My 10 favourite shows of 2018

And so here we are, at the end of another year where I broke the 300 show mark despite wanting to see less. (I had a very quiet December by my standards at least…) Now where’s the vodka stingers…?!

1 Pericles, National Theatre
Pretty much everything I want theatre to be, a rhapsodic, true celebration of community. From the joyous riffing on Shakespeare through song and dance to its over-riding spirit of bonhomie, it takes something this inclusive to show you how exclusive so much theatre can be.

2 Jellyfish, Bush Theatre
Sometimes, reviewing can’t help but be personal and Ben Weatherill’s minor-key masterpiece for the Bush touched me incredibly deeply, making me (re)consider so much of my own experiences. It has to come back, it just has to. 

Company, Gielgud Theatre
Marianne Elliott’s production was so much more than the gender-swap that led the headline, the smartness of her adaptation making the work speak to today in ways you might not have thought possible, and delivered by one of the best companies you could have hoped for. 

4 Sunshine on Leith, Leeds Playhouse
I was entirely seduced by the film so the opportunity to finally see the musical was one I wasn’t going to give up lightly, and the trip to Leeds was well worth it, I don’t think I cried in happiness this much at a finale in ages. I’d love for a tour to come back and visit more English venues.

5 The Inheritance, Young Vic/Noel Coward Theatre
It says something that I was willing to go back to what is probably one of the most emotional pulverising theatrical experiences of my life. And the Part 1 finale was possibly even better second time around, the highlight of an exceptional new landmark piece.

6 To Have To Shoot Irishmen, Omnibus Clapham
Coming completely out of left field, this play with songs was a devastatingly moving work that had me completely gripped. I won’t be missing any of Lizzie Nunnery’s shows in the future.

7 Bury the Hatchet, Hope Theatre
On a criminally scorching evening, Out of the Forest Theatre made me forget the heat for a hugely entertaining hour which I could have watched right again then and there.

8 Nine Night, National Theatre/Trafalgar Studios
Taking the Dorfman, and then the West End, by storm, Natasha Gordon’s passionate family drama was as educative as entertaining, as well as utterly enthralling by the relevatory final scenes.

9 Hadestown, National Theatre
I booked to see this a second time before I’d even gotten home from the first – it was that enjoyable. 

10 Sweat, Donmar Warehouse
Sneaking in at the last moment, this delivered the Christmas message you didn’t know you needed. Brutally affecting.

Shows 11-25 under the cut Continue reading “My 10 favourite shows of 2018”

Re-re-review: Company, Gielgud Theatre

I can’t keep away from Marianne Elliott’s award-winning Company, and it richly repays the rewatching

“A festive atmosphere pervades the room”

Hot on the heels of its double Evening Standard-award winning weekend, Company remains in sparkingly good form. And from the seats in the dress circle box (a bargainous £20 if you can find ’em), the slightly restricted view matters not a jot as the extreme proximity means you have something of the intimacy of watching a show at the Donmar. Which in a show of this quality means that there’s all sorts of detail that you can see, which isn’t immediately apparent from the back of the stalls.

Some of my key revelations from this visit (not necessarily restricted to things that we discovered by being close) : Continue reading “Re-re-review: Company, Gielgud Theatre”

Re-review: Company, Gielgud

As if you needed more convincing, here’s another 5 star review of this superlative re-imagining of Sondheim’s Company

“Everything’s different, nothing’s changed.
Only maybe slightly rearranged”

From the moment Marianne Elliott’s new production of Company started, I knew that it wouldn’t be something I only saw once. Indeed, by the time we’d reached press night, that was my third time at the show! And now that an extension through to the end of March has been announced, there’s never been a better time to get booking. Read my 5 star review of Company for Official Theatre here.

Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Brinkhoff Mogenburg
Company is booking at the Gielgud Theatre until 30th March

Review: Company, Gielgud

The company of Company are simply sensational at the Gielgud Theatre – Rosalie Craig, Patti LuPone, Jonny Bailey…just book now!

“Everyone adores you, what an awful thing”

Phone rings, door chimes, in comes an adaptation of Company that subtly but definitively realigns it for a contemporary audience and makes you wonder how you could ever go back to the original as is. Marianne Elliott’s reworking is most notable for the regendering of its lead character – Bobby becomes Bobbie in the extraordinary hands of Rosalie Craig – but the changes it makes filter right down through the show, reflecting the changes in society since the show was written in 1970.

Sometimes it is overt. Amy becomes Jamie here, and Jonathan Bailey’s show-stopping delivery of ‘Getting Married Today’ (seriously, best priest in a show, ever) is underscored by the fact that gay marriage is a thing now. Less obvious is the switching of roles for Susan and Peter, she’s the professional go-getter and he’s the one who faints at the sight of blood. And even Larry becoming something of a toyboy for Joanne speaks towards an important rebuttal of the kinds of cultural stereotype that have been allowed to persist.  Continue reading “Review: Company, Gielgud”

Someone to hold you too close – 10 takes on Being Alive to celebrate Company’s opening

My top 10 Losing My Minds post has been one of the most popular on the site (the most recent spike sadly being because of Marin Mazzie’s untimely passing – RIP), so I thought I would repeat the exercise with what is arguably Company’s most iconic song ‘Being Alive’. 

