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Welcome to today’s edition of ShentonSTAGE Daily, which has resumed daily weekday publication this week (though I may occasionally take the liberty of not publishing on some days!)
Yesterday I also started trialing a new online venture: ShentonSTAGE LIVE. This is a rolling theatre blog that appears on my website, updated throughout the day as necessary, to reflect news updates and other observations and commentary as they occur, including short reviews of shows when I see them that may be expanded into fuller reviews later. Parts of this live blog will then be incorporated into this daily newsletter, so don’t worry if you don’t check in regularly, or miss any updates! The landing page for this is here:

The Stage Awards
As theatre strives to return to “normal” (or whatever normal is now), The Stage’s annual New Year’s party returned to Drury Lane yesterday, a venue it was denied for the last few years during that theatre’s refurbishment. And they also held their annual The Stage Awards, amongst the recipients of which was Drury Lane itself, which was named Theatre Building of the Year.

BAC and Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre shared the prize for Theatre of the Year, which saw these independent theatres applauded for being deeply embedded in their respective communities, and anchoring creative endeavours in their areas.

NIce, too, to see Michael Harrison named Producer of the year: not only has he continued to be the UK’s panto king — as Qdos was sold to and became a new division of Crossroads Live, but he has also continued as an independent producer, bringing his production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat back to the London Palladium, and launching The Drifters’ Girl at his beloved Theatre Royal, Newcastle before bringing it into the West End.

And for The Stage’s Unsung Hero award, it was lovely to see a big public acknowledgement for the work of Understudies and Covers, who more than ever during the Covid-era have proved essential for allowing the show to go on.

The 20th anniversary return of Boy George’s Taboo
On Sunday and Monday Boy George’s 2002 musical TABOO received two sold out charity performances at the London Palladium, with a cast that included Boy George himself, the original Olivier winning supporting actor Paul Baker (reprising his role as Philip Salon) and leading performers from the last London revival at a club in Brixton, Sam Buttery (as Leigh Bowery, sharing the role with Boy George and Julian Clary) and Niamh Perry.

I was there last night. Of all the original scores penned for musicals by pop stars that both preceded it and succeeded it, from Elton John to Cyndi Lauper, Boy George’s is one of the fiercest and most gloriously personal, animating a fictionalised personal biography of his own life and people in it, like Leigh Bowery, Marilyn and Steve Strange, and is punchily rendered by stellar voices including Declan Bennett (pictured below with other cast members at the curtain call) and the wonderful Sally Ann Triplett, as a young straight man BIlly who comes into Boy George’s orbit and Billy’s mother respectively; the latter’s rendition of ‘Talk Amongst Yourselves’ is a blistering masterclass in maternal affection, determination and loyalty, the equal of “He’s My Boy” from Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (another musical by a pop writer Dan G Sells).

The show was was a thrilling reclamation of an underrated musical, performed with passion and panache. Producer Adam Kenwright — who was just 31 when he brought the show to the Venue (now the Leicester Square Theatre) — has recently returned to full-time producing, after a stint in management at ATG; it’s great to see him come full-circle back to the show that started him off.

No doubt about Doubt

Chichester Festival Theatre is justifiably well-known for its annual summer season as a producing theatre, but in the winter it mostly becomes a receiving house, taking in tours from the current roster of available product. That’s not ideal, as it depends on what’s out there; plus most tours are built for proscenium arch theatres, not the thrust stage of Chichester, so they’re inevitably a bit compromised.

But this winter they’ve just produced an absolutely gripping in-house production of John Patrick Shanley’s 2005 Pulitzer prize winning play DOUBT (running to this Saturday). And it’s a triumph: actor-turned-director Lia Williams directs with a churning sense of unease and ambiguity, and it has an absolutely spellbinding central performance from Monica Dolan as a Catholic nun school principal who becomes suspicious of the motives of a priest there in befriending a young black student. 

I’ve been a big fan of Dolan’s ever since I saw her play Lady Macbeth in Max Stafford-Clark’s thrilling production of Macbeth that relocated it to Africa in 2004 at the Arcola. She should be a major star; she’s already in my personal league of favourite actors, and she is truly remarkable here again. I hope this production gets a further life.

See you in your inbox tomorrow. But if you can’t wait that long, you can find me on Twitter @ShentonStage (though not as often on weekends), or in my live blog here.

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