Emma Clarendon selects some of her favourite shows that she got to see last year.
Cyrano De Bergerac, Harold Pinter Theatre: what I love about Jamie Lloyd’s productions is the way they take a classic story and transform it to make it feel contemporary and enjoyable for a modern day audience. This particular production is such a strong example of this, by keeping the set minimalist and focusing on the story and beautiful rhythm of language, this was a sharp and engaging production that came across even better than when I originally saw it at the Playhouse Theatre before COVID came along.
Jack Absolute Flies Again, National Theatre: while a lot of critics gave this mixed reviews, I really loved this comedy from Richard Bean and Oliver Chris which had a fantastic energy and characterisations that kept me thoroughly entertained. It had all the typical elements of a classic farce and a fabulous cast to pull it off as romantic entanglements unfolded – but also packed a surprising punch towards the end and I really hope that we see it back on stage soon.
Bonnie & Clyde, The Arts Theatre: I honestly wasn’t expecting to enjoy this musical as much as I did. But oh my Nick Winston’s production of it was so slick and well put together to really make the most of the glorious score with Frank Wildhorn’s gorgeously diverse music and Don Black’s effective lyrics that it was hard not to be swept away by it all. This plus the brilliant chemistry between Frances Mayli McCann and Jordan Luke Gage as Bonnie and Clyde was really sizzling throughout and I’m glad they are both reprising their roles when it comes back to the stage this year.
My Fair Lady, London Coliseum: this was such a beautifully designed production of Lerner and Loewe’s musical, with the score being exquisitely performed by the orchestra it was a real treat to experience this production. Throughout it all Bartlett Sher’s production made it look as though staging this musical was easy – when in fact it is not considering the number of locations and characters that are featured – it is a huge and ambitious production.
Cluedo, New Victoria Theatre: now my favourite show that I have seen that was touring the UK, was this joyful and fun play based on the popular game. From the zany characters to the way in which the characters move from one room to the next (on a very cleverly designed set) everything was so well thought out I was thoroughly entertained from start to finish!
Cock, Ambassador’s Theatre: filled with plenty of style and humour, Mike Bartlett’s play was a fascinating watch as it examines the complexities of the relationships between three very different people. Directed by Marianne Elliott, it was a production that really packed a punch by the end.
Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby, Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre: I may have only watched a few episodes of the hit BBC show, but I got a real taste for the story and characters thanks to this absolutely brilliant dance production presented by Rambert. This electrifying production, which stopped in London as part of UK tour, features glorious choreography by Benoit Swan Pouffer, who managed to weave enough story around bringing the characters to life effectively.
Sister Act, Eventim Apollo: featuring a heavenly cast (sorry but it had to be done), this long awaited production of the musical based on the film was such a joy to behold. Filled with plenty of laughter, Bill Buckhurst’s production is genuinely entertaining and heartwarming at the same time – it certainly left me with a smile on my face.
Life of Pi, Wyndham’s Theatre: I left the Wyndham’s Theatre wondering genuinely why I hadn’t been to see this before, so much in awe I was at the work that has gone into transforming this popular book into a stage production. Visually it is one of the best productions that have been fortunate to come into the West End with the combination of dazzling puppetry, incredible set design and smooth transitions between scenes that keep the audience thoroughly hooked. It might be leaving the West End – but it will be embarking on a UK tour.
Moulin Rouge!, Piccadilly Theatre: again, this is a show that received mixed reviews, but for me I loved the energy, the music and the cast. Is it all a bit over the top? Yes but then for fans of the film, you would go in expecting that. The sheer number of songs is incredible, while the whole production is visually spectacular.