My top ten choices for Christmas week (with not a panto in sight)

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I’m still playing catch up a bit after my hip replacement (and then subsequent displacement). I managed to miss The Dazzle at the new Found111 (when a hospital appointment overran and then an Uber cab failed to arrive), this web and though I still want to catch it, I think I’ll wait till I can make the steep walk up and down to the theatre more comfortably (though the failure of the Uber cab to arrive on Thursday meant I ended up walking down 101 steps at St John’s Wood station instead to get home, rather than going to the theatre, so I pretty much did some of those steps anyway).??Here’s the last week in theatre reviews — from the shows I saw (The Lorax and Les Liaisons Dangereuses in London and Show Boat in Sheffield), to the ones I missed, whether unwillingly (The Dazzle) or willingly (Peter Pan, this year’s Wimbledon panto).
THE LORAX
(opened Dec 16 at the Old Vic)

loraxI was happy to see The Guardian and The Times concurring with me about the strengths of this adaptation of Dr Seuss. In my review for The Stage, I noted, “David Greig’s witty, constantly rhyming adaptation has, in common with his stage version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory running in Drury Lane, a big help from original songs, provided here by Charlie Fink, former frontman of Noah and the Whale, that turn it at times virtually into a full-blown musical. Where Charlie also had powerful life lessons to teach and learn, The Lorax is a leaner family show with fewer special effects. But the cumulative effect is even more special as result.”

In a five star review for The Guardian, Michael Billington compared it to another show:” In its mixture of verbal wit and social purpose, this is the best family show since Matilda,” and suggests that, “In the end, the show appeals to our imagination without, like one or two seasonal entertainments, sating it. It also points out a moral without hitting us over the head with its good intentions.” ??In The Times, Ann Treneman tries out her own rhyming skills: “David Greig’s ability to rhyme is prime. His Seuss isn’t obtuse. His smogulous smog goes the whole hog. The Lorax is inventive, gorgeous to look at and the puppetry magical.”

Only Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph is slightly underwhelmed, calling it a “fun but eminently disposable family show,” before going o on to say, “The evening throws down the gauntlet to the younger generation to save the planet. I assume they will rise to the challenge once they’ve gulped their drinks and ices and vroomed and zoomed home: the show inevitably (hypocritically?) stimulates the consumerist activity it part-preaches against. But overall I’d say it’s “waste-neutral” – it doesn’t squander vast resources, but doesn’t add much to the sum of things either.”

LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES
(opened Dec 17 at the Donmar Warehouse)

les-liaisons-standardThe Sun — yes, the Sun — has returned to regular theatre reviewing, putting former People newspaper editor Bill Hagerty back onto a beat he used to occupy for them; and his review is accompanied by three pictures of someone who isn’t even in the show: Michelle Dockery, who in two of them is pictured with her late fiancee. The opening of this production, in which she was to have starred before withdrawing last month, took place the day after her his funeral; and the day of what would have been his 34th birthday.

That back story takes three paragraphs to explain; then there are another three on this production. “It would be foolish to imagine that the tragedy could leave the cast of Christopher Hampton’s famous 1985 play unmoved,” writes Hagerty. “So they, and in particular Elaine Cassidy, who unenviably stepped in to replace Ms Dockery, deserve enormous respect for delivering acting of the highest standard in such difficult circumstances.”

Meanwhile in The Sun’s stablemate The Times (behind paywall), its critic Ann Treneman takes two potshots at the French in her opening paragraph alone. I’m not sure if its supposed to be funny, but it is (a) stating the obvious; and (b) hardly illuminating. “This is not a simple story, but then it is French. It’s about decadence, deceit, big hair and sex on a chaise. Actually the chaise got quite a workout last night at the Donmar, some of it unnervingly close to us, as we watched two people do their absolute best to destroy what is good in life…. Their names are the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, quite a mouthful but then, as noted, it’s French.” And (c), it’s not funny either.

Slightly unnervingly, Dominic West (pictured above, with co-star Janet McTeer) wasn’t fully on top of his lines on the opening night (nor, a friend reports, at yesterday’ matinee either), and Susannah Clapp hilariously nails the problem as a choice without pointing a specific finger in her review for The Observer: “Dominic West potters round the part, with long, unnerving pauses. At times this seems rather brilliant. As if he were so languidly secure that he is just dropping in on seduction. Often it has a muffling, condom-like effect on the action. Perhaps he should try the rhythm method.”

Finally in a five-star review for the Evening Standard, Henry Hitchings calls it “Theatre at its most seductive and sinister….a pitch-black comedy of manners, which radiates the very opposite of seasonal cheer. ”

SHOW BOAT
(opened Dec 16 at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre)

show-boatAt Sheffield’s Crucible, artistic director Daniel Evans is doing another of his vintage musical revivals, following previous Christmas season successes with My Fair Lady, Oliver! and Anything Goes. As I noted in my review for The Stage, “This year he’s pushed the boat out – in every sense – by choosing another less frequently done standard Show Boat to set sail on the Crucible’s deep thrust stage, and the result is an evening of sweeping magnificence that soars in every department.”
In a five-star review for the Daily Telegraph, Claire Allfree praises both the show and production. Of the show, she says,  “Spanning several decades from the late 1800s, it tackles racism, alcoholism, women’s rights, gambling and the dawn of modernity. These were rare subjects back then for musical theatre, and in that great American musical tradition, Show Boat effortlessly views them through the telescoping lens of show business itself. Kern’s score is sublime, a groundbreaking mix of high opera and popular show tunes. Under the direction here of musical supervisor David White, every sound is lush, sonorous and extravagantly beautiful. Indeed, Show Boat is waterlogged with feeling.”

