Welcome to today’s edition of ShentonSTAGE Daily.
My passion for theatre — or rather my total devotion and addiction to it — takes me on some interesting journeys. On Saturday morning, this meant flying
to Dublin for less than 24 hours, to see two shows I’ve seen quite a lot of before, from their original Broadway incarnations to their London premieres, and I was very keen to see yet again.
In both cases they were non-replica productions of their Broadway stagings, providing a new lens through which to see them
In the case of TITANIC THE MUSICAL, though, it was in a revival I’d seen several times already,, from when it was originally launched right on my then-doorstep of Southwark Playhouse in 2013, before also running at Charing Cross Theatre. This 10th anniversary revival of that production has brought it to much larger stages up and down the country, before ending in Dublin on Saturday. where I caught its final matinee at the strikingly modern
Bord Gáis Energy Theatre (on the inappropriately named Misery Hill, near the Liffey river that runs through the city).
Thom Southerland’s magnificent production is undiminished as it effortlessly fills a much larger space, thanks to Maury Yeston’s haunting and evocatively melodic score that is both gorgeously sung by a 25-strong cast and played by a small but resourceful band of six led by Ben Papworth that sounds much larger.
This revival was once tipped for a Broadway return and it really should go there again; it’s so powerful, soaring with emotion and feeling. And some stupendous voices, from musical theatre veterans like Graham Bickley and Valda Aviks, to brilliant relative newcomers like Adam Felipe, Luke Harley, Emily George, Danny Michaels and Bree Smith, all of whom I taught at Arts Ed over a glorious decade from 2010! It really has been wonderful to track their careers from then to now.
I also saw the breathtaking new production of the 2015 Broadway musical FUN HOME at Dublin’s Gate Theatre that’s both shattering and quietly stunning, performed with an intensity of feeling, empathy and care that’s thrilling to experience. I’d seen its original Broadway production and its subsequent UK premiere at the Young VIc in the same staging, but this entirely different staging by the Gate’s new artistic director Róisín McBrinn finds haunting new depths and textures to it.
Killian Donnelly — a native citizen of Ireland and one of the very best musical theatre actors on this side of the Atlantic — proves his chameleon versatility yet again, portraying a deeply conflicted patriarch with a secret of his own, as his daughter Alison maps her own journey towards coming out as a lesbian against the trauma of his suppressed sexuality.
Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron’s boldly challenging musical is deeply and tenderly felt. While the Young Vic production was tipped for a West End transfer that never materialised, it would be wonderful if this production could now bring it to a wider London audience.
From an Edinburgh audience of one person to a sell out in a day….
The Edinburgh Fringe kicked off last Thursday, and will be running to August 28. Many shows will only see a handful of audience members, especially during the early days of the fringe — I had a friend go up last year who had nobody at all at his first show, so he turned it into an extra run-through. By the time I saw it two days later, there were just two of us there.
So its not an uncommon experience. When Georgie Grier debuted the return of her 2022 show SUNSETS at the Gilded Balloon last Thursday, she tearfully tweeted:
She was immediately flooded with supportive messages from stars that included Jason Manford and Dara Ó Briain. Conservative peer and Times columnist Danny Finkelstein tweeted,
By the next day, the story had gone viral in the national press and online, and she sold out completely, as The Guardian reported here.
So a happy ending all around? Not quite. It subsequently emerged on Twitter that she’d pulled the exact same stunt in 2022, posting this:
I guess you can’t blame someone for trying every trick in the publicity arsenal. But there is a sense in which the media have been duped into publicising her show; fake news has hit Edinburgh.
SHOWS AHEAD IN LONDON, SELECTED REGIONAL THEATRES AND ON BROADWAY
My regularly updated feature on shows in London, selected regional theatres and on Broadway is here: https://shentonstage.com/theatre-openings-from-w-c-august-7-2023/
With the Edinburgh Fringe now in full swing, the theatre sections of newspapers like The Guardian and The Stage are leading with reviews and coverage from there, but there are still openings in London to contend with, including LA CAGE AUX FOLLES at the Open Air Theatre tomorrow (Tuesday August 8) and a revival of Lucy Prebble’s THE EFFECT at the NT on Wednesday (August 9), the same theatre where it was originally premiered in 2012 in a production that then starred Billie Piper and Jonjo O’Neill in the Cottesloe, and this time features Paapa Essiedu and Taylor Russell in the larger Lyttelton.
We also bid farewell to the oldest fringe theatre in London this week — the King’s Head in Islington will host its final performance on Sunday in the room behind the pub on Upper Street it has occupied since 1970, before reopening in a new purpose-built space in the development next door at a date yet to be announced. I’ve had many memorable nights there over the years — it was here that I first saw Victoria Wood, for instance, long before she rose to fame; another highlight was their revival of Vivian Ellis’s 1928 musical MR CINDERS that subsequently transferred to the West End’s Fortune.
See you here on Friday
I will be here on Friday. If you can’t wait that long, I may also be found on Twitter (for the moment) here: https://twitter.com/ShentonStage/, as well as Threads and Instagram with the same handle (@ShentonStage).