With the WhatsOnStage Awards over, all eyes now turn to the Olivier Awards in April, which celebrate the very best theatre productions from the past year. The nominations are due to be announced later today, and in the meantime here are some of the shows I hope are featured in the shortlist:
Inspired by E.M Forster’s Howard’s End, The Inheritance was seven hours of theatrical perfection. The play, which was written by Matthew Lopez and told the story of a group of post-Aids generation men living in New York City, offered a masterclass in both storytelling and acting and featured a brilliant cast. Vanessa Redgrave, who appeared in part 2, recently won the WhatsOnStage Award for Best Supporting Actress, while the production won Best New Play and will be looking to repeat that at the Oliviers. If there’s justice in the world, Kyle Soller should receive a nomination for Best Actor, while Andrew Burnap, Paul Hilton and…well everyone else…deserve nods for Best Supporting Actor, not to mention Stephen Daldry for Best Director.
Sweat writer Lynn Nottage spent over two years speaking with the real-life residents of Reading, Pennsylvania, one of the poorest towns in America, and her hard work paid off with this utterly compelling drama depicting the decline of the blue collar industry. The characters were relatable and brilliantly portrayed by the cast (with special mention to both Clare Perkins and Martha Plimpton), the story timely and relevant, and the tension built superbly into a shocking and powerful conclusion. One of the most gripping productions of 2018 and hopefully one of the nominees for Best New Play.
Summer and Smoke
One of my theatrical highlights of 2018, Summer and Smoke was a stunning production from start to finish and a sure contender for Best Revival. Tennessee Williams’ tale of unrequited love was brought to life thanks to expert direction from by Rebecca Frecknall (who deserves a nomination for Best Director), brilliant lighting, music and exquisite performances from the cast led by Matthew Needham and Patsy Ferran, whose chemistry was off the charts. It would be a travesty if Patsy Ferran doesn’t receive at least receive a nomination for Best Actress for her mesmerising performance, and though I suspect she face competition from Gillian Anderson for All About Eve, she deserves to win if only for reviving my love for Tennessee Williams and breaking my heart in the process.
Come From Away
It’s hard to believe that something good could come out of the 9/11 atrocities, but Come From Away restores faith in humanity. Written by Irene Sankoff and David Hein, the musical tells the remarkable story of the small Newfoundland town of Gander, whose population almost doubled on September 2001 when 38 planes were ordered to land there after American airspace was closed following the terrorist attacks. The residents of Gander opened their homes and their hearts to almost 7,000 strangers and provided them with food, shelter, clothes, kindness and lasting friendship. With the cast including Rachel Tucker, Clive Carter and Cat Simmons, a rousing soundtrack and heartwarming story, Come From Away is a feel-good show; a reminder that there is kindness in the world, even in the darkest of times; and a worthy contender for Best New Musical.
Fun Home was a musical with a difference. Based on American cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, the musical focused on three stages of her life: growing up in a funeral home, dealing with her sexuality as a teen and looking back at her father’s sexuality as well as his subsequent suicide. The story was incredibly moving, the soundtrack featured the beautiful Ring of Keys, not to mention the memorable Changing my Major, and the cast was fantastic. Fun Home was an unforgettable production and deserves a shout-out for Best New Musical (and is it too much to ask for Best Actress for all three Alisons too?!)
What’s not to love about Company? Directed by the fabulous Marianne Elliot, winner of Best Director at the WhatsonStage Awards and hopefully a contender for the Olivier, the gender-switched Company saw Rosalie Craig taking on the role of 35-year-old singleton Bobbi. The inspired casting of one of Sondheim’s best-loved musicals also included Richard Fleeshman, former Bake Off Queen Mel Giedroyc, Jonathan Bailey (whose Getting Married Today was genius) and the iconic Patti LuPone (Best Supporting Actress in a Musical contender, surely). The magnificent ensemble performance coupled with the unforgettable soundtrack ensures that Company deserves all the nominations!
Photo credit: Marc Brenner