Sunday, January 06, 2019

50 Favourite Musicals: 30: The BEGGAR'S OPERA (1728) (John Gay)

The 50 shows that have stood out down the years and, as we get up among the paint cards, the shows that have become the cast recording of my life:


First performed: 1728, Lincolns Inn Fields Theatre, London
First seen by me: 1982, Cottesloe, National Theatre
Productions seen: two

Score: various
Book: John Gay
Plot:  In the slums of East London, legendary highwayman Macheth's luck finally runs out as he is arrested and taken to Newgate.  Facing the prospect of hanging, Macheath must rely on the help of his mistresses - but will they agree to help if they find out about each other?

Five memorable numbers: I LIKE THE FOX SHALL GRIEVE, LET US TAKE THE ROAD, IF THE HEART OF A MAN, I'M BUBBLED I'M TROUBLED, WHY HOW NOW MADAME FLIRT

THE BEGGAR'S OPERA has galloped down 291 years like it's anti-hero Macheath escaping the law.  Along the way it has discarded the satirical contemporary references that would have accounted for it's huge success - many saw in the outwardly respectable but secretly double-dealing Peachum a veiled allusion to politician Robert Walpole - as well as referencing 'superstar' villains like Jonathan Wild, Claude Duval and Jack Sheppard but it has retained it's involving plot, larger-than-life characters and it's over-riding message that what is forgiven if you are rich is criminalized if you are poor.  John Gay's original intention was to have the many songs and airs sung with no musical accompaniment but that was considered too avant-garde for the 18th Century - I am sure someone will come up with that idea now and be hailed as visionary.  THE BEGGAR'S OPERA was such a success that Gay wrote a sequel POLLY featuring Macheath and Polly in the West Indies but the satire was too biting for Walpole and it was banned for fifty years.  BEGGAR was of course the inspiration for Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's THE THREEPENNY OPERA which utilized most of the characters and plotline but the original remains the more sprightly.  It was thanks to Richard Eyre and his legendary 1982 National Theatre company that I first saw THE BEGGAR'S OPERA when it seemed a natural complement for their more optimistic GUYS AND DOLLS: Eyre gave it more of a Dickensian feel, the pervading gloom of John Gunter's rickety slum set and Peter Radmore's pea-souper lighting made it feel almost immersive.  Giving definitive characterizations were Paul Jones as the cocksure Macheath, Belinda Sinclair as Polly, Harry Towb as a Northen Irish Peachum, June Watson as a bustling "Carry On"-style Mrs Peachum ("not wiv an 'ighwayman, you sorry slut"), Kevin Williams' scene-stealing servant Filch and Imelda Staunton's explosive Lucy Lockett.

Annoyingly, although the Richard Eyre production was filmed for Channel 4 in 1983, there isn't any sign of it on YouTube.  Most of the videos are of either amateur productions or Peter Brook's lumpy film adaptation so here is a vocal clip of Jenna Russell as Lucy Lockett in the 1992 Royal Shakespeare Company production singing "Lucy's Lament".


Tuesday, January 01, 2019

The 12th Annual Chrissies: ...and the envelope please...

Here we go... eyes down for the 2018 Chrissies, now in their 12th year... I should get funding for this.

BEST DRAMA (Original/Revival)
THE INHERITANCE - Matthew Lopez (Noel Coward)

Nominees:
THE HUMANS (Hampstead) / THE LEHMAN TROLOGY (Lyttelton, NT) /
LONG DAYS JOURNEY INTO NIGHT (Wyndhams) / OTHELLO (The Globe)

* 
BEST MUSICAL (Original/Revival)
  THE KING AND I - Richard Rodgers / Oscar Hammerstein II (London Palladium)

 Nominees:
CAROLINE, OR CHANGE (Hampstead, Playhouse) / COMPANY (Gielgud) / 
 FUN HOME (Young Vic) / HAMILTON (Victoria Palace)

