,

The Olivier Awards. It’s not all that.

Olivier Awards 2019
Jason Manford

Jason Manford

THERE are many good reasons why The Olivier Awards with Mastercard are theatre’s biggest night.

Central to most of them are the performances by actors from your favourite west end shows having the time of their lives and at the height of their theatre powers, who demand the attention of the audience.

The cast of The Lion King performed. Why? Who cares really.

Sometimes you just have to enjoy the moment without ruining it by asking too many questions. Here, Come From Away, The Inheritance, and Company triumphed. Each took away four prizes at the ceremony, hosted by Jason Manford. Manford fronted the occasion once before, in 2017.

Let’s never speak of Catherine Tate.

Miraculously, Manford did a good enough job. On a purely technical level, it was going well until he bungled a musical number with Janie Dee and plugged Kander & Ebb musical Curtains, which he is starring in. It broke up the show’s momentum badly, in fact.

Anyway, Company picked up awards for best supporting actor and actress, best musical revival and best set design. A brilliant and brave Sondheim reinvention that deserved all the awards.

Kyle Soller - The Inheritance

Kyle Soller – The Inheritance

The Inheritance, though, my favourite show of 2018 and a marvel of a play that dealt with the bitter legacy of the AIDS epidemic, won best new play, as well as awards for best actor and director, and lighting design.

As luck would have it, during the interval I made my way down to the Arena bar and bumped into critic Ann Treneman. We had a glass of Chardonnay. Out the corner of my eye I saw Company producer Chris Harper and director Marianne Elliott. This was the first show that I really followed religiously from Launch to Opening Night, to Benefit Performance, to closing week. It was emotional, readers.

I was thrilled that Flesh and Bone won and equally elated that Monica Dolan, picked up her first ever Olivier Award, winning Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance in All About Eve. Also, Sally Cookson won ‘Best Entertainment and Family’ for A Monster Calls. Proving ‘The Palladium Panto’ isn’t invincible.

Elsewhere, choreographer and director Sir Matthew Bourne was presented with a Special Award by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, (no Charlie) in recognition of his extraordinary contribution to dance.

But that’s just about your lot, though, as the rest of the occasion moved with all the unpredictable thrill and dynamism of a tax return.

Would I go again?

No.

It was far too long. I was hot in a tux; thank goodness for the Vodka Martini down the road at the Baglioni Hotel.

But if you’re a theatre lover, it was solid enough Sunday night entertainment.

Also, nice of Tom Hiddleston to show up.

If anyone summed it up best, however, it was Company Production Manager Igor, collecting on behalf of Bunny Christie (Best Set Design): “It was this or Countryfile.”

#OlivierAwards

FULL LIST OF OLIVIER AWARDS 2019 WITH MASTERCARD WINNERS

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Jonathan Bailey for Company at Gielgud Theatre

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Patti LuPone for Company at Gielgud Theatre

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC
Come From Away – Book, Music and Lyrics: David Hein and Irene Sankoff; Music
Supervisor, Arrangements: Ian Eisendrath; Orchestrations: August Eriksmoen; Musical
Director/UK Music Supervisor: Alan Berry; and the band of Come From Away at Phoenix
Theatre

BEST NEW DANCE PRODUCTION
Blkdog by Botis Seva at Sadler’s Wells

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN DANCE
Akram Khan for his performance in Xenos at Sadler’s Wells

BEST ENTERTAINMENT AND FAMILY
A Monster Calls at The Old Vic

BEST THEATRE CHOREOGRAPHER
Kelly Devine for Come From Away at Phoenix Theatre

MAGIC RADIO BEST MUSICAL REVIVAL
Company at Gielgud Theatre

BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Kobna Holdbrook-Smith for Tina – The Tina Turner Musical at Aldwych Theatre

BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Sharon D. Clarke for Caroline, Or Change at Playhouse Theatre

CUNARD BEST REVIVAL
Summer And Smoke at Almeida Theatre and Duke of York's Theatre

BEST NEW COMEDY
Home, I’m Darling at National Theatre – Dorfman and Duke of York’s Theatre

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN AFFILIATE THEATRE
Flesh And Bone at Soho Theatre

WHITE LIGHT AWARD FOR BEST LIGHTING DESIGN
Jon Clark for The Inheritance at Young Vic and Noël Coward Theatre

ROYAL ALBERT HALL AWARD FOR BEST SOUND DESIGN
Gareth Owen for Come From Away at Phoenix Theatre

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Catherine Zuber for The King And I at The London Palladium

BLUE-I THEATRE TECHNOLOGY AWARD FOR BEST SET DESIGN
Bunny Christie for Company at Gielgud Theatre

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Chris Walley for The Lieutenant Of Inishmore at Noël Coward Theatre

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Monica Dolan for All About Eve at Noël Coward Theatre

BEST NEW OPERA PRODUCTION
Katya Kabanova at Royal Opera House

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN OPERA
The ensemble of Porgy And Bess at London Coliseum

BEST ACTOR
Kyle Soller for The Inheritance at Young Vic and Noël Coward Theatre

BEST ACTRESS
Patsy Ferran for Summer And Smoke at Almeida Theatre and Duke of York’s Theatre

SIR PETER HALL AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTOR
Stephen Daldry for The Inheritance at Young Vic and Noël Coward Theatre

AMERICAN AIRLINES BEST NEW PLAY
The Inheritance at Young Vic and Noël Coward Theatre

MASTERCARD BEST NEW MUSICAL
Come From Away at Phoenix Theatre

SOCIETY OF LONDON THEATRE SPECIAL AWARD

Sir Matthew Bourne

,

Where next for The Color Purple?

