The Victoria and Albert Museum have announced a new exhibition that will look at the rich and creative talent that can be found in the theatre in London and New York. 

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Matilda: The Musical. Photograph by Manuel Harlan. (c)The Royal Shakespeare Company.

Exploring the range of craft and collaboration that goes into the production of award-winning plays and musicals, the exhibition will be a free and immersive theatrical experience that takes visitors from the stage to backstage and to the design workshops.

Curtain Up is co-curated by the V&A and The New York Public Library for Performing Arts at Lincoln Center in partnership with SOLT (Society of London Theatre). The display is designed by RFK Architects and Tom Piper, the acclaimed designer and theatre maker renowned for his Tower of London poppies installation, Blood Swept Lands And Seas of Red, a collaboration with ceramic artist Paul Cummins.

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John Owen Jones (the Phantom) as Red Death in ‘Masquerade’. Photography by Catherine Ashmore. (C) Cameron Mackintosh Ltd & Really Useful Co.

The display will bring together costumes, designs, photographs, film and awards – most of which is on display for the first time.

Highlights of the exhibition will include original costume designs from The Phantom of the Opera by Maria Bjornson (1986), one of the longest running West End musicals, and the longest running Broadway production in history, shown alongside the costume worn by a recent West End Phantom and and Dame Helen Mirren DBE’s dress designed by Bob Crowley and worn in The Audience, a role which she won both an Olivier (2013) and Tony Award (2015) for Best Actress.

Marking 40 years since the Olivier Awards were inaugurated, Dame Helen Mirren said of the announcement of the display: “Having worked on both Broadway and the West End, I am delighted that Curtain Up, marking 40 years since the Olivier Awards were inaugurated, honours the shared artistic heritage binding London and New York and showcases the wealth of creative talent that brings great productions to the stage on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Curtain Up will consider the role that the West End and Broadway play in today’s society, as well as exploring the evolution of these two transatlantic theatrical cities. It looks at the ways at how an entire company contribute to the success of a play and musical – script-writing, direction, design and evolution of technology will all be carefully examined.

The plays and musicals that have been successful on both sides of the Atlantic will be highlighted, with costumes on display from productions such as The Lion King, costume designs from Chicago and The Producers as well as Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies.

Visitors will also get the opportunity to see the set models for Matilda the Musical,models from the National Theatre’s award-winning production War Horse (2007). On display for the first time in the UK will be set models for the New York productions of Carousel (1994) and Sunday in the Park with George (1983).

Curtain Up: Celebrating 40 Years of Theatre in London and New York opens at the Victoria and Albert Museum on the 9th February and will run until the 31st August. 

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