My favourite new shows of 2017

Well it’s that time of year again when I come out of blogging hibernation to write about my favourite shows of the year! Although I saw overall fewer professional productions this year than in 2016, I did manage to fit in 12 shows at the Edinburgh Fringe and another trip to West End Live. So here are my favourite new shows of the year:

Dreamgirls – Savoy Theatre, London

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This was one of my first shows of the year, and what a spectacle it was! Amber Riley was fantastic in the leading role, and the whole company worked together brilliantly to put on a stunning theatrical experience, featuring some highly impressive vocals from both the soloists and the ensemble.

The Addams Family (UK Tour) – Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

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This was the first production of The Addams Family musical in the UK, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Andrew Lippa’s score is simply fantastic, and the cast were true triple threats, with stand out performances from Cameron Blakely and Carrie Hope Fletcher. I wouldn’t be surprised if a West End transfer is on the cards!

Half a Sixpence – Noel Coward Theatre, London

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Many people would associate this show with Charlie Stemp (who portrayed the lead, Arthur Kipps), but having experienced a flawless performance by his first cover, Sam O’Rourke, I can safely say that the show’s success was not totally reliant on one individual (as fantastic as I’m sure Stemp was in the role!). I adored this fun, cheerful show and really hope to see it again some day.

The Play That Goes Wrong (UK Tour) – Theatre Royal Plymouth

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Oh yes, a play has featured on the list!! This show was definitely one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, and the fact that it was a touring production (with a touring set!) made it all the more impressive. I loved the way that the performance started as soon as you entered the auditorium, and it was so (hashtag) relatable for those of us who have put on amateur productions ourselves!

Showstopper the Improvised Musical (UK Tour) – Theatre Royal Winchester

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After seeing this show in Edinburgh I was so keen to revisit it – especially as it would, obviously, be a completely different show! I have so much respect for every member of the company, but particularly the band (led superbly by Duncan Walsh Atkins), who I could not take my eyes off! So. Clever.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (UK Tour) – Mayflower Theatre, Southampton and Theatre Royal Plymouth

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Yes, it’s another play. Yes, I saw it twice. Having read the book several years ago I’ve always been eager to see this show, and it was brilliant. I got to watch two different actors take on the role of Christopher in the two different venues which was so interesting, and I also got the opportunity to go backstage (read about that here). It’s such an enlightening and eye opening show.

School of Rock – New London Theatre, London

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This show is insanely good! I love any show with talented kids in it, and this production took that to another level! The adult cast complemented the child cast brilliantly, and the relations between parents and children were so interesting and often realistic. Oh yeah, and the children formed THEIR OWN BAND. Wow.

The Toxic Avenger – Arts Theatre, London

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So this is another show that I saw in Edinburgh and loved, and had to revisit in London in its full form without any bits cut out! I thought it wasn’t possible for it to get any better, but it absolutely did!! The five cast members were all hilarious, and the ridiculous concept of the show just made it even funnier. Also, the band were on stage which is always a bonus in my eyes.

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My top ten shows of 2016

After yet another accidental blogging hiatus (because I’ve apparently been too busy putting on shows to write about shows), I thought I’d (try to) get back into the swing of things with a list of my favourite 10 shows I’ve seen in the last year. So here we go:

  1. Mamma Mia, UK Tour (Mayflower Theatre)

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I enjoyed this a surprising amount, and that might have something to do with 12 year old Megan’s intense obsession with the film. The UK touring production is a lot of fun and features a really talented cast, so this energetic show was amazing to experience.

  1. Murder Ballad (Arts Theatre, London)
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Apart from the fact that it featured Ramin Karimloo (*screams*), this was a cleverly captivating four person show. I loved the intimate feel of it, and the rock style music was performed impeccably by this tight set of performers and musicians.

  1. Avenue Q, UK Tour (Mayflower Theatre, Southampton)

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Avenue Q is an absolutely hilarious show that I would recommend to anyone (except perhaps the easily offended…). Despite being initially dubious of the use of puppets, I soon came round to the idea when I realised the charm and hilarity they bring. Add in some catchy musical numbers and it became one of my favourites this year.

