2016 Theatre Review – My Top Performances of the Year!

In previous years I’ve only written one theatre review post. However, after it was suggested to me by a friend, I’ve decided to split my review of the theatre year this time. I’ve already posted my top 10 productions of 2016 (here for those interested) and so this post will focus on my favourite performances from the last twelve months. You can also read about my most memorable moments of the year in theatre here.

Please do let me know your highlights in the comments below.

2016 – A Year of Strong Female Performances

As my top ten post highlighted, it’s been a strong year for women on stage, with so many stand-out female performances. Below is just the tip of the iceberg!

Lia Williams (Mary Stuart)

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After her incredible performance in Oresteia last year, Lia Williams is yet again one of the highlights of the year, in not one, but two roles. After being lucky enough to watch both versions of Mary Stuart back to back, what stood out the most for me was that no matter which version I was watching, the character Williams was portraying seemed to be the larger role. She was a vibrant Mary, unnerving Juliet Stevenson’s Elizabeth and yet she was also a strong, confident and sexy Elizabeth. I cannot wait to see what roles she will take on in the future, but I’ll be there for every one of them!

Ruth Wilson (Hedda Gabler)

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It’s always a joy to see Ruth Wilson on stage and she is currently delivering a superb Hedda Gabler at the National Theatre. She isn’t very likeable, but I couldn’t help admiring her character’s ability to be say whatever she wanted, regardless of the consequences! She is someone desperate for control and yet by the end we see her utterly at the mercy of Brack. In another powerful production by Ivo Van Hove, this is a must-see event.

Denise Gough (People, Places & Things)

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I’ve already gushed about how much I loved Denise Gough in this show and how she absolutely blew me away with such an emotionally, heartbreaking performance. It’ll stay in my mind for many years to come.

 

Glenn Close (Sunset Boulevard)

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The iconic Glenn Close finally brought her portrayal of Norma Desmond over 20 years after she performed it on Broadway. I had high hopes, but was nervous that perhaps she’d struggle to impress the way she did back then. It turned out she was spectacular and was still able to deliver the vocals. Yes, her voice may not have been as powerful, but it added a layer of reality to the character.

Billie Piper (Yerma)

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Billie’s performance in Yerma was one of the most emotionally draining trips to the theatre I had in 2016, so goodness knows how she performed it day after day! Modernising Lorca’s tale of a woman desperate to have a child worked perfectly for today’s world and as the play unfolded Piper her character from a young, vibrant woman to a lost, broken soul. Powerful and unforgettable.

 

Janet McTeer (Les Liaisons Dangereuses)

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It was hard to leave this production off my top ten and that was in large part due to McTeer’s portrayal of La Marquise de Merteuil. She was so devious and sexy and her chemistry with Dominic West really worked. I’m sorry I couldn’t get to New York to see the Broadway transfer, but if you have a chance to go before it finishes towards the end of January, it’s certainly worth the effort.

The cast of Eclipsed (NYC)!

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With Eclipsed it wasn’t just one strong performance, but five, with each of the five actresses in Danai Gurira’s play creating a memorable character and together the result was one of my theatre highlights. Lupita Nyong’o seemed years younger, depicting the young wife who yearns for a different life; Pascale Armand was a scene-stealer as Bessie, whose comic lines made me laugh out loud; Saycon Sengbloh brought a strength and motherly figure to the stage as Helena; Zainab Jah’s portrayal of the wife-turned soldier, who refuses to be a victim of any man was a moving one and Akosua Busia added an outside perspective as Rita, the woman determined to help the women of the camp leave this life. A remarkable play, that I hope to see in the UK soon.

Helen McCrory (The Deep Blue Sea)

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If I hear Helen McCrory is doing a play, I’ll book it without caring what it is. She is just so good. Her turn as Medea is still clear in my mind two years on and she was equally impressive as Hester Collyer, a woman trapped in life, who feels suicide is her only way out. A moving and powerful production for 2016.

