2022 has been an incredibly exciting year so far. After the stress of the past two years with COVID closing theatres left right and centre, it finally feels as though live theatre is back properly. The last couple of months have seen an incredible array of shows opening in the capital. Amy, Jill, Rachel and Zuzanna from the team have put together their favourite Musicals, Plays and Performances of the year so far. Let us know what your favourite show has been so far this year in the comments!
CABARET AT THE KIT KAT CLUB
We may as well begin with the most obvious. Jill and I booked to see Cabaret after knowing each other about two months, 6 months later we finally got there. And it was well worth the wait. There is a pre-show section with dance performances, and it really does feel as if you’ve walked into the real Kit Kat Club in Berlin. The show was the best we’ve ever seen, the performances were flawless, and you just cannot beat that score! We sat in the cheapest seats which were £30 – and the view was incredible, they perform in a round, and I really don’t think there is a bad view in the house.
OPERATION MINCEMEAT AT RIVERSIDE STUDIOS
I harp on a lot about how the West End needs more new musicals, instead of the main stays which have been there for yonks. And this show is exactly my point. It’s hilarious, clever, has incredibly catchy songs and the cast are phenomenal. I would love to see what they could do with a West End budget and a larger space. This show is everything I love about theatre, it’s new and exciting, and… here is a bold statement but I’m going to make it – If you can only go and see 1 show in London this year, make it Operation Mincemeat, I promise you will not regret it. Now RUN don’t walk to Riverside Studios to see it now before it closes at the end of July, although I really hope that’s not the last we see of this wonderful show!
BONNIE AND CLYDE AT THE ARTS THEATRE
Arguably one of the most highly anticipated shows of the year, after those sold-out concerts in January…
Jordan Luke Gage is phenomenal in his portrayal of Clyde Barrow the outlaw, his ‘Raise A Little Hell’ is something that simply cannot be seen just once. Natalie McQueen is exceptional as Blanche Barrow and proves a fantastic comedienne, and Frances Mayli McCann Has a voice to die for. This show has an incredible score, but particularly so in the Act One. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the transitions from ‘You Love Who You Love’ into ‘Raise A Little Hell’ through to ‘The World Will Remember Us’ make for one of the best ends to an Act in musical theatre.
READ AMY’S REVIEW IN FULL HERE
BUT I’M A CHEERLEADER AT THE TURBINE THEATRE
This new musical premiered at the Turbine Theatre this year and is based on the 1999 film starring Natasha Lyonne and Rupaul. It centres around Megan, a 17 year old cheerleader, who is sent to a conversion camp called True Directions, as her friends and family suspect she is a lesbian. There are plenty of musicals adapted from teen movies which have garnered cult status such as Heathers, Mean Girls etc. This show has all the satire of Heathers, however it’s full of great comedy and it’s beautifully camp and queer. Jodie Steele and Edward Chitticks were the highlights of the show for me. But I’m a Cheerleader is exactly the feel-good fun and ridiculousness we need. This show needs a West End transfer – and I need a cast recording now please.
READ AMY’S REVIEW IN FULL HERE
THE LION AT SOUTHWARK PLAYHOUSE
The Lion was written by Benjamin Scheuer, it provided him with a sort of therapy when so many things were happening within his own life. The story is autobiographical, covering Ben’s life from his childhood. Scheuer performed The Lion over 500 times across the USA and UK, This production heavily relies on the pure talent of Max Alexander-Taylor. His voice is stunning, but it’s his guitar playing that impressed me the most. It was effortless and natural, and very impressive. He had complete control over the audience, I could not take my eyes off him – there was even a moment where he had a sip of water and still my eyes never left him. He gave one of the best musical performances I have seen this year. And filled me with a mixture of emotions.
READ AMY’S REVIEW IN FULL HERE
MOULIN ROUGE AT THE PICCADILLY THEATRE
Moulin Rouge is exuberant in every way – the spectacular set, the beautiful costumes, the show-stopping numbers, the impeccable acting. The ensemble was phenomenal; the only interruption in my suspension of disbelief was me wondering “How are they still going?!” The show held true to its over-the-top celebration of love. I know there is a discourse on the legitimacy of jukebox musicals, but I think part of the meaning behind this particular show lies in its use of popular love songs. Cynical Satine and lovesick Christian throwing lyrics of famous love songs at each other in “Elephant Love Medley” to convey their opinions on love is absolutely brilliant. This was one of the more expensive shows I’ve seen, but it was 100 percent worth every pound.