And of this staging, she declares: “This is a terrific production, full of seamlessly integrated colour and detail. It is the kind of show that leaves you feeling choked, shivery and on an absolute high.”

In another five-star rave for The Observer, Clare Brennan applauds the cast: “Equal as are all in the 24-strong ensemble, space constraints mean I can single out but a few. Among the lovers: Michael Xavier’s Gaylord, so dashing, so chastened, perfectly counterbalanced by Gina Beck’s strong, true-loving Magnolia; [Emmanuel] Kojo’s unapologetic Joe laughed at and railed at by Sandra Marvin’s self-strong Queenie; Rebecca Trehearn as Julie, simultaneously broken and sustained by love.”

In The Guardian, Alfred Hickling is also impressed, saying that the production is “visually and musically of the highest standard. Designer Lez Brotherston provides a balustraded steamer that elicits its own round of applause. And the performances attain a standard that we have come to expect from Evans’s superlative Christmas productions.”

THE DAZZLE
(opened Dec 15 at Found 111, Charing Cross Road)

the-dazzle1This British premiere of Richard Greenberg’s off-Broadway play is being staged at Found 111, a newly created space on the Charing Cross Road that plays its own unique part, along with actors that include Andrew Scott and David Dawson (pictured left), in setting the atmosphere.

In The Stage,  Natasha Tripney sets the context:

“Simon Evans’ production has the feel of an event about it. It takes place in the former Central St Martins building, the intimate space reached by winding concrete stairs. More could probably have been made of the room and the cluttered design doesn’t really give you a sense of the extent of the brothers’ hoarding habits, but it’s a joy to watch actors of this quality in such close quarters,”

And Ann Treneman also draws attention to the space itself in The Times, “There is something thrilling, even a tiny bit illicit, about seeing this play in this strange eyrie, although inevitably the place will end up suffering from hipster-itis. If you can ignore that — and I did — then The Dazzle is the theatrical equivalent of a secret gig. You emerge feeling as if you’ve seen something special because, actually, you have.”

In a five-star review for The Independent, Paul Taylor applauds play, production and performances equally, says of the two leads who play a pair of siblings, “The consummate acting of Andrew Scott and David Dawson takes you right into the nervous system of a relationship that is also piteously imbalanced.” He has particular praise for Dawson: “In what is the performance of the year for me, Dawson’s pointy face is never still as Homer masks his hurt in frantically frustrated ironies and acerbities.”

PETER PAN
(opened Dec. 8 at the New Wimbledon Theatre)

peter-pan-wimbledonI already drew attention to my Stage colleague Natasha Tripney’s review of this in my Diary of a theatre Addict here, in which she wonderfully wrote that it contained “jokes so old you could extract DNA from them and open a theme park”.

In a one-star review for The Times, Sam Marlowe also pans it:

Two shows a day for a month and a half,” moans the comedian Jarred Christmas in the second act of this lacklustre show. He and his panto cohorts urgently need to get over it and pull themselves together — because it looks as if they’ve already given up….At the performance I attended, cues and props were repeatedly dropped, lines were fluffed, and stuff-ups occasioned bouts of on-stage sniggering, while those of us watching struggled to see the funny side. If Ian Talbot’s production is this desultory in early December, I shudder to think what sort of sorry shape it’ll be in by Boxing Day….This stinker would depress even the jolliest Roger.

I’m still playing catch up a bit after my hip replacement (and then subsequent displacement). I managed to miss The Dazzle at the new Found111 (when a hospital appointment overran and then an Uber cab failed to arrive), viagra 40mg and though I still want to catch it, I think I’ll wait till I can make the steep walk up and down to the theatre more comfortably (though the failure of the Uber cab to arrive on Thursday meant I ended up walking down 101 steps at St John’s Wood station instead to get home, rather than going to the theatre, so I pretty much did some of those steps anyway).??Here’s the last week in theatre reviews — from the shows I saw (The Lorax and Les Liaisons Dangereuses in London and Show Boat in Sheffield), to the ones I missed, whether unwillingly (The Dazzle) or willingly (Peter Pan, this year’s Wimbledon panto).
THE LORAX
(opened Dec 16 at the Old Vic)

loraxI was happy to see The Guardian and The Times concurring with me about the strengths of this adaptation of Dr Seuss. In my review for The Stage, I noted, “David Greig’s witty, constantly rhyming adaptation has, in common with his stage version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory running in Drury Lane, a big help from original songs, provided here by Charlie Fink, former frontman of Noah and the Whale, that turn it at times virtually into a full-blown musical. Where Charlie also had powerful life lessons to teach and learn, The Lorax is a leaner family show with fewer special effects. But the cumulative effect is even more special as result.”