The Color Purple
The Color Purple

The Color Purple

Brexit has been delayed, the far-right is on the rise & global warming continues.

But fear not. An actress with extreme views on LGBTQ+ folk has just been cast as a lesbian in The Color Purple. Repeat. An actress with extreme views on LGBTQ+ folk has just been cast as a lesbian in The Color Purple.

At the time of writing this, Oluwaseyi Omooba will be leading the cast in the role of Celie in the upcoming Curve Leicester and Birmingham Hippodrome production.

Her theatre credits include Hadestown (National Theatre); Crystal in Little Shop of Horrors (Regent’s Park); Martha in Spring Awakening (Hope Mill Theatre) and Tilly in Junkyard (Bristol Old Vic and UK Tour).

Omooba has faced allegations of  fanatic, offensive views in recent days after an old Facebook status emerged online – that read: “I do not believe homosexuality is right” the social media post in question was posted in 2015.

But how Omooba herself, and the co-producers of Oprah Winfrey’s Broadway musical reconcile their thoughts on the evils of homosexuality with the lead playing a lesbian is a whole new level of crazy.

Because, for all the talk of inclusivity, it is quite obvious, that this is pretty low-grade stuff. The arts should lead the way with tolerance and respect. These kind of views are not welcome in my sector.

It’s a bridge too far.

This kind of scandal has become ubiquitous in the recent years: an offensive social media post is uncovered & it normally ends with a public apology, and often a firing.

As a result, Curve Leicester and Birmingham Hippordrome responded rapidly to the post, which is currently spreading through theatre Twitter like wildfire.

“The views expressed in the historic social media post by a member of Curve and Birmingham Hippodrome’s The Color Purple cast in no way reflect those held by either of our theatres,” was the message rolled out on both Curve & Hippodrome’s social media handles. It continues, “We will be looking into the matter and will issue a full response in due course.”

Fair enough, but let us hope that Omooba does the right thing: apologises pronto and exits the production. It’s hard then to think of anyone less suited to a role in this musical or, in fact, any musical.

Where next for The Color Purple?

Omooba has remained silent on the topic, which is probably best. Because the more you delve into this one the more alarming it becomes.

Earlier this week, her father Ade Omooba a pastor who co-founded Christian Concern – was awarded an MBE for his work in voluntary service.

Hang on… WHAT?

Indeed, Christian Concern are a group that advocates for gay conversion therapy; the practice also known as “ex-gay therapy” or reparative therapy promotes the insane idea that being gay is something that should, and can, be “cured”.

Jesus wept.

The Colour Purple is a musical that ‘celebrates life, love and the strength to stand up for who you are and what you believe in.’

I am glad that Curve and The Hippodrome are taking it seriously and perhaps reconsidering the wisdom of this casting.

Then we will see how much they really believe in what they’re selling.

,

The Olivier Awards 2019: Who I Want To Win and Who Will Win

SO, musicals Company and Come from Away lead the 2019 Olivier Award nominations, both receiving nine nominations, which is absolutely ideal. 

If you haven’t seen Marianne Elliott’s gender-switched revival of Company or the exuberant 9/11 musical Come From Away yet – please do because I no longer wish to speak to anyone who hasn’t watched them at least once. 

Company

Company

It’s another storming year for Sonia Friedman, who has received a total of fifteen nominations across three productions for Summer & SmokeAll About Eve The InheritanceMatthew Lopez’s The Inheritance nabbed eight of those nominations.

The expression theatrical gold doesn’t begin to do justice to Lopez’s 2-part, seven-hour play about young gay New Yorkers. It’s a genuine masterpiece that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as The Ferryman or Chimerica

The Inheritance 

The Inheritance

Rather surprisingly, four productions from Daniel Evans’ inaugural season as artistic director at Chichester Festival Theatre (King Lear ft. Sir Ian McKellenQuiz byJames GrahamCaroline, Or Change starring Sharon D. Clarke & Pressure by David Haig) have received eight nominations between them. (these shows had west end transfer written all over them). 

Other talking points are the hit show Six, a sassy new musical based on Henry VIII’s wives, receiving five nominations. This includes a joint nomination for all six of the queens in a best actress in a supporting role in a musical category. 

SIX 

SIX

Look, I am a sucker for the plucky underdog but let’s not kid ourselves here.

I’m delighted that Young Vic’s musical based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home has been recognised but furious that Jenna Russell has been snubbed.

Fortunately, stars of stage and screen will light up the Royal Albert Hall as Vanessa Redgrave, Ian McKellen, Eileen Atkins, Gillian Anderson and David Suchet are among those nominated.

Anyway, from the nominees I have picked my deserving winners, and I’ve also taken a guess at who might actually win.

Note: Only Fools and Horses: The Musical & Heathers were overlooked.

