Musical Manda

2018 Top Ten Shows

What a year 2018 has been! With new shows opening, famous revivals, some fabulous new touring productions starting not to mention some of the most well-received shows of recent years taking to the stage (Six, Heathers and Eugenius to mention just some). I have smashed my last years target of 53 shows and have seen at least double that this year. I am forever grateful to have the opportunity to attend so many different shows and when I was looking back over this year to choose my top ten what really struck me was the diversity of the shows I have seen. From full scale West End productions to one-off performances, workshops and Fringe shows to large scale UK Tours. As with all my reviews, this is purely my opinion and I found it really hard to pin down just 10 shows. But here goes, here are my top ten shows of 2018…

*****

10. KING: Hackney Empire, London

To mark the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination Hackney Empire and the London Musical Theatre Orchestra revived a beautiful musical entitled KING, which itself was only performed once, 30 years ago! It was only performed for 2 nights and was truly something special to watch. The talented cast and LMTO were all fantastic and the use of video footage of Martin Luther King Jr added to the important message. The variety of music was diverse and the acappella sections sung in harmony were divine. The large ensemble pieces were powerful and rousing. KING was spectacular and in an age where celebrities are praised and treated like heroes it was nice to see a show dedicated to a real hero. I certainly would love to see KING taking to the stage as a fully staged production at some point as it definitely needs to be heard.

To read my review of King click here.

*****

9. Sylvia: Old Vic, London

Following on for a historic theme is Sylvia. This production was hit by many complications throughout its short run at London’s Old Vic. Whilst it was shown as ‘work-in-progress’ I loved its unique way of telling the importance of Sylvia Pankhurst in the votes for women campaign. Whilst this is a production about Sylvia Pankhurst, it is much more than that. It touches on more than just justice and votes for women, but also treatment of the working class, homophobia and empowerment. The clever modernisation of the story as told through hip-hip style music and dance from the Zoonation creator Kate Prince was imaginative and unique. The songs were moving, powerful and passionate, a real mix of styles. There is a quote in the show that states ‘not typical, not stereotypical but individual’ and this is exactly what this production is. Sylvia is so creative, diverse and unique that although it may have had a tough start it certainly deserves to continue and flourish as a full-scale production. It is full of promise, creativity and passion and although it isn’t quite ready yet, but with just a little re-writing and staging it is destined to become a huge hit!

To read my review of Sylvia click here.

*****

8. Bring It On: Southwark Playhouse, London

Bring It On was shown at the Southwark Playhouse as part of the British Theatre Academy’s summer showcase and it was full of fun and energy. The story about a teenage cheerleaders journey to the cheerleading finals is as stereotypical as you can get yet at the same time it has a nice moral about treating everyone fairly, bullying and discrimination. This energetic musical is full of friendship, jealousy, betrayal and forgiveness. The music by Lin Manuel Miranda is fun, catchy and energetic. Given the small performance space, choreographer Ewan Jones and Katy Stephens did a great job of not making the stage feel overcrowded and yet still pulling off large ensemble numbers. The cheerleading sections, in particular, were modern, quick and pacy – just what you’d expect from cheerleading nationals. BTA have just announced that Once On This Island will be their summer show of 2019 and its a show I’ll definitely be trying to see!

 

To read my review of Bring It On click here.

*****

7. The Distance You Have Come: The Union Theatre, London

The Distance You Have Come is a song-cycle written by Scott Alan featuring some of the music and lyrics of his most acclaimed works. I adored the entire show. The show tells the story of six people who juggle the constant challenges of life, depression, heartache and love. The concept, complex characters who overlap in some moments onstage, was not overly narrative but, for me, worked completely. The multi-layered vocals and harmonies performed by the six outstanding cast members were gorgeous and all of the vocals complimented each other fantastically. It was so moving that I did not want to stop for an interval and I am so pleased to have seen it as it has opened my eyes to the wonderful music by Scott Alan. Whilst it was only on for a few performances, I found it to be a really spellbinding, heartfelt production and would certainly love to see it, or rather hear it, again.

To read my review of The Distance You Have Come click here.

*****

6. Dreamgirls: Savoy Theatre, London

Dreamgirls was on my top ten shows of 2017 too but it certainly deserves its place. Phenomenal vocals, sublime choreography and dazzling costumes! What more could you want? This is a show which just gets better with each visit. Marisha Wallace is just out of this world as the main character Effie White. To witness her centre stage with a voice like hers is magical. The show itself is glamorous, sparkly and full of glitz. The set, costumes and lights are superb and it is a shame that it is closing early in January. With the power to make your heart race, skin tingle and jaw drop I am so grateful to have seen the show several times this year. Hopefully, with rumours of a tour, more people will get the chance to experience this fantastic show.

To read my review of Dreamgirls click here.

