Welcome to today’s edition of ShentonSTAGE.
A SCHEUER THING
On Wednesday evening I visited the Phoenix Arts Club, adjoining the Phoenix Theatre, to see extraordinary New York singer-songwriter Benjamin Scheuer, now resident in London, performing songs from his new solo show ELODIE’S MOUNTAIN, in development — one of the songs was written just the day before! — but is shaping up to be a tenderly beautiful piece about parenting and life through his three-year-old daughter’s eyes.
Ever since I saw his first solo show THE LION, chronicling his own battle with cancer when he was just 29 (and losing his father when he was 13), I knew he was a major artist. (That show is being revived at Southwark Playhouse in May, but with a different performer playing him) Now, a decade on from his cancer diagnosis, he is happily cancer free; It’s amazing to me to see him in such close quarters as the subterranean Phoenix Arts Club.
Accompanying himself dazzlingly on multiple guitars and piano, his extraordinary musicianship is combined with songs of intimate, intricate feeling; I’ve seldom known a theatrical singer bring so much of himself to his work. And it has been a real privilege to watch him grow over the years into the mature artist he is now.
Not since I first saw Eddie Perfect in cabaret at Adelaide Cabaret Festival over a decade and a half ago have I been quite so certain that a singer-songwriter is going to go places; Eddie has now written not one but two Broadway shows, KING KONG and BEETLEJUICE, with the latter, pictured above, returning to New York next month, at the Marquis Theatre from April 8)
STAR ACTORS IN LONDON
Television and big screen fame is a major driver for West End producers; currently in preview ahead of opening next Tuesday (March 15) is Taron Egerton and Jonathan Bailey (pictured below) in a new production of Mike Bartlett’s COCK, and the lowest ticket price is £65, with the bulk at £100 or more, so it also translates to big prices.
Prices are a lot cheaper, but in even shorter supply, at the Donmar Warehouse, which only has 251 seats; yet ever since Sam Mendes first established it as a producing house, and was then succeeded by Michael Grandage, it has specialised in attracting big stars, from Nicole Kidman to JUde Law and Eddie Redmayne (who actually appeared there both before he was famous, in the original production of Red, and after).
Grandage’s era was also notable for streamlined, intimate productions of Shakespeare — some critics used to think the texts were routinely cut, but in fact they were just spoken at normal speed; visiting the Donmar yesterday to see Kit Harington playing the title role in Max Webster’s new production of HENRY V there reminded me of the old days here, though with added special effects (Webster’s production is epic and expansive, with brilliantly choreographed battle scenes, video and exquisite choral music).
While Harington is obviously the star attraction, he’s also really good, too — not just a pretty face. And there’s a brilliant ensemble cast around him.
The breadth and depth of great British stage acting is on display, too, at Hampstead Theatre in their downstairs studio last night, where I caught Ruby Thomas’s The Animal Kingdom.
It was wonderful to see such stage stalwarts as Paul Keating and Martina Laird joined by brilliant younger actors Ragevan Vasan and Ashna Rabheru, plus an extraordinarily assured Paul Hickey standing in for the indisposed Jonathan McGuinness. He raised the stakes in a beautifully told story of family dysfunction in a treatment centre where an adult son is being treated after a failed suicide atempt.
GIVING CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE: AN OLIVIER UPDATE
The official citation in the category for Best Actor in a Supporting Role states one of the nominees as being:
“7 actors who play the Tiger for Life Of Pi at Wyndham’s Theatre”
These are named in the press release only, though not the citation that has been published everywhere online, as Fred Davis, Daisy Franks, Romina Hytten, Tom Larkin, Habib Nasib Nader, Tom Stacy and Scarlet Wilderink.
I am happy to give credit where credit is due — but it’s odd that the Oliviers themselves don’t.
SEE YOU ON MONDAY
If you can’t wait that long, I can also be found regularly on Twitter here (though not as often on weekends): https://twitter.com/ShentonStage/