ON THE WORLD STAGE

London is about more than sports this year

Wasn’t Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee just thrilling? The BBC concert at Buckingham Palace, the thousand-boat flotilla on the Thames. And despite the horrendous weather, the Queen herself in her gold-crusted barge, the Spirit of Chartwell, waving to the more than one million people who lined the riverbanks.

Now that we’ve taken a deep breath, it’s on to the Olympics in London town. The Games will take place from July 27 to Aug. 12, with the Olympic flame being carried to Downing Street and Buckingham Palace for the penultimate day of the Olympic Torch Relay July 26th. But London is about a lot more than the Olympics this season. The country that gave us Shakespeare and Dickens is also staging 12,000 performances as part of the London 2012 Festival (through Sept. 9), the finale of the four-year Cultural Olympiad.

To get a real feel for what’s been happening in London this whole year, I talked to my dear friend, Kim Poster, who is one of the West End’s leading theater producers.

“As an expat American who moved from Manhattan to Covent Garden in London,” she says, “I feel uniquely able to tell you London is simply the most culturally rich, historically fascinating and beautiful city imaginable. Oh, and as a theater producer of such hits as ‘All My Sons,’ ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night’ and my upcoming production of ‘Uncle Vanya,’ I promise that the theater cannot be topped anywhere in the world.

“London has it all. The theater is rich and varied from superb drama such as ‘Noises Off’ at the Haymarket and ‘War Horse’ at the New London. Musicals abound, such as the Olivier Award-winning ‘Matilda’ at the Cambridge, ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ at The Palace and ‘Top Hat’ at The Aldwych, not to mention the Broadway transfers of ‘Jersey Boys,’ ‘Wicked’ and ‘The Book of Mormon.’

“Historically, Americans can revisit their past with the British royalty. You can visit Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace where Diana and the boys lived. Don’t miss the Queen’s Gallery, an intimate but beautiful museum on the side of Buckingham Palace exhibiting the Queen’s magnificent collection. Hampton Court is worth a trip, and book a concert and picnic in the ornamental gardens of Henry VIII. No trip to London is complete without visiting The Tower, where Anne Boleyn lived out her final 1,000 days and Elizabeth I was imprisoned briefly.

“The tourist buses are a great way to see the city. You must go sit on the top level of Britain’s famed double-decker buses. The subway system, called The Tube, is the fastest and cheapest way to get just about anywhere in London.”

London is the place to be this year. Go to visitlondon.com and you can click on the best hotels, tours, attractions, museums, theaters, shops, restaurants, pubs and extraordinary events.

Kim Poster is the producer of Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” starring David Suchet and Laurie Metcalf at the West End’s Apollo Theatre. This autumn, Kim is presenting Chekhov’s comic masterpiece “Uncle Vanya,” starring Ken Stott and Anna Friel, at The Vaudeville. For more on her credits, visit stanhopeproductions.com.

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