*****

5. Myth: The Other Palace, London

Myth is a new ‘workshop’ production by Sam Cassidy which only ran for one week at The Other Palace, despite this I managed to see it twice and loved it both times. The retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and the underworld was fantastically retold with a modern twist, the score was cleverly written and full of emotion. There have been a number of musicals this year which originate from Greek myths and this for me was the best one I have seen all year. Joel Harper-Jackson was phenomenal as Orpheus. His journey throughout the show was fantastic. The way the show, and Joel, tackled the delicate subject of mental health and addiction is truly effective, believable and relatable for many people. The semi-staged workshop was brilliantly put together and direction by Arlene Phillips and Sam Cassidy was superb. This abstract show with its cleverly sinister characters and relatable storyline was brilliant to watch and I certainly hope it has a future ad will return to the stage at some point.

To read my review of Myth click here.

*****

4. Little Shop of Horrors: Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London

Little Shop of Horrors was completely reimagined and reinvented by the director Maria Aberg for this years summer season at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. The set and costume design by Tom Scutt was utterly fantastic, every element had been thought about and the attention to detail was second to none not to mention the outrageous finale scene and costumes! For this production Audrey II was played by the American Drag Queen, Vicky Vox – this was probably the best casting decision ever made! Vicky owned the stage. She commanded attention from the audience immediately and wasn’t afraid to shock. Little Shop of Horrors took risks this summer but they all paid off completely and resulted in an exceptional night out at the theatre!

To read my review of Little Shop of Horrors click here.

*****

3. Hamilton: Victoria Apollo, London

The sell-out success by Lin Manuel Miranda has quite literally taken over America and is now taking the UK by storm. The biographic production tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, one of the most important, yet frequently ignored, founding fathers of America. Slightly late to the Hamilton hype I managed to catch the show in March and was absolutely blown away by the sheer slickness and talent displayed onstage by every single member of the cast. The score is unique and the lyrics tell the story so eloquently in a modern, hip-hop style. The staging and direction by Thomas Kail is clever, intricate and mesmerising. As is the extrordinary choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler. The choreography is fresh, modern and innovative. Taking root in hip-hop and contemporary styles, the choreography brings the historic story to the 21st century and compliments the iconic score. The stunning set and lighting further adds to this powerhouse of a show. This truly is a masterpiece. A one off. A fresh take on the term musical. Innovative, stylish and spellbinding. Don’t throw away your shot to be in the room where it happens, you certainly will leave satisfied.

To read my full review of Hamilton click here.

Hamilton is playing at the newly renovated Victoria Palace in London. For more information and tickets click here.

*****

2. Fame: UK Tour

Fame was one of the very first West End productions I saw almost 16 years ago. I fell in love with the show and it instilled my love of the theatre. So when I heard about the new 30th Anniversary Tour I knew I had to see it and I was not disappointed. Fantastic choreography, superb vocals, brilliant characterisation and a dynamic cast makes a show which is fun, vibrant and emotional. Nick Winston’s clever choreography features a real mix of modern, hip-hop and latin styles which work brilliantly together. The direction has brought the musical to the 21st Century whilst keeping its heart the same. The innovative set, lighting and use of the stage further modernises the show whilst keeping the 1980’s vibe. Fun, exciting and uplifting it makes sure that all the audience leave the theatre feeling elated and ready to ‘Bring on Tomorrow‘. The tour continues in 2019 finishing with a 5 week run in London’s West End at the Peacock Theatre.

 

Click here for my review of Fame. For tickets and information for both the UK tour and the West End run click here.

*****

1. Six: Arts Theatre, London

As anyone who knows me already knows 2018 has been the year of Six! I absolutely adore the show for its humour, sass, energy, empowerment and pure feel-good factor. Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss have created something to be reckoned with. Written as a quick piece for an empty Ed Fringe slot whilst they were at University this production, which had just 5 performances in London Dec 2017/Jan 2018, has quite literally taken theatres by storm. Selling out almost everyday at Ed Fringe 2018, an extended West-End run, sold out UK Tour and countless award nominations has meant that Six is coming back to London’s Arts Theatre for an open-ended run in January 2019. Not only this, but in May 2019 it will be transferring to Chicago, USA! Every single thing about this show hits the right spot and it is truly a marvel to watch. I can guarantee you’ll leave with a grin on your face. Telling the story of the six ex-wives of Henry VIII for the first time in a mixture of contemporary, rap, hip-hop styles Six puts a completely new twist on ‘his-story’. With an outrageously catchy score and heap loads of sass, these Queens definitely know how to put on a show! The innovative, modern choreography, by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, mixed with the vivid, eye catching lighting, by Tim Deiling, has added a totally new dynamic to this show transforming it into a force to be reckoned with. It is not the British equivalent of Hamilton – it’s in a league of its own. A concert to rival all concerts and it’d be ridiculous to miss out on seeing this astounding piece of theatre.

 

To read my review of Six click here.

Six returns to the Arts Theatre in London on the 17th January, for tickets click here.

 

To find out more about what new shows are hitting the stage in 2019 click here.