Glenda Jackson (King Lear)

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25 years since she was last on stage, Glenda Jackson took on one of the most well known roles in Shakespeare – King Lear. I was rather surprised by how much power she brought to the stage. She may be older, but she still commanded the stage and although, I didn’t have the emotional reaction to the play’s ending that I sometimes do, I still left the Old Vic sure of the fact I’d seen one of the performances of the year.

Cynthia Erivo (The Color Purple, NYC)

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I was sorry to miss The Color Purple during its run at the Menier Chocolate Factory and so it was high on my list for my trip to NYC this year. I’d heard so much about Cynthia Erivo’s performance as Celie, the young girl, who overcomes so much to achieve happiness and independence in her life. There were two famous US actresses on stage, but the star was Erivo and hearing her sing “I’m Here” live was phenomenal. I’m so thrilled she won the TONY this year.

The men weren’t half bad either in 2016!

It may be a year when the female-led shows grabbed my attention, but there were certainly some excellent performances by the men too!

Andy Karl (Groundhog Day)

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Ahh Andy Karl. I loved Andy Karl in Groundhog Day. As he’s better known in the US, I wasn’t familiar with his work, but I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on his future projects from now on. As someone who wasn’t a fan of the original film, his portrayal of Phil Connors was a major factor in how much I loved this production. He was able to convey both his rude, arrogant attitude and his later kinder self with equal weight and by the end I was rather choked each time I saw it. If I needed just one reason to go back to NYC next year, this is it!

Anthony Boyle (Harry Potter & The Cursed Child)

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Undoubtably the most anticipated production of the year (and possibly the decade), the next story in the world of Harry Potter had a lot to live up to. I thoroughly enjoyed the show and all five of us in my group agreed that the show-stealer was Anthony Boyle as Scorpius Malfoy, the unlikely son of Draco, who forms a friendship with Harry’s son Albus. He was brilliant in the role; he is funny, brave, emotional and an utter joy to watch.

James Norton (BUG)

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James Norton is surely one of the most versatile actors we have at the moment. Able to be both the charming, gentleman and terrifying killer on screen, I was thrilled to see him perform this year in the intimate space of FOUND111. Tracy Letts’s play is one of growing claustrophobia, where Norton’s character, Peter, starts as a shy young man, who acts as a source of comfort to Kate Fleetwood’s Agnes, before slowly unravelling before our eyes. A hugely physical and emotional role, Norton demonstrated yet again why he is on my must-see list.

Jonjo O’Neil (Unreachable)

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I’ve been a fan of Jonjo O’Neil’s since I first saw him in the RSC company in Stratford-Upon-Avon (his Mercutio is yet to be beaten from those I’ve seen) and it was brilliant to see him take on such a quirky role as that of Ivan The Brute in Anthony Neilson’s new play. With the play taking shape during the rehearsal process, he was clearly able to bring so much personality to the character and I don’t think I’ve laughed that much in a theatre in a long long time (if indeed ever). It was an utterly bonkers performance that stole the show.

Simon McBurney (The Encounter)

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The Encounter was unlike anything else I’ve seen on stage. A one-man show, written and performed by Simon McBurney, it told the story of a National Geographic photographer who in 1969 travelled to, and became lost in, the Amazon rainforest. Through the use of innovative technology and the audience all wearing headphones, we were transported in to a sensory experience like no other. McBurney could not have put any more in to his performance, physically and mentally and if I could go again I wouldn’t hesitate.

Jamie Parker (Guys & Dolls / Harry Potter & The Cursed Child)

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Jamie Parker had to be on this list as I loved both roles he had on stage in 2016. I started the year watching him bring Sky Masterson to life in Guys & Dolls. He was superb and, in my view, one of the show’s biggest strengths, able to carry off the suave character and deliver the required vocals. Then it was on to Harry Potter. Harry isn’t the young man he was in the books/films and Parker convincingly portrays how his early life and experiences have impacted on him and indeed on his relationships as a husband and a father. Some of the most heartfelt moments in the play for me were those in which Harry is dealing with emotions and I can’t think of anyone better to play him.

