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Top 5 Shows of 2021 (according to me)

2021. The year that tried to one-up 2020. Truly.

(I think being a neurotic, worrisome person slightly prepared me for it)

An extraordinary year for British theatre. Anyway, for my final blog of the last rollercoaster 12 months, I present my Top 5 shows of the year: 

1) Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club- Playhouse, London 

Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club made every moment ring with significance and was brimming with menace and threat. Rebecca Frecknall’s starry and immersive production of the Kander and Ebb classic was, in short, theatre heaven. 

Eddie Redmayne as the Emcee and Jessie Buckley as Sally Bowles in Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club / Marc Brenner

The in-the-round reconfiguration of London’s Playhouse theatre was kind of amazing. Eddie Redmayne as Emcee pulled the audience into a hedonistic milieu. 

Jessie Buckley’s vulnerable, edgy take reinvented Sally Bowles as a frightened and angry child. Then things got dark. 

A rising talent, Omari Douglas, shone. There’s also a wonderful performance from a pair of older actors as the ill-starred lovebirds Elliot Levey and Liza Sadovy as Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz. 

Alas, this was an unbelievable and electric occasion, only overshadowed by the sky-high £300 top-price tickets

Cabaret is at the Playhouse theatre, London, until 1 October 2022

2) Anything Goes – The Barbican, London 

Broadway star Sutton Foster starring as Reno Sweeney in Cole Porter’s classic musical at the Barbican was just what the doctor ordered. 

Sutton Foster as Reno Sweeney / Tristram Kenton

Gorgeous songs and dance and feisty performances from a brilliant cast made the screwball plot into an enchanting musical escape. 

Anything Goes was of the most entertaining shows I have ever seen and going by standing ovations (plural), it was for everyone else around me, too.

Directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, who won a Tony for her 2011 Broadway staging, this new London production was a flat-out triumph. 

A lavish, joyful, and memorable piece of musical theatre, with solid turns from Robert Lindsay, Felicity Kendal and Gary Wilmot. 

Anything Goes is playing on BBC Two on Boxing Day at 6.40pm. 

3) South Pacific – Chichester Festival Theatre 

This was a glittering, intelligent and radical reappraisal of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. Daniel Evans’s production burst with energy as it foreground an anti-racist message, it marked the return of theatre in superb style. 

The company of South Pacific at Chichester Festival Theatre / Johan Persson

A strong cast was led by Julian Ovenden as the plantation owner Emile de Becque, and a pregnant Gina Beck. Rarely had the drama of the score sounded more immediate or more moving.

Evans directed an enchanted, threatening evening.

South Pacific will embark on a UK tour in 2022. 

4) The Play What I Wrote – Bimingham Rep 

Tom Hiddleston at Birmingham Rep was one of the most compelling events of my theatre year.

The A-lister provided palpable shock on opening night of this madcap revival. In the play, tensions arise between double act Dennis and Thom, as their aspirations start to diverge. During act 2 a surprise guest star arrives to be roasted by the pair. 

Thom Tuck as Thom, Tom Hiddleston as himself, and Dennis Herdman as Dennis

In this case, Hiddleston proved to be an extremely good sport, (“You might have seen my Coriolanus?”) and putting on a pink and blue dress with bows and a hoop skirt, along with a baroque style wig as he danced across the stage. 

A heartwarming tribute to Morecambe and Wise – the play was co-written 20 years ago by Sean Foley – the show generated the kind of hysterical laughter of which our theatre has lately been starved. 

At Birmingham Rep until 1 January.

5) Our Ladies of Blundellsands – Liverpool Everyman

Jonathan Harvey’s deliciously dark play featured an impeccably excellent Josie Lawrence as an agoraphobic Merseyside Norma Desmond. Nick Bagnall’s production was fast-paced and very funny without losing the pathos of guilty family secrets. 

Tonally, Our Ladies of Blundellsands cut an elegant path between humour and pathos. 

Josie Lawrence in Our Ladies of Blundellsands

In a strong ensemble, it was fascinating to realise that it is Harvey’s sublime dark wit that sheds more light on human desperation than anything else – it also emerges as Liverpool’s most entertaining and moving play for years– you could feel how much the creative team loved the material.