In a five star review for The Guardian, Michael Billington compared it to another show:” In its mixture of verbal wit and social purpose, this is the best family show since Matilda,” and suggests that, “In the end, the show appeals to our imagination without, like one or two seasonal entertainments, sating it. It also points out a moral without hitting us over the head with its good intentions.” ??In The Times, Ann Treneman tries out her own rhyming skills: “David Greig’s ability to rhyme is prime. His Seuss isn’t obtuse. His smogulous smog goes the whole hog. The Lorax is inventive, gorgeous to look at and the puppetry magical.”

Only Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph is slightly underwhelmed, calling it a “fun but eminently disposable family show,” before going o on to say, “The evening throws down the gauntlet to the younger generation to save the planet. I assume they will rise to the challenge once they’ve gulped their drinks and ices and vroomed and zoomed home: the show inevitably (hypocritically?) stimulates the consumerist activity it part-preaches against. But overall I’d say it’s “waste-neutral” – it doesn’t squander vast resources, but doesn’t add much to the sum of things either.”

LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES
(opened Dec 17 at the Donmar Warehouse)

les-liaisons-standardThe Sun — yes, the Sun — has returned to regular theatre reviewing, putting former People newspaper editor Bill Hagerty back onto a beat he used to occupy for them; and his review is accompanied by three pictures of someone who isn’t even in the show: Michelle Dockery, who in two of them is pictured with her late fiancee. The opening of this production, in which she was to have starred before withdrawing last month, took place the day after her his funeral; and the day of what would have been his 34th birthday.

That back story takes three paragraphs to explain; then there are another three on this production. “It would be foolish to imagine that the tragedy could leave the cast of Christopher Hampton’s famous 1985 play unmoved,” writes Hagerty. “So they, and in particular Elaine Cassidy, who unenviably stepped in to replace Ms Dockery, deserve enormous respect for delivering acting of the highest standard in such difficult circumstances.”

Meanwhile in The Sun’s stablemate The Times (behind paywall), its critic Ann Treneman takes two potshots at the French in her opening paragraph alone. I’m not sure if its supposed to be funny, but it is (a) stating the obvious; and (b) hardly illuminating. “This is not a simple story, but then it is French. It’s about decadence, deceit, big hair and sex on a chaise. Actually the chaise got quite a workout last night at the Donmar, some of it unnervingly close to us, as we watched two people do their absolute best to destroy what is good in life…. Their names are the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, quite a mouthful but then, as noted, it’s French.” And (c), it’s not funny either.

Slightly unnervingly, Dominic West (pictured above, with co-star Janet McTeer) wasn’t fully on top of his lines on the opening night (nor, a friend reports, at yesterday’ matinee either), and Susannah Clapp hilariously nails the problem as a choice without pointing a specific finger in her review for The Observer: “Dominic West potters round the part, with long, unnerving pauses. At times this seems rather brilliant. As if he were so languidly secure that he is just dropping in on seduction. Often it has a muffling, condom-like effect on the action. Perhaps he should try the rhythm method.”

Finally in a five-star review for the Evening Standard, Henry Hitchings calls it “Theatre at its most seductive and sinister….a pitch-black comedy of manners, which radiates the very opposite of seasonal cheer. ”

SHOW BOAT
(opened Dec 16 at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre)

show-boatAt Sheffield’s Crucible, artistic director Daniel Evans is doing another of his vintage musical revivals, following previous Christmas season successes with My Fair Lady, Oliver! and Anything Goes. As I noted in my review for The Stage, “This year he’s pushed the boat out – in every sense – by choosing another less frequently done standard Show Boat to set sail on the Crucible’s deep thrust stage, and the result is an evening of sweeping magnificence that soars in every department.”
In a five-star review for the Daily Telegraph, Claire Allfree praises both the show and production. Of the show, she says,  “Spanning several decades from the late 1800s, it tackles racism, alcoholism, women’s rights, gambling and the dawn of modernity. These were rare subjects back then for musical theatre, and in that great American musical tradition, Show Boat effortlessly views them through the telescoping lens of show business itself. Kern’s score is sublime, a groundbreaking mix of high opera and popular show tunes. Under the direction here of musical supervisor David White, every sound is lush, sonorous and extravagantly beautiful. Indeed, Show Boat is waterlogged with feeling.”

And of this staging, she declares: “This is a terrific production, full of seamlessly integrated colour and detail. It is the kind of show that leaves you feeling choked, shivery and on an absolute high.”

In another five-star rave for The Observer, Clare Brennan applauds the cast: “Equal as are all in the 24-strong ensemble, space constraints mean I can single out but a few. Among the lovers: Michael Xavier’s Gaylord, so dashing, so chastened, perfectly counterbalanced by Gina Beck’s strong, true-loving Magnolia; [Emmanuel] Kojo’s unapologetic Joe laughed at and railed at by Sandra Marvin’s self-strong Queenie; Rebecca Trehearn as Julie, simultaneously broken and sustained by love.”

