Meanwhile, I want to start keeping track of the shows that are coming back, or are newly being announced, in a new feature here that will be updated weekly until such time as it becomes a reality, and from then on will provide a weekly update to that week’s openings and future ones.
On Friday the resumption of theatre life began in New York; meanwhile, today is the 50th anniversary of the Broadway opening night of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies, his jagged and shattering tribute to the musicals as well as the marriages of yesteryear, as James Goldman’s characters confront their current predicaments as middle and old-aged people looking back on their lives through the prism of the nostalgia of their theatrical pasts — all set to a score that gently pastiches the songs of the period while actually improving on them.
All of my ShenTens podcasts to date have concerned the living. Today I’m visiting the past, sometimes fairly recent, of my favourite past legends of musical theatre’s great Broadway leading ladies.
It’s been announced that Howard Panter & Rosemary Squire’s Trafalgar Entertainment are joining forces with regional theatre operator HQ — who currently operate 11 venues from Bromley and Dartford to Southend, Swindon, Crewe and Guildford.
In four previous episodes of my weekly #ShenTens podcast, and their accompanying columns here, I’ve chosen my top ten favourite leading ladies and leading men respectively in both Broadway and West End musicals. Now I turn to rising stars — the next generation of performers who are already making their mark in London. (I’ll get to Broadway when it returns to business itself).
A constantly recurring theme as we hopefully start emerging from this pandemic — and even long before it actually happened — was about creating space for new voices and talents, and preferably younger and more diverse voices, whether as writers, directors, producers, designers, actors or even theatre critics.
It’s both surprising, and not, in the light of this that Phantom — a fictional character whose physicality is almost entirely shrouded by a cloak and whose face is 50% covered — has never been played by a black or Asian actor yet in its 35-year run in the West End.
We’ve all got them: things we enjoy — sometimes mightily — that it’s just a little bit embarrassing to admit to liking. Like admitting, in my case, a massive passion for Selling Sunset, the real estate reality TV show set in the cramped offices of an LA boutique agency that sell houses to millionaires and billionaires. (But somehow seem to work cheek-by-jowl in a tiny office on Sunset Boulevard).
It was just after 5pm on 16 March 2020 that Boris Johnson made his heart (and business) stopping announcement: “Now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel. We need people to start working from home where they possibly can. And you should avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues.”
In a feature for The Stage earlier in the week, Jessica Korvavos, president of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group, was asked to sum up the last year: “A year when singing and dancing in public have been against the law? It’s been like a horrible dystopian cross between Footloose and Groundhog Day.”
There’s no question that, apart from his undoubted brilliance as a composer of instantly memorable melodies, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s greatest gift is as (self) publicist. He’s just wonderful at getting people to speak about him and his shows; and thereby promote them.
Tonight is the first anniversary of the last performances that were given on a Broadway stage; a year ago tomorrow, Six was due to open on Broadway, but that afternoon the governor of New York State, the currently beleaguered Andrew Cuomo, announced that public gatherings of more than 500 people would be immediately suspended.
I previously chose my top ten favourite Broadway leading ladies in musicals; this week it’s the turn of the gents. And the same ground rules apply: they’ve all got to be people who are still regularly active on Broadway, or at least were when the theatres shut down nearly a year ago.
Voting has just begun for last year’s Tony Awards. Yes, you read that correctly. And no, there is no date for the actual (or even virtual) ceremony yet. In the topsy-turvy world that Covid-19 has wrought upon us, we’re wrestling with all sorts of improbabilities and impossibilities, but few events epitomise the very strangeness of this time and its repercussions than this weird situation.
Glory palaces of cinema that became theatres — and vice versa — that Mark Shenton longs to visit again.
Theatre may have migrated online for now (though here’s hoping that we’ll be back in the stalls and not just our armchairs or desks soon). Even though online theatre has created a much more level playing field in terms of opportunities for people and productions to be seen, with the smallest theatres like the Barn competing with the biggest like the National for audiences, star casting is STILL a thing.
Setting a timetable requires Johnson to be a clairvoyant, predicting the future way of a virus that, to be honest, is only really getting started. Yes, vaccines are being done fast (I got my first dose on Saturday), but lifting the lid on Pandora’s box too quickly — by setting a timetable for reopening — won’t benefit anyone’s mental health, if it simply exacerbates the virus and leads to the necessity to shut down again.
My weekly ShenTens podcast, in which I count down my top ten favourites in a particular category, is inevitably subjective — but few theatrical terrains are as hotly contested as this one: whom I consider to be my favourite Broadway leading ladies.
In a free-for-all age of journalism, the currency of individual theatre reviews matter a lot less than they used to; all a theatre PR wants is a spread of five-star reviews, and they’re easier to summon than ever if you don’t look too closely which publications they come from. The general public won’t notice the difference, so its a bluff that often works.