THE PRODUCERS (PRESENTED BY CITY ACADEMY) AT BRIDEWELL THEATRE
This was a huge surprise to me, that after watching a half-amateur production I would be so impressed – and that it would land on my 2022 favourites list! The City Academy worked on a comedy classic and somehow, made it even better. A massive cast (plus a live band) brought the hilarious, pun-heavy, sarcastic humour to life, while Dan Conte (Max Bialystock) and Ricky Hutchinson (Leo Bloom) completely owned the stage. The production was delivered using plenty of quick changes and the most creative costumes I’ve ever seen – including a live feature of “Springtime for Hitler” with its food-inspired outfits and a group of riotous singing nazis. I truly had more fun on this rendition of “Producers” than I had while watching “The Book of Mormon” – go figure! It was one of the most ridiculous but also surprising productions I’ve seen this year for sure – and I can’t wait to see “Evita” produced by City Academy, just next month!
ZORRO AT CHARING CROSS THEATRE
Charing Cross Theatre’s in-the-round setting allows fun, slightly interactive plays to truly shine. This is exactly the case with this year’s rendition of “Zorro”. The talented cast of actors/musicians serenaded Gypsy King’s classics to a charmed audience while performing real sword fights and stunts. It’s a simple story, but told with so much heart and energy – and most importantly, joy. In my notes from the show, I highlighted: “These guys are having so much fun on stage!” – and that’s not something you see every day. They sadly had just a short run in London this year, but they surely made the most of it!
STARCROSSED AT WILTON’S MUSIC HALL
While there are brilliant adaptations of Romeo and Juliet, I have never seen any as extraordinary as Starcrossed. Rachel Garnet’s masterpiece fixes the problem of the lack of queer representation. For too long, renowned love stories have been about one kind of love: heterosexual, heteronormative love. The ingenuity of Starcrossed is that instead of modernising the classic story, Garnet keeps to the original plot, telling a queer love story in the same romantic, Shakespearean way straight people take for granted. My perception of Romeo and Juliet is forever changed, and I am very grateful for it. I’ve read a few reviews of Starcrossed, and some have similar complaints: cliché metaphors, far-fetched love between Tybalt and Mercutio, and too on-the-nose comments on closeting queer love. Here is my response to these criticisms. The way Garnet adapts Shakespeare’s metaphors for Romeo and Juliet to Tybalt and Mercutio and creates new ones is exactly the point of Starcrossed – queer people now get cliché, cheesy, lovely metaphors that straight people have always had, while also getting their own. (Hearing queer love being expressed through iambic pentameter was a remarkable experience – what I would give for a play text!) Tybalt and Mercutio did fall in love rather quickly and irrevocably, but it’s Shakespeare for crying out loud. At least they had a few deep conversations about family, duty, God, and love and met a few times before being intimate. That’s more than we can say for Romeo and Juliet’s ‘pure’ love. Garnet has filled Romeo and Juliet’s plot holes and given these characters the depth they deserve. Have you ever wondered why Tybalt is always so angry? Have you pondered the reason for Mercutio’s negative outlook on love? Why did they actually duel that fateful day? Finally, I’m sorry, but if you’re falling in love and not questioning the societal expectations, norms, and myths surrounding love, then what is the point? Unfortunately, queer love has the underlying baggage of it being unaccepted and persecuted, and to ignore this would make the play unrealistic. Starcrossed, dare I say, surpasses Romeo and Juliet with heart, passion, and wit and is beyond worthy of being performed at the Globe.
READ JILL’S REVIEW IN FULL HERE
COCK AT AMBASSADORS THEATRE
This show garnered some negative publicity due to the astronomical prices they were charging towards the end of their run – £400 is a crazy amount of money! Cock centres around John (played by Jonathan Bailey) who is in a long term relationship with M (Joel Harper-Jackson). M is slightly older than John, and their relationship appears to be unequal and fraught. John meets a woman and falls for her, causing an inner crisis for him regarding his sexuality- which prior to this he regarded himself as gay. Bailey is exceptional as John, I definitely see an Olivier Nom in his future. Cock is thought-provoking and hilarious, and is one of the best plays I have seen this year so far.
READ AMY’S REVIEW IN FULL HERE
PRIMA FACIE AT HAROLD PINTER THEATRE
Jodie Comer made her West End debut in Prima Facie, a one woman show. Tessa is a criminal defence barrister that specialises in defending men accused of sexual assault. The tables turn however when she herself is raped and finds herself on the witness stand, being interrogated by a defence barrister. Comer’s ending monologue is one of the best I’ve ever witnessed. It’s raw and honest and makes many solid points. It’s a testament to Miller’s writing abilities but also Comer’s delivery which is impassioned and emotive. This play had a massive effect on me, and if you didn’t get a chance to see the show in the West End – you can catch it next month in cinemas!
