My top twenty theatre shows of 2017
1. Bat Out of Hell The Musical – London Coliseum
Andrew Polec, as Strat (leader of ‘The Lost’, a collective of young rebels) leads a ridiculously talented cast with flair, energy and intensity. Polec’s vocals are outstanding, his stage presence amazing, and he was conspicuous by his absence whenever off-stage.
2. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Apollo Theatre
Hilarious and hard-hitting in equal measure, this is a great British musical not to be missed. I don’t like this show. I love it.
3. Barber Shop Chronicles – National Theatre, Dorfman
Filled with laugh-out-loud humour as well as food for thought, this electrifying and magnificent production is theatrical heaven from beginning to end.
4. Hamilton – Victoria Palace Theatre
The hype is justified, and the running time felt considerably shorter than it was. Hamilton is an extraordinary show with a diverse and talented company. I was encouraged and exhilarated by this slick, energetic and relentlessly compelling musical.
5. 42nd Street – Theatre Royal Drury Lane
It’s unlikely to win over anyone who wouldn’t normally enjoy a musical theatre production. As Marsh himself puts it, “Musical comedy – the two most glorious words in the English language!” But for those who like a classic, feel-good musical that will have them leaving the theatre with a smile on their faces and humming memorable tunes, a trip down to 42nd Street is worth every penny.
6. The Life – Southwark Playhouse
The whole cast are well-drilled by veteran director Michael Blakemore, and the show is clearly influenced by more than one well-known musical theatre show […] what a magnificent and sensational production this is.
7. The Phantom of the Opera – Her Majesty’s Theatre
After more than 32 years in the West End, The Phantom of the Opera continues to sound marvellous… Enchanting as ever, it remains vibrant and beautiful, and in fine form.
8. 31 Hours – The Bunker Theatre
An admirable play with compelling performances, this intriguing and informative production doesn’t apportion blame or offer tidy solutions to a persistent problem. The script is poetic when it wants to be, other times flowing between characters so much it requires impeccable timing and pacing, which this cast possesses in abundance.
9. The State of Things – Jack Studio Theatre
A joyous final number sends the audience out with cheerfulness, even if all the ends aren’t tied up, loosely or otherwise. The script is tasteful and imaginative.
10. Angels in America – National Theatre, Lyttelton
I saw it in the cinema as part of the NT Live broadcast series before I saw it at the National Theatre itself. The screenings expose the set design flaws, as the cameras couldn’t zoom in on characters as they would normally do, given the number of split scenes in the play, and panoramic views consequently required. An extraordinary experience.
11. Hamlet – Harold Pinter Theatre
These sofas, these business suits, these sliding doors. It’s all bound to annoy the purists to high heaven. No matter. This is a surprisingly warm and inviting production, and a welcome addition to the many versions of this timeless play.
12. Henry V – Southwark Cathedral
I wasn’t prepared for… quite how different and spellbinding this production was from any other Henry V I’ve seen before… Powerful and poignant.
13. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – Harold Pinter Theatre
The narrative unfolds over just one night, and this production is so intense and absorbing I found myself willing both the ‘interval’ of 15 minutes between Act 1 and Act 2 as well as the ‘pause’ of just five minutes between Act 2 and Act 3 to end.
14. Dick Whittington – London Palladium
…the most astounding scene for me was Sarah Fitzwarren (Gary Wilmot) naming all (as far I could deduce, anyway) of the stations of the London Underground network in a patter song that thoroughly deserved the sustained applause it received. Oh yes, it did.
15. Fingering A Minor on the Piano – Soho Theatre
This is a compelling and passionate show, as much of an education into what’s really going on in the healthcare sector today as it is a fun-filled hour of hysterical anecdotes.
16. Ugly Chief – Battersea Arts Centre
All things considered, this is a witty and spirited play, and I’d happily see it again. As for Mike Melody, he couldn’t help but spot this reviewer scribbling away into a notepad, and was confident enough to tell the press night audience I’d give him “all the stars”. How incredibly perceptive he is.
17. London Musical Theatre Orchestra: A Christmas Carol – Lyceum Theatre
I wonder if this production could become a regular seasonal feature, building on previous performances year after year, as The Snowman does over at the Peacock Theatre. A marvel and a delight.
18. Rachel Tucker – Shoreditch Town Hall
Flanked by dozens of youngsters from the Stagebox Musical Theatre Choir (who stood in the aisles waiting to come on as Tucker sang ‘Children Will Listen’ from Into The Woods – make of that what you will), this was ensemble singing and dancing at its finest.
19. Response 2 Power – The Old Red Lion Theatre
It is quite typical for curated events like these to have mini-plays of varying quality – here, however, each of the shows offers plenty of food for thought, and are presented with relish, delight and commitment by eager and passionate performers in this lively and intense production.
20. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase – Jack Studio Theatre
Equally humorous and mysterious (or, to quote the show, “simply ridiculous”), this delightful production is nothing short of a tour de force.