At the end of a year in which female-forward and feminist theatre has made so much progress, The Boy Friend looks regressive as well as nostalgic. On the other hand, it is a colourful and escapist retreat from the winter, and we could all do with a night off from angst.
‘All feels a bit under-weight’: THE WOLF OF WALL STREET – Secret Location
If you’re with a bunch of co-workers and up for a turkey and tinsel-free ‘night out’ for your department that won’t frighten Mavis from Accounts, The Wolf Of Wall Street may be just what you’re looking for.
‘Some enchanted evening’: KELLI O’HARA – Cadogan Hall ★★★★★
The American leading ladies London seems to take to its heart seem to be belters, but Kelli O’Hara has more variety in her voice than any of them.
‘Cements O’Hare’s position as a contemporary writer to watch’: SYDNEY & THE OLD GIRL – Park Theatre ★★★★
Sydney & the Old Girl is a refreshing breath of foul air, a dark comedy with deeply unpleasant characters which manages to echo Pinter and Joe Orton in its macabre domestic antagonism.
‘Still the best fun you’ll have at the opera’: THE MIKADO – London Coliseum ★★★★
Time and again, this production of The Mikado comes up fresh as paint and is the perfect antidote to dark days every bit as much now as in 1986 or when Gilbert and Sullivan wrote it in 1885.
‘You’re fully caught up with the rise & rise of Eva’: EVITA – Open Air Theatre ★★★★
At last, someone has laid the sugary ghost of Elaine Paige. Jamie Lloyd’s stripped-back Evita at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park has all the metallic modernity of their Jesus Christ Superstar.
‘A strong & generously immersive piece that wraps around you’: TREE – Young Vic Theatre ★★★★
If a student disco is your personal nightmare, look away now. Tree starts and ends with a throbbing onstage party to wish the audience is persuasively invited. The last time this many Waitrose customers grooved awkwardly to African beats was on Paul Simon’s Graceland tour.
‘It does hold your attention’: THE ILLUSIONISTS – West End ★★★
The Illusionists is not overpriced, it does hold your attention – even the row of 11 just-out-of-school-for-the-holidays girls on booster cushions behind me didn’t talk or fidget during the show – so if you have some, take them.
‘The desire to mount this epic production is misguided’: MAN OF LA MANCHA – West End
One wonders which came first for the Grade/Linnit company – the misguided desire to mount an epic scale production of Man of La Mancha, a musical which hasn’t been.produced in London since 1968 for very good reasons, or the need to find a project for Kelsey Grammer?
‘Suddenly globally relevant’: ALL MY SONS – The Old Vic ★★★★
The hallmark of a ‘great play’ is its universality, and historically Arthur Miller’s 1947 All My Sons is a ‘great play’ but it’s debatable whether, in trying to adhere that greatness to contemporary realities, Jeremy Herrin’s is a great production.
‘Fun, laughs, good time’: SWEET CHARITY – Donmar Warehouse ★★★★
This is as unconventional production of Sweet Charity as you’re likely to see. Set firmly in the art milieu of Andy Warhol’s Factory, it’s so perfectly, silver-foil-wrapped acid-tabbed 1967 it’s like you were actually there.
‘Lionel Bart’s diverse score includes sweet & rueful ballads’: MAGGIE MAY – Finborough Theatre ★★★
The London Fringe has been diligent in ploughing back catalogue after back catalogue for ‘forgotten’ musicals, and Maggie May has not been seen in London for 55 years.
‘To an extent, it works’: LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE – Arcola Theatre ★★
Every time I see a new musical made from a recent-ish film, I wonder if this could be ‘the one’, the one that jumps the shark and enters the canon of the regularly performed.
‘Andy Nyman does sterling work to bring Tevye off the page’: FIDDLER ON THE ROOF – West End ★★★
Andy Nyman does sterling work to bring Tevye off the page, breaking the fourth wall to chat with the Almighty, and rubbing his arthritic joints to punctuate Sheldon Harnick’s lazy ‘deidle deidle deidle dumb’ lyrics in ‘If I Were A Rich Man’.
‘Here is an authentically individual voice’: THE PHLEBOTOMIST – Hampstead Theatre ★★★★
The Phlebotomist is an exceptional concept for a ‘first play’ and Hampstead has made a real discovery in Ella Road and partnered her script with Sam Yates’ slick direction.
‘Vauxhall Tavern-style cabaret meets political stand-up’: DENIM – THE REUNION TOUR – Soho Theatre ★★★
Old Spice: If you couldn’t obtain/afford/be bothered to get tickets for the Spice Girls’ re-re-reunion, Denim The Reunion Tour may just be the very thing you’ve been waiting for.
‘There are decent laugh-out-loud jokes’: BREXIT – King’s Head Theatre ★★★
I wonder if in years to come we’ll look back on the ‘Theatre of Brexit’ in the same way we analyse Shakespeare’s treatment of Agincourt, or the Trojan Wars in Sophocles?
‘Simply & sensitively told’: BILLY BISHOP GOES TO WAR – Jermyn Street Theatre ★★★★
It’s always a pleasure to hear an untold story. In Billy Bishop Goes to War we learn about a baby-faced Canadian teenager who by a string of lucky chances became the world’s most decorated fighter pilot in the early days of single-seater flying over France in 1914-18, and a hero and a mascot for the Royal Canadian Air Force through the second war, too.
‘Go, you will not regret it’: THE CURIOUS VOYAGE – Secret location WC1 ★★★★
I love a bit of immersive interactive theatre shiz: The Grift at Bethnal Green’s Town Hall Hotel was last year’s big winner imported from San Diego. Now from Canada comes Talk is Free Theatre’s The Curious Voyage, and on a grand scale that threatens to knock the ailing Punchdrunk off the top spot.
‘Sarah Tynan is undoubtedly the best actress on the modern opera stage’: LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR – London Coliseum ★★★★
The madwoman playing the title role in Lucia di Lammermoor is Sarah Tynan – ENO’s most popular soprano, in her debut in this bel canto role. Tynan is undoubtedly the best actress on the modern opera stage.