Diary of a Theatre Addict: Being Forced to Take a Break by Disclocating My New Hip

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Bend It Like Beckham

I’ve had quite a fortnight since I last wrote here: I had a six night/eight show week in New York, stomach then three nights at home in London before two nights in hospital, for a 2nd planned hip replacement.  ??The New York trip was planned specifically because, following the surgery, I am not allowed to fly (or drive, for that matter!) for six weeks, so I needed to put in another lightning trip there to catch some of the new shows before they became old(er) ones.

school-of-rockTop of my list was the new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical School of Rock that began previews the night I arrived in town, and which I duly saw three nights later — it is unusual, as I wrote here, for critics to go to early previews, but having interviewed its composer a few months ago in New York, and marvelling at his ability to sly innovate in his promotion of the show, I was curious to be in there early, rather than in January when I can next travel transatlantically. The show brings Lloyd Webber back to the Winter Garden Theatre, home of his first Broadway megahit with Cats that became the longest running musical in Broadway history in its time (a record now long eclipsed by his Phantom of the Opera).

I was also keen to be in early for the Menier’s transfer of The Color Purple — this time as both a champion of the production and friend of its star Cynthia Erivo (who had sung at my Scott Alan curated birthday celebration in September at the Hippodrome, as I reported here), and so was at its first Broadway preview on November 9, as I wrote here in my new weekly series on some of my top theatrical venues in London and beyond.

view-from-bridgeAnother venue that will feature in coming weeks is going to the Young Vic, and that theatre, too, had a Broadway transfer the week I was there for its production of A View from the Bridge, with Russell Tovey (pictured left with Mark Strong) newly joining the London cast, and which I also re-visited. Director Ivo van Hove is having quite a New York year: though I won’t be back in time to see his production of David Bowie’s Lazarus at New York Theatre Workshop, I’m also looking forward to his Broadway production of The Crucible next year with a cast that will include Ben Whishaw.

I also caught a couple more musicals that had just opened on Broadway in the preceding week: On Your Feet (an efficient and colourful jukebox trawl through the life and catalogue of Gloria Estefan) and Allegiance (a sincerely told new musical about an important if shaming story in American Second World War history, that I wrote about here), as well as miseryBruce Willis starring in Misery (that I wrote about here, pictured left).

I also took in two off-Broadway shows, both at the Public, that is currently possibly the hottest theatre in New York, with its current smash Broadway transfers of Fun Home (this year’s winner of the Best Musical Award for Fun Home) and Hamilton (already a certainty for next year’s Tony). It is also where Here Lies Love and Caroline, or Change both originated, too, before transferring to the National. The shows I saw at the Public this time were Michael John LaChiusa’s sequel to First Lady Suite, called First Daughter Suite that tells the back stories of some of the women who have occupied the White House as wives or daughters of the President; and Eclipsed, a harrowing new play about the Liberian struggles starring Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave”), that has already announced a transfer to Broadway for next February to the Golden Theatre.

What a turnaround for the Public! I recently chanced upon an old Michael Riedel column from the New York Post in 1999 about why British plays and/or productions were doing so well on Broadway at the time (as they are again, as witness the current success of King Charles III and A View from the Bridge), and he cites a Broadway producer who tells him, “The subsidized theaters in London are just doing more interesting things than our not-for-profits. Everybody wants to know what the National is doing next year. Nobody cares what the Public [Theater] is doing. Nobody goes to the Public anymore.”

That is utterly untrue right now. The Public is the first port of call for interesting work again; and I could have just as happily filled my schedule with shows at Roundabout (whose The Humans, now at the Laura Pels to January 3, is also now Broadway-bound), Lincoln Centre Theatre (where Dada Woof Papa Hot is playing in the Mitzi Newhouse to January 3), Playwrights Horizons (where Taylor Mac’s HIR is playing to December 20), or Signature (where Mark Gerrard’s Steve is playing in the New Group’s production to December 27).