In The Guardian, Alfred Hickling is also impressed, saying that the production is “visually and musically of the highest standard. Designer Lez Brotherston provides a balustraded steamer that elicits its own round of applause. And the performances attain a standard that we have come to expect from Evans’s superlative Christmas productions.”

THE DAZZLE
(opened Dec 15 at Found 111, Charing Cross Road)

the-dazzle1This British premiere of Richard Greenberg’s off-Broadway play is being staged at Found 111, a newly created space on the Charing Cross Road that plays its own unique part, along with actors that include Andrew Scott and David Dawson (pictured left), in setting the atmosphere.

In The Stage,  Natasha Tripney sets the context:

“Simon Evans’ production has the feel of an event about it. It takes place in the former Central St Martins building, the intimate space reached by winding concrete stairs. More could probably have been made of the room and the cluttered design doesn’t really give you a sense of the extent of the brothers’ hoarding habits, but it’s a joy to watch actors of this quality in such close quarters,”

And Ann Treneman also draws attention to the space itself in The Times, “There is something thrilling, even a tiny bit illicit, about seeing this play in this strange eyrie, although inevitably the place will end up suffering from hipster-itis. If you can ignore that — and I did — then The Dazzle is the theatrical equivalent of a secret gig. You emerge feeling as if you’ve seen something special because, actually, you have.”

In a five-star review for The Independent, Paul Taylor applauds play, production and performances equally, says of the two leads who play a pair of siblings, “The consummate acting of Andrew Scott and David Dawson takes you right into the nervous system of a relationship that is also piteously imbalanced.” He has particular praise for Dawson: “In what is the performance of the year for me, Dawson’s pointy face is never still as Homer masks his hurt in frantically frustrated ironies and acerbities.”

PETER PAN
(opened Dec. 8 at the New Wimbledon Theatre)

peter-pan-wimbledonI already drew attention to my Stage colleague Natasha Tripney’s review of this in my Diary of a theatre Addict here, in which she wonderfully wrote that it contained “jokes so old you could extract DNA from them and open a theme park”.

In a one-star review for The Times, Sam Marlowe also pans it:

Two shows a day for a month and a half,” moans the comedian Jarred Christmas in the second act of this lacklustre show. He and his panto cohorts urgently need to get over it and pull themselves together — because it looks as if they’ve already given up….At the performance I attended, cues and props were repeatedly dropped, lines were fluffed, and stuff-ups occasioned bouts of on-stage sniggering, while those of us watching struggled to see the funny side. If Ian Talbot’s production is this desultory in early December, I shudder to think what sort of sorry shape it’ll be in by Boxing Day….This stinker would depress even the jolliest Roger.

I’m still playing catch up a bit after my hip replacement (and then subsequent displacement). I managed to miss The Dazzle at the new Found111 (when a hospital appointment overran and then an Uber cab failed to arrive), pharmacy and though I still want to catch it, find I think I’ll wait till I can make the steep walk up and down to the theatre more comfortably (though the failure of the Uber cab to arrive on Thursday meant I ended up walking down 101 steps at St John’s Wood station instead to get home, approved rather than going to the theatre, so I pretty much did some of those steps anyway).??Here’s the last week in theatre reviews — from the shows I saw (The Lorax and Les Liaisons Dangereuses in London and Show Boat in Sheffield), to the ones I missed, whether unwillingly (The Dazzle) or willingly (Peter Pan, this year’s Wimbledon panto).
THE LORAX
(opened Dec 16 at the Old Vic)

loraxI was happy to see The Guardian and The Times concurring with me about the strengths of this adaptation of Dr Seuss. In my review for The Stage, I noted, “David Greig’s witty, constantly rhyming adaptation has, in common with his stage version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory running in Drury Lane, a big help from original songs, provided here by Charlie Fink, former frontman of Noah and the Whale, that turn it at times virtually into a full-blown musical. Where Charlie also had powerful life lessons to teach and learn, The Lorax is a leaner family show with fewer special effects. But the cumulative effect is even more special as result.”

In a five star review for The Guardian, Michael Billington compared it to another show:” In its mixture of verbal wit and social purpose, this is the best family show since Matilda,” and suggests that, “In the end, the show appeals to our imagination without, like one or two seasonal entertainments, sating it. It also points out a moral without hitting us over the head with its good intentions.” ??In The Times, Ann Treneman tries out her own rhyming skills: “David Greig’s ability to rhyme is prime. His Seuss isn’t obtuse. His smogulous smog goes the whole hog. The Lorax is inventive, gorgeous to look at and the puppetry magical.”

Only Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph is slightly underwhelmed, calling it a “fun but eminently disposable family show,” before going o on to say, “The evening throws down the gauntlet to the younger generation to save the planet. I assume they will rise to the challenge once they’ve gulped their drinks and ices and vroomed and zoomed home: the show inevitably (hypocritically?) stimulates the consumerist activity it part-preaches against. But overall I’d say it’s “waste-neutral” – it doesn’t squander vast resources, but doesn’t add much to the sum of things either.”

LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES
(opened Dec 17 at the Donmar Warehouse)

les-liaisons-standardThe Sun — yes, the Sun — has returned to regular theatre reviewing, putting former People newspaper editor Bill Hagerty back onto a beat he used to occupy for them; and his review is accompanied by three pictures of someone who isn’t even in the show: Michelle Dockery, who in two of them is pictured with her late fiancee. The opening of this production, in which she was to have starred before withdrawing last month, took place the day after her his funeral; and the day of what would have been his 34th birthday.

That back story takes three paragraphs to explain; then there are another three on this production. “It would be foolish to imagine that the tragedy could leave the cast of Christopher Hampton’s famous 1985 play unmoved,” writes Hagerty. “So they, and in particular Elaine Cassidy, who unenviably stepped in to replace Ms Dockery, deserve enormous respect for delivering acting of the highest standard in such difficult circumstances.”

Meanwhile in The Sun’s stablemate The Times (behind paywall), its critic Ann Treneman takes two potshots at the French in her opening paragraph alone. I’m not sure if its supposed to be funny, but it is (a) stating the obvious; and (b) hardly illuminating. “This is not a simple story, but then it is French. It’s about decadence, deceit, big hair and sex on a chaise. Actually the chaise got quite a workout last night at the Donmar, some of it unnervingly close to us, as we watched two people do their absolute best to destroy what is good in life…. Their names are the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, quite a mouthful but then, as noted, it’s French.” And (c), it’s not funny either.

Slightly unnervingly, Dominic West (pictured above, with co-star Janet McTeer) wasn’t fully on top of his lines on the opening night (nor, a friend reports, at yesterday’ matinee either), and Susannah Clapp hilariously nails the problem as a choice without pointing a specific finger in her review for The Observer: “Dominic West potters round the part, with long, unnerving pauses. At times this seems rather brilliant. As if he were so languidly secure that he is just dropping in on seduction. Often it has a muffling, condom-like effect on the action. Perhaps he should try the rhythm method.”

Finally in a five-star review for the Evening Standard, Henry Hitchings calls it “Theatre at its most seductive and sinister….a pitch-black comedy of manners, which radiates the very opposite of seasonal cheer. ”

SHOW BOAT
(opened Dec 16 at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre)

show-boatAt Sheffield’s Crucible, artistic director Daniel Evans is doing another of his vintage musical revivals, following previous Christmas season successes with My Fair Lady, Oliver! and Anything Goes. As I noted in my review for The Stage, “This year he’s pushed the boat out – in every sense – by choosing another less frequently done standard Show Boat to set sail on the Crucible’s deep thrust stage, and the result is an evening of sweeping magnificence that soars in every department.”
In a five-star review for the Daily Telegraph, Claire Allfree praises both the show and production. Of the show, she says,  “Spanning several decades from the late 1800s, it tackles racism, alcoholism, women’s rights, gambling and the dawn of modernity. These were rare subjects back then for musical theatre, and in that great American musical tradition, Show Boat effortlessly views them through the telescoping lens of show business itself. Kern’s score is sublime, a groundbreaking mix of high opera and popular show tunes. Under the direction here of musical supervisor David White, every sound is lush, sonorous and extravagantly beautiful. Indeed, Show Boat is waterlogged with feeling.”

And of this staging, she declares: “This is a terrific production, full of seamlessly integrated colour and detail. It is the kind of show that leaves you feeling choked, shivery and on an absolute high.”

In another five-star rave for The Observer, Clare Brennan applauds the cast: “Equal as are all in the 24-strong ensemble, space constraints mean I can single out but a few. Among the lovers: Michael Xavier’s Gaylord, so dashing, so chastened, perfectly counterbalanced by Gina Beck’s strong, true-loving Magnolia; [Emmanuel] Kojo’s unapologetic Joe laughed at and railed at by Sandra Marvin’s self-strong Queenie; Rebecca Trehearn as Julie, simultaneously broken and sustained by love.”

In The Guardian, Alfred Hickling is also impressed, saying that the production is “visually and musically of the highest standard. Designer Lez Brotherston provides a balustraded steamer that elicits its own round of applause. And the performances attain a standard that we have come to expect from Evans’s superlative Christmas productions.”

THE DAZZLE
(opened Dec 15 at Found 111, Charing Cross Road)

the-dazzle1This British premiere of Richard Greenberg’s off-Broadway play is being staged at Found 111, a newly created space on the Charing Cross Road that plays its own unique part, along with actors that include Andrew Scott and David Dawson (pictured left), in setting the atmosphere.

In The Stage,  Natasha Tripney sets the context:

“Simon Evans’ production has the feel of an event about it. It takes place in the former Central St Martins building, the intimate space reached by winding concrete stairs. More could probably have been made of the room and the cluttered design doesn’t really give you a sense of the extent of the brothers’ hoarding habits, but it’s a joy to watch actors of this quality in such close quarters,”

And Ann Treneman also draws attention to the space itself in The Times, “There is something thrilling, even a tiny bit illicit, about seeing this play in this strange eyrie, although inevitably the place will end up suffering from hipster-itis. If you can ignore that — and I did — then The Dazzle is the theatrical equivalent of a secret gig. You emerge feeling as if you’ve seen something special because, actually, you have.”

