10 top theatrical moments of 2021

As distinct from my favourite shows of the year, this list celebrates the fact that sometimes the good and the not-so-good co-exist right next to each – some of my favourite moments.

For reference, here’s my 2020 list, 2019 list, 2018 list, 2017 list2016 list2015 list and 2014 list.

Helen McCrory, in memoriam
I still don’t really have the words to talk about how sad the passing of Helen McCrory is, such a favourite actor of mine for so long. But what was joyful was hearing the absolute esteem in which seemingly every one of her colleagues held her, a testament to the person as well as the performer.

Being scared, by women
After having declared that scary theatre just didn’t work for me, the Terrifying Women made me eat my words in quite some style with their Halloween special. Continue reading “10 top theatrical moments of 2021”

Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Eight Stephen Schwartz

The Theatre Channel returns with Episode Eight, a special devoted to Stephen Schwartz featuring Alice Fearn, Louise Dearman, Melanie La Barrie and more

“Just when i thought my heart was finally numb”

With impeccable timing, The Theatre Channel has produced a new episode, its eighth in total, which this time focuses on the work of Stephen Schwartz. The show continues to spread its wings geographically, this time heavily featuring the Park Theatre who are co-producers on this episode, but in a number from Working – Alice Fearn’s ‘It’s An Art’ – the cafe is front and centre which feels like a neat nod to its origins at The Theatre Cafe.

Schwartz himself features throughout, able to provide fascinating snippets of info about the material, both old and new. Having recently played the Charing Cross Theatre over the summer, the cast of 1972’s Pippin sing ‘Magic to Do’, but we also get to hear a vibrant duet from 2016’s Magic Flute-inspired Schikaneder, ‘Dream Big’ sung gloriously by Stewart Clarke and Christine Allado. Continue reading “Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Eight Stephen Schwartz”

News: The Theatre Channel announce a Stephen Schwartz spectacular for Episode 8

Adam Blanshay Productions’ acclaimed web series The Theatre Channel returns with a show stopping musical spectacular to honour the legendary composer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz (Wicked; Pippin; Godspell). Under the new direction of Olivier Award nominated choreographer Fabian Aloise (Evita, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre; Wicked, Germany) Schwartz’s modern masterpieces will come alive led by a sensational cast, including leading West End women Alice Fearn (Wicked; Come From Away), Louise Dearman (the only woman to play both Elphaba and Glinda – Wicked; Evita), and Christine Allado (The Prince of Egypt; Hamilton).

Further casting includes the incredible Stewart Clarke (Be More Chill; Fiddler on the Roof), Melanie La Barrie (Wicked; & Juliet), Cedric Neal (Back to the Future; Motown: The Musical) and the cast of the critically acclaimed revival of Pippin at the Charing Cross Theatre, with their fantastic rendition of ‘Magic To Do’. This marks the first time The Theatre Channel is doing a music video in collaboration with a production currently running in the West End, as they continue to evolve their concept. Continue reading “News: The Theatre Channel announce a Stephen Schwartz spectacular for Episode 8”

Review: Pippin, Charing Cross Theatre

Steven Dexter’s production of Pippin transfers to the Charing Cross Theatre with some nifty choreography

“I don’t know anything about ducks”

I was low-key obsessed with Godspell as a kid, a production at the school where one or other of my parents worked winning me over to its charms early on. But Pippin, also written by Stephen Schwartz one year on in 1972, entirely passed me by and even as a grown-up kid, it isn’t a show that has ever won me over either time I’ve seen it.

Hence I gave Steven Dexter’s boutique production a miss when it opened in chilly English summer evenings at the Garden Theatre last year but now that it has resurfaced indoors at the Charing Cross Theatre, I gave it a go. Here, a strong cast give it their all with some nifty choreography but my heart remains untouched. Continue reading “Review: Pippin, Charing Cross Theatre”

News: The Barn Theatre Presents – The Music of Annabel Mutale Reed

The Barn Theatre has announced an all-star West End line up for their fifth virtual concert, The Barn Theatre Presents: The Music of Annabel Mutale Reed, which will celebrate the work of musical theatre playwright, lyricist and director Annabel Mutale Reed.