But as ever, I’m not able to see everything, and had to come home — flying overnight on Sunday 15th to land Monday morning the 16th, and going direct from Heathrow to ArtsEd to teach my 1st year Musical Theatre students there that afternoon. And from ArtsEd, I then went direct to a first night at the Shaftesbury for The Illusionists (reviewed here). The next night was yet more mind-games, courtesy of the old master Derren Brown (which I reviewed here). The latter included a big second act setpiece on faith healing; compelling stuff, but I still needed my hip replacement two days later!

But the night before my surgery I was able to enjoy the efforts of a swivelling, athletic group whose hips posed no problems at all: the third year MT students at ArtsEd were presenting a truly delightful production of the old Broadway classic Bells are Ringing, with two terrific leads in  Kirsty Ingram, a diminutive but classic triple threat and treat, and Joshua St Clair: a classical and classy leading man of the old school, tall, dark and suave.

And then I swapped my favourite kind of theatre for an operating one to have my right hip replaced. And to quote the great Blossom Dearie song, that’s because:

 

I’m hip
I’m no square
I’m alert
I’m awake
I’m aware
I am always on the scene
Makin’ the rounds
Diggin’ the sounds
I read playboy magazine
‘Cause I’m hip
I’ve had quite a fortnight since I last wrote here: I had a six night/eight show week in New York, link then three nights at home in London before two nights in hospital, for a 2nd planned hip replacement.  ??The New York trip was planned specifically because, following the surgery, I am not allowed to fly (or drive, for that matter!) for six weeks, so I needed to put in another lightning trip there to catch some of the new shows before they became old(er) ones.

school-of-rock

Top of my list was the new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical School of Rock that began previews the night I arrived in town, and which I duly saw three nights later — it is unusual, as I wrote here, for critics to go to early previews, but having interviewed its composer a few months ago in New York, and marvelling at his ability to sly innovate in his promotion of the show, I was curious to be in there early, rather than in January when I can next travel transatlantically. The show brings Lloyd Webber back to the Winter Garden Theatre, home of his first Broadway megahit with Cats that became the longest running musical in Broadway history in its time (a record now long eclipsed by his Phantom of the Opera).

I was also keen to be in early for the Menier’s transfer of The Color Purple — this time as both a champion of the production and friend of its star Cynthia Erivo (who had sung at my Scott Alan curated birthday celebration in September at the Hippodrome, as I reported here), and so was at its first Broadway preview on November 9, as I wrote here in my new weekly series on some of my top theatrical venues in London and beyond.

view-from-bridgeAnother venue that will feature in coming weeks is going to the Young Vic, and that theatre, too, had a Broadway transfer the week I was there for its production of A View from the Bridge, with Russell Tovey (pictured left with Mark Strong) newly joining the London cast, and which I also re-visited. Director Ivo van Hove is having quite a New York year: though I won’t be back in time to see his production of David Bowie’s Lazarus at New York Theatre Workshop, I’m also looking forward to his Broadway production of The Crucible next year with a cast that will include Ben Whishaw.

I also caught a couple more musicals that had just opened on Broadway in the preceding week: On Your Feet (an efficient and colourful jukebox trawl through the life and catalogue of Gloria Estefan) and Allegiance (a sincerely told new musical about an important if shaming story in American Second World War history, that I wrote about here), as well as miseryBruce Willis starring in Misery (that I wrote about here, pictured left).

I also took in two off-Broadway shows, both at the Public, that is currently possibly the hottest theatre in New York, with its current smash Broadway transfers of Fun Home (this year’s winner of the Best Musical Award for Fun Home) and Hamilton (already a certainty for next year’s Tony). It is also where Here Lies Love and Caroline, or Change both originated, too, before transferring to the National. The shows I saw at the Public this time were Michael John LaChiusa’s sequel to First Lady Suite, called First Daughter Suite that tells the back stories of some of the women who have occupied the White House as wives or daughters of the President; and Eclipsed, a harrowing new play about the Liberian struggles starring Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave”), that has already announced a transfer to Broadway for next February to the Golden Theatre.

What a turnaround for the Public! I recently chanced upon an old Michael Riedel column from the New York Post in 1999 about why British plays and/or productions were doing so well on Broadway at the time (as they are again, as witness the current success of King Charles III and A View from the Bridge), and he cites a Broadway producer who tells him, “The subsidized theaters in London are just doing more interesting things than our not-for-profits. Everybody wants to know what the National is doing next year. Nobody cares what the Public [Theater] is doing. Nobody goes to the Public anymore.”