In a five-star review for The Independent, Paul Taylor applauds play, production and performances equally, says of the two leads who play a pair of siblings, “The consummate acting of Andrew Scott and David Dawson takes you right into the nervous system of a relationship that is also piteously imbalanced.” He has particular praise for Dawson: “In what is the performance of the year for me, Dawson’s pointy face is never still as Homer masks his hurt in frantically frustrated ironies and acerbities.”

PETER PAN
(opened Dec. 8 at the New Wimbledon Theatre)

peter-pan-wimbledonI already drew attention to my Stage colleague Natasha Tripney’s review of this in my Diary of a theatre Addict here, in which she wonderfully wrote that it contained “jokes so old you could extract DNA from them and open a theme park”.

In a one-star review for The Times, Sam Marlowe also pans it:

Two shows a day for a month and a half,” moans the comedian Jarred Christmas in the second act of this lacklustre show. He and his panto cohorts urgently need to get over it and pull themselves together — because it looks as if they’ve already given up….At the performance I attended, cues and props were repeatedly dropped, lines were fluffed, and stuff-ups occasioned bouts of on-stage sniggering, while those of us watching struggled to see the funny side. If Ian Talbot’s production is this desultory in early December, I shudder to think what sort of sorry shape it’ll be in by Boxing Day….This stinker would depress even the jolliest Roger.

I’m still playing catch up a bit after my hip replacement (and then subsequent displacement). I managed to miss The Dazzle at the new Found111 (when a hospital appointment overran and then an Uber cab failed to arrive), see and though I still want to catch it, generic I think I’ll wait till I can make the steep walk up and down to the theatre more comfortably (though the failure of the Uber cab to arrive on Thursday meant I ended up walking down 101 steps at St John’s Wood station instead to get home, no rx rather than going to the theatre, so I pretty much did some of those steps anyway).??Here’s the last week in theatre reviews — from the shows I saw (The Lorax and Les Liaisons Dangereuses in London and Show Boat in Sheffield), to the ones I missed, whether unwillingly (The Dazzle) or willingly (Peter Pan, this year’s Wimbledon panto).
 

THE LORAX
(opened Dec 16 at the Old Vic)

loraxI was happy to see The Guardian and The Times concurring with me about the strengths of this adaptation of Dr Seuss. In my review for The Stage, I noted, “David Greig’s witty, constantly rhyming adaptation has, in common with his stage version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory running in Drury Lane, a big help from original songs, provided here by Charlie Fink, former frontman of Noah and the Whale, that turn it at times virtually into a full-blown musical. Where Charlie also had powerful life lessons to teach and learn, The Lorax is a leaner family show with fewer special effects. But the cumulative effect is even more special as result.”

In a five star review for The Guardian, Michael Billington compared it to another show:” In its mixture of verbal wit and social purpose, this is the best family show since Matilda,” and suggests that, “In the end, the show appeals to our imagination without, like one or two seasonal entertainments, sating it. It also points out a moral without hitting us over the head with its good intentions.” ??In The Times, Ann Treneman tries out her own rhyming skills: “David Greig’s ability to rhyme is prime. His Seuss isn’t obtuse. His smogulous smog goes the whole hog. The Lorax is inventive, gorgeous to look at and the puppetry magical.”

Only Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph is slightly underwhelmed, calling it a “fun but eminently disposable family show,” before going o on to say, “The evening throws down the gauntlet to the younger generation to save the planet. I assume they will rise to the challenge once they’ve gulped their drinks and ices and vroomed and zoomed home: the show inevitably (hypocritically?) stimulates the consumerist activity it part-preaches against. But overall I’d say it’s “waste-neutral” – it doesn’t squander vast resources, but doesn’t add much to the sum of things either.”

LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES
(opened Dec 17 at the Donmar Warehouse)

les-liaisons-standardThe Sun — yes, the Sun — has returned to regular theatre reviewing, putting former People newspaper editor Bill Hagerty back onto a beat he used to occupy for them; and his review is accompanied by three pictures of someone who isn’t even in the show: Michelle Dockery, who in two of them is pictured with her late fiancee. The opening of this production, in which she was to have starred before withdrawing last month, took place the day after her his funeral; and the day of what would have been his 34th birthday.

That back story takes three paragraphs to explain; then there are another three on this production. “It would be foolish to imagine that the tragedy could leave the cast of Christopher Hampton’s famous 1985 play unmoved,” writes Hagerty. “So they, and in particular Elaine Cassidy, who unenviably stepped in to replace Ms Dockery, deserve enormous respect for delivering acting of the highest standard in such difficult circumstances.”

Meanwhile in The Sun’s stablemate The Times (behind paywall), its critic Ann Treneman takes two potshots at the French in her opening paragraph alone. I’m not sure if its supposed to be funny, but it is (a) stating the obvious; and (b) hardly illuminating. “This is not a simple story, but then it is French. It’s about decadence, deceit, big hair and sex on a chaise. Actually the chaise got quite a workout last night at the Donmar, some of it unnervingly close to us, as we watched two people do their absolute best to destroy what is good in life…. Their names are the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, quite a mouthful but then, as noted, it’s French.” And (c), it’s not funny either.

