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”

The finalists of The Offies 2021

The finalists for the 2021 Offies (for productions in 2020) have been announced and congratulations to the 47 finalists across 16 of the 28 Offies categories. The winners will be announced at the Offies Awards Ceremony, being held online on 21 February 2021.

The following categories are not going forward for 2021 awards as there were insufficient nominations due to theatre closures arising from Covid-19 lockdowns:

  • Design: Costume
  • Design: Video
  • Choreography
  • Company Ensemble
  • Musicals: New Musical
  • Opera
  • Panto
  • Plays: Most Promising New Playwright
  • Plays: Production
  • Theatre for Young People: Production (0-7)
  • Theatre for Young People: Production (13+)
  • Theatre for Young People: Production (8+)

Continue reading “The finalists of The Offies 2021”

Review: West Side Story, Curve

No doubt about it, Nikolai Foster’s production of West Side Story for Curve Leicester is damn close to musical theatre perfection

“Could it be, yes it could
something’s comin’, something good”

The Royal Exchange may have gotten there first this year but Nikolai Foster’s production of West Side Story for Leicester’s Curve proves an absolute triumph. Going down a similar route of featuring brand-new choreography, here by Ellen Kane, the familiar becomes something refreshing and new and hugely emotionally satisfying. From its opening moments which set the anti-immigrant tone like never before, through Musical Supervisor Sarah Travis’ incredible treatment of this iconic Bernstein score, to Kane’s sensational set-pieces which fill every inch of the Curve’s stage, this is damn close to musical theatre perfection.

It works so well because for all of the epic sweep of its Romeo and Juliet-inspired story, this is a very intimate reading of it. Jamie Muscato and Adriana Ivelisse really are exceptional as the ill-fated lovers Tony and Maria, delivering an unforced chemistry that is sweetness personified. Theirs is a heady, instant passion that feels so natural as to be entirely captivating. Their flirting is delicately but determinedly done – there’s no mistaking what ‘Tonight’ holds here – and something ignites in them when together. And as understated as their acting is, magic happens when they start to sing. Muscato’s ‘Maria’ is as good as I’ve ever heard in my life, as natural as breathing and then taken up to the heavens with a touch of wonder with his deeply expressive tenor. And Ivelisse’s thrilling soprano imbues ‘I Feel Pretty’ with just the right amount of character to refresh its familiar rhymes. Continue reading “Review: West Side Story, Curve”

Review: Romance Romance, Above the Stag

Caught in a bad romance, a gayed-up take on Romance Romance does nothing for me at the Above the Stag theatre

“There are days he blows his fuse now 
And there are nights he’s just not there”

Romance Romance was nominated for 5 Tonys in 1988 and performance nods aside, you have to wonder what the standard of the other nominees was (actually, they included The Phantom of the Opera and Into the Woods…!) as its charms really rather eluded me. 

Steven Dexter’s production reframes Barry Harman’s book and lyrics into a gay context which certainly has interest. But the disparity of the two acts, based respectively on Arthur Schnitzler’s The Little Comedy and Jules Renard’s Le Pain de Ménage, means it is a curiously disengaging watch. Continue reading “Review: Romance Romance, Above the Stag”

Re-review: A singalong Bat out of Hell, Dominion

We go back to the singalong Bat out of Hell at the Dominion Theatre but find diminishing returns

“Can’t you hear the choir now?
Listen to the animals sing”

Just a quickie for this repeat visit to Bat out of Hell, as the allure of the singalong performance was once again too strong. I don’t know if Tuesday night was the best choice though, as the Dominion Theatre was lacking in bodies and in atmosphere, at least in our part of the stalls, which kind of detracted from the communal spirit which was so enjoyable last time around.

I wonder too if the news of the show’s closure has dampened some of the enthusiasm. As D-day (5th January) draws closer, some of that intensity might return but for me, the performance level was weaker than I’ve previously seen. Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton carry the show even more now and that means you only feel their absence all the more when they’re not on stage. Nothing really rocks, nothing really rolls…

Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Specular
Bat out of Hell is booking at the Dominion Theatre until 5th January, one more singalong performance is scheduled for 31st December 

Review: Fiddler on the Roof, Chichester Festival Theatre

“How can I hope to make you understand”

Though my life has long been filled with musicals, Fiddler on the Roof has never been the one. I’ve only ever seen it the once (2013’s touring version) and though I quite enjoyed it then, I can’t say I was hankering after seeing another production. And though Daniel Evans’ hands are sure indeed when it comes to classic musicals, I found something rather uninspired both about the choice of programming it for his new Chichester home (although it is an absolute banker) and in his production.

It is perfectly decent, and the quality is solidly good throughout. Omid Djalili is an effective presence as Tevye, Tracy-Ann Oberman is very good as Golde, and it is always nice to see Louis Maskell onstage. But Evans is a director (and artistic director) who has made my heart sing with glorious revivals such as My Fair Lady and Show Boat (and Company and Me and My Girl) and I missed that kind of magic emanating from the unforgiving vastness of the Chichester Festival Theatre’s main stage. Continue reading “Review: Fiddler on the Roof, Chichester Festival Theatre”