Frankly, I felt the same way. 

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THERE were, however, three shows I wish I’d taken a hand grenade to: Frozen the Musical (Theme Park theatre), Carousel at Regents Park Open Air Theatre (Skiffle band), and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella (Creatively bankrupt). 

For me, this year has been many things, but as we say goodbye to 2021 let’s just choose to remember it as a load of shit with some decent theatre. 

Have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year. 

Let’s see how 2022 pans out, shall we? Cue violins.

Carl x 

Anything Goes stars attend Chiswick Cinema screening

Anything Goes World Premiere, Chiswick Cinema
Anything Goes World Premiere, Chiswick Cinema
Robert Lindsay

Trafalgar Entertainment welcomed acting royalty to The Chiswick Cinema yesterday (28 November) as Simon Callow hosted a special Q&A with Robert Lindsay, Felicity Kendal and Gary Wilmot ahead of the cinema screening of the major ★★★★★ production of Anything Goes.

There’s another chance to see Anything Goes on the big screen nationwide on 1 December.

Filmed live at the Barbican in London, our new 5-star production of the classic musical comedy features an all-star cast led by renowned Broadway royalty Sutton Foster as Reno Sweeney, alongside Robert Lindsay (My Family), Felicity Kendal (The Good Life) and Gary Wilmot (Chicago). A heart-warming romance with spectacular dance routines and some of theatre’s most memorable songs, Anything Goes is ‘a joyously shipshape revival’ (★★★★★ The Observer).

www.anythinggoesmusicalcinema.com

Anything Goes coming to UK cinemas -for two nights only, 28 November and 1 December 2021

Anything Goes

The smash hit musical ANYTHING GOES, ‘the show of the year’ (★★★★★ Daily Telegraph)
and a ‘fizzing tonic for our times’ (★★★★★ The Guardian) will sail into over 450 cinema
screens nationwide for two nights only on Sunday 28 November and Wednesday 1
December in a live recording filmed at London’s renowned Barbican Theatre.

Tickets will go on-sale from Friday 15 October at anythinggoesmusicalcinema.com
 
Presented by the Barbican and filmed live in London – during the show’s 15 week residency
at the theatre, which continues until 6 November – his major new five star production of
the classic musical comedy features an all-star cast led by renowned Broadway
royalty Sutton Foster reprising her Tony Award-winning performance as Reno Sweeney,
alongside three-time Olivier Award and Tony Award winner Robert Lindsay (My Family) as
Moonface Martin, Evening Standard Theatre Award winner Felicity Kendal (The Good Life)
as Evangeline Harcourt and beloved West End Legend Gary Wilmot (Chicago) as Elisha
Whitney. A heart-warming romance with spectacular dance routines and some of theatre’s
most memorable songs, ANYTHING GOES is ‘a joyously shipshape revival’ (★★★★★ The
Observer).
Since ANYTHING GOES opened this summer at the Barbican, audiences have been on their
feet night after night giving this multi-Tony Award winning show multiple standing ovations
at every performance. Featuring a 50 strong cast and ensemble of the finest there is to
offer on the London stage, including tap dancing sailors and a full-sized live orchestra, this
critically acclaimed production ‘immediately joins the pantheon of great classic musical
revivals’ (Daily Telegraph). ANYTHING GOES continues to play to sell out houses, as
audiences flood through the Barbican Theatre doors to witness this truly spectacular
musical comedy. Plans for an international cinema release will be announced soon.
 
When the S.S. American heads out to sea, etiquette and convention head out the portholes
as two unlikely pairs set off on the course to true love… proving that sometimes destiny
needs a little help from a crew of singing sailors, a comical disguise and some good old-
fashioned blackmail. This hilarious musical romp across the Atlantic, directed by the multi-
award-winning Broadway director and choreographer Kathleen Marshall, features Cole
Porter’s joyful score, including I Get A Kick Out of You, You’re the Top and the show
stopping Anything Goes. The ‘musical equivalent of sipping one glass of champagne after
another’ (★★★★★ The Times), ANYTHING GOES will take you back to the Golden Age of
high society on the seas from the comfort of your cinema seat.
 