FULL LIST OF NOMINATIONS FOR OLIVIER AWARDS 2019 WITH MASTERCARD

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL

Jonathan Bailey for Company at Gielgud Theatre

Clive Carter for Come From Away at Phoenix Theatre

Richard Fleeshman for Company at Gielgud Theatre

Robert Hands for Come From Away at Phoenix Theatre

Who I want to win: Jonathan Bailey

Who I think will win: Jonathan Bailey

 

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL

Patti LuPone for Company at Gielgud Theatre

Ruthie Ann Miles for The King And I at The London Palladium

“The Queens” – Aimie Atkinson, Alexia McIntosh, Millie O’Connell, Natalie Paris, Maiya Quansah-Breed and Jarneia Richard-Noel – for Six at Arts Theatre

Rachel Tucker for Come From Away at Phoenix Theatre

Who I want to win: Rachel Tucker 

Who I think will win: Patti LuPone (don’t @ me)

 

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC

Come From Away – Book, Music and Lyrics: David Hein and Irene Sankoff; Music Supervisor, Arrangements: Ian Eisendrath; Orchestrations: August Eriksmoen; Musical Director/UK Music Supervisor: Alan Berry; and the band of Come From Away at Phoenix Theatre

Fun Home – Composer: Jeanine Tesori; Lyricist/Bookwriter: Lisa Kron at Young Vic

The Inheritance – Composer: Paul Englishby at Young Vic and Noël Coward Theatre

A Monster Calls – Original music composed by Benji Bower and performed live by Benji with Will Bower (The Bower Brothers) at The Old Vic

Six – Original score, orchestrations and vocal arrangements: Toby Marlow, Lucy Moss, Tom Curran and Joe Beighton at Arts Theatre

Who I want to win: Fun Home 

Who I think will win: The Inheritance

 

BEST THEATRE CHOREOGRAPHER

Kelly Devine for Come From Away at Phoenix Theatre

Christopher Gattelli based on original choreography by Jerome Robbins for The King And I at The London Palladium

Carrie-Anne Ingrouille for Six at Arts Theatre

Liam Steel for Company at Gielgud Theatre

Who I want to win: Kelly Devine for Come From Away 

Who I think will win: Liam Steel for Company 

Come From Away 

Come From Away

MAGIC RADIO BEST MUSICAL REVIVAL

Caroline, Or Change at Playhouse Theatre

Company at Gielgud Theatre

The King And I at The London Palladium

Who I want to win: Company

Who I think will win: Company

 

BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

Marc Antolin for Little Shop Of Horrors at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

Kobna Holdbrook-Smith for Tina – The Tina Turner Musical at Aldwych Theatre

Zubin Varla for Fun Home at Young Vic

Ken Watanabe for The King And I at The London Palladium

 Who I want to win: Zubin Varla for Fun Home

Who I think will win: Ken Watanabe for The King And I

 

BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL

Sharon D. Clarke for Caroline, Or Change at Playhouse Theatre

Rosalie Craig for Company at Gielgud Theatre

Kelli O’Hara for The King And I at The London Palladium

Adrienne Warren for Tina – The Tina Turner Musical at Aldwych Theatre

 Who I want to win: Sharon D. Clarke

Who I think will win: Sharon D. Clarke

 

CUNARD BEST REVIVAL

King Lear at Duke of York’s Theatre

The Lieutenant Of Inishmore at Noël Coward Theatre

The Price at Wyndham’s Theatre

Summer And Smoke at Almeida Theatre and Duke of York’s Theatre

 Who I want to win: Summer And Smoke

Who I think will win: Summer and Smoke

 

BEST NEW COMEDY

Home, I’m Darling at National Theatre – Dorfman and Duke of York’s Theatre

Nine Night at National Theatre – Dorfman and Trafalgar Studios 1

Quiz at Noël Coward Theatre

 Who I want to win: Nine Night

Who I think will win: Nine Night

 

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN AFFILIATE THEATRE

Moe Bar-El for his performance in Every Day I Make Greatness Happen at Hampstead Theatre Downstairs

Flesh And Bone at Soho Theatre

Jonathan Hyde for his performance in Gently Down The Stream at Park Theatre

The Phlebotomist at Hampstead Theatre Downstairs

Athena Stevens for Schism at Park Theatre

 Who I want to win: Flesh and Bone

Who I think will win: Jonathan Hyde 

 

WHITE LIGHT AWARD FOR BEST LIGHTING DESIGN

Neil Austin for Company

Howell Binkley for Come From Away

Jon Clark for The Inheritance

Lee Curran for Summer And Smoke

 Who I want to win: Jon Clarke for The Inheritance

Who I think will win: Neil Austin for Company

 

ROYAL ALBERT HALL AWARD FOR BEST SOUND DESIGN

Paul Arditti and Christopher Reid for The Inheritance

Mike Beer for A Monster Calls

Carolyn Downing for Summer And Smoke

Gareth Owen for Come From Away

Nick Powell for The Lehman Trilogy

Who I want to win: Mike Beer for A Monster Calls (this was glorious!)

