If we cast our memories back to school, most of us can vaguely remember learning about Henry VIII. If you did, you would have most likely learnt about his six wives and that ‘divorced’, ‘beheaded’, ‘died’ poem, but not much more about them. In Six, these ladies take centre stage and we gain an insight into their multi-dimensional lives through pop contemporary music. They have these big personalities and fascinating stories to share. The result is Hamilton meets the Spice Girls. It’s fun, fresh, and one of the most original British shows I’ve seen in a while.
Caroline, or Change is a musical of two quite different acts. The first had enjoyable parts but felt slow and left me feeling lukewarm. It was only during the second act that it shifted up a gear and an interesting show began to reveal itself. It became about much more than just an angry black woman in a low paid job, but a multi-layered insight into the feeling of change which rippled across America in the 1960s. It’s not your average feel-good musical but one that gets the brain ticking.
Some may be worried about 2019, it might be for big reasons such as that the UK is scheduled to leave the EU but hasn’t come to an agreement on what a Trade Deal will look like. Or for smaller reasons about whether you’ll be able to maintain the list of New Year Resolutions you spent so long on refining. Although 2019 may seem bleak for some, there’s lots to look forward to in the Musical Theatre World. Now I’m living in Central London, there’s so much more that I can access and I cannot wait to do so. Here’s my top five musicals I’m looking forward to seeing in 2019.
When I look back on 2018, it will be my theatre going experiences that I look back on most fondly. I’ve been fortunate enough to see musicals in Stuttgart, on Broadway and in the West End. This lists attempts to rank which shows stood out and connected with me the most when I saw them. Going into these shows at first, I wouldn’t have expected my top five to be in this order – but here it is – my countdown to my top five theatre experiences in 2018.
I found myself trying to explain Fanatical the Musical to a colleague at work. This made me realise that on the face of it, the show is quite a hard sell. The musical is set at a sci-fi convention and is about geeks who have an obsession with a fictional show called Angel-8. It’s an entirely original musical, doesn’t have that many known stars in the cast and is running at an off-west end theatre.
‘So, the world’s unfair, keep it locked out there, in here it’s beautiful’. Hearing this lyric live on stage, the words rang clear in the air and carried a new meaning out of the context of the show. Heathers is pure unadulterated escapism. I was immersed in this crazy world; with its 80s fashion, bizarre expressions and heightened teen angst. By the finale, I was engrossed and didn’t want it to end. Somehow it manages to lock out the outside world and make you feel part of another reality that was, for lack of a better word, beautiful.
A feel-good classic musical with an impressive number of break-out musical moments and a vast collection of dazzling costumes. The stars of the show are the athletic ensemble dancers who make mounting this beast of a show in a perfectly synchronised fashion look effortless.
Timothy Sheader’s thrilling production of Jesus Christ Superstar, currently staged at the Regent’s Open Air Park Theatre, follows Jesus in his final days before his crucifixion. The idea of retelling a biblical story is not new. Musicals such as Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Godspell and the Prince of Egypt have similarly turned to the Bible for source material. However, what sets Jesus Christ Superstar apart, is the way it constructs this parallel between the mania which surrounded Jesus, a Jewish preacher, who lived almost two millenniums ago and the mania around a modern day rockstar.
A question I am often asked is “what’s your favourite musical”. My instinctive answer has always been to say Ragtime. The first time I saw it, I was completely knocked out and developed an unhealthy obsession with the original Broadway cast recording. The emotive and creative score by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens and book by Terrence McNally completed penetrated my thoughts and my emotions; I had never felt so moved by a show. I didn’t think it was possible for my admiration for it to grow any stronger, until I saw the recent production of Ragtime at the Charing Cross Theatre. Seeing the new and inventive staging was like watching it for the first time. By the end I was hit with the full force of why I will always think fondly of this musical as my favourite.
A few weeks ago I saw One Night In Miami. This play centres around leading African-American figures in the 1960s and sheds light on their experience of living in a society with high racial tensions. My immediate thoughts were that it serves as a welcome reminder as to how much the US has progressed since then. However given the results of the recent US Presidential Election, one might question how much change there has actually been. But on deeper reflection, I think this play provides us with an important lesson about human resolve that we can learn from.