ShentonSTAGE Daily for MONDAY OCTOBER 31

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Welcome to today’s edition of ShentonSTAGE Daily.

I’m sending this newsletter out early today, as I’m heading for a(nother) spinal procedure this morning — a steroid injection to the area above where they carried out a revision to a previous spinal fusion earlier this year. One of the issues around fusions is that the problem keeps moving up the spine, and so it has proved with mine.

But as I’ve also regularly said, I keep going to the theatre DESPITE the pain as it gives me a reason to keep going!

Theatre is a restorative: a place that I’ve loved since I was 14, and gives my life meaning and purpose. But like all demanding lovers, it doesn’t always reciprocate the love I give it; and my love is, sadly, often misplaced (as is my anger, at times, I will also less readily acknowledge).

I became a critic partly in order to share my love for the theatre and to be able to make a difference to it (while also, I’m happy to say, making a living doing so).

Sadly, as I’ve watched critics increasingly become marginalized — by the mainstream media that used to employ them, the public who used to read them, and more distressingly, by the theatre industry itself who used to rely  on them to help publicise and validate their work — I realise more than ever that our days are finally numbered.

Access is being granted instead to “social media influencers” by some theatre PRs — the people whose job it is to provide a point of contact between producers and the press. Last week the West End production of CABARET had a gala performance to introduce the new cast; the first I heard of it was an email the next day asking me to promote what had taken place, but I’d not been asked to!

Of course, they want COVERAGE more than anything; and courting this new media is much easier and less hard work than the traditional media. Unlike the national media, who have limited space to give to theatre and whose coverage has to be fought for, social media channels will simply oblige in return for a free ticket. And they will be LESS critical, too — a win-win.

In the circumstances, I am relieved that I don’t play in that sandbox anymore. Sure, I get frustrated sometimes by how many PRs (fail to) do their job anymore, as I found out just the other week when the one representing a brand-new West End venue simply refused to reply to any emails. So I just didn’t go. (In future, I will cut them out of the picture, and only deal directly with the venue’s owner). But they’re welcome to it: I’d sooner otherwise just buy a ticket for something I really want to see.

Though even that is not always infallible: I bought a ticket for Rob Madge’s MY SON’S A QUEER (BUT WHAT CAN YOU DO?) at the Garrick on Saturday afternoon, only to discover, just hours before the show was due to start, that they’d been forced to cancel it owing to a viral infection. That’s unavoidable (and I had at least seen the show during its original run at the Turbine and again in Edinburgh over the summer).

Alas, I will not now get a chance to try again, as I head to New York this Thursday….


My regularly updated feature of openings in London, on Broadway and selected regional theatres is here:

Broadway, here I come (again)!

I was in New York for six nights in September, to celebrate a significant birthday; this week I’m heading back, to catch some of the autumn round of new shows, including Jeremy Herrin’s new film-to-stage adaptation of ALMOST FAMOUS (which opens this coming Thursday) and the transfer of KIMBERLEY AKIMBO from Atlantic Theater to Broadway (opening a week on Thursday).

I’ll also be around for previews of & JULIET (transferring from the West End), KPOP (transferring, at last, from its 2017 premiere at Off-Broadway’s Ars Nova) the new Neil Diamond biographical jukebox A BEAUTIFUL NOISE, and a new stage musical version of SOME LIKE IT HOT; I may not catch them all, but they will be there.

And off-Broadway, Ahrens and Flaherty’s delicate masterpiece A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE, which I saw in its original Lincoln Center production twenty years ago, returned in a new production at Classic Stage that opened last night (pictured above), and I can’t wait to see. (It contains one of my all-time favourite Ahrens and Flaherty numbers, “The Streets of Dublin”, performed here by its original star Steven Pasquale at a gala earlier this year, and in as fine of voice now as then; he’s pictured below with the late Roger Rees in the 2002 premiere).

I will be reporting on these and more as I see them.

See you here next Monday…

If you can’t wait that long, I may also be found on Twitter here: (though not as regularly on weekends)