Who I think will win: Paul Arditti and Christopher Reid for The Inheritance

 

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Fly Davis for Caroline, Or Change at Playhouse Theatre

Anna Fleischle for Home, I’m Darling at National Theatre – Dorfman and Duke of York’s Theatre

Gabriella Slade for Six at Arts Theatre

Catherine Zuber for The King And I at The London Palladium

Who I want to win: Catherine Zuber for The King And I

Who I think will win: Anna Fleischle for Home, I’m Darling

 

BLUE-I THEATRE TECHNOLOGY AWARD FOR BEST SET DESIGN

Bunny Christie for Company

Bob Crowley for The Inheritance

Es Devlin for The Lehman Trilogy

Anna Fleischle for Home, I’m Darling at National Theatre – Dorfman

Who I want to win: Bunny Christie for Company

Who I think will win: Bunny Christie for Company

 

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Keir Charles for Quiz at Noël Coward Theatre

Adam Gillen for Killer Joe at Trafalgar Studios 1

Adrian Lukis for The Price at Wyndham’s Theatre

Malcolm Sinclair for Pressure at Ambassadors Theatre

Chris Walley for The Lieutenant Of Inishmore at Noël Coward Theatre

 

Who I want to win: Malcolm Sinclair for Pressure at Ambassadors Theatre

Who I think will win: Chris Walley for The Lieutenant Of Inishmore

 

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Susan Brown for Home, I’m Darling at National Theatre

Monica Dolan for All About Eve at Noël Coward Theatre

Cecilia Noble for Nine Night at National Theatre – Dorfman and Trafalgar Studios 1

Vanessa Redgrave for The Inheritance at Young Vic and Noël Coward Theatre

Olivier Awards

Olivier Awards

Who I want to win: Monica Dolan for All About Eve (Dolan is excellent)

Who I think will win: Vanessa Redgrave for The Inheritance (Hmm)

 Monica and Gillian in All About Eve

Monica and Gillian in All About Eve

BEST ACTOR

Adam Godley, Ben Miles and Simon Russell Beale for The Lehman Trilogy at National Theatre – Lyttelton

Arinzé Kene for Misty at Trafalgar Studios 1

Ian McKellen for King Lear at Duke of York’s Theatre

Kyle Soller for The Inheritance at Young Vic and Noël Coward Theatre

David Suchet for The Price at Wyndham’s Theatre

Who I want to win: Kyle Soller for The Inheritance OR Arinzé Kene for Misty

Who I think will win: Ian McKellen for King Lear

 

BEST ACTRESS

Gillian Anderson for All About Eve at Noël Coward Theatre

Eileen Atkins for The Height Of The Storm at Wyndham’s Theatre

Patsy Ferran for Summer And Smoke at Almeida Theatre and Duke of York’s Theatre

Sophie Okonedo for Antony And Cleopatra at National Theatre – Olivier

Katherine Parkinson for Home, I’m Darling at National Theatre – Dorfman and Duke of York’s Theatre

Who I want to win: Patsy Ferran for Summer And Smoke

Who I think will win: Patsy Ferran for Summer And Smoke

 

SIR PETER HALL AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTOR

Christopher Ashley for Come From Away

Stephen Daldry for The Inheritance

Marianne Elliott for Company

Rebecca Frecknall for Summer And Smoke

Sam Mendes for The Lehman Trilogy 

Who I want to win: Marianne Elliott for Company

Who I think will win: Stephen Daldry for The Inheritance

 

AMERICAN AIRLINES BEST NEW PLAY

The Inheritance at Young Vic and Noël Coward Theatre

The Lehman Trilogy at National Theatre – Lyttelton

Misty at Trafalgar Studios 1

Sweat at Donmar Warehouse

Who I want to win: The Inheritance

Who I think will win: The Inheritance

 

MASTERCARD BEST NEW MUSICAL

Come From Away at Phoenix Theatre

Fun Home at Young Vic

Six at Arts Theatre

Tina – The Tina Turner Musical at Aldwych Theatre

 Who I want to win: Come From Away

Who I think will win: Six at Arts Theatre 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is that.

Bookmark this page and come back on the night to see how I did, but be quick because I’m definitely going to come back and change all my predictions so that it looks like I knew what I was talking about.

 Cheers!

The Olivier Awards take place on April 7 at the Royal Albert Hall, hosted by Jason Manford.

,

Grievance culture is not unproblematic

Julian Ovenden and Gillian Anderson in All About Eve.

How seriously should theatre-goers take a reviewer that keeps using the word problematic?

Not seriously at all, obviously.

A trend that, arguably, represents everything rotten & self-destructive about the industry currently. Imposing self righteous 21st century values on the past also means work is now regularly dismissed: sight unseen.

Who needs creative expression anyway? Balance? Forget it.

It’s like Brexit it goes from bad to worse

In an industry that has only recently begun to grapple with the equality issues that have bedevilled it, progress has been made on representation & visibility.

But where does all this agenda-driven, middle class self-loathing & guilt tripping actually lead? Well, it is initially on display in the current crop or preachy ‘woke’ commentary that is entrenched in mainstream culture. See: Theatre Twitter / Exeunt & an increasing number of The Stage’s reviews.

Berkoff as Harvey Weinstein. Photograph credit: Richard Young/Rex/Shutterstock

Berkoff as Harvey Weinstein. Photograph credit: Richard Young/Rex/Shutterstock

Steven Berkoff recently directed himself in Harvey, a one-man show about Weinstein, at the Playground theatre, London. The play attempts to delve into the disgraced movie mogul.