  1. Mrs Henderson Presents (Noel Coward Theatre, London)
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Photo: Paul Cottas

I think one of the main reasons I adored this show was due to the fact that the audience got to experience it in the city in which it is set – the feeling of watching the Blitz take place on stage was like no other! Additionally, the story is fascinating and the music is sublime too.

  1. The Wind in the Willows, UK Tour (Mayflower Theatre, Southampton)
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This is a heart-warming little show which, for one just starting out, is totally brilliant. It’s visually stunning, and the original score features some lovely songs that I just can’t wait to hear again.

  1. Billy Elliot, UK Tour (Theatre Royal Plymouth and Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff)
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Okay, so this is the only show on my list that I had seen before 2016 – but this was the new touring production (which I saw 4 times in various capacities… obsessed?). Billy Elliot has been updated for new audiences all over the UK, and I can’t praise this production highly enough.

  1. Jesus Christ Superstar (Regents Park Open Air Theatre, London)
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This was an outstanding theatrical experience, and I’m so glad I managed to see this show over the summer. The cast delivered the show’s stunning material brilliantly both visually and aurally, and the on stage band were incredible too.

  1. In the Heights (Kings Cross Theatre, London)

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This was another unique show to experience, and hearing Lin Manuel Miranda’s music live still managed to blow me away even after listening to the soundtrack to death. In the Heights is amazing, and London is really going to miss it when it closes in the new year.

  1. The Book of Mormon (Prince of Wales Theatre, London)

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And the award for the funniest show I’ve ever seen goes to… The Book of Mormon, hands down. The music is amazing and the cast have such great comic timing, creating an absolutely hilarious show. I’m desperate to return!

  1. Groundhog Day (Old Vic Theatre, London)
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Photo: Manuel Harlan

I mean, it’s a musical and it’s by Tim Minchin – is it really a surprise that this was my favourite show of the year?! Groundhog Day managed to completely overwhelm me with its stunning music and brilliantly told story. I can’t wait to see where the show goes next (hopefully somewhere near me after Broadway… please?)

My top ten theatre wish list

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Photo: Matt Crockett

I may have seen many, many shows both on tour and in the West End, but I’ve realised that there will always be more shows that I have a burning desire to see! So here is my current list of ten shows I would like to catch soon (some of which are yet to open, I know, I’m keen), and not including any that I already have booked:

Side Show

Having just opened at the Southwark Playhouse for its UK premiere, Side Show is a cult classic. I fell in love with the song Who Will Love Me As I Am after hearing it performed at a concert earlier this year, and I find the story line so gripping and fascinating. The fact that it has a stellar cast featuring Louise Dearman and Laura Pitt-Pulford also makes it a definite must see this season.

Kinky Boots

This show has been running in the West End since last year to much critical acclaim. Having witnessed an excerpt from the show at West End Live back in June, it seems like such a fun musical which both Broadway and West End audiences have thoroughly enjoyed so far – and I’d love to join them!

Motown the Musical

Like Kinky Boots, I also got to watch a segment of this show at West End Live, and was very pleasantly surprised! Although it may not conform to being ‘typical’ musical theatre, it seems like a fun show with some great, well known tunes. The cast were so captivating to watch and it would be so interesting to explore this musical era through a show.

Aladdin

Although I was initially sceptical of this show, batting it off as a glorified pantomime at first (as many did!), the reviews I’ve read suggest otherwise. Having visited the Prince Edward Theatre to see Miss Saigon, this venue is the perfect one for a show such as this, and the casting is sublime.

School of Rock

Having been obsessed with this film during my childhood, this is definitely a show I’d love to see. The fact that it is effectively an actor musician production featuring children is absolutely incredible, and I can’t wait to hear what Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new score is like.

Dreamgirls

This production may be yet to open, but the hype has already started in anticipation of performances starting next month. Having smashed its run on Broadway it will surely do the same in the West End – also, the casting is brilliant and the show features some great songs.

The Wind in the Willows

Ooh, a show that isn’t actually in the West End… yet. It’s touring and then headed for town, so hear me out. This production had its greatly successful world premiere a few weeks ago at my second home, Theatre Royal Plymouth, and is now touring around the country. It’s such a unique concept and I’d love to see what the creatives have come up with.

