Welcome to today’s edition of ShentonSTAGE Daily.
I had planned to see TAMMY FAYE again before it closed at the Almeida on Saturday — I’d bought tickets for the final matinee when it was first announced, and despite misgivings when I saw the opening night back in October (and written about here), I was keen to see how it had settled into its run.
I had in fact also bought a ticket for its first preview back then, too, as my curiosity for the show was sufficient for me to have wanted to see it at the very beginning of its stage journey as well as its end. In the event, I was twice thwarted; the first preview had been cancelled, and so were the final performances on Friday and Saturday. The first performance was delayed because the creative team needed to buy more time before exposing it to public view; the final because of cast illness. As the theatre tweeted, “Sadly, we didn’t get to say goodbye to the show the way we wished.” And added,
At least I got to see it once — and am likely to see it again when, as it is expected, it transfers to the West End and/or Broadway (though it is likely to be delayed by the leading lady’s pregnancy). Others were less lucky, including a friend who had also travelled down from Manchester on Saturday to see the same performance I was going to — and only found out about the cancellation when he and his partner were already on the train down.
They made good on their day by seeing TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD instead; while I took the opportunity to revisit COME FROM AWAY yet again. (As someone tweeted to me, “You can’t see Come From Away too many times!”) And as a sign of winter illnesses sweeping the West End that had also obviously affected TAMMY FAYE, there were no fewer than five covers out of a company of 12 for COME FROM AWAY.
What no one is saying is how many of these cases are COVID-related. But it looks like we could be in for another rocky winter. (Last Thursday’s Broadway opening of AIN’T NO MO saw it open without many reviews appearing, as a number of critics’ performances were cancelled when the full company wasn’t available; the show was already struggling at the box office, and without the impact of its reviews, may fail to make the splash it was hoping to).
MOTHER GOOSE (Brighton Theatre Royal)
Without a West End first night yet announced for the touring pantomime MOTHER GOOSE, though it moves to the Duke of York’s next week after its current opening week at Brighton Theatre Royal, I went to Brighton last night. And although I am not bound by any embargo on writing about it as a result, I will accord it the respect of the fact that I only saw the third public performance and accept that what I saw was, in true panto style, a little scrappy and on the hoof (or webbed foot).
Unlike next week’s annual panto extravaganza, this is very much more in the tradition of a local theatre panto — there are no flying cars or big special effects — but centering, of course, on a star turn from Ian McKellen (pictured above with co-stars Anna-Jane Casey, John Bishop as Mother Goose’s husband and Oscar Conlon-Morrey as their son Jack), returning to panto to play the title role for the first time since he made his panto dame debut in 2004 as WIdow Twankey in the Old VIc’s ALADDIN in 2004.
As Michael Billington wrote back then in The Guardian, “Inside McKellen there has always been a dame struggling to get out; and at last it’s been joyously released.”
18 years later — and now a still-sprightly, ever-twinkling 83 years old — McKellen is clearly completely at home here, and is renewing his commitment to regional theatre by doing that rare thing of actually taking this panto on the touring road (in addition to Brighton and London, it will visit 7 more regional cities in February and March).
It is produced by Ambassador Theatre Group Productions, the production arm of ATG, some of whose venues it will visit; and for whom it is likely to be a cash cow. When it arrives at the Duke of York’s, tickets will reach an eye-watering £175 each.
That level of corporate greed, of course, is hardly in the spirit of Christmas, but is par for the course nowadays in a West End where every producer seems intent on laying golden eggs.
FUTURE SHOWS IN LONDON AND BEYOND
My regularly updated feature on shows in London, selected regional theatres and on Broadway is here: http://shentonstage.com/theatre-openings-from-w-c-december-5/
This week’s openings in London include a new production from the Michael Grandage Company, bringing Virginia Woolf’s ORLANDO to the Garrick stage with Emma Corrin in the title role (opening tonight, Monday December 5), the opening (at last, after two press nights in 2021 were cancelled) of the returning HEX at the National (December 6), the premiere of April de Angelis’s KERRY JACKSON, also at the NT (December 7), the premiere of the Young Vic’s MANDELA musical (December 8) and Disney’s NEWSIES, at Troubadour Wembley Park (also December 8). I will be at both ORLANDO and HEX, and will report here on Wednesday.
Broadway has Audra McDonald in the Broadway premiere of OHIO STATE MURDERS (December 8) and a new musical adaptation of SOME LIKE IT HOT (December 11). l will be back in New York myself from this Thursday, and will be reporting on these, and others, from next Monday.
See you here on Wednesday…
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)