The Guardian went and awarded it 2 stars. This was a workshop run of a new play by an 81 year old man. Press were not invited – they went anyway. Tabloid stuff innit.

Berkoff may not be to everyone’s taste and the timing is undeniably questionable (too soon etc) but he is a man with an international profile & reputation for cutting-edge theatre (East, Salome and Decadence) Berkoff is also one of the foremost actors of his generation. To write him off for having a scrotum & daring to tackle this material is churlish.

Every year a rotating number of individual voices rise above the usual noise on social media but the stupidity remains ritualised. Everyone is offended – everything is problematic. Even Mary Poppins is racistyou know.

Long term, as others are often too scared to point out, though, it’s hardly an unconnected surprise to learn that critics are being culled & informed mainstream coverage is in decline. Who wants to read this stuff? Modern life is already miserable enough as it is.

It’s always a case of fine margins, of course, with The Stage & increasingly The Guardian which are both regularly condemning patriarchy in a campaign that can best be described as annoying.

It is, though, hard to escape the sense that all concerned are going through the motions – effortlessly, sometimes brilliantly – but going through the motions, none the less. Chasing trends rather than setting them.

All About Eve

All About Eve

This week, I visited the Noel Coward to see Ivo Van Hove’s production of All About Eve. The play is based on the classic 1950 film, that sees Bette Davis as an ageing star under siege from a manipulative aspiring actress.

Gillian Anderson & Lily James are great & I found it compelling. Technical wizardry aside, the vital element in the brilliance of All About Eve is that the direction & cast are of a phenomenally high standard. Truly.

Anyway, in a review for Time OutAndrzej Łukowski commented: “Her appearance is the first sense that any women exist in this world, and she’s there to mourn, repent, and care for a suffering man, not to have her own agency.” ‘Written in a very different era, ‘All About Eve’ is not totally unproblematic in its depiction of female ambition and its relationship to female bodies. But it is still pretty potent, and apt, and you can see why it appealed to Van Hove.’

All About Eve is geared toward the #MeToo era; most of the audiences are young, smart females. I used to enjoy reading first night reviews. Now, so often, the recurring themes and language around the same complaints about ‘all male’ creative teams week-after week mean that those writing about theatre have talked themselves into an opinion.

By which I mean give me strength –  let’s not get carried away chaps, it’s just people jumping on an obvious bandwagon.

Stay strong, readers.

All About Eve is at the Noël Coward theatre, London, until 11 May.

,

FOLLIES IS ON FU*KING ITUNES

Follies

As you well know, the National Theatre executed a surprise, everyone-get-out-of-bed-right-now, fucking-hell-what’s-happening-are-we-all-dead-and-is-this-what-the-afterlife-feels-like album release.

Stephen Sondheim’s FOLLIES – 2018 National Theatre Cast Recording is here.

It’s all very exciting.

My thanks for your thoughts at this time and for those who contributed to the trolling of our Royal National Theatre.

But how did I feel at the end of this emotional 12 month dual carriageway?

One word: Overjoyed.

  1. Prologue – 10/10
  2. Beautiful Girls 10/10
  3. Don’t Look At Me 10/10
  4. Waiting For The Girls Upstairs 10/10
  5. Rain On The Roof / Ah, Paris! / Broadway Baby (Medley) 10/10
  6. The Road You Didn’t Take 10/10
  7. In Buddy’s Eyes 10/10
  8. Who’s That Woman? 10/10
  9. I’m Still Here 10/10
  10. Too Many Mornings 10/10
  11. The Right Girl 8/10 (a bit of a racket)
  12. One More Kiss 10/10
  13. Could I Leave You? 10/10
  14. Loveland 8/10 (semi-annoying)
  15. You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow / Love Will See Us Through (Medley) 10/10
  16. Buddy’s Blues 10/10
  17. Losing My Mind 9/10 (Imelda lite)
  18. The Story Of Lucy and Jessie 10/10
  19. Live, Laugh, Love 10/10
  20. End of Show 10/10

Anyway, FOLLIES returns to the National Theatre with previews from 12 February 2019, with many of the original cast including Tracie Bennett, Janie Dee and Peter Forbes returning to their roles. Alexander Hanson and Joanna Riding will join the cast in the roles of Ben and Sally. More information and tickets can be found here: https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/follies

CD pre-orders will be available ‘soon’ let’s hope it isn’t another year.

Any questions? No? Good. You can buy FOLLIES on Itunes  or stream it right now

,

Top 5 Shows of 2018 – (the hype is real)

Top 5 shows of 2018 by Carl Woodward

All these shows are 10/10s.

It has been quite a year for theatre.

But first I thought it would only be polite to look back at some brilliantly shit moments.

Chicago returned with Cuba Gooding Jr as Billy Flynn, which was not ideal. Crumbling shows do these things, of course, in the hope of charming the audience into thinking the show still has legs. Love Island’s Caroline Flack was eventually parachuted in as Roxie Hart – reportedly pipping Cheryl Cole to the part. I know.

Elsewhere, the show most likely to drive business into the assisted suicide sector of Switzerland’s economy: Foxfinder. The West End production of Dawn King’s dystopian play – last seen at the tiny Finborough in 2005 – was a crushing disappointment. A starry affair, though, featuring Iwan Rheon (Game of Thrones) and Heida Reed (Poldark).