James McArdle (Young Chekhov – Platonov & Ivanov)

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Having a chance to see the Young Chekhov trilogy at the National Theatre after missing its original run in Chichester was an added theatre bonus this year and my favourite of the three was undoubtably Platonov. This was largely down to James McArdle’s performance in the title role. Seeing the plays back to back also provided an even stronger contrast between his role in Platonov and that of the serious doctor in Ivanov.

 

Ian McKellen (No Man’s Land)

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I’ve been lucky enough to see Ian McKellen on stage a couple of times before (in No Man’s Land and The Syndicate) and what stands out most of me about McKellen’s stage work is that he simply becomes a new person. Despite being hugely famous for some iconic roles, you always see the character on the stage and not the actor and that was the case again in No Man’s Land.

Rafe Spall (Hedda Gabler)

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Rafe Spall’s performance as Brack in the National Theatre’s current production of Hedda Gabler really stood out for me. He is a man that starts the play as a rather playful, flirty friend to Hedda and yet by the end he had chilled me to the bone. Not every actor could do that, but through his previous work, Spall has demonstrated his ability to tackle characters on both sides of the moral spectrum. I certainly hope to revisit this production before the end of its run.

Jasper Britton (RSC Richard II / Henry IV)

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Anyone who knows me (or indeed has read this blog before) will know I’m a David Tennant fan and therefore a return trip to the RSC’s Richard II at the Barbican in January was never in doubt. The biggest thrill for me of the combined King and Country cycle was Jasper Britton. He brought a new dynamic to the Richard/Bolingbroke relationship and having the same actor as both characters enhanced the overall cycle. I particularly enjoyed seeing Bolingbroke’s relationship with Hotspur, which perfectly set up the events of the Henry IV Part One.

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What a year it’s been! Feel free to let me know which performances impressed you this year in the comments section.

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2016 Theatre Review – My Favourite Productions of the Year!

Although there are a few days of 2016 left, I’ve very likely been to the theatre for the last time this year and so it’s time for one of my favourite posts – my theatre review. It’s always lovely to reflect on another year of theatregoing and all the wonderful productions I’ve been lucky enough to see over the previous 12 months.

Due to a few weeks with a bad cough during which I didn’t go to the theatre (I refuse to be that person coughing through a show!), 2016’s final tally was just 70 different productions; 12 of which were musicals (a record I think for me), with the rest being plays. As with any year there are always some repeat visits and in 2016 I saw 11 shows more than once. Although this year saw me take a long overdue trips to New York for 11 days of theatre (that seems to be the magic number for me this year doesn’t it?), I’ve actually been to very little regional theatre in 2016 and I’m determined to improve this over the next twelve months.

2016 has been a very strong year of theatre for me, with those containing a strong female performance particularly standing out. I’ve seen very little that has truly disappointed and nothing that will be added to my all-time worst production list. So, below is my top ten productions of the year. Before the year is out, I’ll also be posting my list of 17 shows to see in 2017 so please do pop back to have a look and let me know what your theatre highlights have been this year!

Productions of the Year – My Top 10!

1. Groundhog Day (Old Vic)

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There could only be one show at the top of my 2016 list and that’s Groundhog Day, the new musical based on the film, which premiered this year in London, before departing after only its ten week run to prepare for Broadway (previews start in March). I had been sceptical about a musical of this 1993 film (one that I’d not been a huge fan of to begin with). On seeing it for the first time however, I knew this was something very special indeed and I loved it every time I went (well if any show warrants repeat trips it’s this one). The colourful sets helped bring the community of Punxsutawney to life, and the book by Danny Rubin with Tim Minchin’s music and lyrics were a joy. It managed to be both very very funny and deeply moving over the course of the show, as Phil Connors gradually becomes a better man. Of course, the show needed a strong lead to anchor it and Andy Karl was utterly superb as Connors. He was able to portray a man who was both irritating, but still likeable and someone you were rooting for by the end. Yes, I intend to go to NYC to see it, but in the meantime, Mr. Minchin, please release a cast recording! You can read my full reviews here and here.