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time

Yes, a play. I’ve wanted to see this show for ages, almost ever since the roof fell in at the Apollo Theatre. I’ve loved the book for years and find the story and characters fascinating, so I’d love to experience it as a piece of live theatre.

The Woman in Black

Another play, and possibly an odd choice for someone as easily scared as I am. However, I’ve heard really great things about this show and would love to experience it – because it definitely sounds like an experience!

Hamilton

I mean, this was always going to make it on there, wasn’t it?! We may have to wait over a year for it to arrive in London, but my wish list wouldn’t be complete without including the most talked about show of the year: Hamilton. I simply can’t wait for December 2017, and the excitement will only grow. So yes, if I could wish to see one show now, this would be it!

 

This blog post was kindly sponsored by Box Office UK (although all thoughts and opinions are my own), which is a great website on which you can buy tickets to loads of West End shows. Visit their site here to fulfil your own theatre wish list.

My top 5 theatres

Having watched many, many productions throughout my life, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in, and have therefore grown rather attached to, several theatres. So here are my 5 favourite theatres, including some regional ones and some in the West End.

Prince Edward Theatre, London

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I’ve visited this theatre twice – both times to see Miss Saigon – in July 2014 and October 2015. Although it doesn’t look like the grandest West End theatre from the outside, the auditorium is stunning, and I think that the lavish purple seats and tasteful lighting will definitely suit the vibe of Aladdin when it opens there in a few months. Inevitably, my perception of this theatre is undoubtedly skewed by my love of Miss Saigon, but there is no denying that it’s a gorgeous theatre with a lot of history behind it.

Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

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I only started visiting the Mayflower in late 2014, but since then I have been there 7 times to see 7 different musicals. It doesn’t look like much from the outside as it’s nestled in a busy street in Southampton, but every time I’ve been there, I’ve heard first time visitors gasping in awe at the sight of the auditorium. The last time I was there I overheard an usher mention that the theatre’s auditorium is to be refurbished in the next few months, and considering the amount of trouble audience members seem to have reading the seat numbers on the chairs, this may be a good idea!

Queen’s Theatre, London

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The home of Les Mis was always going to be a special one for me! I’ve been there 3 times to see the world’s longest running musical, in May 2013, July 2014, and January 2016. The massive art work on the outside of the theatre is amazingly striking, and makes the Queen’s something of a landmark in Soho! I also love the Cosette mural on the side of the building. The theatre itself is a relatively small one, but very nice nonetheless – and as much as I try not to allow my obsession with Les Mis sway my opinion of it, it’s definitely one of the best theatres I’ve been to.

London Palladium

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This may be a bit of an odd choice because my memory of visiting the Palladium is not particularly clear – I visited it on my first trip to London to see my first West End show, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, in 2005 when I was 8 years old. I remember feeling extremely overwhelmed and being totally impressed by grand red and gold décor in the foyer areas… but that may have just been my naïve self being excited about anything! The Palladium is one of the most famous theatres in the West End and I’m very glad that it was the first one I ever went to, and I hope to return to see something else there one day.

Theatre Royal Plymouth

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I mean, what else was going to take the top spot?! I think I love this theatre more for sentimental reasons than because of the building itself (although the refurbishment in 2013 really improved the auditorium and foyer/cafe areas). I’ve visited it 22 times and seen 20 shows, which is an incredible amount! I love that the Theatre Royal Plymouth has always been a part of my life growing up in Devon, as since seeing my first pantomime in 2002, there’s rarely been a year in which I haven’t seen a production there. This is mainly thanks to the theatre’s varied programme of both touring productions and self-produced shows, and my recent backstage ventures have only strengthened my tie with this theatre!