Slightly unnervingly, Dominic West (pictured above, with co-star Janet McTeer) wasn’t fully on top of his lines on the opening night (nor, a friend reports, at yesterday’ matinee either), and Susannah Clapp hilariously nails the problem as a choice without pointing a specific finger in her review for The Observer: “Dominic West potters round the part, with long, unnerving pauses. At times this seems rather brilliant. As if he were so languidly secure that he is just dropping in on seduction. Often it has a muffling, condom-like effect on the action. Perhaps he should try the rhythm method.”

Finally in a five-star review for the Evening Standard, Henry Hitchings calls it “Theatre at its most seductive and sinister….a pitch-black comedy of manners, which radiates the very opposite of seasonal cheer. ”

SHOW BOAT
(opened Dec 16 at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre)

show-boatAt Sheffield’s Crucible, artistic director Daniel Evans is doing another of his vintage musical revivals, following previous Christmas season successes with My Fair Lady, Oliver! and Anything Goes. As I noted in my review for The Stage, “This year he’s pushed the boat out – in every sense – by choosing another less frequently done standard Show Boat to set sail on the Crucible’s deep thrust stage, and the result is an evening of sweeping magnificence that soars in every department.”
In a five-star review for the Daily Telegraph, Claire Allfree praises both the show and production. Of the show, she says,  “Spanning several decades from the late 1800s, it tackles racism, alcoholism, women’s rights, gambling and the dawn of modernity. These were rare subjects back then for musical theatre, and in that great American musical tradition, Show Boat effortlessly views them through the telescoping lens of show business itself. Kern’s score is sublime, a groundbreaking mix of high opera and popular show tunes. Under the direction here of musical supervisor David White, every sound is lush, sonorous and extravagantly beautiful. Indeed, Show Boat is waterlogged with feeling.”

And of this staging, she declares: “This is a terrific production, full of seamlessly integrated colour and detail. It is the kind of show that leaves you feeling choked, shivery and on an absolute high.”

In another five-star rave for The Observer, Clare Brennan applauds the cast: “Equal as are all in the 24-strong ensemble, space constraints mean I can single out but a few. Among the lovers: Michael Xavier’s Gaylord, so dashing, so chastened, perfectly counterbalanced by Gina Beck’s strong, true-loving Magnolia; [Emmanuel] Kojo’s unapologetic Joe laughed at and railed at by Sandra Marvin’s self-strong Queenie; Rebecca Trehearn as Julie, simultaneously broken and sustained by love.”

In The Guardian, Alfred Hickling is also impressed, saying that the production is “visually and musically of the highest standard. Designer Lez Brotherston provides a balustraded steamer that elicits its own round of applause. And the performances attain a standard that we have come to expect from Evans’s superlative Christmas productions.”

THE DAZZLE
(opened Dec 15 at Found 111, Charing Cross Road)

the-dazzle1This British premiere of Richard Greenberg’s off-Broadway play is being staged at Found 111, a newly created space on the Charing Cross Road that plays its own unique part, along with actors that include Andrew Scott and David Dawson (pictured left), in setting the atmosphere.

In The Stage,  Natasha Tripney sets the context:

“Simon Evans’ production has the feel of an event about it. It takes place in the former Central St Martins building, the intimate space reached by winding concrete stairs. More could probably have been made of the room and the cluttered design doesn’t really give you a sense of the extent of the brothers’ hoarding habits, but it’s a joy to watch actors of this quality in such close quarters,”

And Ann Treneman also draws attention to the space itself in The Times, “There is something thrilling, even a tiny bit illicit, about seeing this play in this strange eyrie, although inevitably the place will end up suffering from hipster-itis. If you can ignore that — and I did — then The Dazzle is the theatrical equivalent of a secret gig. You emerge feeling as if you’ve seen something special because, actually, you have.”

In a five-star review for The Independent, Paul Taylor applauds play, production and performances equally, says of the two leads who play a pair of siblings, “The consummate acting of Andrew Scott and David Dawson takes you right into the nervous system of a relationship that is also piteously imbalanced.” He has particular praise for Dawson: “In what is the performance of the year for me, Dawson’s pointy face is never still as Homer masks his hurt in frantically frustrated ironies and acerbities.”

PETER PAN
(opened Dec. 8 at the New Wimbledon Theatre)

peter-pan-wimbledonI already drew attention to my Stage colleague Natasha Tripney’s review of this in my Diary of a theatre Addict here, in which she wonderfully wrote that it contained “jokes so old you could extract DNA from them and open a theme park”.

In a one-star review for The Times, Sam Marlowe also pans it:

Two shows a day for a month and a half,” moans the comedian Jarred Christmas in the second act of this lacklustre show. He and his panto cohorts urgently need to get over it and pull themselves together — because it looks as if they’ve already given up….At the performance I attended, cues and props were repeatedly dropped, lines were fluffed, and stuff-ups occasioned bouts of on-stage sniggering, while those of us watching struggled to see the funny side. If Ian Talbot’s production is this desultory in early December, I shudder to think what sort of sorry shape it’ll be in by Boxing Day….This stinker would depress even the jolliest Roger.