The concert, which will be hosted by Barn Theatre producer Jamie Chapman Dixon, is the fifth edition of the Barn Theatre in Cirencester’s virtual concert series, The Barn Presents:, which celebrates the work of British musical theatre writers. Continue reading “News: The Barn Theatre Presents – The Music of Annabel Mutale Reed”

fosterIAN awards 2019

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlaySarah Niles/Natalie Simpson/Racheal Ofori,
Three Sisters
Marieke Heebink,
Medea
Adjoa Andoh,
Richard II

Sharon D Clarke,
Death of a Salesman

Claire Foy,
Lungs

Leah Harvey,
Small Island

Chris Nietvelt,
De Kersentuin
Best Actor in a Play
Lucian Msamati, ‘Master Harold’…and the boysCary Crankson,
Country Music
Tobias Menzies,
The Hunt

Daniel Monks,
Teenage Dick

Wendell Pierce,
Death of a Salesman

Matt Smith,
Lungs

Zubin Varla,
Equus
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayMonica Dolan,
All About Eve
Jackie Pulford,
Karaoke Play
Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo,
Three Sisters

Janni Goslinga,
De Kersentuin

Pippa Nixon,
The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Cecilia Noble,
Faith Hope and Charity

Gemma Whelan,
Pinter Seven
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayNick Holder,
Faith Hope and Charity
Hugo Koolschijn,
De Kersentuin
Rupert Graves,
Pinter Five

John Heffernan,
Pinter Seven

Martins Imhangbe/Natey Jones,
Death of a Salesman

Arinzé Kene/Sope Dirisu,
Death of a Salesman

Ken Nwosu,
Three Sisters
Best Actress in a MusicalAudrey Brisson,
Amélie the Musical
Kirsty Findlay/Bethany Tennick,
Islander
Lucie Jones/Katherine McPhee,
Waitress

Miriam-Teak Lee,
& Juliet

Samantha Pauly,
Evita

Joanna Riding,
Follies

Zizi Strallen,
Mary Poppins
Best Actor in a MusicalJamie Muscato,
West Side Story (Curve Leicester)
Keith Ramsay,
Preludes
Andy Coxon,
West Side Story (Royal Exchange)

Jordan Fox/Michael Vinsen,
[title of show]

David Hunter,
Waitress
,
Charlie Stemp,
Mary Poppins

Oliver Tompsett,
& Juliet
,
Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Cassidy Janson/Melanie La Barrie,
& Juliet 
Jocasta Almgill/Emily Langham,
West Side Story (Royal Exchange)
Laura Baldwin/Marisha Wallace,
Waitress

Tiffany Graves/Gabrielle Lewis-Dodson,
The Boy Friend

Claire Machin/Claire Moore,
Mary Poppins

Rebecca McKinnis/Lauren Ward,
Dear Evan Hansen

Carly Mercedes Dyer/Victoria Hamilton-Barritt,
The View UpStairs
,
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalDavid Bedella,
& Juliet
Jack Butterworth,
The Boy Friend
Ricardo Afonso,
Jesus Christ Superstar

Rob Houchen,
The Light in the Piazza

Samuel Holmes,
Curtains

Cedric Neal,
The View UpStairs

Jez Unwin,
Amélie the Musical

2019 Best Supporting Actress in a Play + in a Musical

Best Supporting Actress in a Play

Monica Dolan, All About Eve
In a star-studded ensemble, it was Dolan’s no-nonsense pseudo-narrator Karen who ended up pulling focus with her every utterance. With Appropriate too, 2019 was a superb year for Dolan and those of us who are captivated by her work.

Honourable mention: Jackie Pulford, Karaoke Play
Scorchingly good in a doozy of a tragicomic role, this is one I wasn’t expecting and entirely typical that it emerged out of the brilliant Bunker. 

Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo, Three Sisters
Janni Goslinga, De Kersentuin
Pippa Nixon, The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Cecilia Noble, Faith Hope and Charity
Gemma Whelan, Pinter Seven

8-10
Deborah Findlay, Glass. Kill. Bluebeard. Imp.; Jane Horrocks, Pinter Five; Sarah Niles, Richard II

 

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical

Cassidy Janson/Melanie La Barrie, & Juliet
There was just so much superlative work in this category that shortlisting was nigh on impossible. So I doubled up on nominations, recognising how much great work was going on and in that crowded field, the glories of Janson and La Barrie just about edged it. Cassidy belting Céline as if her life depended on it, Mel getting it on in fine fashion (just watch her hips go!) – f**kin’ perfect you might say!

Honourable mention: Jocasta Almgill/Emily Langham, West Side Story (Royal Exchange)
Anita is probably one of my favourite roles in all of musical theatre and Almgill absolutely nailed it with a whirlwind of charismatic personality and pitch-perfect vocals. Langham’s Anybodys was a real surprise though, a near-constant presence in the background but a masterclass in detailed character work. And when ‘Somewhere’ starts…ooff!

Laura Baldwin/Marisha Wallace, Waitress
Tiffany Graves/Gabrielle Lewis-Dodson, The Boy Friend
Claire Machin/Claire Moore, Mary Poppins
Rebecca McKinnis/Lauren Ward, Dear Evan Hansen
Carly Mercedes Dyer/Victoria Hamilton-Barritt, The View UpStairs

8-10
Melissa James/Kate O’Donnell, Gypsy; Rebecca Lock/Carley Stenson, Curtains; Carly Mercedes Dyer/Beth Hinton-Lever, West Side Story (Curve Leicester)

Film Review: Cats (2019)

Against a barrage of bad reviews, I tried to give Cats a fair hearing. There may have been wine involved…

“I remember the time I knew what happiness was”

I wanted to like Cats, honest. But…but…everytime you look at a detail in this unexpected horror film, there’s something ungainly or odd that distracts you inordinately:

  • the scale of the damn thing. The mind boggles as the cats change from being tiny compared to railway tracks to almost human-sized at Nelson’s Column, bringing almost any object into screen ends up pulling focus as you try and work out wtf is going on
  • why do some of them wear shoes (the ‘street’ cats in trainers, TSwift in heels…?) and of those who don’t, what’s with the toes
  • in fact the whole anthropomorphic thing. There’s cleavage and six packs but no genitals or anuses. You wouldn’t think it would bother you so much but there’s so many lingering shots of these places…! 
  • the dancing cockroaches in danger of being eaten. Whyyyyyyyy?!
  • it’s rather amusing that pretty much every reaction shot of Dench is her looking aghast, we know how you feel Judi

An unfortunate waste of talent all-round I’m afraid.

Review: The Boy Friend, Menier Chocolate Factory

As light as a madeleine and as frivolous as a macaron, Sandy Wilson’s The Boy Friend proves a festive treat at the Menier Chocolate Factory

“Clap-a your hands and slap on your thighs
Grin like a goon and roll up your eyes”

As light as a madeleine and as frivolous as a macaron, Sandy Wilson’s The Boy Friend belongs in the same delightfully daft bracket of musical theatre as the likes of Salad Days and as such, is the perfect kind of frothy fun that offers a little respite from the darkness of winter nights and politicians’ empty promises. Written in the 1950s as an homage to the 1920s and with a plot that can be summed up in one character’s aside “poor little rich girl”, Matthew White’s production for the Menier Chocolate Factory sees him renew a richly fruitful relationship which has included such successes as She Loves Me and Sweet Charity.

Keeping the original three act structure, complete with two intervals, pushes the evening a little towards the episodic, but any sense of slightness is banished by the thrilling choreographic content from Bill Deamer (also associate director). From the gobsmacking elasticity and unflagging energy of Jack Butterworth and Gabrielle Lewis-Dodson’s first act charleston, to the explosive passion of Bethany Huckle and Matthew Ives’ fiery carnival tango, the quality of the dancing really is second to none. And as the full company join in time and again, it’s hard not to be swept up in the joyous atmosphere and just join in with their beaming grins. Continue reading “Review: The Boy Friend, Menier Chocolate Factory”

News: Cats trailer released

The only good thing to come out of the release of the trailer for the forthcoming movie adaptation of Cats is Twitter’s collective response

 

And if you must see the original for yourself…