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”

#AdventwithClowns Day 20 – tick, tick…BOOM! (2021)

Lin-Manuel Miranda directs a fantastic new version of tick, tick…BOOM!, making a theatrical nerd’s wet dream out of this Jonathan Larson musical 

“Everything you’re about to see is true…apart from the bits Jonathan made up”

Some musicals you see and you think yeah, this could possibly change a sceptic’s mind about the artform. And then some you see and you think, this really is just playing to the crowd. tick, tick…BOOM! definitely falls into this latter category, hugely enjoyable but so densely suffused in the world of musical theatre that it might be too much for newbies to unpick.

It is directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) and adapted by Steven Levenson (Dear Evan Hansen) from Jonathan Larson’s (Rent) semi-autobiographical musical about writing a musical. And structurally, we follow Andrew Garfield’s Jonathan as he delivers a one-man-show (called tick, tick…BOOM!) whilst flashing back to his attempts to finish his magnum opus, a musical called Superbia. Continue reading “#AdventwithClowns Day 20 – tick, tick…BOOM! (2021)”

Review: Bring It On – the Musical, Queen Elizabeth Hall

Fabian Aloise’s banging choreography spikes, basket-tosses and split-lifts this cracking production of Bring It On – the Musical at Queen Elizabeth Hall, or catch it on its UK tour in 2022

“Like Hells Angels, but cheerleaders”

In a show that really is about teamwork, it’s a real joy to see a production practising what it preaches. I caught Bring It On – the Musical the night after press night and so saw a couple of understudies in leading roles. Now I don’t know if Oliver Adam-Reynolds (on for Louis Smith as Cameron) and Kenedy Small (on for Chelsea Hall as Bridget) had been on as these characters before but the joy their castmates showed at the curtain call was a truly uplifting thing, even more so than the two high pyramid.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I’d like Bring It On. The film is one of my all-time favourites – some might call it a guilty pleasure but for me, it is just straight up pleasure – and so an adaptation that essentially tells a different story (much like Sister Act the Musical, another of my beloved movie choices) carries the danger of not being the same. But Jeff Whitty’s book does a good job of reshuffling the deck to tell a different story but one which carries much of the same spirit (stick). Continue reading “Review: Bring It On – the Musical, Queen Elizabeth Hall”

Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Six: Showstoppers

Danny Mac, Kerry Ellis and Layton Williams star in The Theatre Channel – Episode Six: Showstoppers, with added Antonio Banderas

“Let’s go on with the show”

The beauty of so many theatrical things going digital is that it is now harder to properly miss out on something. Episode Six of The Theatre Channel, subtitled Showstoppers, aired last month but I let it slip me by – fortunately it is available on demand so in advance of dipping into its newest Rodgers and Hammerstein tribute, I gave it a shot.

And I’m glad I did, as it very much indulged my inner theatrical nerd by stretching its definition of showstopper way beyond the Phantom and Les Mis classics you might have expected them to plump for. Instead, we get hits from the likes of The Last Five Years, Sideshow, If/Then and Annie Get Your Gun, proving that wonders well beyond the West End hits. Continue reading “Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Six: Showstoppers”

Nominations for the 2020 Drama Desk Awards

Outstanding Play
The Inheritance, by Matthew Lopez
Heroes of the Fourth Turning, by Will Arbery, Playwrights Horizons
Cambodian Rock Band, by Lauren Yee, Signature Theatre
Greater Clements, by Samuel D. Hunter, Lincoln Center Theater
Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven, by Stephen Adly Guirgis, Atlantic Theater Company/LAByrinth Theater Company

Outstanding Musical
A Strange Loop, Playwrights Horizons/Page 73 Productions
Octet, Signature Theatre
The Secret Life of Bees, Atlantic Theater Company
Soft Power, The Public Theater
The Wrong Man, MCC Theater Continue reading “Nominations for the 2020 Drama Desk Awards”

Review: High Fidelity, Turbine Theatre

A complete lack of charm makes this musical adaptation of High Fidelity tough-going at the Turbine Theatre

“Ian’s here
To offer a safe haven
Where you can be yourself
Unshackled and unshaven.”

I’d forgotten about Natalie Imbruglia, so I was happily grateful for the (albeit sneering) reminder about her in High Fidelity and popped her greatest hits on on the way home from Battersea’s Turbine Theatre. I was not tempted to listen again Tom Kitt’s score, which is a bit of a problem when you’ve just seen a new musical. It’s indicative of this choice of production at this new theatre, which at best could be described as curious, though problematic feels closer to the truth.

Though Nick Hornby’s novel and its inevitable cinematic adaptation garnered a level of popularity, they were very much products of their time, the 90s in microcosm. And David Lindsay-Abaire’s US adaptation, retooled here for the UK by Vikki Stone, does little to adjust that, ultimately coming up with something that already feels like a period piece. Oh look a geek, haha! Oh look a vegan, hahaha! Oh look a woman who’s way out of my league who was somehow my girlfriend and who I will stalk until she gets back together with me, hahahahahaha. Continue reading “Review: High Fidelity, Turbine Theatre”

Album Reviews: Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project / Mamma Mia / Il Divo – A Musical Affair

This trio of album reviews covers Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project, Mamma Mia! The Movie Soundtrack and Il Divo – A Musical Affair

“You know I’ve got
So much that I wanna do”

Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project has an amazing list of performers, composers, and musicians behind it, all coming together to create a 2-CD set and 48-page children’s book to benefit breast cancer research, support and education. And rather wonderfully, it is an utterly gorgeous record. Brilliant jazz musicians accompany writers like Michael John LaChiusa, Adam Gwon and Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez in indulging their gentler side to create the prettiest tunes. And then a cast of dreams sing them – just listen to Raúl Esparza’s aching tenderness on ‘This Little World’, or Donna Murphy’s crystal clear ‘Lucky’ (by Stephen  Schwartz) – we should all be so lucky to be lulled to sleep this way. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project / Mamma Mia / Il Divo – A Musical Affair”

Nominations for the 2018 Drama Desk Awards

Outstanding Play
Admissions, by Joshua Harmon, Lincoln Center Theater
Mary Jane, by Amy Herzog, New York Theatre Workshop
Miles for Mary, by The Mad Ones, Playwrights Horizons
People, Places & Things, by Duncan Macmillan, National Theatre/St. Ann’s Warehouse/Bryan Singer Productions/Headlong
School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play, by Jocelyn Bioh, MCC Theater

Outstanding Musical
Desperate Measures, The York Theatre Company
KPOP, Ars Nova/Ma-Yi Theatre Company/Woodshed Collective
Mean Girls
Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story, 2b Theatre Company/59E59
SpongeBob SquarePants Continue reading “Nominations for the 2018 Drama Desk Awards”