That is utterly untrue right now. The Public is the first port of call for interesting work again; and I could have just as happily filled my schedule with shows at Roundabout (whose The Humans, now at the Laura Pels to January 3, is also now Broadway-bound), Lincoln Centre Theatre (where Dada Woof Papa Hot is playing in the Mitzi Newhouse to January 3), Playwrights Horizons (where Taylor Mac’s HIR is playing to December 20), or Signature (where Mark Gerrard’s Steve is playing in the New Group’s production to December 27).

But as ever, I’m not able to see everything, and had to come home — flying overnight on Sunday 15th to land Monday morning the 16th, and going direct from Heathrow to ArtsEd to teach my 1st year Musical Theatre students there that afternoon. And from ArtsEd, I then went direct to a first night at the Shaftesbury for The Illusionists (reviewed here). The next night was yet more mind-games, courtesy of the old master Derren Brown (which I reviewed here). The latter included a big second act setpiece on faith healing; compelling stuff, but I still needed my hip replacement two days later!

But the night before my surgery I was able to enjoy the efforts of a swivelling, athletic group whose hips posed no problems at all: the third year MT students at ArtsEd were presenting a truly delightful production of the old Broadway classic Bells are Ringing, with two terrific leads in  Kirsty Ingram, a diminutive but classic triple threat and treat, and Joshua St Clair: a classical and classy leading man of the old school, tall, dark and suave.

And then I swapped my favourite kind of theatre for an operating one to have my right hip replaced. And to quote the great Blossom Dearie song, that’s because:

 

I’m hip
I’m no square
I’m alert
I’m awake
I’m aware
I am always on the scene
Makin’ the rounds
Diggin’ the sounds
I read playboy magazine
‘Cause I’m hip

I’ve had quite a fortnight since I last wrote here: I had a six night/eight show week in New York, drug then three nights at home in London before two nights in hospital, viagra for a 2nd planned hip replacement.  ??The New York trip was planned specifically because, following the surgery, I am not allowed to fly (or drive, for that matter!) for six weeks, so I needed to put in another lightning trip there to catch some of the new shows before they became old(er) ones.

school-of-rock

Top of my list was the new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical School of Rock that began previews the night I arrived in town, and which I duly saw three nights later — it is unusual, as I wrote here, for critics to go to early previews, but having interviewed its composer a few months ago in New York, and marvelling at his ability to sly innovate in his promotion of the show, I was curious to be in there early, rather than in January when I can next travel transatlantically. The show brings Lloyd Webber back to the Winter Garden Theatre, home of his first Broadway megahit with Cats that became the longest running musical in Broadway history in its time (a record now long eclipsed by his Phantom of the Opera).

I was also keen to be in early for the Menier’s transfer of The Color Purple — this time as both a champion of the production and friend of its star Cynthia Erivo (who had sung at my Scott Alan curated birthday celebration in September at the Hippodrome, as I reported here), and so was at its first Broadway preview on November 9, as I wrote here in my new weekly series on some of my top theatrical venues in London and beyond.

view-from-bridgeAnother venue that will feature in coming weeks is going to the Young Vic, and that theatre, too, had a Broadway transfer the week I was there for its production of A View from the Bridge, with Russell Tovey (pictured left with Mark Strong) newly joining the London cast, and which I also re-visited. Director Ivo van Hove is having quite a New York year: though I won’t be back in time to see his production of David Bowie’s Lazarus at New York Theatre Workshop, I’m also looking forward to his Broadway production of The Crucible next year with a cast that will include Ben Whishaw.

I also caught a couple more musicals that had just opened on Broadway in the preceding week: On Your Feet (an efficient and colourful jukebox trawl through the life and catalogue of Gloria Estefan) and Allegiance (a sincerely told new musical about an important if shaming story in American Second World War history, that I wrote about here), as well as miseryBruce Willis starring in Misery (that I wrote about here, pictured left).