ANYTHING GOES has music and lyrics by Cole Porter, an original book by P.G.
Wodehouse & Guy Bolton with Howard Lindsay & Russel Crouse and a new book by
Timothy Crouse and John Weidman.  The musical also stars Samuel Edwards (Les
Misérables / Wicked) as Billy Crocker, Nicole-Lily Baisden (The Book of Mormon / Let’s
Face The Music) as Hope Harcourt, Haydn Oakley (A Christmas Carol / An American in
Paris) as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh and Carly Mercedes Dyer (West Side Story/Chicago) as
Erma.
 
Producer Howard Panter says: “The multi-Tony Award winning glorious production of
Anything Goes, directed by Kathleen Marshall, is not to be missed. London audiences
already cannot get enough of this energetic and uplifting classic musical which has been
sold out night after night. From four outstanding leading actors – Sutton, Robert, Felicity,
Gary – to the spectacular supporting company, the glorious set design, the breathtaking
choreography and of course the wonderful score. It really is ‘the show of the year’ that

everyone should experience and I am delighted that via this two day cinema release the
show will get an even wider audience across the UK.”
Trafalgar Releasing’s CEO Marc Allenby says: “We’re delighted to be working with our
partners within the Trafalgar Entertainment Group to bring this entertaining and uplifting
five star musical to cinemas across the UK. Musical theatre has a proven track record of
box office success on the big screen, and with its all-star cast, spectacular dance routines
and instantly recognizable songs, Anything Goes is the perfect production to bring laughter
and joy to cinema audiences.”

★★★★★

‘Makes you gasp in wonder and laugh till it hurts. Pure class.’

Daily Telegraph
★★★★★

‘The show of the year. I would give it six stars if I could’

Daily Telegraph
★★★★★

’The musical equivalent of sipping one glass of champagne after another’

The Times
★★★★★

‘When a musical packs this much energy and spectacle, nothing else goes!’

Daily Mail
★★★★★

’Bubbly wit and stylish fun. It shimmers and sparkles.’

The Times
★★★★★

‘Anything Goes offers the delirious delight of a musical in full sail’

Financial Times

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Anything Goes gave me one of the best nights in a theatre — ever. 

An actual show at the theatre. Wow indeed.

Financially, theatre is unviable. Yet at the Barbican in London right now, it’s never looked so enticing, beautiful and well produced.

Helmed by three-time Tony-winning director Kathleen Marshall, Anything Goes is the real deal.

Cheeriness is contagious, folks.

Photo credit: Tristram Kenton

It has been a long time coming, but Cole Porter’s Anything Goes is the biggest new musical to open since the lifting of social distancing curbs on July 19.

Felicity Kendal is genuinely hilarious and brilliantly camp in her non-singing role. Gary Wilmot is thoroughly entertaining – that man is kind of amazing – throughout and theatre legend Robert Lindsay is cleverly funny as Moonface Martin – America’s 13th Most Wanted Man.

He is perfectly matched by chipper and demure Broadway star Sutton Foster making her UK debut as Reno Sweeney, who gets to sing some of Porter’s greatest songs including I Get a Kick Out of You and Blow, Gabriel, Blow

Reprising the role that won her a Tony Award a decade ago, from beginning to end Foster blazes through this feel-good show. She is full of jagged gestures. 

The story is nautical farce, but this is inconsequential. Even if you have never seen the musical, you know the songs.

However, if your main anchor is being offended by everything, then you must stay at home. The source material can, obviously, feel jarringly out of date.

Photo credit: Tristram Kenton

Basically, the gangsters are sex-crazed, women are leggy and there is a repressed aristocrat that sings about having ‘a bit of gypsy’ in him. 

In fact, the lines leading into song The Gypsy in Me have been tweaked, thankfully. 

Unworthy critics will fail to ruin the magic of a magnificent production like this. We all know that these glitzy shows are from another era.

The dancing here is exceptional. When did you last experience the truly awe-inspiring sight of two mid-show standing ovations? 

Having said all that, this is a triumphant, world-class, rousing piece of musical theatre. 

This magnificently starry production proves most captivating, while ultimately raising a toast to the redemptive power of theatre. It is pure escapism.

Basically, Anything Goes gave me one of the best nights in a theatre — ever. 

Anything Goes runs at the Barbican until 31 October 2021