You’re not going to find any pantos on my top ten list this season — I’ve just not been to any at all this year, troche thanks to my double round of surgery for a hip replacement, abortion then displacement.

But here are some shows to provide seasonal pleasures in London and beyond that I’m happily see again (and again) — and some of which I *am* already seeing again within the next couple of weeks!

liame-tamne1. The Rocky Horror Show. This year the film version of Richard O’Brien’s cult musical incredibly celebrated its 40th anniversary since it was first released, decease two years after its stage premiere at the Royal Court’s Theatre Upstairs back in 1973. And this week I’m heading to Brighton to see the launch of its latest UK tour, running now at the Theatre Royal to January 2, with tour dates already booked through August. Up to May 28, the cast will be led by West End regular Liam Tamne (above) as Frank ‘N’ Further, with S Club 7 member Paul Catttermole as Eddie/Dr Scott, Emmersdale’s Ben Freeman as Brad, former X Factor finalist Diane Vickers as Janet, and Kristian Lavercombe as Riff Raff. Website: http://rockyhorror.co.uk/home

2. jason-donovanPriscilla, Queen of the Desert. I’ve been a fan of the stage musical version of the film, featuring a jukebox score of pop favourites, ever since I saw its original production in Sydney a few years ago ahead of its subsequent West End (and then Broadway) transfer. Now it is on the UK touring road, and I’ll be catching up with it in Edinburgh next week at the Playhouse, where the cast includes Jason Donovan (pictured left, reprising his West End performance as Tick; at other tour dates, he alternates in the role with Duncan James and Darren Day), Simon Green and Adam Bailey. Website: http://www.priscillathemusical.com/uk-tour/tickets/

mrfooteslegsq3. Mr Foote’s Other Leg. I’m looking forward to re-visiting the West End transfer of Ian Kelly’s marvellous theatrical play at the Haymarket this coming Thursday afternoon (December 24), which I previously saw and reviewed at its Hampstead Theatre premiere here for London Theatre Guide. It should feel very at home at the Haymarket, where it is running to January 23, as it is partly set there! Simon Russell Beale, Dervla Kirwan and Joseph Millson reprise their performances from Hampstead. Website: http://www.mrfootesotherleg.com/

4. The Lorax. Entirely delightful, but also thoughtful, stage version of the Dr Seuss allegorical story of human greed vs the environment is the Old Vic’s first Christmas family show under Matthew Warchus as artistic director. Michael Billington has called it the best family show since Matilda in a five-star review for The Guardian. My review for The Stage is here. Website: http://www.oldvictheatre.com/whats-on/2015/the-lorax

abbie-chambers5. Legally Blonde – the Musical. Upstairs at the Gatehouse offer their latest Christmas show, a revival of the 2007 Broadway musical version of the 2001 film, and it’s the best production I’ve yet seen there — and made me reappraise the show, too! It features newcomer Abbie Chambers (pictured right) in the title role, which made a musical theatre star of Sheridan Smith (currently headlining in another title role in Funny Girl at the Menier). Website: http://www.upstairsatthegatehouse.com/legallyblond

6. Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Not exactly festive fare, this grimly gripping portrait of human manipulation and sexual game playing casts a dark spell, superbly played by Janet McTeer and Dominic West, at the Donmar Warehouse. My review for London Theatre Guide is here. Webiste: http://www.donmarwarehouse.com/whats-on/donmar-warehouse/on-now/2015/les-liaisons-dangereuses. It will also be broadcast live to cinemas in the UK and elsewhere in partnership with NT Live on Jan. 28

Peter-Pan-Goes-Wrong27. Peter Pan Goes Wrong. Never mind the slew of panto versions of JM Barrie’s story usually available at this time of year, including one at Wimbledon starring Marcus Brigstocke; the one to see is Mischief Theatre’s version that defiantly insists it is not a pantomime. But it is a farce — and a riotous one — in which, instead of Peter Pan’s traditional declaration that to die would be an awfully big adventure, it is more of an awfully big misadventure. It’s a cliche to say you were crying with laughter, but I really was. My review for The Stage is here. Website: http://www.theplaythatgoeswrong.com/peter-pan-goes-wrong

8. Bend it Like Beckham. My favourite new musical of the year — Howard Goodall’s glorious music soars in this stage version of the 2002 film, booking at the Phoenix Theatre to March 5.  My review for The Stage is here. Website: http://benditlikebeckhamthemusical.co.uk/

close-to-you9. Close to You. Joyful concert revue of Burt Bacharach classics, mashed up and re-made for now, now extended at the Criterion to Feb. 14. Co-created by and starring Kyle Riabko, pictured in the air, right. My review for The Stage is here. Website: http://closetoyoulondon.com/

10. In the Heights. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2008 Tony winning Broadway musical returns to London in the exhilarating production first seen at Southwark Playhouse last year, and now at the new Olivier-eligible King’s Cross Theatre, where it is currently booking to April 10. See my review for The Stage is here. Website: http://intheheightslondon.com/

  • wahnsinn

    Wonderful shows, all the above! But, can I put in a little word for Thom Southerland’s and Lee Proud’s genius production of ‘Grand Hotel’ at Southwark Playhouse?