My favourite understudies and alternates

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As I’ve said many times before, I really enjoy watching understudies perform in lead roles, and consider myself lucky if I happen to catch a performance featuring any. I consistently feel that understudies do a brilliant job and their performances can never be faulted, as they always fulfil the leading roles just as well as the actors who usually portray them. So here are a few of my favourite understudies that I have had the pleasure of watching on stage:

Niall Sheehy – first cover Chris in Miss Saigon (West End 2014)

I watched Niall perform the role of Chris in July 2014, only 2 months after the revival of Miss Saigon opened, meaning that he had done very few performances in the role prior to this! However, this was absolutely unnoticeable and he pulled off the role impeccably. I loved his rendition of Why God Why, and his chemistry with Eva Noblezada as Kim was perfect. His performance definitely made me fall in love with the show!

Oliver Savile – first cover Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera (West End 2015)

It’s no secret that I absolutely adore The Phantom of the Opera, and Raoul is surely one of the most problematic/misunderstood characters, yet Oliver managed to portray him brilliantly. His voice suited the songs and the part perfectly and I just adored his performance! Plus, he managed to politely laugh it off when some people at stage door asked him to sign their programmes by the picture of Liam Tamne (who usually plays Raoul). Oh, the life of an understudy!

Layla Harrison – first cover Meg in The Phantom of the Opera (West End 2015)

Although Meg is a fairly small part in Phantom, she is definitely an integral character (especially because she gets to end the show!). I was lucky enough to watch Layla perform the role both times I watched the show this year – in March and May – and both times I found myself much more interested in Meg as a character due to her brilliant performances.

Zoe Birkett – alternate Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard (UK Tour 2015)

As the alternate Rachel in The Bodyguard tour, Zoe is scheduled to perform at every matinee – so I was expecting to see her in the role rather than household name Alexandra Burke – which I was fine with! But Zoe’s incredible voice and flawless characterisation meant that no one in the audience left the theatre disappointed by the absence of Burke.

Jon Robyns – alternate Huey in Memphis the Musical (West End 2015)

Having to perform in the absence of Matt Cardle can’t have been easy, but Jon managed to perform this role so well! He portrayed Huey’s childlike enthusiasm throughout the piece, and completely allowed the audience to form a relationship with the character, making the ending of the show incredibly sad. The various transformations of the character were pulled off brilliantly, forming a highly impressive performance in the lead role.

Paula Tappenden – first cover Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers (UK Tour 2015)

This must be such a difficult role to pull off, especially because this show covers a time span of around 20 years, so not only does the actress have to master Mrs Johnstone’s complex characterisation, she also has to play her at various points in her life! Paula Tappenden did this flawlessly, and her renditions of Tell Me It’s Not True in the opening and closing scenes of the show were perfectly heart breaking (which, despite being oxymoronic, is definitely possible…!).

My five favourite touring shows of 2015

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Touring productions can be a brilliant way of introducing theatre lovers to shows that they may not have otherwise got to experience, especially for those of us who live miles away from the bright lights of the West End. So as the year draws to a close, I’ve decided to list my five favourite new shows of this year which I watched at regional theatres, all of which I knew very little about prior to seeing them:

Oklahoma! – Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

This show is definitely one of the old classic pieces of musical theatre, and I now feel slightly ashamed of not knowing much about it until I saw a performance of it earlier this year! The production immediately proved why Oklahoma! has managed to be successful for so many years, and the catchy songs and exciting characters combine to create a wonderful piece of theatre which really shows how musicals began to evolve into what they have now become.

The Bodyguard – Theatre Royal Plymouth

The Bodyguard is very different from your ‘average’ musical, but in a really amazing way. The songs of Whitney Houston and frequent concert performances that feature in the storyline make it seem like a gig, yet the terrifying movements featuring the stalker give off vibes of the thriller genre, creating a totally enthralling piece of theatre which kept me on the edge of my seat throughout! Having not known what to expect in the slightest I was totally overwhelmed by this show.

Shrek the Musical – Theatre Royal Plymouth

I originally didn’t intend on going to see Shrek, despite knowing and loving a couple of the songs already, because I assumed it would be very much aimed at children. However, when the Theatre Royal kindly invited me to a backstage tour during which I got to meet some of the cast of Shrek and to watch a rehearsal, I decided to go along to a performance and get to know the show a bit – and I’m so glad I did! Sure, the main target audience was around a decade younger than me, but there were plenty of elements for adults to enjoy and the music is great. And now I think I’ll always have a connection with Shrek the Musical because of my awesome backstage experience!