2. People, Places & Things (Wyndham’s)

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I missed this play during its original run at the National Theatre, but was able to see it when it reached the West End earlier this year. It certainly lived up to the hype, with Denise Gough giving one of the finest stage performances I’ve ever witnessed. As Emma, the young woman dealing with a drug and alcohol addiction, Gough pulled you in to her world and didn’t let go until the end. Very few theatre performances have as strong an emotional impact as this one and her Olivier win in April was truly deserved. I know this will be a performance I talk about for years to come. Full review here.

3. Sunset Boulevard (London Coliseum)

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This time last year, one of the most anticipated events of the 2016 theatre calendar was Glenn Close’s return to the role of Norma Desmond, one she performed on Broadway over 20 years ago (and one she will take back to NYC in 2017). I’d never been to the Coliseum, but it was the ideal venue for this unique staging of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical. “Semi-staged”, there was very little set; instead the focus was on the performances and the full ENO orchestra on stage. Fred Johanson was excellent as Norma’s loyal butler, as was Michael Xavier as Joe Gillis. However, this was always going to be Close’s show and she was superb. In fact I loved it so much I had to go again and being on the front row that second time is an experience I will never forget. Full review here.

4. Eclipsed (John Golden, NYC)

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My trip to NYC this year was designed to be a theatre-fuelled holiday and it certainly was! I saw some excellent productions during my time there, but the one that stands out and makes this top ten is Danai Gurira’s play Eclipsed, which centres on the lives on five women during the Second Liberian Civil War. The play was able to capture the perfect balance of serious hard-hitting material and humour. For a play that has some moments that are quite difficult to watch, it was also remarkably funny too. On top of that, all five women in this play were superb (made clear by the raft of nominations it received). Lupita Nyong’a seemed so much younger in her role, which commanded your attention until the final moments, while Pascale Armand made me laugh with her witty remarks. I’m so pleased I was able to see this. Full review here.

5. Mary Stuart (Almeida)

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Last weekend I was at the Almeida for a double day of Mary Stuart. Seeing this new show twice in one day was the only way to guarantee I’d see both actresses in each of the lead roles of Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart. I’m still writing up my review (watch this space), but needless to say that it’s inclusion on this list tells you exactly what I thought of it! The Almeida has such a unique atmosphere and you can feel the energy in the room as the coin spin takes place to determine who will play each part. On seeing both versions, I was thoroughly impressed by both actresses, although Lia Williams brought something extra to the stage whether as Mary or Elizabeth. It’s an exciting, powerful and absorbing production that you should see if you can.

6. Unreachable (Royal Court)

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After having to return a ticket for earlier in the run, I’m so pleased I managed to see the final performance of this brilliant new play by writer and director Anthony Neilson, although due to the unique structure of the creative process, it would have been great to have seen it more than once, as Neilson uses the rehearsal process to mould the story and relies on improv from the cast. Story-wise, it’s about a group of creative people coming together to make a film, with the director intent on capturing the right light (played by Matt Smith) and one of the actors, Ivan the Brute, an unpredictable lunatic (Jonjo O’Neil)! All the actors were excellent, but special credit must go to these two, who had me in stitches throughout, particularly Jonjo. It’s a character and performance I won’t forget in a hurry!

7. Harry Potter & The Cursed Child (Palace)

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2016 also saw the arrival of the juggernaut that is the new Harry Potter play and I feel very lucky to have already been able to see it, knowing that some people have tickets for 2018! Set 18 years after the end of the seventh book in the series, we get to see Harry, Hermione and Ron as adults with children of their own off to Hogwart’s and the story focuses on the friendship of Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy. It’s a superb show, with magical trickery, lovely sets, a story with a positive message for us all and some brilliant actors. Special mention to Jamie Parker (one of my favourites on stage who really does bring something new to Harry) and Anthony Boyle who deserves as much recognition as possible for stealing the show as Scorpius. Review here.