 FoxFinder

FoxFinder

However, it closed 2 months early after reportedly playing to an average audience of 40 people. Oh dear. I was enraged at the stupidity of the production.

It wasn’t the only fiasco of the year, though, ‘cos I was also pretty distressed by Eugenius! Ben Adams and Chris Wilkin’s joyless 80’s musical returned to the Other Palace and looked all set to transfer to the Ambassador’s Theatre.

Sadly, for them, a key investor pulled out. I don’t think a show has ever made me want to eat my own teeth with despair, either. The less said about it the better.

Oh, and cult off-Broadway show Heathers transferred to the Theatre Royal Haymarket. A horror of a show featuring Carrie Hope Fletcher. ‘The hype is real’ set a new low for witless PR. Note: Heathers was, in fact, beyond criticism.

Off-stage oddity was abundant, The Tricycle in Kilburn rebranded as Kiln Theatre. In one of the most pointless protests of all time. You want to know the location of this outrage, though, simply take a closer look at the people branding placards; they had the Brexit look about them.

But what a terrific year it has been for great theatre.

So, my Top 5 shows of 2018.

  1. Fun Home at the Young Vic, was a radical triumph. The Tony-Award winning musical based on Alison Bechdel’s 2006 striking graphic novel memoir was all about growing up gay. But, if anything, it was all about the poignantly beautiful inspired lesbian protagonist and the complicated relationship with her closeted gay father. This was an unconventional 100-minute show set in a funeral home but full of life and bristling with ambition. Enchanting stuff.

A sensational Jenna Russell added majestic authority to an all-too-relatable, everyday drama. Russell invoked absolute magic. I sobbed. As did most around me.

Caroline, or Change

Caroline, Or Change

  1. Caroline, Or Change was exhilarating and distinct. Sharon D Clarke made mincemeat as Caroline, a black maid in Tony Kushner’s sprawling civil rights musical. Clarke’s vocals conveyed wilful submissiveness with tenderness, giving the production an incredible, stark atmosphere. Everything about it had a cohesiveness that only the greatest shows possess. Michael Longhust directed everything with exhilarating originality.

The glorious show stared life in Chichester – enjoyed a sell-out acclaimed run at Hampstead Theatre and is running at Playhouse Theatre until April 2019.

Go. See. It.

  1. Company is stylish, charismatic and an unselfconsciously incisive gender-switch Sondheim for the 21st Century. Elliott & Harper riotously rode the zeitgeist with this one. Bobby became Bobbie – a singleton facing her 35th birthday alone and Rosalie Craig embodied the role to classy perfection, which was a relief.

This slick and stylish amazingness also includes two of the best musical theatre performances of 2018 in the shape of Patti LuPone and Jonathan Bailey belting out 5-star, show-stopping excellence every night. Marianne Elliott’s excellent production reinvented Stephen Sondheim for today. A thrilling interrogation of a half-century old musical that deserves all the awards. Bunny Christie’s luminescent set is certainly the best thing on Shaftesbury Avenue.

Company was 2018’s most thrilling and sophisticated musical comedy.

  1. The Producers at the Royal Exchange was very, very funny and beautifully executed. I.e. unmissable theatre. Performed in the round, drawing the audience in, Raz Shaw’s brilliant revival of Mel Brooks’ musical felt horribly pertinent to the present. Timing, chemistry, acting and singing: all note-perfect.

Not for the first time, Manchester set the standard for world class theatre. Alistair David’s choreography was seriously good, too. A side-splitting and hilarious piece of work. Truly.

Anyway, at this point you’re probably wondering what the best show of 2018 is going to be.

Well:

  1. The Inheritance is probably the funniest play you’ll see about AIDS. Matthew Lopez’s two-part masterpiece manages to make you weep with laughter one moment and move you to tears the next. A brilliant rare theatre trick indeed.
The Inheritance

The Inheritance

 This is the play of the year, by the writer of the year, from the producer of the decade (Sonia Friedman), and if the beauty of The Inheritance doesn’t hit you round the head when you see it you might as well pack up and go home because it’s over. Don’t talk to me.

You can be hard pressed to find performances rarely so inspired, defined and compatible with the dozen exceptionally gifted performers. Stephen Daldry’s life-affirming production takes an unflinching look at what makes us tick, success, failure, love and heartbreak.

This is sublime 7-hour play that uniquely explores the lives of gay New Yorkers a generation on from the AIDS crisis, whilst also being a striking love letter to EM Forster and Howards End.

To call The Inheritance a once-in-a-lifetime piece of theatre perfection would be 100% accurate. Hey, even retired critic Michael Coveney liked it and he hates everything and everyone. *thumbs up emoji*

Broadway beckons, no doubt.

And that brings our list to a close. Not great news for Bananaman: The Musical, but pretty good news for theatre’s best people.

Shows that have made it to Carl’s  list of  top 10:

 

,

Bridge Theatre: A Very Very Very Questionable Year

Bridge Theatre

Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr’s year-old theatre is testing my patience. The mission statement of the two Nicks was to focus primarily on new plays.

I suppose they did do that.

