I’ve not updated my diary of a theatre addict for six weeks now — I was last here on January 31 — since when I’ve seen all of 49 shows, including outings to Newbury, Dartford, Clwyd, Manchester, Bromley and Cardiff, plus a week in New York. I’ve also taken an active part in two more shows by appearing onstage as a contestant in a theatrical re-run of Mr and Mrs with husband (so it was really Mr and Mr, we’re pictured below with host Sam Holmes) and as part of David Bedella and Friends, his monthly chat show at the St James Studio.
Mr and Mrs was a fundraiser for the Union Theatre, as it prepares to move to new premises across the street (an architectural representation of the new premises are shown left). As I wrote here, it’s one of my absolutely favourite of all London venues, just a stone’s throw from where I live and at whose outdoor, all-weather cafe I buy my daily coffee en route to the office I rent just around the corner. So I’m very much part of the Union’s extended family, and proud to be so; as I was also honoured to be included in Bedella’s bill, whose other guests included Janie Dee and the legend that is Mary Wilson, one of the original line-up of The Supremes.
Of those 49 theatre visits, several were naturally repeats — Bend it Like Beckham (twice more, including the last night, to take my total to seven), Close to You (for the sixth time, after seeing it during its original New York run, then three times at the Menier, and once before at the Criterion), Funny Girl (another Menier show, seeing it again in the last week of its run there before its West End transfer next month, and catching Sheridan Smith’s understudy, as I wrote here), Grey Gardens (at Southwark Playhouse), and ENO’s The Magic Flute, though the latter was part of my commitment to The Mousetrap Foundation’s Play the Critic scheme, in which I took the student who filed the best review as a result of participating in the programme to a second opera after they went as a group to La Boheme, also at ENO.
But I also reviewed the following, and have actually seen most of these plays and musicals before (in different productions):
- Red Velvet — also a repeat, but some years on from its original Tricycle premiere, as it now made it’s West End debut at the Garrick, as part of Kenneth Branagh’s season there, reviewed for The Stage here
- Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom — a new production of a play I’ve also seen before, when the National last did it in 1989 and now revived there, reviewed for The Stage here
- Andy Capp: Rare sighting for an early 80s British musical, reviewed for The Stage here
- Tell Me on a Sunday — Andrew Lloyd Webber’s smallest — and shortest — musical, written originally for television and later included as half of Song & Dance on stage. Now it is being done as a stand-alone piece again — and a new touring production has launched at Newbury’s Watermill Theatre, where I caught it, reviewed for The Stage here
- Stay Awake Jake — Another one person musical, this one written by Tim Gilvin and performed by Jamie Muscato, (pictured left) reviewed for The Stage here. He did the show on a break from Bend it Like Beckham in which he was starringa at the time.
- Footloose — a new touring production of the stage version of the film that I’ve seen previously both in its original Broadway incarnation and its subsequent different West End one, reviewed for The Stage here
- Nell Gwynn – I missed last year’s brief run of this play at the Globe but was very happy to catch it now in its West End incarnation at the Globe, reviewed for The Stage here
- Uncle Vanya – Robert Icke reinvents Chekhov’s classic play at the Almeida, reviewed for londontheatre.co.uk here
- Hand to God — the Broadway comedy (which I first saw there) comes to London soon after closing there, and fails to make the same impact, reviewed for The Stage here
- Mrs Henderson Presents. A new British musical that I first saw in its Bath premiere last summer now transfers to the West End, reivewed for The Stage here
- The Maids — Jamie Lloyd directs Genet’s play in a version I originally saw in New York that starred Cate Blanchett and Isabella Huppert, reviewed for The Stage here
- Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat — the longest-running touring musical in British history — 36 years and counting — is reinvigorated by Joe McElderry in the title role (pictured left), reviewed for The Stage here
- Rabbit Hole — A Broadway Pulitzer prize winner gets its British premiere at Hampstead Theatre, reviewed for The Stage here
- Cirque Berserk — Zippo’s circus produce an indoors circus show, reviewed for The Stage here
- The End of Longing – Matthew Perry makes his playwriting debut and stars in his own play, reviewed for The Stage here
- The War of the Worlds. Jeff Wayne’s much toured arena rock show finally receives a West End outing, reviewed for The Stage here
- Welcome Home, Captain Fox! New version of an Anoulh play, reviewed for The Stage here
- Torsten, The Beautiful Libertine. Erasure’s Andy Bell appears in a London fringe musical, reviewed for The Stage here
- Motown— A juggernaut Broadway jukebox musical arrives in London, reviewed for The Stage here. I’d seen it on Broadway, too, but much preferred it here.
- Tom: A Sory of Tom Jones — Another jukebox show, this time about Welsh-born singing superstar, premieres on home territory ahead of a regional tour, reviewed for The Stage here
And during my week in New York, I also formally reviewed the opening of Hughie, a new production by Michael Grandage of O’Neill’s short drama (for The Stage here) starring Forest Whitaker (left), and I saw Mark Rylance in a play he co-created called Big Fish (reviewed by me here at Brooklyn’s St Ann’s Warehouse here, three days before he scooped this year’s Oscar for Best Supporting Actor).
In addition, I saw (but didn’t review) a new production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at ArtsEd, The Rolling Stone (Orange Tree), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Theatr Clwyd), Husbands and Sons (Royal Exchange), The Encounter (Barbican), Road Show (Union Theatre), Akhaten (London Coliseum) and Beyond the Fence (Arts Theatre); at least three of those were related to interviews I did around them — see below.
I’ve also been busy (very busy!) doing interview profiles, meeting:
- James Graham — the author of such plays as Privacy and This House talks to me about a new play of his premiering at Plymouth’s Drum Theatre here
- Emma Williams — the star of Mrs Henderson Presents talks to me about her long history with new musicals here. (She’s only 32, but this is already her done 12 original musicals already!)
- Simon McBurney — the director, writer and actor talks to me about his show The Encounter that transferred from last year’s Edinburgh Festival to the Barbican here.
- Tamara Harvey — the director who has newly taken over as artistic director at Mold’s Theatre Clwyd talks to me here.
- Benjamin Till – the composer behind the UK Theatre Award winning musical Brass (returning for a run in London this August) tells me about his efforts curating and co-ordinating a musical written with computer assistance here.
Across the last six weeks, I’ve also participated in forums about critics for students at the University of Chichester and LIPA, and hosted a spot-show talk at Funny Girl and a panel discussion on new musicals as part of the BEAM Festival at the Park Theatre.
I plan to get back into a more regular rhythm with my diaries in the coming weeks — but hope I’ve brought myself up to date now!