READ AMY’S REVIEW IN FULL HERE
FOR BLACK BOYS WHO HAVE CONSIDERED SUICIDE WHEN THE HUE GETS TOO HEAVY AT ROYAL COURT THEATRE
Powerful. Emotional. Authentic. Eye opening. These are just some of the words I would use to describe Ryan Calais Cameron’s play, For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy. The play explores the meaning of Black masculinity through the experiences of 6 Black boys in therapy. The storytelling was truly beautiful; each character had their own personal storyline, covering several themes such as racial stereotypes, consent, family dynamics, violence and more. Performed with so much depth, emotion and rhythmic choreography, the cast created a joyous atmosphere and made the show memorable. It was so relevant, and I appreciated all the Black British cultural references incorporated in the play, which resulted in collective laughter from the audience. Despite the topic being heavy and at times, heart-wrenching, it was important. The play was an important and significant way to highlight the mental health crisis men, and specifically black men, face.
CYRANO DE BERGERAC AT HAROLD PINTER THEATRE
went into Cyrano de Bergerac knowing nothing about the storyline. So, when it began with beatboxing and verse drama, I was surprised! The clever lines and rhymes had me engaged for all two and a half hours of this romance-comedy play. Cyrano follows a talented poet who is secretly in love with a woman, however his appearance has held him back and halted his confidence. Cyrano uses the handsome and naïve Christian to write romantic letters for the love interest, Roxanne, to woo her. I was in awe of the script and how well the cast performed. Cyrano, played by James McAvoy, performed a captivating monologue to Roxanne, that I absolutely adored! It was intense, beautiful, and hilarious all at the same time. I also loved the modernisation of this classical play directed by Jamie Lloyd and written in 1897 by Edmond Rostand. The physically diverse characters, the ‘rap battles’, the casual tracksuit-and-trainers’ attire, all reflected a 21st century society. The cast had high energy, smooth flow, quick wit and all presented the characters in their own unique way.
READ AMY’S REVIEW IN FULL HERE
JORDAN LUKE GAGE AS CLYDE BARROW
Bonnie and Clyde was one of my favourite musicals of the year – and Jordan Luke Gage is around 90% of the reason why. I saw him as Romeo in & Juliet, and adored him then, playing the delightfully camp and loveable character. As Clyde he is just as charismatic, but has a dangerous edge. Gage’s vocals are phenomenal throughout the show – I would like a cast recording now please, so I can relive Raise A Little Hell again and again. He does so many different things with his voice throughout the show, it is mind-blowing that he does this 7 shows a week! I’m so excited to see what Gage does next – but I also hope this incredible show has a future life too!
THE CAST OF OPERATION MINCEMEAT
Yes, the entire cast – all 5 of them – Claire-Marie Hall as JEAN LESLIE, Natasha Hodgson as EWEN MONTAGU, Jak Malone as HESTER LEGGETT, Zoe Roberts as JOHNNY BEVAN and Sean Carey who is currently playing CHARLES CHOLMONDELEY. Again, this show is a theatrical highlight of 2022, and the cast are what make this show exceptional. They are all incredible comedians and have an incredible amount of energy, they’re all onstage for most of the run time playing numerous characters throughout. Just go and see it already!
BENJAMIN YATES AS TOMMY DEVITO
Jersey Boys may be the show that surprised me the most this year I did not expect to love it as much as I did! But Benjamin Yates is most of that reason. He’s pitch perfect and never misses a beat! He brings so much charisma and charm to the role and my eyes were on him whenever he was onstage.
NATALIE MCQUEEN AS BLANCHE BARROW
McQueen gives a masterclass performance within the role of Blanche. Her use of physical comedy and her comedic timing is impeccable. You’re Going Back to Jail is a highlight of the show!
EMILY BENJAMIN AS SALLY BOWLES
Cabaret is the best show I have ever seen; I left it completely speechless. One aspect of the show that contributed to my speechlessness was Emily Benjamin’s performance as Sally Bowles. During the performance, I vaguely remembered Amy telling me there was a swing performing that night, but I didn’t remember who it was. When I asked her about it during the interval, and she told me it was Sally, I was gobsmacked. Benjamin was captivating in the iconic role. Her performance of ‘Cabaret’ was breath-taking; the amount of emotion she conveyed in that one song left my heart aching for Sally. It was an absolute joy to see her perform it again at West End Live – a well-deserved honour.
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