One thing’s for sure, though – the 900-seat, £12.5m Bridge Theatre, has the best toilets in London. No subsidy either. 100% commercial theatre, folks, and disappointingly, when I glanced a programme, within the core staff: no education department. Poor show, guys.

There’s something a bit unnerving about anyone who isn’t London’s literati giving a damn about Bridge Theatre. The warning signs were there as early as the third production Nightfall (Barney Norris) and who can forget the terminal Young Marx (Richard Bean). Let’s not dwell on the shoddy reunion with long-term collaborator Alan Bennett (Allelujah!) either. I walked out of all three bored rigid.

The fact that Hytner has still never directed a play by a woman is an obvious concern, which, I think you’ll agree, is fairly impressive. The two Nicks have to start commissioning and involving women writers. Their worrying all-male, all-white line-up will never bring in a diverse audience.

But, hey, why bother with quality control when you can sell tickets to an Evening with Nigella Lawson for £45.00 a pop and shed-loads of Madelines during the intervals.

The Bridge’s latest misfireMartin McDonagh’s objectively rubbish new play A Very Very Very Dark Matter. It might be a contender for the worst play of the year. Why? The plot. Or almost complete lack of it, to be more accurate. No matter how many illustrious writers pen something for that stage and, despite them being an Oscar winner – I still haven’t been able to find one. A Very Very Very Dark Matter never takes off; avoid it at all costs.

A Very Dark Matter, Jim Broadbent

A Very Dark Matter, Jim Broadbent

McDonagh has taken a historical figure and made him a racist idiot– imagining the life he lived at the height of his fame – in this case by portraying Danish storyteller Hans Christian Andersen (Jim Broadbent) being offensive to a Congolese pygmy woman (Eula’Mae Ackles) in a secret dwelling upstairs in his attic.

As maddeningly incoherent as it sounds.

What did stun me, though, was the sudden realisation that I’d seen it before. It’s a star-fucking Horrible Histories, obviously, but not just the basic grotesque spin on historical events – whether portraying Charles Dickens as a foul-mouthed misery or Christian Andersen as a cockney racist.

The difference, of course, is that Horrible Histories often delivers a powerful message with a charm, subtlety, humour, a proper story and a great script. Matthew Dunster’s production does it with a mallet over the head. The 90-minute evening is full of the F and C words and an attempt to make us laugh at genuinely offensive language, stereotypes about ‘gyppos’ and in-jokes about German directors. How wrong. How sadly, awfully, dangerously wrong.

Either Nick Hytner and Nick Starr have taken their eyes off the ball or else they are working towards better things. However, what they are missing, as yet, is a real sense of vision, inclusion and diversity. Just because it is a commercial enterprise doesn’t mean these things are not compatible.

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar

Sure, the toilets are nice and Hytner’s promenade production of Julius Caesar was smart and gripping. But with the new season containing a victory-lap of monologue My Name Is Lucy Barton and Hytner directing an immersive production of William Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I’ll pass thanks.

And you can keep your signature Madeleines… For now.

COMPANY is exciting, fresh and relevant

Further proof, if it were needed, there’s not a single theatre format that can’t be improved by the presence of Marianne Elliott. See: Angels in America / War Horse / Curious IncidentElliott & Harper’s gender-switch reinvention of Stephen Sondheim’s musical comedy COMPANY, will go down in West End folklore.

Knocked flat by this wonderful musical, I saw stars at the interval, five of them.

People are trying to work out why COMPANY is proving so insanely popular. Theories have ranged from Patti LuPone’s scene-stealing, Mel Giedroyc’s playful comic bravado, to Richard Fleeshman in tiny blue pants, without considering a more obvious possibility. All of the above.

The musical – ambitious book by George Furth, skilful music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim – is all about marriage and single life. But fifty years on from its Broadway debut – Elliot’s entertaining gender-switch reinvention enables a forensic and meaningful account of the pressures on modern women and female agency. Everything builds to an intriguing investigation of commitment, sexual desire and modern relationships.

Deeply brilliant Rosalie Craig absolutely nails the hardest role of reinventing Bobbie: a thirty-five-year-old, New York singleton. Craig’s performance is an unqualified success. Truly. She displays all the quick-fire shrewd observations to perfection and, like all great performers, can melt your heart in a flash. And she’s tailored in her vocal powers to the size of the Gieguld Theatre and the ascending glories of her two solo first act belters: ‘Someone Is Waiting’ and ‘Marry Me A Little.’

Patti LuPone – a Broadway legend of undiminished vitality and comic charm – plays cynical friend Joanne with mega-star sass. LuPone’s entrance at ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ is full of smack and billion-dollar relish. Her performance is out and out astounding and her jaded but larger-than-life persona is truly delicious. A dazzle to watch.

Patti LuPone

Patti LuPone

Elsewhere, Bunny Christie’s chic set is sensational. Lit in it in blue and red neon shades and Alice in Wonderland inspired, it all looks sleek. It’s all the more hypnotising, because clever casting and pure stagecraft is combined with an ability to tug at the heartstrings. This only serves as a reminder of what a great and distinctively talented team is behind this.

