Welcome to today’s edition of ShentonSTAGE Daily, where Christmas seems to have arrived already.
On Wednesday evening, I was covered in snow at the Dominion — or at least a soapy substance standing in for it.
That occured at the finale of ELF, the Broadway musicalisation of the 2003 Will Ferrell film, which first transferred to the Dominion for the 2015 Christmas season (in a production that had a different producer, director and choreographer at the helm, but curiously, the same set designer Tim Goodchild, as now)
Seven years ago, ELF also stood out for making history with a then eye-watering record top price of £240 a ticket. As I wrote at the time in The Stage, “I’m sorely tempted to say they can Elf off.” I was quoted in the Daily Mail, who contacted me for an interview,
“There’s absolutely no ceiling to how high ticket prices can go. We live in a StubHub economy, it’s whatever people are prepared to play. What is surprising is that this is a show with no stars to speak of and it’s a family show, that’s the key to it too, it is families who are being fleeced here. It’s the same reason you pay £3.50 for a coffee in Starbucks when it costs then 10p to make, if we buy it we are the fools. It is up to the audience whether they buy these tickets.”
As the share prospectuses are fond of warning, their values can go up or down. And it is somewhat reassuring to note that for Elf’s 2022 return, the top price now is “only” £195.
The amiable but hardly thrilling musical spectacle passes the time, and does include Santa Claus on a sledge that levitates over the front stalls — though it is not quite in the league of Back to the Future where a Delorian spins upside down, with its two lead actors inside it, over the front rows.
Still, there’s Simon Lipkin (pictured above centre, with Dermot Canavan) — filling out the role of Buddy, the human raised amongst elfs, in every sense. He’s long been a favourite West End actor of mine in supporting roles in shows, often involving puppets, like AVENUE Q and THE LORAX. He brings a welcome physicality and winking humour to the role.
But the winking Christmas humour I’m looking forward to most remains the now annual appearance of Julian Clary and co in panto at the Palladium (this year, its JACK AND THE BEANSTALK), which opens officially on December 14 (but I won’t be seeing until December 16 as I’m in New York once again from December 8-14).
I found a lot more to cheer about in my visit earlier the same day, at last, to the brand-new @SohoPlace theatre across the street from the Dominion, catching the marvellous MARVELLOUS before it closes tomorrow.
It is a canny and inclusive choice for the theatre’s founder and producer Nica Burns to import this production from Stoke-on-Trent’s in-the-round New Vic Theatre to inaugurate the West End’s first fully in-the-round space. Not only is director Theresa Heskins well aware of the unique challenges and appeal of working in this kind of space, but also the production is a warm-hearted biographical true-life tale of a man who found the secret to happiness in being himself.
The show is a celebration of neurodiversity, and the company includes neurodiverse members. The matinee I attended happened to be a ‘relaxed performance’, too, which made it even more inclusive.
FUTURE SHOWS IN LONDON AND BEYOND
My regularly updated feature on shows in London, selected regional theatres and on Broadway is here: https://shentonstage.com/theatre-openings-from-w-c-november-21/
Newly added this week is the English-language premiere of Ivo van Hove’s harrowing stage version of A LITTLE LIFE, first seen in the UK in his original Dutch production at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival, that will come to the Pinter Theatre in March with a cast led by James Norton (second from left above) as the lawyer whose traumatic past the play uncovers. Also in cast are Luke Thompson, Omari Douglas, Elliot Cowan and Zubin Varla, amongst others.
See you 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)