2018 Roundup

Musical Theatre Musings programmes

Best West End Musical – Strictly Ballroom

Strictly Ballroom

Strictly Ballroom hit the West End in April but unfortunately the run was to be short but sweet. I am a big fan of the film so I was pretty excited to finally see it on stage and for me it lived up to all of my glitter fulled expectations. Many critics weren’t as impressed with The Stage only awarding it 2 stars but I found these reviews slightly snobby (!!). So what did I think of it….I think this extract from my review sums it up nicely –

“Strictly Ballroom is a show which clearly goes by the mantra- more is more. The costumes are huge and not an area is left not covered with sequins, hair is high, glitter balls rule the day, the tans are orange and the routines outrageous, but this is perfect for this show. The show is cheesy but it knows it and is embraced wholeheartedly.”

Unfortunately it closed on the 27th October so I can’t urge people to go see it, instead I will have to settle for watching the film on repeat.

Read the full review here – Strictly Ballroom review.

Runner Up…..Chess at The Coliseum.

Best Fringe Musical – Eugenius

Eugenius cast

Eugenius actually hit the London Fringe twice this year! It’s first run was in February at the Other Palace and due to popular demand it was brought back in September for a limited run. Prior to 2018 it had a one night concert performance at the London Palladium but it was back with new songs and developments in the storyline. The mantra of ‘Don’t shoot for the stars, shoot higher,’ rang clear during West End Live showing just how popular this show had become. Here is the summary from my 4 star review:

The show is a crazy and vivid celebration of the 80’s when geek reigned supreme. Yes it is silly and often verges on bonkers but it is the perfect feel good musical, leaving you pumped up, laughing and reminding yourself to ‘Don’t shoot for the stars, shoot higher.’

Read the Full review here –  Eugenius review.

Runner Up – Heathers

Notable Mention – My Left/Right Foot. (A perfect example of not just talking about making theatre accessible but going the whole hog and showing to the theatre community how it can and should be done.)

Best New Musical – Six

Six

I loved Six so much that I saw it both in Edinburgh and at the Arts Theatre in London. Another rare 5 star review was awarded for this new musical. The musical, which is more like a Little Mix concert than any musical, tells of the 6 wives of Henry the 8th as they discuss who really had it worse. The concept is simple but it delivered to perfection by the cast . It is by duo Marlow and Moss, who seem to be the ones to watch out for (with their other production Hot Gay Time Machine also making an appearance at Trafalgar Studios). Here is my summary from my review of Six –

Whilst the audience are having a riot of a time the show always delivers an important message about how women have been silenced in history and how it is about time that this stops. Using the six wives as the carriage to do this is a stroke of genius and the message is wrapped up in a girl power vibe throughout the night.

Read the full review – Six review

Best Fringe Play  – The Trench At Southwark Playhouse

The Trench

The Trench is possibly one of the most creative shows I have seen….ever. It is based on the true story of a miner who was tunneling towards enemy lines when an explosion cut him off from the rest of the world. Whilst I have awarded it best play of 2018 it is a show that can’t be pigeon holed and arguments could be made for it fitting into many of the other categories. I rarely give 5 star reviews but for sheer creativity in The Trench I had to give it the full house it deserved.

Read the full review here – The Trench at Southwark Playhouse.

Runner up – Julius Caesar at Bridge Theatre

Best Amateur Production – Copacobana by WLOS

Hopefully if you are a reader of my blog you will know that I am a huge advocate of amateur theatre. I saw around 20 amateur shows this year, some to review and others to simply support friends, performed in 2 myself (The Producers and Side Show) and I am in the process of directing Footloose for Bromley Players. I am lucky enough to be asked to review for many local groups all of which have an incredibly high standard but eventually I settled on Copacobana by WLOS. This is the amateur show that converted me to be desperate to perform in Copacabana as the show felt like a party on stage. WLOS rose to the occasion with this unashamedly outrageous and camp musical. Their costumes were dripping in sequins and the showgirl feathers were large. With a talented cast that gave the froth substantial backing this made it my favourite amateur production of the year.

Read the full review – Copacobana review.

Runner up – Pippin by Sedos

Best Concert/Review Show – A Christmas Carol by LMTO

A Christmas Carol photo of Mairam Teak L

2018 was the year that brought me to LMTO (London Musical Theatre Orchestra) and once I had discovered them I couldn’t get enough. I not only saw A Christmas Carol but also Camelot and Girlfriends and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for more invites next year. It was a Christmas Carol that really won me over. The LMTO orchestra were simply wonderful as always, but this combined with a stunning cast, a classic story and festive spirit genuinely gave me a warm glow and helped me with my festive cheer.

