2023 Stagey Round Up
2023 has been an epic year for theatre which has seen some incredible new shows come to the fore. In writing my 2023 stagey round up I have loved looking back at all of the shows I have seen over the year and reflecting on how lucky I am to see such a huge variety of shows, many of which I wouldn’t see if it weren’t for this blog. This year I finished at a total of 66 shows as well as directing Carrie for Bromley Players and getting cast in 9 to 5 (more about that next year!)
Here are some stats to sum my blog’s year up – 8 5 star reviews, 31 4 star reviews, 9 3 star reviews, 2 2 star reviews, 1 1 star review, 11 am dram reviews and 2 event write ups with a total of 64 reviews on top of numerous opinion pieces and ‘top 10’s, making my average rating 3.8 stars.
Grab yourself a glass of egg nog and have a read of my 2023 round up and let me know if you agree.
Best West End Musical – Guys & Dolls
Whilst the Bridge Theatre may not technically be a West End Theatre for the purposes of this annual summary it is good enough. I was lucky enough to see the original cast of the Bridge’s version and it was one of my 8 5 star reviews of the year. I summed it up as follows;
The Bridge’s production of Guys & Dolls is a masterclass in how to make an impact on the theatre in 2023, even with a show written over 70 years ago. Innovative staging, cast that were born to play the roles and choreography that is fresh and exciting, there is little more you could ask for from this production…save for a longer run!!
You can read my full review of Guys & Dolls here.
Runner Up – Six
In my eyes Six can do no wrong. I headed back at the start of 2023 to see the new cast for my 5th visit to the show having previously seen it at the Edinburgh Fringe, The Arts Theatre, on tour and a previous iteration at the Vaudeville. Each cast of Six brings a fresh take to the show and I would happily return time and time again to see Six. You can read my full review here.
Best Touring Musical – The Cher Show
The Cher Show was a touring musical that I have been eager to see since the start of the tour, therefore my expectations were high for this show. Luckily it lived up to my high expectations and then some. Whilst the show did veer away from going into any real examination of any of Cher’s turmoil not all musicals need to be heavy and the staging and the delivery of the show is all executed so well that this real drama was not missed. The highlight of this show for me was the powerhouse leading ladies. Here were my thoughts on them –
The Cher Show heavily relies on the talent of the leading ladies and this was one of many areas the show excelled. Kurup, Steers and O’Connell are all fantastic. They all sound remarkably like the legend herself and they have mastered her mannerisms with subtle nuances as her confidence grew and her rise to fame escalated. The fact that the show has been staged to allow all 3 women on stage together despite representing different periods of her life also meant that we could hear these powerhouse women singing Cher’s iconic songs together as well as them each getting a moment to shine.
You can read my full review of the Cher Show here.
Runner Up – The King & I
I am more of a modern musical kind of person so I went to see this musical not expecting to fall in love with it, however going in blind having never seen the film or any other productions of it meant I discovered just how beautiful this show is through a fresh pair of eyes. This production shows that not every classic musical needs reinventing. The King and I brings together this classic story with sumptuous sets and costume, a sublime orchestra and a cast full of stars. You can read my full review here.
Best Fringe Musical – Ride
Naming Ride as best Fringe Musical may possibly be called a cop out by some as I gave it the same accolade last year after its run at Charing Cross Theatre 2023 saw a transfer to Southwark Playhouse but as one of my few 5 star reviews I couldn’t leave it out of its rightful place. Ride is a show that succeeds on so many levels, an intriguing clever story with an well thought out framing device, songs that I want to hear time and time again and a cast who play their parts to perfection. You can read my full 5 star review here.
Runner Up – Lizzie
For those that missed Lizzie at Southwark Playhouse it is a rock musical which tells the story of Lizzie Borden. The show focuses on Lizzie, her older sister Emma, her neighbour and love interest Alice and her maid Bridget. In 1892 Lizzie is accused of murdering her father and step-mother…with an axe and overnight she becomes the centre of a media storm and an American killing legend.
The show doesn’t hold back from tackling big themes, whilst we are left in no doubt as to who the killer was, in this version Lizzie is painted as a victim of child sexual abuse which helps the audience understand her suffering. We also are faced with themes of homosexuality, family and class which are all dealt with head on and in a varying manner, from humour, to shock but each as successful as the last. Lizzie is not a show for the feint hearted and nor would you expect it to be when you combine ‘true crime’ with rock musical theatre but it is a show that is a lot of fun to watch and even more so, listen too. You can read my full review of Lizzie here.
Best Play – The Ocean At The End of The Lane
I caught this show on tour at New Wimbledon Theatre but since then it has had a run in the West End and it is a play based firmly in the fantasy world. All elements of this show were magical but the technical side of this production really caught my imagination.
The staging is wonderfully imaginative and inventive and compliments the book perfectly. The direction by Katy Rudd, combined with the set, puppetry, lighting, sound design and original music by Jherek Bischoff really made The Ocean at The End of The Lane a feast for all of the senses. Everything from each small set change through to the movement of otherworldly creatures has clearly been carefully considered and choreographed with precision to add to the story. The show really uses everything in a theatres wheelhouse to tell the story and this helps keep the audience on their toes, at times the lighting design by Paule Constable plunges the audience into darkness whilst we hear unrecognisable sounds from the stage and as an audience you understand Boy’s bewilderment first hand.
You can read my full 5 star review of the Ocean at The End of the Lane here.
Runner Up – Witness for the Prosecution
Witness for the Prosecution was a show that has been on my ‘to – see list for sometime and the fact that I work in law for my muggle job just added to this. This production of Witness For The Prosecution is exactly what you want in a courtroom drama; gripping, well acted and set beautifully within London County Hall, a perfect venue for this show.
