In Come From Away, a strong cast of twelve are able to bring to life this little-known story. A story in which a small Canadian town mobilised to accommodate the thousands of people who were stranded when their planes were diverted following the 9/11 attacks. At a time of hysteria over news which aims to shock and appal, I wish there were more shows like this one which seeks to display the good which humanity can achieve.
In Leave to Remain, I was absorbed during the first fifteen minutes and believed I was witnessing the next big thing to be produced in London. The music was sensational and combined with its unique use of movement, this captivating atmosphere was created. But in the scenes which followed, my initial impressions were proved wrong. The show played into one too many clichés and negative character stereotypes. The music and movement continued to be excellent, but the musical is ultimately let down by its book.
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.
‘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.
This show is a triumph in exploring themes on stage which haven’t been put in the spotlight since Next to Normal in 2008. Our protagonist, Evan Hansen struggles with anxiety and through the musical we see how this mental health issue impacts his life. Even if you don’t have any personal experience of struggling with a mental health problem, it’s a thoroughly engaging show, especially as the musical delves into further relatable themes such as solitude and managing loss.
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.
It was such a treat to see the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra presents the Best of Broadway; a one-night only live performance of well-known musical theatre numbers. This included some of my personal favourites such as the Circle of Life from the Lion King and Kander and Ebb’s Chicago Overture. If I were to dissect what I love most about seeing a good musical, it would be listening to a full orchestra perform a score. However woefully in many theatres today, it is rare to have a full orchestra in the pit. So to hear an outstanding orchestra fill the grand Royal Albert Hall with delicious melodies made my heart swell.
At present, the West End Musical Theatre scene seems to be filled with either long running shows, big blockbusters for tourists or musicals adapted from films. For those seeking something a little bit different, I recommend you visit the Arts Theatre in London to see Murder Ballad. I was drawn to this musical for the chance to see the live of performances of West End legends Kerry Ellis and Ramin Karimloo. However, to my delight, the show’s original music and smart staging elevated the experience to be something much more enjoyable than I expected.