I also took in two off-Broadway shows, both at the Public, that is currently possibly the hottest theatre in New York, with its current smash Broadway transfers of Fun Home (this year’s winner of the Best Musical Award for Fun Home) and Hamilton (already a certainty for next year’s Tony). It is also where Here Lies Love and Caroline, or Change both originated, too, before transferring to the National. The shows I saw at the Public this time were Michael John LaChiusa’s sequel to First Lady Suite, called First Daughter Suite that tells the back stories of some of the women who have occupied the White House as wives or daughters of the President; and Eclipsed, a harrowing new play about the Liberian struggles starring Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave”), that has already announced a transfer to Broadway for next February to the Golden Theatre.

What a turnaround for the Public! I recently chanced upon an old Michael Riedel column from the New York Post in 1999 about why British plays and/or productions were doing so well on Broadway at the time (as they are again, as witness the current success of King Charles III and A View from the Bridge), and he cites a Broadway producer who tells him, “The subsidized theaters in London are just doing more interesting things than our not-for-profits. Everybody wants to know what the National is doing next year. Nobody cares what the Public [Theater] is doing. Nobody goes to the Public anymore.”

That is utterly untrue right now. The Public is the first port of call for interesting work again; and I could have just as happily filled my schedule with shows at Roundabout (whose The Humans, now at the Laura Pels to January 3, is also now Broadway-bound), Lincoln Centre Theatre (where Dada Woof Papa Hot is playing in the Mitzi Newhouse to January 3), Playwrights Horizons (where Taylor Mac’s HIR is playing to December 20), or Signature (where Mark Gerrard’s Steve is playing in the New Group’s production to December 27).

But as ever, I’m not able to see everything, and had to come home — flying overnight on Sunday 15th to land Monday morning the 16th, and going direct from Heathrow to ArtsEd to teach my 1st year Musical Theatre students there that afternoon. And from ArtsEd, I then went direct to a first night at the Shaftesbury for The Illusionists (reviewed here). The next night was yet more mind-games, courtesy of the old master Derren Brown (which I reviewed here). The latter included a big second act setpiece on faith healing; compelling stuff, but I still needed my hip replacement two days later!

But the night before my surgery I was able to enjoy the efforts of a swivelling, athletic group whose hips posed no problems at all: the third year MT students at ArtsEd were presenting a truly delightful production of the old Broadway classic Bells are Ringing, with two terrific leads in  Kirsty Ingram, a diminutive but classic triple threat and treat, and Joshua St Clair: a classical and classy leading man of the old school, tall, dark and suave.

And then I swapped my favourite kind of theatre for an operating one to have my right hip replaced. And to quote the great Blossom Dearie song, that’s because:

I’m hip
I’m no square
I’m alert
I’m awake
I’m aware
I am always on the scene
Makin’ the rounds
Diggin’ the sounds
I read playboy magazine
‘Cause I’m hip

The last time I was here, website I reported on my latest round of hip replacement that took place on November 19, about it and I returned home just last night from a return visit to the hospital for an emergency operation to put that new hip back in place after I suddenly dislocated it on Monday. Now I’ve all but shredded my diary commitments for the next fortnight, sale which will put me in the paradoxical position of having a lot more time on my hands to write, but less to write about given that I’ll be seeing less!

But I think I’ve finally learnt an important lesson: there’s no point having a busy diary if I don’t have a healthy, healed body in which to fulfil it. No sooner was I out of the operating theatre from the first surgery than I was lining up trips to go back to the theatre, and just four nights later, I was back at the National, seeing the premiere of Wallace Shawn’s Evening at the Talk House (reviewed by me here) and then another world premiere there of Caryl Churchill’s Here We Go later that week (reviewed here).

herewegoThe first play runs just over 90 minutes; the second just 40. In their publicity leaflet for Here We Go (pictured left), the NT are helpfully suggesting, “Make the most of your evening” by making a double bill of it by going around the corner to the Dorfman Theatre afterwards to see Talk House afterwards — which made me only publicly declare in my review of it, “Why stop at seeing one dull play in a night when you can see two?”

Actually, Here We Go has been another of those marmite shows that divides the critics, as I wrote here. There were another last week that I didn’t get to — reviews for the Almeida’s new production of Little Eyolf ran from two to four stars.

