Every year we seem to be more and more spoilt for choice when it comes to theatrical events. This year has seen iconic shows close, productions broadcast around the world and performers returning to shows to recreate their celebrated performances. A certain theatre star also went mainstream and various concerts have left theatreland buzzing! Below are five theatrical events which particularly stood out for me this year...
We Will Rock You Closes
When We Will Rock You opened to negative reviews few predicted that it would go on to run in the West End for twelve years, rocking over 6.5 million people! Queen and Ben Elton's musical was so important as it attracted and created new theatregoers. Of course the final show was emotional and, although I wasn't in attendance, I have heard that it was an electrifying evening!
2014 has been quite a year in the land of Oz! Willemijn Verkaik had to leave Wicked early due to back problems; I attended her final performance as Elphaba which is probably one of the most emotional nights I have ever witnessed at the theatre. Original British Elphaba Kerry Ellis then returned to recreate her celebrated performance. I also attended Ellis' final night and I have never experienced anything like it! The crowd went wild and Ellis was on fire. Jennifer DiNoia is currently leading the cast, her performance is sassy, vulnerable and unbelievably consistent. I have so much respect for anyone who can take on such an almighty role, and this year Wicked really has spoilt us with talent! I must also mention Savannah Stevenson who is remarkable as Glinda; she always finds something new to do with the role. Her performance is stunning. Wicked continues to be my guilty theatrical pleasure!
Billy Elliot Live
The biggest production to be screened around the world this year was Billy Elliot the Musical. Interestingly I was in the audience at the Victoria Palace Theatre for the magical performance which has now also been released on DVD. I think this has only increased the buzz and excitement surrounding the musical. I've spoken to many people who caught the live broadcast and are now desperate to travel to London to see the musical live as they know they are getting their money's worth!
Idina Menzel takes over the world
It's always strange when a performer is hugely respected and celebrated in theatreland, but outside of the theatre bubble nobody has ever heard of them. However, 2014 has been an unbelievable year for Idina Menzel who, following the success of Frozen, became the first Tony Award winner to receive the Billboard Breakthrough Artist of the Year Award. Whilst performing eight shows a week in If/Then on Broadway, Menzel recorded a holiday album, was interviewed on every US talk show imaginable and was renamed Adele Dazeem by John Travolta prior to her performance of 'Let It Go' at the Oscars. Menzel has also found time to travel to the UK to duet with Michael Bublé on The X Factor ahead of the UK leg of her 2015 world tour.
Natalie Weiss in the West End
Although I had watched a few of her videos on YouTube, I wasn't overly familiar with US theatre actress Natalie Weiss prior to seeing her London concert debut at the St James Theatre. The audience were buzzing which is hardly surprising as the concert sold out within days of going on sale. Weiss' vocals blew my mind, I didn't realise it was possible to squeeze so many vocal gymnastics into just one concert. Following the riff raffle Weiss broke down a riff with one unsuspecting fan which was one of the funniest and most amazing things I have seen all year. I obviously went home and stalked Weiss' videos on YouTube; Weiss is insane and I sincerely hope she returns to London soon.
Andrew Tomlins (Editor)
What was the best show you saw in 2014? Which performer blew you away? Tweet us your 2014 theatrical highlights as we are putting together a special feature with all of your replies!
Photo Credit 1: Matt Crockett
Photo Credit 2: Adam Sorenson
Photo Credit 3: David Perlman