Welcome to today’s edition of ShentonSTAGE Daily, in which I look back on the last seven days of theatre news and reviews (including my own).
FRIDAY MAY 26
Small but mighty theatres are proving their worth again and again.
Two of the most notable West End shows of the year so far — FOR COLORED BOYS… and OPERATION MINCEMEAT both began their lives at the New Diorama, before going on to pre-West End runs at the Royal Court and Southwark Playhouse respectively, then on to the Apollo and Fortune Theatres.
Martin Sherman’s ROSE, originally premiered at the National Theatre in 1999, tonight returned to the West End, in a production that originated at Manchester’s tiny Hope Mill Theatre before a sell-out run at the Park Theatre in Finsbury Park.
It stars Maureen Lipman as a woman sitting shiva for many people who have passed in her life; as she does so, in a performance that has her sitting still on a small bench throughout the two-act play, she gives a powerful glimpse into forces that have shaped her character: strong, resourceful, resilient and wounded.
SATURDAY MAY 27
There’s no happier musical in the canon than GUYS AND DOLLS, a blissful portrait of Times Square that bursts with low-life gamblers and the show girls they date, as well as the missionaries trying to save them. I’ve loved this musical ever since Richard Eyre directed a now legendary revival at the National in 1982; now, one of his successors as artistic director there Nick Hytner is directing the best production of it I’ve seen since then, at his own Bridge Theatre (also on the South Bank, just a bit further up river).
I attended the very first preview, writing about it here: https://shentonstage.com/shentonstage-daily-for-friday-march-10/; I then reviewed the show when it opened for Plays international here: https://playsinternational.org.uk/guys-and-dolls-bridge-theatre/.
I had a friend over from New York who had booked in to see it at today’s matinee, so I bought a ticket so I could be there, too. And it is just pure happiness, from beginning to end.
SUNDAY MAY 28
In the Evening Standard on Thursday, Sarfraz Manoor wrote, “The habit of cinema-going, like the habit of buying a newspaper, is feeling like a relic of a bygone age”. Trying to buy one anywhere on Old Compton Street, which used to have two shops that sold newspapers and magazines, proved impossible when I was on the street that same day.
The same is true of trying to buy one anywhere near Times Square or 8th Avenue in New York, too.
I feel that I’m finally being defeated by my wish to keep print papers alive. Maybe I’m just behind-the-times, but even though I do read a lot of journalism online, it’s just not the same experience. Like browsing in a record store used to produce serendipitous finds and discoveries, you chance upon stories in print in a different way that you might well miss online.
MONDAY MAY 29
My column for today in on the craziness of West End ticket pricing: https://shentonstage.com/shentonstage-daily-for-tuesday-may-30/
As a critic, one of the perks of the job is getting free tickets to the theatre (and thank God — I wouldn’t be able to afford to go anymore if not). But I do also buy tickets from time to time, mainly to see shows again (as I just did at the Bridge on Saturday afternoon, see above).
And I care about the sustainability of the theatre; at this rate, or rather these rates, the theatre industry is writing its own suicide note.
TUESDAY MAY 30
Tonight I attended the opening of Dickie Beau’s RE: MEMBER ME, an extraordinary one-person show about actors who’ve played Hamlet, from Noel Coward and Ian McKellen to the late, great Ian Charleson, who died soon after playing the role at the National Theatre in 1989. I cried at the memories evoked and the sense of loss described that mirrors the play’s sense of grief so powerfully.
The biggest part of the show revolves around Charleson. Constructed from interviews with people like McKellen, Richard Eyre (who directed Charleson’s HAMLET), Charleson’s dresser and the late Sunday Times theatre critic John Peter who reviewed it, Dickie Beau lip-synchs to their memories in a show that is equal parts homage, theatrical history, and altogether wonderful.
WEDNESDAY MAY 31
Today I caught Sondheim & Furth’s modern masterpiece of urban life and love COMPANY in a bracing student production at RADA, that follows the most recent West End and Broadway revival in having Bobby become Bobbie, and Amy become Jamie, but also offers an even more radical intervention.
Bobbie’s trio of romantic dates remain female, as originally written, so she is now officially gay. That gives it a more fulfilling story arc. And Jessica Revel’s Bobbie (third from the right above) responds with a fierce and committed performance, amongst a strongly characterised cast.
THURSDAY JUNE 1
Being the first of June, this is the start of Pride Month — the annual worldwide celebration of LGBTQ+ Pride that centres around New York where the modern movement is commemorated on the last Sunday of the month, to mark the infamous raid on the Stonewall bar in Greenwich Village at the end of June 1969.
(The picture on the right was taken by Kieran Brown).
In London, Pride will be celebrated with a Parade this year on July 1. I’ll also be in New York the weekend before, not specifically for Pride but it usefully coincides with not one but two Adam Guettel musicals in New York that I am going specifically to see: the premiere of his new show DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES at Atlantic Theater, and an Encores! revival of his masterpiece THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA at City Center.
I’ll also be there for the Lincoln Center opening of NOTRE-DAME DE PARIS (the French musical spectacular whose score I adore); and the Broadway opening of the Britney Spears musical, ONCE UPON A ONE MORE TIME.
SHOWS AHEAD IN LONDON, SELECTED REGIONAL THEATRES AND ON BROADWAY
My regularly updated feature on shows in London, selected regional theatres and on Broadway should be here: https://shentonstage.com/theatre-openings-from-w-c-may-29-2023/, but my website is temporarily offline!
See you here on Monday
I will be here on Monday. If you can’t wait that long, I may also be found on Twitter (for the moment) here: https://twitter.com/ShentonStage/ (though not as regularly on weekends)