8. Yerma (Young Vic)

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Billie Piper has established herself in recent years as a fine stage actress and her lead role in the Young Vic’s modern interpretation of Lorca’s Yerma is the best I’ve ever seen her. In a one act play, she simply left me speechless and a bit of a wreck through her portrayal of a young woman driven to despair by her inability to conceive a child. In this modern world where people like to think we can have it all and where woman are putting off having children until later, this play has an added emotional resonance. Brendan Cowell was also fantastic as her husband, struggling to keep their marriage together as his wife slowly breaks down. It was an emotionally draining experience, but a theatrical tour de force that I wouldn’t have missed for anything. Full review here.

9. Richard II (RSC, Barbican, London & BAM, NYC)

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Okay, okay, anyone who reads this blog may notice that this production has been on this list before, but technically the 2016 version did have a largely different cast and therefore I think I cab get away with it! David Tennant remains one of my favourite actors and a brilliant Shakespearean actor. Returning to Richard after a break of almost two years meant he was able to bring much more weight to it than he did originally. This was a stronger, more confident performance. Add to that the inspired addition of Jasper Britton as Bolingbroke, a role he made his own and a performance I preferred to Nigel Lindsay. Top marks also need to go to Sam Marks, who stepped in to Oliver Rix’s shoes as Aumerle and brought even more emotional depth than I could have hoped for. I was also lucky enough to travel to NYC to see the final two performances of Richard, meaning that I was able to see not only the first preview, but the very last show. Full review here and reflection on the full King and Country cycle here.

10. The Dazzle (FOUND111)

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Picking a tenth production for this list has been quite difficult and has left me torn, but in the end I had to choose a production I first saw last December and returned to in January of this year and that’s The Dazzle. With only a cast of three and staged in the intimate setting of FOUND111 (one of the venues of the year in my view), this was a show that was both humorous and deeply moving, as we see the bond between the Collyer brothers. Andrew Scott is mesmerising as Langley, whose strange ways are an increasing strain on his brother. However, it was David Dawson’s performance as Homer that floored me and by the final scene I was a wreck. Full review here.

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So, that’s my top 10 from another year of theatre. That was quite tough! Had I had more space, other productions I loved this year included Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Donmar), The Encounter (Barbican) and the returns of the RSC’s Love’s Labour’s Lost and Much About About Nothing (at Chichester, but which are now currently finally in London) and This House (also now in London).

It always frustrates me that there are things I miss, but ultimately you can’t see everything. That being said, I’m determined to go to more regional theatre, but also more new venues next year. It’s a little exciting to wonder what memories I’ll be looking back on this time next year! After a suggestion from a friend, my picks for top performances of the theatre year are in a separate post here, as are my most memorable moments of the year in theatre here.

Thanks for reading!

 

Theatre Reflections – Farewell to the glorious Groundhog Day! London will miss you.

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I rarely write about the same show twice, but if you are going to revisit the same production, what better one than Groundhog Day? Having been lucky enough to nab a ticket for tonight’s final London show during public booking, and the front row no less, I couldn’t let the moment pass without reflecting on what has become one of my most loved shows.

I fully admit, I did not think I’d like it. I’d seen the film and hadn’t been that bothered about it in 1993. How on earth would it ever work without being excruciating and irritating? I am however a huge admirer of Tim Minchin and his ability to make words funny, sharp, cutting, but also deeply emotive. I’d loved Matilda and so curiosity made me buy my first ticket for an early July preview.

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My hopes were raised when at a night at the Old Vic, before the musical opened, Mr Minchin sang “On and On” (or Ned’s song) and “Seeing You”, as well as bringing the brave Georgina Hagen down from the circle to sing “Nancy”! All three songs were wonderful and all my fingers were tightly crossed that perhaps this new musical could be something special.