So, as ever, you either have to trust your own instincts or make up your own mind by seeing it for yourself (so yes, I am going to try to get to the Almeida in the next few weeks).  I have a friend in New York  — who is a former arts reporter from London — who happily provides definitive opinions on shows he hasn’t seen based purely on what he’s heard about them. When I told him I was seeing Allegiance on my last trip, he wrote, “Allegiance? Seriously!” I replied, “You have NO right to an opinion on Allegiance. You’ve not seen it!!!” But he insisted, “No need. I am informed as to its inadequacies!” And then he linked me to a review by one of the least qualified of all New York critics to back him up.

It’s not just critics who come with pre-determined agendas but also entire award ceremonies. I’ve been shocked by the diminution of the credibility of the Evening Standard Theatre Awards over the last few years, which as well as being Britain’s longest established theatre awards, used to carry real critical weight from being decided by a panel of some of the leading daily and Sunday critics from other papers as well as its own.

Three of them famously resigned a couple of years ago when the award for Best Actress went to a candidate that none of them had voted for; this year’s awards took a further tumble in the credibility stakes when it was announced, as I wrote here, that one of its major categories, that for Best Musical, was being turned into a public popularity contest rather than a vote on merit, by being decided by public vote of Radio 2 listeners. As a friend suggested to me, “Next near, best new play will be decided by the audience of Gardeners’ Question Time and most promising playwright by You and Yours.”

But this year’s awards saw even the remaining judges wrong-footed by the ultimate decisions. It turns out they are merely an advisory panel nowadays, helping to draw up the shortlist, but more than one ‘judge’ told me that their own votes clearly weren’t counted in the celebrity wins for Nicole Kidman and James McAvoy to take the top acting awards. As I wrote here, “Even the specially created new category for newcomer in a musical seems to have been created only to honour someone who was a star already — as Time Out noted on Twitter: ‘The brand new category newcomer in a musical (?) mysteriously goes to the most famous nominee Gemma Arterton!!! Crazy!!! #ESTheatreAwards”

Bend It Like BeckhamThe real winner of that category should clearly have been Natalie Dew (pictured left, with Lauren Samuels), the wondrous star of Bend it Like Beckham (which is also surely the Musical of the Year), and I revisited (for the sixth time) on Saturday with a party of 28 of my ArtsEd Musical Theatre first year students. I have Howard Goodall kindly coming in to talk to them at next week’s class, but last week I also did a public interview with him for Mountview Drama school’s fundraising campaign at the Hospital Club.

Last weekend I also attended the last night of Gypsy at the Savoy, which I wrote about here; when a friend heard of my new hip dislocation, he wondered aloud whether it had occurred by me leaping to my feet spontaneously at the end of Imelda Staunton’s rendition of Rose’s Turn, as most of the rest of the audience had done. (I did, but no, it didn’t occur then!) Staunton has, of course, already won the UK Theatre Award and the Evening Standard Award for Best Musical Performances, but will win many more, I’m sure, before the awards season is over.

There will be no awards, alas, for the other new musical I saw last week, Desperate Measures at Jermyn Street Theatre that I reviewed here. I was not alone in my one-star pan: my former Stage colleague Scott Matthewman drily noted in his one-star review for Musical Theatre Review, that “all the roles, including those of old men”, seem to have been cast “with actors who look as if they’ve only just graduated from drama school, and who sound as if there was no vocal section to the audition process.”

birdmanI’m bowing out of most theatrical commitments for the rest of this week and next, though hoping to get out a couple of times at least. Meanwhile, I finally have a chance though to catch up on all those films and TV series I’ve been meaning to see for ages, and I started last night by watching Birdman, set backstage during the fraught rehearsals of a new play featuring a movie star making his Broadway debut. This frequently startling, hilarious and surprising film is full of theatrical gems — including a brilliant portrait of a scathing breed of New York critic, fiercely embodied by our very own Lindsay Duncan — though it is disconcerting to see the two lead actors exit their theatre on west 44th Street and suddenly find themselves entering a bar next door on west 47th Street!