Read the full review here – A Christmas Carol review.

Runner Up….Jason Robert Brown at the London Palladium.

Best Touring Show – Sunset Boulevard

I saw Sunset Boulevard at New Wimbledon Theatre and whilst I’ve seen the show before this version just blew me away. Ria Jones took the role of Norma Desmond after being the standby in the ENO’s production in 2017 however I couldn’t imagine anyone living up to her performance. Paired with Danny Mac and Adam Pearce, both a joy to watch and a 16 piece orchestra it really was a joy to watch.

It is rare you see a touring show with as much class as this, a top notch cast, a wonderful score played well and a set that is both imaginative and functional.

Read the full review here – Sunset Boulevard review.

Runner Up – Titanic.

Best Family Show – Seussical

I love family theatre. I think family shows, including pantomimes, are a great way to get children into the arts and that family shows should be embraced and made accessible to all. Seussical at Southwark Playhouse was a perfect example of how to do a family show well. The show was bursting with energy with larger than life characters, a colourful set and costumes and catchy songs pitched at the family audience. Best of all this show had heart and this production of it really brought that to the fore….

One of the shows biggest strengths that wrapped up in all the colourful costumes, silly songs and rhyming couplets is a message of acceptance, kindness and embracing individuality and imagination. It’s a show where birds fall in love with elephants and kangeroos and monkeys can be friends and maybe a message that we can all learn from.

Read the full 4 star review here ….Seussical.

Runner Up – Madagascar The Musical

Best Dance/Physical Theatre Show….. Circa’s Peep Show

Cirac's Peep Show

Whilst the performers in Peep show are all circus trained it is so much more than a traditional circus show. It is more a blend of
contemporary dance,  acrobatics, aerial arts with not a clown in sight. The show was 70 minutes long and not a word was spoken but the interest was held by switching from a death defying stunt one moment to a funny or sexy moment the next, meaning you never quite knew what was coming. It literally left me in awe as to what these performers could do with their bodies. It was a show that was so different from everything else I saw in 2018 and I loved it even more for that!

Read the full review here – Peep Show

Runner Up – Tap Dogs.

Most read reviews of 2018…

I always find it interesting to see which of my reviews get the most read and my top 3 read reviews could not be more different. They are:

  1. Heathers at the Other Palace (4 stars)
  2. Saturday Night Fever at New Wimbledon Theatre ( 2 stars)
  3. New Jersey Nights at The Orchard Theatre (2 stars)

It seems that people love reading the bad reviews just as much (if not more) than the good ones!

Most Disappointing Show – Knights of the Rose at The Arts Theatre

This was a show which promised so much…..a great cast full of West End leading lights and songs that I just adore with pure soft rock cheese. I think my summary sums it up….
“This strong cast combined with songs that everyone loves was not enough to save Knights of The Rose. This is a show which, if it wants to progress further, needs to embrace the comedy and take a critical look at the book. ” 

Read the full 2 star review of Knights of the Rose.

Most Stagey Fun Not in An Auditorium – The Musical Theatre Quiz.

It may surprise you to know that not all of my time is spent in an auditorium!! I do venture out and this year there were a few stagey highlights outside of a darkened room. My top one is the regular musical theatre quiz at the Other Palace. I joined blogger Charlotte, of Talk Stagey To Me (check out her blog as well) fame for my first Musical Theatre Quiz in July and returned for the Christmas edition earlier this month. The vibe is really relaxed and the ticket price is very reasonable if you get a full team together.

Check out my full write up of the event….. Musical Theatre Quiz.

Runner Up – London Eurovision Party.

In summary…

Over 2018 I saw 105 shows – which is the most I’ve seen in one year. This included…. 8 five star reviews (All mentioned above except for – Lost Voice Guy and Blackout), 37 four star reviews, 15 three star reviews, 12 two star reviews and 1 one star review (Liz at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival). I was also lucky enough to be invited to loads of exciting events making the fan girl in me very happy. These events included Come From Away press launch at Canada House (you can see the full story behind this event on my Instagram highlights), Bat Out of Hell, Eugenus, Strictly Ballroom and Chicago launch events, a backstage look at Dr Doolittle and a private concert by the composer of the music from the Trench!!

I also roped in the help of friends to review for me and between them they reviewed 45 shows so a big thank you to them to getting to shows I physically didn’t have the time to see and enabling my blog to cover even more shows this year!

A big thank you to all of those that read Musical Theatre Musings and an even bigger thank you if you have read this far! What are your favourite shows of 2018? I would love to hear from you!!

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