Read the full review for Witness for the Prosecution here.
Best Am Dram Show – Holiday Inn by Centre Stage
This year I reviewed 11 amateur shows, saw a further 6 to support friends and local groups, spent a year on the committee for my local group, got elected to the board of the theatre my group perform at, helped front of house at another and finally directed an amateur production of Carrie, so I think its safe to say that amateur theatre is a huge part of my life and something I am passionate about. I therefore love seeing high quality amateur theatre as it really drives the reputation of the genre. I am luckily enough to live in an area where there is a lot of very talented groups around so choosing this category is hard, especially knowing how much blood, sweat and tears go into each show.
My winner this year has to be Holiday Inn by Centre Stage. I went to see this show knowing nothing about it and left grinning from ear to ear. Holiday Inn is a huge show, from the sheer number of dances to the variety of costumes on stage but Centre Stage rose to this challenge and more. The choreography was ambitious but brilliantly executed and it is the first time I have seen tap dancing whilst jumping rope and everyone from the leads through to the ensemble were spot on. Oh and the 16 piece (!!!) orchestra sounded sublime!!
You can read my full review here.
Runner Up – The Effect by Sedos
The Effect was a play written by Lucy Prebble and produced by Sedos in March and later in the year the same play appeared at the National Theatre so Sedos were clearly ahead of the trend.
My final paragraph of my review sums up the show well –
Within reviews there are often small moments in the show, ranging from the book, the performances or the technical side of things that I try to provide some sort of constructive criticism on where appropriate. However in Sedos’ production of The Effect there are no areas of the show that I could legitimately suggest an improvement on, a unusual thing in professional work, let alone amateur theatre. The Effect is a rare treat where the book, the performance and the technical elements merge together perfectly to create an outstanding night at the theatre.
Best Concert – Songs I’ll Never Sing
This was a concert I attended not to review but for charity and it was a wonderful evening at The Actor’s Church in Covent Garden. The concert saw several West End stars perform songs they would not normally get a chance to perform and it was wonderful to see this in such an intimate venue.
You can see snippets of the concert on my Instagram.
Runner Up – Death Note
In August I headed to the London Palladium to see Death Note in concert. It seems like there were 2 kinds of people at this concert, those that have heard of Death Note and its huge following originating in Manga and those like me who wanted to see what Frank Wildhorn and his team had come up with. Even for those unfamiliar with ‘Death Note,’ it was a show which stood on its own feet; an intriguing book, powerful score, interesting staging and a top notch cast.
You can read my full review here.
Best Break Out Show – Operation Mincemeat
I was luckily enough to see Operation Mincemeat last year at Riverside studio and since there the show has gone from strength to strength and as a result has see an incredible ongoing run at the Fortune Theatre.
Since its run at the Riverside Studio the show has had a huge glow up for its West End run. The plot is utterly bonkers but is very clever, laugh out loud funny and even tear jerking at moments. Whilst the story itself is bonkers the underlying themes are genuinely intriguing and hard hitting. A question that I often get asked by those visiting London is ‘What show should I see?’ Well currently my answer is clear….Operation Mincemeat. Home grown British talent with a very British sense of humour, wrapped up with intelligent satire and a wonderful cast …. as the song says….’God That’s Brilliant.’ Read my full 5 star review here.
Runner Up – My Son’s A Queer (But What Can You Do?)
My Son’s A Queer (But What Can You Do?) is written and performed by Rob Madge and it tells of their childhood, from performing Disney parades in their front room to a child performer on the west end. It is show that not only holds Rob’s queer identity close to it’s heart but celebrates it along with the mantra the we should celebrate, not suffocate, individuality. It is this theme and Rob’s glorious execution of it that makes the show so wonderful and I’m sure a large part of the reason it is transferring to Broadway for a limited run.
Read my full review here.
Notable Mention – Sylvia at The Old Vic
Sylvia first hit the theatre scene in 2018 as a work in progress but this year it hit the Old Vic for the world premier. The shows focus is on Sylvia Pankhurst, a daughter of the famous Emmeline Pankhurst. Sylvia was a pacifist and a socialist at the heart of the Suffragette movement who wanted to campaign for not only votes for wealthier women but votes for all women. The musical uses hip hop, funk and soul to tell this story and as a result the show is impactful and insightful, merging a powerful story with unrelenting energy. The themes and the energy behind this show resoundingly got my vote. Read the full review here.
Best Stagey Event – West End Flea Market
I love attending stagey events and this year saw my first visit to the West End Flea Market. Rather than me telling you about it my Tik Tok sums up the event well so check it out.
Most Disappointing Show – Seize The Cheese
I never like to focus on the negatives but the question I always get asked is about which show I was most disappointed by. This year I gave 1 1 star review for Seize The Cheese. I try to be a huge supporter of new British musicals but unfortunately whilst the concept of Seize The Cheese showed promise it needs work to really land, a focus on the structure and a chance to invest in the characters more by removing some unnecessary songs would have really assisted this new musical. You can read my full 1 star review here.
Most Read Article – Who Sang It Better – Bring Him Home
This has been my most read article for 3 years in a row now and people can’t seem to get enough of Les Miserables. Who is your favourite singer of this iconic song? Read the full article here and see who my favourite is and why everyone else is heading there.
As you can hopefully tell 2023 was a great year for theatre. I want to thank all of my guest reviewers and I can’t wait to see what 2024 brings. I already have Sunset Boulevard, Mean Girls and Cruel Intentions booked in. I hope you have enjoyed my 2023 Stagey Round Up.