“Somebody make me come through”

1. Alice Fearn
An unexpected favourite mainly due to the combination of its achingly beautiful strings (arranged by Ben Goddard) and the delicacy of Fearn’s beautiful delivery.

2. Raúl Esparza
This. In all its ferocious power, I just can’t imagine it being better done by a man.

Continue reading “Someone to hold you too close – 10 takes on Being Alive to celebrate Company’s opening”

Album Reviews: Renée Fleming – Broadway & The Quentin Dentin Show

Two new music releases – Renée Fleming tackles Broadway classics in style, and The Quentin Dentin Show releases its cast recording

“Life is what you want it to be”

No matter what you think of Renée Fleming, you can’t accuse her of resting on her laurels. At this point in her career, she could well be taking the easy route but this decade alone has seen her tackle Broadway (most recently receiving a Tony nomination for Carousel) for the first time and release an album that featured interpretations of three Björk songs. Her newest release cleaves closer to musical theatre though, and Broadway is available now from Decca Classics. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Renée Fleming – Broadway & The Quentin Dentin Show”

News: Full casting for Company announced – but what does this really mean for a gender-switched production

Full casting for Elliott Harper’s Company announced – but what does this really mean for a gender-switched production. I crunch some numbers…

The full castlist for Marianne Elliott’s revival of Company has now been revealed, Jonathan Bailey’s casting as Jamie a late twist in the tale in a production trading on the interest of its gender-switching. Making Amy Jamie finally has the impact of queering the show as he remains partnered to Paul; but the rest of the show looks like it merely reinforces the heteronormativity of the world in general. Continue reading “News: Full casting for Company announced – but what does this really mean for a gender-switched production”

Review: Into the Woods, Cockpit

This production of Into the Woods at the Cockpit Theatre brings it into the 21st century, not a strictly necessary move

“To have, to wed, to get, to save, to kill, to keep, to go to the festival”

One of the main reasons that fairytales have endured as long as they have is that they are timeless, their messages recited as-is at bedsides since time immemorial. Recognising this, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods gives us a first half which takes us deep into this enchanted world as we know it and waiting until after the interval to show us what happens after happy ever after. 

So the notion of updating the show to a specifically 21st-century context is an intriguing one, as director Tim McArthur draws in influences such as The Only Way is Essex, Made in Chelsea and Rab C Nesbitt. On the one hand, it offers a fresh take on well-known characters; on the other, it also provides a distracting layer onto characters that barely need it. The result is a well-performed interpretation that rarely feels essential. Continue reading “Review: Into the Woods, Cockpit”

Album reviews: Frozen / Prince of Broadway / Mean Girls

I turn my attention to the latest set of Broadway cast recordings with Frozen, Prince of Broadway and Mean Girls

@deeninbeeld1

My cynicism about the quick turnaround of megahit film Frozen into a would-be megahit musical lasted for about 10 seconds as I popped on their cast recording. I mean, I loved the film and its songs by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez and so who was I kidding?!

And it fulfils all of my Disney princess dreams. Caissie Levy (Elsa) and Patti Murin (Anna) lead the cast in fine full-voiced form, new songs from the Lopezes fit in well to the score though it does take a hot minute to get used to them. And the orchestral arrangement lends a note of excitement to the songs you know so well already.

Levy’s ‘Let It Go’ naturally takes the spotlight as the Act 1 closer (reprised to close the show as well) but Murin’s rendition of ‘Love Is An Open Door’ with John Riddle’s Hans gets my vote for its sheer warmth and joie de vivre. Of the new songs, Elsa’s ‘Dangerous to Dream’ probably ranks as my favourite. Definitely keen to see this once it hits the West End. Continue reading “Album reviews: Frozen / Prince of Broadway / Mean Girls”

Album Reviews: Audra McDonald – Sing Happy / Louise Dearman – For You, For Me / Everybody’s Talking About Jamie cast recording

Casting my eye over some recent musical theatre album releases: Audra McDonald’s live album Sing Happy, Louise Dearman’s latest collection For You, For Me and the long-awaited cast recording for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie 

There are few things as well-designed as Audra McDonald’s thrilling soprano to make you happy, so the title of her new album Sing Happy is apt indeed. Her first live album and her first backed by an orchestra (the New York Philharmonic). the gig was recorded  just a few days ago on 1st May and no wonder they were so quick to turn it around.

Whether shimmering through Porgy and Bess‘ timeless ‘Summertime’, proudly getting her life in La Cage aux Folles’ ‘I Am What I Am’ or absolutely nailing She Loves Me’s ‘Vanilla Ice Cream’, McDonald’s velvety textured voice is always so exciting to listen to. And the drama of songs like ‘Never Will I Marry’ sound glorious with the richness of the orchestral backing (conducted by Andy Einhorn).

An affinity for Sondheim comes into play twice, a medley of ‘Children Will Listen’ with South Pacific’s ‘You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught’ and in a showstopping take on ‘Being Alive’, still manages to surprise with the heights to which she lifts the song. An unalloyed, absolute pleasure. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Audra McDonald – Sing Happy / Louise Dearman – For You, For Me / Everybody’s Talking About Jamie cast recording”