Jersey Boys – Theatre Royal Plymouth

I always know when I’ve found a new favourite show, because in the days following my experience of it, I have an overwhelming urge to go back and see it again – which I actually did with Jersey Boys! It’s such an upbeat show with some great songs, and it’s often been said that audiences are attracted to the musical by the music but leave loving the story, which I think is absolutely right! I’ve come to adore the show so much that I’m due to see it in the West End in March during a visit to London.

Blood Brothers – Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

This show has become a recent obsession of mine, because of its incredibly moving storyline and beautiful score. It’s such an emotional piece and the gradual ageing of the characters (particularly the twins) is executed very cleverly as the show builds to its devastating climax. I was also especially impressed by the understudy performers in the production who performed with such precision that they created the illusion that they portray those roles regularly!

To sum up, touring productions are great, and regional theatres are great. I’ve already got a few shows lined up for 2016, so I can’t wait to get to know some more new musicals next year!

My top 10 act 1 finale songs

In musicals, the act 1 finale song is usually one of the best pieces of music in the whole show. This allows the first half to end with a bang, it gets the audience on a high, and allows them to gush about how amazing the show is over their interval drinks. So here are my 10 favourite act 1 finale songs:

10. Ever After – Into The Woods

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I love the way that this song clearly links back to the opening of act 1, and creates the illusion that everything has been resolved in the plot… until the narrator declares that the story is ‘to be continued’! It’s a great tune which brings all of the characters and their individual quests together.

9. Bruce – Matilda

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The thing that impresses me most about this song is the amazing choreography that the children effortlessly pull off, all while singing and maintaining a crazy amount of energy! I also like the way that Bruce ‘eats’ the cake, and the rapid tempo and tongue twister lyrics featured in the song.

8. Dream Ballet – Oklahoma!

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I was blown away by the Dream Ballet sequence when I went to see Oklahoma, because of the powerful emotions and events which are conveyed through dance. I love the way that Laurey is thrown around between the men, and the fact that it is her own personal nightmare is cleverly put across.

7. I’d Give My Life For You – Miss Saigon

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This is a beautiful solo song for Kim which expresses her love for her son, and declares (spoiler alert!) that she would die for him. It is highly emotional, and I really enjoy the poignant instrumental postlude in which Kim, Tam and the Engineer walk towards the back of the stage to move away and begin their new lives.

6. Who I’d Be – Shrek

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This song totally sums up the message and ideas behind the story of Shrek: the concept of a reversed fairytale. The lyrics are very clever and the tune is lovely, and I especially like the final section in which Shrek, Donkey and Fiona are singing independent melodies and lyrics, all expressing their own predicaments.

5. Angry Dance – Billy Elliot

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Like Dream Ballet, it is the dance which makes the end of the first act of Billy Elliot stand out, due to the intense emotions shown through Billy’s fast paced dance. The interactions between him and the policemen are clever, and the tap dancing section is so impressive. It really makes act 1 finish with a bang!

4. All I Ask of You/All I Ask of You Reprise – The Phantom of the Opera

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I’ve included both sections of All I Ask of You, because I feel that the reprise (sung by the Phantom) is just as significant as the main song. The duet between Raoul and Christine is beautiful and hopeful, especially due to their optimistic lines that follow, but this is quickly crushed by the Phantom’s heartbreaking solo reprise and shattering of the chandelier.

3. Climb Every Mountain – The Sound of Music

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This song is a great example of a mentor figure providing a protagonist with guidance, as the Mother Abbess sings this powerful song to encourage Maria to pursue her love for the captain, and to follow where life is trying to guide her.

2. Defying Gravity – Wicked

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Yeah, so my final 2 choices are predictable and the same as the ones listed here! But Defying Gravity is such an empowering song featuring incredible vocals from the actress playing Elphaba. The witch’s elevation above the stage is so impressive, and it put cast and audience members on a high (both literally and figuratively in this case!)

1.One Day More – Les Miserables

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If this wasn’t included in my list something would definitely be wrong! One Day More has to be the ultimate act 1 finale song, due to its inclusion of all of the cast members, and the combination of melodies from previous songs. I love the build up from Valjean’s solo lines at the beginning, to the entire cast singing their different parts by the end. And of course that final line, belted out in perfect harmony: ‘One… day… MOOO-OOOOOOR-RRREEEEEE!’

