Mark Shenton: First of all, apologies that I was missing-in-action yesterday. I was in London — and at a hotel without desk space in the rooms, so unable to write. (And the dog ate my homework, too). So no, that’s not the entirety of my excuse. But sometimes I need to take a break, too. There may be days when the newsletter fails to materialize!
‘A feelgood triumph?’: Mark Shenton finds out what critics thought of Back To The Future, a West End premiere not without drama
Although this newsletter officially remains on hiatus and will resume publication on Monday 20 September, I’m interrupting my time on the beach for a second time to deliver this bulletin with the reviews of Back To The Future that opened officially at the West End’s Adelphi Theatre on Monday.
Mark Shenton takes a look at what critics thought of Disney’s Frozen at Theatre Royal Drury Lane
I’m interrupting my time on the beach to deliver this bulletin with the reviews of Frozen that opened officially at the West End’s refurbished Theatre Royal, Drury Lane last night.
‘Must be the most sumptuous-looking touring show of the year’: Mark Shenton gives an update on theatre openings including the Bedknobs & Broomsticks tour
A new touring stage version of the 1971 Disney film Bedknobs and Broomsticks held a national press night last Friday at Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre, after previewing beforehand at Newcastle Theatre Royal. The tour is currently booking to May 2022.
Mamma Mia! – Thank You for the Music(al)
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Where’s SOLT when you need it?
I came out of a matinee today at the Vaudeville to find that bus routes to take me from the Strand back across the river had been suspended: there was a fire in Holborn (see inset), and none were operating. After a few minutes, a bus arrived that was going as far as Waterloo — so I jumped on board that to get me part of the way. On the other side of Waterloo Bridge, it got held up in traffic — just as the northbound lanes of the bridge were being shut off.
Oops. It looked like a controlled kind of chaos was about to hit the West End. And as ever, it seemed that Twitter was providing (some of) the answers. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory tweeted, “Due to incident at Holborn, tonight’s 7.30pm performance of @CharlieChoc_UK has been CANCELLED.” On The Lion King’s website, they posted this update at 16:22: “Due to circumstances beyond our control, we have been left with no option than to cancel this evening’s performance.”
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RSC returning home to the London theatre that was built to its own specifications
When the Barbican Centre first opened in 1982, one of its first resident companies was the Royal Shakespeare Company, who gave up their beloved West End addresses at the Aldwych and Donmar Warehouse to move there. The Barbican’s two theatre spaces that replaced them — the mainhouse Barbican Theatre and Pit respectively — were built specifically to and for the RSC’s specifications.
So it was hugely surprising, not to say foolhardy, when then artistic director Adrian Noble suddenly decided to withdraw the company from the building entirely in 2002, and become a company that peripatetically roamed all over the capital, hiring theatres as it needed them from the Noel Coward and Novello to the Roundhouse. It did particularly impressive work in reconfiguring the Roundhouse as a bespoke space for itself, but the company’s lack of a permanent presence in London damaged it greatly.
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Cynthia Erivo heads to Broadway, Jonny Donahoe comes home & Ben Brantley raves about Chenoweth
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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BAC: A theatrical trailblazer faces a different kind of blaze
I’ll admit that I seldom go to BAC. But I have always liked — even loved — that it’s there. It’s a major home for emerging theatre companies, and even if I miss them at the beginning of their lives there, I acknowledge that the building has a major role in developing the talent of the future and the future, in turn, of the theatre.
It is here, after all, that my favourite British musical of the century so far — Jerry Springer the Opera — was born. It’s also where the 1927 company, whose show Golem transfers to the West End’s Trafalgar Studios next month, began.
So it was particularly distressing to hear of the fire that engulfed the venue yesterday — and utterly destroyed its venerable 120 year old Grand Hall.
Coming out late in the day: better late than never
Earlier this week, Oscar and Tony winner Joel Grey, now 82, came out officially as gay. And in today’s Observer, Richard Wilson, aged 78, tells The Observer about his own public coming out two years ago: “I was officially “outed” by Time Out a couple of years ago.
Farewell to Geraldine McEwan
Into the 90s, she was stunning in Ionesco’s The Chairs at the Royal Court, opposite the late Richard Briers, and from where they transferred to reprise it on Broadway. That was a project she’d initiated herself, telling Playbill’s Harry Haun when it transferred to New York in 1998: “I was reading plays, as one does, and I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll have a look at Ionesco, but I should think it’s old hat.
ENO’s executive director now departs
Today also came the news that Henrietta Götz, executive director of English National Opera, has followed the exit of chairman Martyn Rose, after less than a year in the role.
Thriller Live’s 7th Year
When Thriller Live arrived at the Lyric on Shaftesbury Avenue exactly six years ago today, I thought it felt very much like a filler that would be there for a few months but then move on. Instead, of course, it was Michael Jackson who moved on himself to the great pop arena in the sky, and the show became a sort of living memorial to him. In the days following his death, the theatre became a shrine with fans coming there to post tributes. (There’s now a permanent one in the foyer).