Seeing as tonight was my fourth trip to the show, you can guess what my reaction was! There are so many wonderful aspects to Groundhog Day as a musical. You get to know the community in a way you can’t in the film (which I actually rewatched this weekend to find I really do prefer the stage show) and I genuinely think Andy Karl’s portrayal of Phil Connors really is that of a man who you see change for the better. I don’t really think that about the film. He may get a bit nicer, but I could easily see him reverting back after a while! During this musical, you see Phil Connors the unlikeable, arrogant man he is to begin with, become someone who learns to appreciate those around him and how life is worth living; we just need to live it as the best person we can possibly be. It’s a powerful, uplifting message from a show that so beautifully moves from a very, very funny show in the first half, to one with a strikingly moving and emotional second act, culminating in its heart-warming and hopeful ending.

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Andy Karl & Andrew Langtree

The script is wonderfully written by Danny Rubin, who picks out all the best bits from the screen and the builds on them to make the overall story richer in so many ways. I love that Larry the cameraman gets a happy ending here and seeing the story of Ned’s life is one of the most moving moments of the piece (special mention to Andrew Langtree whose beautiful rendition of his song struck a chord with me every time).

I also love Rob Howell’s set. The deconstructed bedroom, which starts to fracture as Phil begins to lose his mind is very effective and I love the colourful wall backdrops for the bars and café. There’s colour and sparkle with each set change and the floor revolve allows time to pass visually at certain moments too. Congratulations to Paul Kieve too for some wonderful illusions. I admit, I think I’ve worked them all out now, but the reaction you have to them on first viewing is fantastic!

Together with such brilliant music and lyrics, which get cleverer every time you hear them, it’s the perfect combination. There’s a country-style song, one that’s more of a rock number and some quieter more reflective pieces too, which with songs such as “Nancy” still manage to highlight some important issues in society, while remaining witty and engaging. Not many people could get the balance right, but that’s the genius of Tim Minchin for you.

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The brilliantly funny bar scene!

The ensemble cast are wonderful, bringing even the smallest character to life, to add another layer to Punxsutawney. Georgina Hagen makes us think again about the ditzy blonde, the comedic timing of the three actors in the bar scene bring to life one of the funniest parts of the show and Carlyss Peer brings Rita up to date for today’s audience, as a woman who isn’t going to easily fall for Phil’s lines and would rather be alone than in a relationship without love. Huge credit must however go to Andy Karl. I hadn’t heard of him before seeing the show (a crime I know, but all his stage work has been in the States), but he’s certainly made quite an impression on London theatreland and I now cannot imagine anyone else in the role of Phil Connors. It’s such a brilliant performance. Every facial expression, exasperated and sarcastic line, not to mention capturing the wit, arrogance and emerging heart of this man. You really do like him by the end and the moment he realises the next day has arrived is so lovely, it brings a tear to my eye.

The affection London has for him and all the cast was clear in the Old Vic tonight. It was such a special atmosphere, as we said farewell to a show that I dearly wish was staying much longer than two months. During the final curtain call, the cast threw buckets of fake snow over Andy Karl, who in turn threw it on the conductor, before saying a final farewell to the stage by making a snow angel!

The show now heads to Broadway, arriving at the August Wilson Theatre (formerly the home of The Jersey Boys) for previews, before opening on 17th April 2017. All I can say is that I hope New York appreciates it. To whet your appetite here’s a couple of videos, the first is of Ms Hagen singing “Nancy”  https://youtu.be/tzJ3n1Mf1dM and the second is Tim Minchin singing “Seeing You” https://youtu.be/2hwE-dgis6Y – I can only hope a London cast recording will become a reality!

Oh and in case you were wondering – the chance of me heading to NYC to see the show there? – 100%!

Theatre Review -Groundhog Day (Old Vic) is another triumph for Tim Minchin!

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Before posting a review of this latest new British musical, it seemed appropriate for me to take a second look, almost four weeks after I saw a very early preview. I admit when Tim Minchin first confirmed he was working with director (and now artistic director of the Old Vic) Matthew Warchus, on a musical of Groundhog Day I was sceptical. Could it really work? I hadn’t been a fan of the film on original release, so wasn’t sure if it would even appeal to me. However, knowing how talented Mr Minchin is and after falling for Matilda (his first stage musical success) upon first seeing it in Stratford-Upon-Avon in 2010, I had all my fingers crossed for this show.