My favourite male musical theatre performers

Following on from my top 5 female performers, I wanted to complete my choices by listing my favourite male actors that I have had the pleasure of seeing live on stage:

John Owen Jones

JOJ was the first Phantom I saw (during the UK tour in 2012), when I knew next to nothing about musicals. I remember reading his theatre credits in the programme and being impressed, but not really understanding what they meant! Due to my lack of knowledge about the show I’m not convinced that I fully appreciated his performance, but I do remember that I thought he was incredible. He has just returned to the role of the Phantom in the West End, replacing…

Geronimo Rauch

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Having missed his Valjean (the understudy was on when I went to see Les Mis in May 2013, although said understudy was very good!) I feel so lucky to have seen Geronimo perform as the Phantom twice this year. His voice is stunning, and he brings such emotion to the role, clearly showing that he fully understands the character. Having met him twice at stage door, it’s evident that he’s a lovely person too!

Tam Mutu

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Tam might just be my favourite Javert ever! I saw him in Les Mis in 2013, and thought he was absolutely incredible. I especially enjoyed his performance of Javert’s Suicide (which is one of my favourite parts of the show anyway), due to his emotional acting and perfect portrayal of the way in which Javert has lost sight of all his morals and beliefs. Prior to Les Mis, Tam was the alternate Phantom in Love Never Dies, and he recently played the title role in Dr Zhivago on Broadway, to critical acclaim.

Jon Jon Briones

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This man is an amazing performer, and I was so pleased to be able to watch him play the Engineer in Miss Saigon in July 2014 – and I really hope that he’ll be on again when I return to see the show before its ‘final flight’ in February. Having been in the ensemble of the original 1989 cast at Drury Lane, it’s so cool how he has come full circle to return to the show as the Engineer (a role which he also played on tour). Jon Jon’s comic timing and amusing mannerisms complete the character perfectly, and he must be one of the most talented Engineers ever.

Matt Corner

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I knew very little about Jersey Boys before I went to see it in Plymouth last month, but I did know that whoever was playing Frankie Valli would have to have a brilliantly versatile voice with a huge range. Matt’s singing is absolutely amazing, and he impeccably captures the essence of Frankie’s singing through the many hit songs that the Four Seasons had. On top of this, his acting is brilliantly convincing, making his performance as the lead singer of the band one of my favourite performances ever! As I mentioned in a previous post, I went back to see the show again less than a week later, and this was definitely partially due to Matt’s talent.

My favourite female musical theatre performers

Here I am listing my top 5 female musical theatre performers who I have seen live on stage (in no particular order), along with why I like them so much and what other theatre credits they have:

Carrie Hope Fletcher

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Having been a fan of Carrie’s Youtube channel (Itswaypastmybedtime) for a while, a theatrical highlight for me last year was watching her play Eponine in Les Mis in the West End. Despite various untrue rumours that she was only cast due to her large online following, she has proved herself to be an incredible actress and singer who is more than worthy of being on a West End stage. Carrie has also performed in the arena tour of the War of the Worlds, and as a child performer she was in productions of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Mary Poppins, and Les Mis (as Young Eponine, making her the only actress ever to play both young and adult versions of the character).

Eva Noblezada

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Taking on the role of Kim in the West End revival of Miss Saigon can’t have been an easy feat, especially due to the expectations of the public for the actress to live up to the original Kim, Lea Salonga. However, I think that Eva absolutely nails the part of Kim due to her brilliant vocals and emotional acting, which is even more impressive when you think about the fact that she was only 17 when she was cast (and 18 when she made her West End debut). She is a joy to watch and I’m desperate to go and see her in Miss Saigon again before it closes.

Harriet Jones

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I’ve seen Harriet play Christine in The Phantom of the Opera in the West End twice this year, and she has an absolutely incredible voice. She captures the character of Christine perfectly and her performance was definitely part of the reason that I went back to see Phantom less than 2 months after I initially saw it!