*
BEST CLASSICAL PRODUCTION
 SWAN LAKE - Matthew Bourne (Sadler's Wells)

Nominees:
MANON / MAYERLING / THE NUTCRACKER / SWAN LAKE (all Covent Garden)

*
BEST ACTOR (Drama)
SIMON RUSSELL BEALE - The Lehman Trilogy (Lyttelton, NT)

 Nominees:
REED BIRNEY (The Humans) / JONATHAN PRYCE (The Height of The Storm) /
MARK RYLANCE (Othello) / KYLE SOLLER (The Inheritance)

*
BEST ACTRESS (Drama)
LESLEY MANVILLE - Long Day's Journey Into Night (Wyndhams)

Nominees:
EILEEN ATKINS (The Height of The Storm) / PATSY FERRAN (Summer and Smoke) / 
  LAURA LINNEY (My Name is Lucy Barton) / SOPHIE OKONEDO (Antony and Cleopatra)

*
BEST ACTOR (Musical)
GILES TERERA - Hamilton (Victoria Palace)

Nominees:
MARCUS BRIGSTOCKE (Barnum) / PATRICK PAGE (Hadestown)
KEN WATANABE (The King and I) / JAMAEL WESTMAN (Hamilton)

*
BEST ACTRESS (Musical)
SHARON D. CLARKE - Caroline, or Change (Hampstead & Playhouse)

 Nominees:
KAISA HAMMARLUND (Fun Home) / EVA NOBLEZEDA (Hadestown) / 
KELLI O'HARA (The King and I) / MEERA SYAL (Annie)

*
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR (Drama)
  SAMUEL H. LEVINE - The Inheritance (Noel Coward)

Nominees:
ADAM GODLEY (The Lehman Trilogy) / JOHN BENJAMIN HICKEY (The Inheritance) /  
PAUL HILTON (The Inheritance) / JONATHAN SLINGER (Fanny and Alexander)

*
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS (Drama)
VANESSA REDGRAVE - The Inheritance (Noel Coward)

Nominees:
ADJOA ANDOH (Julius Caesar) / HAYDN GWYNNE (The Way of The World) / 
  JAYNE HOUDYSHELL (The Humans) / PENELOPE WILTON (Fanny and Alexander)

*
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR (Musical)
 
MICHAEL JIBSON - Hamilton (Victoria Palace)

 Nominees:
ANDRE DE SHIELDS (Hadestown) / RICHARD FLEESHMAN (Company) / 
DAMIAN HUMBLEY (Spamilton) / JASON PENNYCOOKE (Hamilton)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS (Musical)
  PATTI LUPONE - Company (Gielgud)

Nominees:
RACHEL JOHN (Hamilton) / ABIONA OMANUA (Caroline, or Change) / 
JENNA RUSSELL (Fun Home) / CELINDE SCHONEMAKER (Barnum)

*
BEST CLASSICAL MALE
LIAM MOWER - Swan Lake (Sadler's Wells)

Nominees:
ALEXANDER CAMPBELL (Manon) / JAMES HAY (Manon) / 
STEVEN McRAE (Mayerling) / MAX WESTWELL (Swan Lake)

*
  BEST CLASSICAL FEMALE
 ZENAIDA YANOWSKY - Elizabeth (Barbican)

 Nominees:
SARAH LAMB (Winter Dreams) / LAURA MORERA (Mayerling)
AKANE TAKADA (Manon) / AKANE TAKADA (Swan Lake)

*
BEST DIRECTOR
STEPHEN DALDREY - The Inheritance (Noel Coward)

Nominees:
MARIANNE ELLIOTT (Company) / RICHARD EYRE (Long Day's Journey Into Night)
JOE MANTELLO (The Humans) / SAM MENDES (The Lehman Trilogy)

*
BEST DESIGNER
  BOB CROWLEY - The Inheritance (Noel Coward)

