ShentonSTAGE Daily for TUES FEBRUARY 15

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Welcome to today’s edition of ShentonSTAGE. To subscribe, send e-mail to ShentonStageMailingList@gmail.com, or visit this website for the latest and previous ediitons.

You can find my updated list of future openings in London, selected regional theatrtes and on Broadway here: http://shentonstage.com/theatre-openings-from-w-c-feb-14-onwards/

THIS WEEK’S OPENINGS

A big week for openings has a new play by Florian Zeller that opened at Hampstead last night and Alecky Blythe’s latest verbatim play Our Generation at the National on Thursday (ahead of a transfer to Chichester, whose artistic director Daniel Evans directs). There’s also a new production for Saturday Night Fever, a new RSC Much Ado About Nothing at Stratford-upon-Avon, the UK premiere of Mark Gerard’s Off-Broadway hit Steve and a new British-born musical. 

  • Monday February 14:

LONDON: The Forest (Hampstead Theatre) February 4-March 12, press night February 14. Jonathan Kent directs the world premiere of Florian Zeller’s latest, with Toby Stephens, GIna McKee and Finbar Lynch. Press contact: Clare McCormack at Hampstead. https://www.hampsteadtheatre.com/whats-on/2022/the-forest/

* Tuesday February 15:

LONDON: Steve (Seven Dials Playhouse) February 8-March 5, 2022, press night February 15) The Seven Dials Playhouse, formerly the Actors Centre, opens with the UK premiere of Mark Gerard’s play, originally seen at New York’s Signature Center in 2015. Press contact: Georgie Blyth at Chloé Nelkin Consulting. https://www.sevendialsplayhouse.co.uk/shows/steve

LONDON: Broken Wings (Charing Cross Theatre)= February 11-March 26, opening February 15). Musical adaptation of Kahlil Gibran’s Broken Wings by Nadim Naaman and Dana Al Fardan to receive its fully-staged premiere production after a previous West End concert staging. Press contact: Freya Cowdry at Kate Morley PR. https://charingcrosstheatre.co.uk/theatre/broken-wings

REGIONAL: Much Ado About Nothing (Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon) February 4-March 12, press night February 15. Roy Alexander Weise, joint artistic director of Manchester’s Royal Exchange, directs Michael Balogun and Akiya Henry as Benedict and Beatrice. Press contact; Bethany Arnold. https://www.rsc.org.uk/much-ado-about-nothing/

  • Wednesday February 16:

LONDON: Saturday Night Fever (Peacock Theatre) February 1-March 26, press night February 16) West End premiere of new production of the stage version of the 70s disco film hit, featuring a score of Bee Gees hits. Richard Winsor, a principal dancer of Matthew Bourne’s Dorian Gray, Edward Scissorhands, Play Without Words and Swan Lake,will lead the cast in the role of Tony Manero, joined by Olivia Fines as his dancing partner StephaniePress contact: Emma Holland/Georgie Robinson at EHPR. https://www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/saturday-night-fever/

  • Thursday February 17:

LONDON: Our Generation (National’s Dorfman Theatre) February 14-April 9, press night February 17; then transfers to Chichester’s Minerva Theatre, April 22-May 14. Alecky Blythe returns to the National Theatre with a new verbatim play created from five years of interviews with 12 young people from across the UK. Press contact: Louisa Terry at National.
https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/our-generation

BLACK PERFORMERS MATTER IN THE WEST END AND ON BROADWAY

After the reckonings set in motion by Black Lives Matter that followed the murder of George Flloyd in May 2021, we’re finally seeing signs of change in the West End and on Broadway on the casting front. Last night saw Brittney Johnson (pictured above) take over as Glinda in Broadway’s Wicked, the first black actor to take over the role full-time (she was previously a standby for the role), as the show approaches its 19th anniversary this year.

Meanwhile, last month saw Emilie Kouatchou become the first black actor to play the role or Christine in Broadway’s longest running musical in history, The Phantom of the Opera (pictured above with Ben Crawford in the title role), as it approaches its 34th anniversary. 
Both, in other words, were a long time coming. In the 36 years that the original production of The Phantom of the Opera has been running in the West End, we finally have a black Christine (Lucy St Louis), but are yet to have a black actor play the title role. So there’s still a long way to go.

NEW VOICES IN ARTS JOURNALISM LOSE YET ANOTHER OUTLET

Last September, A Younger Theatre — the theatre blog that became a website aimed at creatives between the ages of 16 and 35 —  went on hiatus, after 12 years of seeking to champion young, marginalised theatre makers and creatives. Samuel Sims, the editor who took over from founder Jake Orr, wrote of his aims to actually pay his writers:

“I’ve been trying to get a budget to finally pay writers. It’s not good enough to say, ‘they’re starting out’ and ‘it’s a mutually beneficial position because they get free theatre tickets.’ That’s a great perk but continuing to feed into the mentality that not paying people for their work is OK, only gives those that actually can afford it, the excuse not to. It keeps writers and other creative people feeling insecure and unworthy. I thought wow, if I can pay writers as young as 16, this could really help make change. I thought I could provide working-class people with proper paid freelance work, doing something they were passionate about. What a disappointing rarity that is for artists.”

And this week, Exeunt has similarly suspended operations:

The brutal truth is that making arts journalism pay is very, very difficult; it has largely become a passion project, led by bloggers — myself included — who are not paid for our efforts. Even at the so-called professional end of the business, THE STAGE — Britain’s longest-established theatre publication, now over 140 years old — pays just £25 for a standard length 250 word review, which hardly amounts to much of an income for writers, even if they review twice or three times a week. (It’s well below minimum wage, too, if you factor in the time it takes to see the shows as well as write about them, with one being impossible without the other). 

SEE YOU ON THURSDAY

I’m heading to London tomorrow, so see you in your inbox next on Thursday.

You can also find regular updates on ShentonSTAGE LIVE, a rolling theatre blog that appears on my website, updated throughout the day as necessary, to reflect news updates and other observations and commentary as they occur. The landing page for this is here: http://shentonstage.com/shentonstage-live/
I can also be found regularly on Twitter,  https://twitter.com/ShentonStage/

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