Zoe Birkett

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Being the alternate lead to such a big star as Alexandra Burke must have put a lot of pressure on Zoe Birkett (the alternate Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard UK Tour), especially when dealing with the disappointment that audiences may have felt when they realised that the heavily advertised star would not be performing. However, when I saw Zoe perform I was blown away by her talent, which I have no doubt matches that of Alexandra Burke. She belted out Whitney Houston’s songs brilliantly, and made me feel lucky to have witnessed one of her performances.

Willemijn Verkaik

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This lady must be one of the ultimate Elphabas in Wicked, because not only has she played the role on Broadway and in the West End (where I saw her), she has also played the role in Germany and the Netherlands, making her the first actress to play Elphaba in more than one language – in her case, three different languages! Her rendition of Defying Gravity is one of my favourite performances of the song ever – up there with Idina Menzel’s – and I definitely think that Willemijn is one of the best actresses to have played Elphaba.

My top 10 musical theatre piano scores

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One of my favourite pastimes is playing (and sometimes singing) from musical theatre scores. I should mention that I am writing this from the perspective of a grade 8 pianist, so this may have an influence on my opinions! I also tried not to let my opinions of the shows affect my choices – but this may not have been successful!

  1. Billy Elliot

This features a great collection of songs at a fairly simple level. The main issue I have with this score is the fact that the most well-known song, Electricity, has been published in A major rather than D major as it is in the production, but a bit of quick transposition sorted this out! The accompaniments are largely idiomatic and the music is well presented.

  1. Mary Poppins

I love that this score includes all of the harmonies that are sung by the cast, as some scores do not include these. I also particularly enjoy the arrangement of Feed the Birds and the complex quaver accompaniment of Let’s Go Fly a Kite.

  1. The Phantom of the Opera

Although this does not include as many songs from Phantom as I would have liked, it is still an excellent score to play from. I love the arrangements of Music of the Night and Past the Point of No Return, although a few more harmonies in the ensemble numbers such as Masquerade would have been nice!

  1. West Side Story (Vocal Score)

This score of arguably the best musical ever written is also brilliant! It includes many features such as spoken dialogue, drum beats and underscore and interlude sections, creating a good idea of how the music fits in with all the other elements of the production. I also like the way that, in most places, the vocal line is not doubled in the piano part.

  1. Shrek the Musical

Uh oh, I’m talking about Shrek again! I really love the songs in this musical, and the score displays them brilliantly. I really like the arrangements, particularly of I Know It’s Today and Who I’d Be. Slightly annoyingly, the dragon’s song, Forever, does not feature because it was not in the original Broadway production (so Donkey Pot Pie is included instead). Nonetheless, this is an excellent score.

  1. Miss Saigon (old version)

By old version I mean the score which was published prior to the 2014 revival – so it includes Now That I’ve Seen Her rather than Maybe. I slightly prefer this version to the newer one probably because I’m more used to it, but I do favour the majority of the arrangements in it, especially Why God Why and I’d Give My Life For You.

  1. Cats

I love the fact that, unusually, the overture is included in this score. I also like the piano accompaniment style as it often does not double the vocal line, and the clear score enables accurate analysis of Lloyd Webber’s interesting modulations! I especially like Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats and Bustopher Jones in this book.

  1. Wicked

This features quite a difficult piano part, particularly in Defying Gravity – but it is well arranged and pleasing to play. Several harmonies are included, particularly the ones between Elphaba and Glinda – making For Good one of the best songs to play (and sing) in this score!

  1. Les Miserables in Concert

I actually own 4 different Les Mis scores (I’ll discuss these in a later post!) but here I’m referring to the 10th anniversary concert one. It includes extra songs other than the main ones, such as Valjean’s Soliloquy, Thenardier Waltz and Little People. One Day More has been laid out with all of the vocal parts, with one system per page by the end, meaning that it is easy to read, play and analyse.

  1. Matilda the Musical

I absolutely love this score! It is fairly challenging due to the use of some wacky chords, but it features all of the main songs including the finale. Playing this score has really allowed me to appreciate Tim Minchin’s writing, and my favourite songs to play are Naughty, When I Grow Up and Bruce.