 Nominees:
ES DEVLIN (The Lehman Trilogy) / ROB HOWELL (Long Day's Journey Into Night)
MICHAEL YEARGAN (The King and I) / DAVID ZINN (The Humans)

*
BEST LIGHTING
  JUSTIN TOWNSEND - The Humans (Hampstead)

Nominees:
JON CLARK (The Inheritance) / JON CLARK, LUKE HALLS (video) (The Lehman Trilogy) / PETER MUMFORD (Long Day's Journey Into Night) / BEN STANTON (Fun Home)

*
BEST CHOREOGRAPHY (Musical)
  ANDY BLANKENBUEHLER - Hamilton (Victoria Palace)

Nominees:
CHRISTOPEHR GATTELLI (The King and I) / REBECCA HOWELL (Barnum) / 
DANNY MEFFORD (Fun Home) / DAVID NEUMANN (Hadestown)

*
BEST CHOREOGRAPHY (Classical)
  SIR FREDERICK ASHTON- Les Patineurs (Covent Garden)

Nominees:
MATTHEW BOURNE (Swan Lake) / KENNETH McMILLAN (Manon) / 
 KENNETH McMILLAN (Mayerling) / LIAM SCARLETT (Swan Lake)

 *
and a Special Performance Award to the fantasic Bianca Del Rio for BLAME IT ON BIANCA DEL RIO at Hammersmith O2 - yes, that's me in the circle!


Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Chrissies... And the nominees are...


So an exciting year in theatre-going comes to a close; 2018 provided an excellent year for exceptional productions and performances.  This can only mean one thing - it's nearly time for Theatreland's most eagerly awaited award ceremony...  The 2018 Chrissies.  It has been hard to limit some nominations to just five but here they are:

Best Play / Best Actor / Best Supporting Actor x3 / Best Supporting Actress / Best Director / Best Design / Best Lighting

Best Musical / Best Musical Actor x2 / Best Musical Supporting Actor x2 / 
Best Musical Supporting Actress / Best Choreography

Best Play / Best Actor / Best Supporting Actress / Best Director / Best Design / Best Lighting

Best Play / Best Actor / Best Supporting Actor / Best Director / Best Design / Best Lighting

Best Musical / Best Actress / Best Supporting Actress / Best Lighting / Best Choreography

 
Best Musical / Best Musical Actor / Best Musical Actress / Best Designer / Best Choreography

Best Play / Best Actress / Best Director / Best Design / Best Lighting

MANON
Best Classical Production / Best Male Classical Performer x2 / Best Female Classical Performer / Best Classical Choreography

Best Musical / Best Musical Supporting Actor / Best Musical Supporting Actress / Best Director

Best Musical Actor / Best Musical Actress / Best Musical Supporting Actor / Best Choreography

Best Classical Production / Best Male Classical Performer / Best Female Classical Performer / Best Classical Choreography

 
Best Classical Production / Best Male Classical Performer x2 / Best Classical Choreography

Best Musical Actor / Best Musical Supporting Actress / Best Choreography

 
Best Musical / Best Musical Actress / Best Musical Supporting Actress

SWAN LAKE (Scarlett)
Best Classical Production / Best Female Classical Performer / Best Classical Choreography

Best Supporting Actor / Best Supporting Actress

Best Actor / Best Actress

 
Best Play / Best Actor

and one nomination each for:

ANNIE (Best Musical Actress) / ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA (Best Actress) / ELIZABETH (Best Female Classical Performer) / JULIUS CAESAR (Best Supporting Actress) / LES PATINEURS (Best Classical Choreography) / MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON (Best Actress) / THE NUTCRACKER (Best Classical Production) / SPAMILTON (Best Musical Supporting Actor) / SUMMER AND SMOKE (Best Actress) / THE WAY OF THE WORLD (Best Supporting Actress) / WINTER DREAMS (Best Female Classical Performer)

The awards will be announced in the New Year... book now!