So… 2018. I’ve seen some great shows this year, so picking my top 5 was harder than usual, but here it is:
Swan Lake, Royal Ballet. This new production of the classic premiered this year, and proved to be a fantastic, faithful reworking that makes sense of the story whilst creating a strong visual impact. It seamlessly weaves together Petipa’s original choreography, Liam Scarlett’s new steps, John McFarlane’s designs and Tchaikovsky’s genius score to make the best Swan Lake I’ve ever seen (especially with the dream partnership of Marianela Nunez and Vadim Muntagirov in the lead roles). I’ve got everything crossed that it wins in its nominated categories in the National Dance Awards in February.
42nd Street, Theatre Royal Drury Lane. This hugely successful revival of the 1930s musical is packed to the rafters with big musical numbers, witty one-liners and more sparkle than Strictly. Both band and tap-dancing chorus are on top form, filling the theatre with a sound that is of the era but still fresh and irresistibly catchy. It left me with the biggest grin on my face!
TOAST, The Lowry. Commissioned for the Week 53 festival and performed in an intimate black box setting on the Lyric theatre stage, this play is based on the childhood memoirs of food writer Nigel Slater. It’s a funny, moving and beautifully staged celebration of food and family that thoroughly deserves its West End transfer. The food given out to the audience – from tiny jam tarts and lemon meringue pies to paper bags of sweets – is a lovely touch to create a shared social experience between the audience and the characters onstage.
Wicked, Palace Theatre. The smash hit musical returned to the Palace Theatre this year and absolutely blew me away with its stunning steampunk visuals, excellent songs (brilliantly performed by the two leads, Amy Ross and Helen Woolf) and portrayal of a poignant, complex female friendship.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, West Yorkshire Playhouse. Sally Cookson’s in the round production of this fantasy classic ticked every box for adults and children alike: ingenious staging and design, excellent acting, and a thoughtful balance of faithfulness to the book and some more modern touches. The most magical thing I saw onstage all year.
Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you have a wonderful 2019. Here’s to lots more great theatre.