In a uniformly strong cast, Richard Fleeshman is hilarious (‘Barcelona’ = joyful) playing chiselled, nice-but-dim flight attendant Andy and Gavin Spokes delivers stirring pathos as Harry – when he sings ‘Sorry Grateful’ I burst into tears, it was kind of shattering. I love theatre that makes me burst into tears. As arrogant hipster PJ, George Blagden is alluring when he sings ‘Another Hundred People’, against a backdrop of two bleak carriages of commuters amid break-out moments of gorgeous movement. Moments later he is wheeled off on a park bench. Fun.

Liam Steel’s choreography is full of precision and shimmer – especially the storming Vaudevillian party game bat-shit craziness of ‘Side by Side’ – the full cast perform this with military precision and it is 100% excellent.

One of the things the show does very, very well – and often with a wry comic touch – is magic. Actual magic; the illusions, by magician Chris Fisher, are executed cunningly, drawing on sleight of hand – it is utterly theatrical. At one point, the female cleric (divine Daisy Maywood), pops up from the floor in a pink neon box, vanishes behind a door, moments later disappears into a fridge.

In ‘Getting Married Today’, originally a bride-to-be (Amy) delivers a nerve-jangling ode to second thoughts and is here invigorated by one frantic half of gay couple Jonathan Bailey. He is the twitchy gay groom Jamie (embodying monotone hysteria). Bailey’s lines are spat out at machine-gun momentum and with bullseye precision – this whole sequence is ingenious and it nearly stops the show.

Marianne Elliott’s superlatively reworked COMPANY never once lets the pace drop. And the results are vibrant; go, just go.

COMPANY is at the Gieguld Theatre until March 30 2019.

Click here to book your tickets for Company

,

So obviously ‘The Inheritance’ is fairly incredible

The Inheritance

Right – so I’ve seen The Inheritance (again) and it’s a pretty astonishing piece of work. The Young Vic’s show of the year: The Inheritance, written by Matthew Lopez and directed by Stephen Daldry, is as close to theatre perfection as it gets.

Is the hype real? Yes, folks.

Photo Credit: Marc Brenner

Theatrically, tonally, politically and conceptually it’s right up there with Tony Kushner’s sprawling Angels in America, and with a brilliant cast including Vanessa Redgrave – the only woman in the play.

This, in a nutshell, is where we begin:

A cosy room. A handful of YOUNG MEN sitting around writing.’

Paul Hilton kicks off Part 1 as Morgan, an embodiment of novelist E.M. Forster educating a group of contemporary privileged gay men in New York, lost in the millennial haze of a generation after the AIDS crisis.

Having a production like this at the Noel Coward Theatre (Broadway next – certainly) is more significant than ever. We are living in a divided world; more than two-thirds of same-sex couples avoid holding hands in public and hate crimes against LGBT people has more than doubled since EU referendum.

These are challenging times.

But this is a play of a lifetime – for the time. Release the doves, it’s finally happened. The Inheritance is a thrilling seven-hour, two-parter E.M. Forster inspired epic of New York gay life. Oh, and it is extremely special. Its theatre in all the right ways, it’s noisy in all the right ways, it’s brash and bombastic and funny and audacious and playful in all the right ways, and it’s smart in all the right ways, too.

Photo Credit: Marc Brenner

Along with the world-class sound by Paul Arditti and Christopher Reid, one of the best things about The Inheritance is Jon Clark’s lighting. It illuminates the stage; the naturalistic suddenly becomes impressionistic. Falling shadows make the darkness itself visible. Light is used not just to show detail, but to hide it.

Photo Credit: Marc Brenner

Part 1, though, has possibly my favourite moments ever spent sat in a theatre. Bob Crowley’s excellent bare wooden set enables the exceptional cast to display constant movement and focussed performances, his minimal design of a moving platform creates a striking azure.

‘We need our community, we need our history. How else can we teach the next generation who they are and how they got here?’ asks the beating heart of the story: Eric Glass– played exquisitely by Kyle Soller – on the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration, while scene-stealing Andrew Burnap as Toby swaggers as his narcissistic partner. He flutters around gayly in a tight vest and speedos like an exotic bird. He’s also very funny and has cheek bones that could cut glass. Deftly conjoining these two central performances are the breathtakingly simple sequences between them that encapsulates Lopez’s jaggedly tender script; harrowing, heart-breaking, nasty and joyful.

Photo Credit: Marc Brenner

Part 2 is a drama littered with characters living an unfulfilled existence, trapped by the great silence and snappy dialogue that is the true villain of the piece. Having been swept along by Daldry’s vision for a day and night of entertainment, heartbreak and inspiration, Vanessa Redgrave appears as a woman who has lost her son to AIDS. Redgrave, 81, puts on a majestic display of stagecraft full of hypnotic pregnant pauses. By the end of the night, you feel that silence deserves to be broken by tumultuous applause. Which it is.

Everything that I have written about The Inheritance seriously understates the level of theatre sorcery going on here; this is a decadent, astute theatre triumph.

It is addictively binge-worthy and I can’t wait to go back.

N.B. Please note that the amazingness of this cast is indeed dangerous and anybody with an aversion to INCREDIBLE THEATRE should avoid.

The Inheritance is at Noel Coward Theatre until 19 January 2019. Wednesday and Saturday matinee performances. 

Top Show: London – The Inheritance (Pt. 1)