There comes a point in every lifelong theatre lover’s career when you suddenly wake up and wonder: am I simply too old for this? Ben Brantley, former chief critic of the New York Times, hit this particular critical nail on the head when he ended his review of the 2018 Off-Broadway summer run of the cult musical Be More Chill (before it was propelled to Broadway in turn) by advising: “It may be helpful to think of this bounding, exhaustingly enthusiastic puppy of a show as the theatrical equivalent of one of those high-pitched dog whistles that only those under 25 can hear.”
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.
If, as Monty Python famously urges, we should always look on the bright side of life, then the brighter side of death are obituaries. They’re one of my absolutely favourite forms of journalism, and I read them just as avidly as I read the best critics; and it’s for the same reasons.
Mark Shenton offers the week’s news, reviews, quotes and tweets in theatre from both sides of the Atlantic, including an interview with Sonia Friedman, reviews of Shakespeare in three different abbreviated versions, and a YouTube star appearing on Broadway.
Big musicals news of the week: Billy Elliot is closing at the Victoria Palace, School of Rock is coming to the London Palladium, Bugsy Malone is returning to the Lyric Hammersmith, and Gypsy will on be BBC4.
There’s currently a flurry of big openings in New York, with the return of The Color Purple to the Great White Way, via London’s own Menier Chocolate Factory, coming this Thursday (December 10) and all set, I’m sure, to turn Cynthia Erivo into a Broadway superstar
No sooner did I declare Cynthia Erivo yesterday to be number two in my list of current UK musical theatre actresses in my round-up for The Stage than yesterday it was also announced that she’s at to reprise the shattering performance she gave in The Color Purple at the Menier Chocolate Factory in the summer of 2013 when John Doyle’s production transfers to Broadway, beginning performances at the Bernard Jacobs Theatre on November 9 prior to an official opening on December 3.
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