Check out my top ten favourite performances of 2015 below! Please note that as I saw Gypsy in Chichester in 2014, Imelda Staunton was included in last year's list.
for The Dazzle at Found111
I usually start drafting my ‘top ten’ lists in November, but earlier this month - during my final week of reviewing - Andrew Scott reminded my why these lists shouldn’t be finalised until the year is actually through. A temporary theatre on the site of the old Central St Martins School of Art on Charing Cross Road, Scott embraced the intimacy of Found111 where he starred in The Dazzle, performing with such intricate detail and giving a performance to remember!
for Kinky Boots at the Adelphi Theatre
Amy Lennox is an absolute revelation as Lauren in Kinky Boots. As her character develops a crush on her new boss Charlie, Lennox brings the house down with her rendition of 'The History of Wrong Guys' - I have never witnessed so many mid-song applauses during a musical number. She is silly, weird and wacky and the audience couldn't get enough of her impeccably delivered one-liners.
for Buyer and Cellar at the Menier Chocolate Factory
Back in March Michael Urie reprised his performance in Buyer and Cellar for its UK premiere, having previously starred in the show's first runs in New York as well as the U.S. tour. Urie made a huge impression in his role as an out-of-work LA actor who gets a job in Barbra Streisand’s Malibu basement. The concept sounds questionable and I didn't know what to expect; however, Urie won me over and built an unbreakably strong bond with the entire audience, giving a masterclass in the art of storytelling.
for Oresteia at the Almeida & Trafalgar Studios
Lia Williams gave one of this year's most moving performances in Robert Icke's three and a half hour long production of Oresteia by Aeschylus which transferred to the West End following its run at the Almeida. Williams put everything she had into her portrayal of Klytemnestra, I have absolutely no idea how she found the emotional strength to perform the show eight times a week. She was out of this world!
for Peter Pan at the Open Air Theatre
Not only did Hiran Abeysekera take on the title role in Timothy Sheader and Liam Steel's production of Peter Pan with heart and flair, but he also showcased extraordinary strength and agility as he soared through the air. Marking the best production I have ever seen at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, Peter Pan was a magical treat which deserved much more than a four week limited run; let's hope Abeysekera is invited to reprise his performance in the not-too-distant future.
for Legally Blonde at Kilworth House & The Gatehouse
Jodie Jacobs' performance as Paulette in Legally Blonde at the Kilworth House Theatre was one of the absolute highlights of my year. I was enjoying the show, but the second Jacobs walked onstage to perform her first scene and big number 'Ireland' she took the production to a whole new level. She owned all of her scenes and had the audience in hysterics, performing the role as if it was written for her. Jacobs, who is currently reprising her performance at Upstairs at the Gatehouse, is a comical genius with a voice to die for - we need her talents back on a West End stage ASAP.
for Beautiful at the Aldwych Theatre
Taking on a role as huge as Carole King must be incredibly daunting, but Katie Brayben made it look so easy. Remarkably she put her own stamp on Carol whilst staying totally true to the icon she was playing. It was refreshing (and rare) to see such raw vocal talent on a West End stage - Brayben's vocals were spot on. Of course most people sit down to watch Beautiful already loving the songs but not knowing much about Carole's life story; Brayben performed the scenes with such truth and did a sterling job at giving audiences an insight into Carole's life.
for Hamlet at the Barbican Theatre
Photo by Johan Persson
Benedict Cumberbatch is an example of exactly how stunt casting should be done; his casting hit the headlines and got everyone talking about theatre... which is wonderful... but, most importantly, he had the talent to back it up and pulled off the mammoth role. The focus in the auditorium during Cumberbatch's "To be, or not to be" speech was sublime. Es Devlin's design reminded us just how huge the Barbican stage is, yet Cumberbatch gave such a concentrated performance.
for Kinky Boots at the Adelphi Theatre
Matt Henry stars as Lola in the West End premiere of Kinky Boots. When I caught the show on Broadway last year and saw Billy Porter's Lola I remember thinking 'I can't imagine anyone else playing that role', but Henry won me over within seconds. Setting the stage on fire, Henry steals scene after scene after scene - I never wanted him to leave the stage. He pulls off all of Lola's fierce costumes, let's rip into Cyndi Lauper's score and has superb comic timing. Kinky Boots is Matt Henry's show and I hope he wins award after award for his career defining performance next year.
for Funny Girl at the Menier Chocolate Factory
2015 saw Sheridan Smith return to musical theatre with an almighty bang. Taking on the role of Fanny Brice - the first actress to do so in London since Barbra Streisand - it was an utter joy to appreciate Smith's performance in the intimacy of the Menier Chocolate Factory. Smith seems so at home onstage, she is a natural comedian and effortlessly builds an unbreakable relationship with the audience. With no drama school training, her talents are instinctive; she seems so real and performs with lots of heart. She acted her way through 'People' with stunning truth before commanding the stage with 'Don't Rain On My Parade'. Those who didn't manage to snap up a ticket for the Menier run, which sold out within hours, must not miss Smith reprising her performance in the West End next year. Sheridan Smith is one in a million.
Andrew Tomlins (Editor)