone (Aug. 9-21) and Audra McDonald (Aug. 23-28) in its cabaret summer season, "Divas at the Donmar"; and an All-American cast will perform Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" at London's Royal Festival Hall, Sept. 13-18.

Chita Rivera steps back into Roxie Hart's cell in the West End production of "Chicago," and the recent New York company of "Art," Judd Hirsch, Joe Morton, and George Wendt-who returned to the London incarnation, having starred there previously with David Dukes and Stacy Keach-just finished painting London-town white.

"Forbidden Broadway" invades London at the Albery Theatre, with Christine Pedi, the amazingly versatile American alumna from the Off-Broadway cast.

Elizabeth Berkeley, the "Showgirls" actress whom one London film critic said had more expression in her bosom than in the rest of her, has the last laugh. Sir Peter Hall directs Berkeley in "Lenny," Julian Barry's play about subversive stand-up, Lenny Bruce. She stars as Honey, opposite British comic Eddie Izzard.

Those London critics can be especially cruel to American performers. Charlton Heston and his wife, Lydia Clarke Heston, have been starring in A.R. Gurney's "Love Letters" at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, but will probably be eager to hop the Concorde back to L.A. when the show closes on Aug. 1. Maintaining that there is more animation in the average oak tree, and strong sentiments regarding Heston's National Rifle Association (NRA) presidency notwithstanding, the British press has been particularly hostile to the Hestons.

Sheridan Morley, son of Hollywood actor Robert Morley, wrote that the management should recompense the patrons for suffering through the performances, that Heston's acting is "monumentally terrible," and that his wife is "suffering from a talent by-pass."

Ironically, the Hestons' universally disastrous reviews came just as the actor was publicly criticizing his American peers to the Fleet Street press. He blamed his fellow actors' reluctance to appear onstage in plays, on their arrogance, greed, and fear of bad reviews.

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