Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Editor's Blog: Top 6 Theatrical Highlights of 2015

Kay Murphy saves the day!

Back in November I bought a last minute ticket to see Xanadu at the Southwark Playhouse as I enjoyed the show so much first time round. Before the show director Paul Warwick Griffin announced that cast member Alison Jiear was indisposed so actress Kay Murphy had learnt the role in 24 hours and would be stepping in. Murphy threw herself into each and every number and performed the entire show without a script in hand! She had the time of her life; pulling off the choreography and dazzling with her faultless vocals, providing a night to remember! Click here to read more.

Bradley Jaden steals show after show

Since taking over as Enjolras in the West End production of Les Miserables back in June, Bradley Jaden has been proving himself as a leading man worth keeping an eye on. I've seen Jaden pop up in various one-night-only Sunday night concerts this year, and each time he has stolen the show. In West End Heroes (click here to read review) Jaden made a huge impression with his performances of 'Who I'd Be' and 'Bohemian Rhapsody' whilst in Kings Of Broadway (click here to read review) he rightfully received one of the evening's biggest applauses for his rendition of  'Maria'. I recently caught Les Mis and Jaden was, without doubt, the strongest Enjolras I have seen for a long time. The future certainly looks bright for Bradley Jaden; if Jason Robert Brown's musical The Bridges of Madison County ever finds its way to London Jaden would make a perfect Robert. Read our interview with Bradley Jaden

Green girls shine 

One thing which makes Wicked stand apart from other musicals is the way in which it creates musical theatre stars. In 2015 I've seen Elphabas from all around the world take to the London stage; each with remarkable individuality and musical flair. Julia Murney was a dream when she performed her hysterically funny concert at the Hippodrome, Shoshana Bean was in a league of her own at the Singers Lounge, Kerry Ellis & Louise Dearman united for an evening of college banter and powerhouse vocals at the Prince Edward Theatre, Willemijn Verkaik blew the roof off the Ambassadors Theatre whilst the formidable Rachel Tucker took me to vocal heaven with her concert at the St James Theatre. Finally Jacqueline Hughes - who won West End Frame's 2015 Understudy of the Year Award for standing by as Elphaba in the Wicked UK tour earlier this year - showcased so many different sides to her incredible voice at Above The Arts and Idina Menzel made a spectacular return to London when she brought her world tour to Wembley Arena, marking one of my favourite nights of the year.

West End takes over Broadway

2015 has been a successful year for the West End on Broadway. Cynthia Erivo (starring alongside Jennifer Hudson in The Color Purple) is topping 'top performances of the year' lists in New York whilst Rachel Tucker (reprising her performance in Wicked) is receiving tremendous acclaim for starring as Broadway's latest Elphaba. It has also been a very exciting year for plays, with King Charles III starring Tim Pigott-Smith and A View from the Bridge starring Mark Strong enjoying triumphant runs. 2016 is shaping up to be another exciting year for the West End on Broadway; there are whispers that Funny Girl starring Sheridan Smith and Gypsy starring Imelda Staunton could possibly transfer to Broadway whilst it was recently announced that John Owen-Jones is returning to Broadway to take over as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables. 

Les Mis turns 30

Photo by Dan Wooller

In October Les Miserables celebrated its 30th anniversary with a gala performance at the Queen’s Theatre in aid of the Save The Children Syria Children’s Appeal. To celebrate this milestone, the production's current cast were joined onstage by members of the original company and various Les Mis icons including Colm Wilkinson, Roger Allam, Patti LuPone, Frances Ruffelle, John Owen-Jones and GerĂ³nimo Rauch in a special finale. This picture of original Fantine Patti LuPone with current Fantine Rachelle Ann Go made our year!

Imelda Staunton creates theatrical history

Photo by  Johan Persson

I think 2015 will be remembered as the year Imelda Staunton gave one of the best performances to have ever been seen on a West End stage. Bringing entire audiences to their feet three times at some performances, Staunton's performance reminded us exactly how you earn a true standing ovation. I have never experienced so much unanimous, universal praise for a performer. Whether you caught a Wednesday matinee or Saturday night show, Staunton was always at the top of her game and gave you her absolute all (only missing three performances throughout the seven month run!). It was such a treat to see the show again this week when BBC4 broadcast the production (currently avaliable via iPlayer). A DVD is apparently in the works meaning Staunton's performance will live on forever. Staunton has already picked up several accolades for her portrayal of Mama Rose and looks set to dominate the 2016 awards season.

Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

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