Thankfully, I can categorically say that Groundhog Day has only grown stronger over its preview period and is one of the brightest stars in London theatreland at the moment.

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Andy Karl & Carlyss Peer

 

For those unfamiliar with the 1993 film, it centres on Phil Connors, a grouchy, arrogant and rather rude (albeit in an amusing way for us) weatherman, who is grudgingly dispatched to the small American town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania for its day in the country’s spotlight – Groundhog Day! Every 2nd February, all eyes turn to this small community to see the weather prediction of Punxsutawney Phil, a groundhog, who supposedly predicts when spring will arrive. Connors has no time for such silliness and cannot wait to return to civilisation. However, he soon realises he has a terrible problem – the next morning he wakes up on Groundhog Day again and the next day and the next. The question is whether Phil will ever understand what he needs to do in order to break this surreal loop!

It was a bizarre film, but it really does work as a musical. Danny Rubin, who wrote the film, is ideally placed to retell the story in a new medium and combining his script with Minchin’s quick, intelligent, witty lyrics and perfectly pitched emotional music, results in an absolute triumph and possibly my favourite show of 2016.

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Building a musical which is based upon repetition of scenes could have resulted in something that felt a bit dull, but the production sparkles from start to end. Once the premise has been established the whole day isn’t repeated. Instead the quick cuts to repeats of certain moments create some wonderfully funny scenes. One in which Phil takes his producer Rita to dinner to try and get her in to bed is just one example, as we see Phil trying to refine the night over a number of occasions with disasterous results!

With such a strong foundation through Rubin, Minchin and Warchus’s direction, the show needed a strong lead actor to bring its central character to life and thanks to this show, I have discovered the brilliance of Andy Karl! He is superb as Phil Connors, bringing every facet of the character to life. He is certainly a character who develops so much over the story and Andy Karl is more than up to the task of conveying everything from his arrogance and somewhat unlikeable behaviour, through to his kinder side, as, whether he can see it or not, Phil starts to care about the town he is trapped in. As an audience you can’t help laughing at some of his antics and find yourself warming to him as the story moves along. I admit I also envied his ability to say anything he felt like, no matter how rude!

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Danny Rubin (Book) & Tim Minchin (Music & Lyrics)

 

The whole ensemble work so hard to bring vibrancy and life to even the smallest of characters, but special mention must go to Carlyss Peer as Rita, the young woman who helps Connors become a better man, along with Andrew Langtree (who as Phil’s old high school classmate delivers one of the most moving songs of the production in the second half) and Georgina Hagen, as Nancy, the young, blonde woman, longing to be seen for more than her looks. She opens the second half with “Nancy”, another of the show’s more heartfelt songs. Crucially for me, most of the catchy songs from this musical have stayed with me over the last few weeks and a cast recording cannot come soon enough!

Credit also must be given to Rob Howell’s fantastically inventive set, full of colour and able to transform the stage quickly from one location to the next. I also loved the comical use of miniature houses and vehicles, particularly in a car chase and also when the news van is caught in the snowstorm. It’s so silly, but so much fun!

Groundhog Day is a wonderful addition to London theatreland and although it’s soon destined for Broadway, I can’t help hoping that perhaps we’ll get to keep it here just a little longer. People deserve the chance the see it and with a current closing date of 17th September that really isn’t very long at all. So, my advice to you is book your tickets quickly, before this production sells out (which is almost certainly guaranteed following its strong reviews). The cast and creative team have managed to bring to life a show which makes you laugh (a lot!), smile and even shed a tear. You leave the Old Vic with a smile on your face, having seen something quite magical. I’d be quite happy if it was Groundhog Day every day! I’m already looking forward to experiencing all again….and again…..!

GroundHog Day continues its run at the Old Vic Theatre until 17th September 2016. Running Time is 2 hours 35 minutes approx. (including a 20 minute interval). For more information and ticket availability visit the theatre’s website: http://www.oldvictheatre.com/whats-on/2016/groundhog-day/