Not once, but twice this year will theatregoers have the chance to witness one of the finest actors ever to tread the boards.
Imelda Staunton will be starring in the revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf at London’s Harold Pinter Theatre. Later on, she will be at the National in a revival of Sondheim’s Follies.
On stage she is known for her performances in hit musicals, notably Into the Woods, Sweeney Toddand most recently Gypsy. So what will audiences expect when seeing her in a straight play. Will they be missing out on something?
Having seen her in a straight play, Hampstead Theatre’s Good People, back in 2014, it is safe to say that audiences will be more than satisfied. In both musicals and plays, Staunton acts with every fibre of her being, drawing on great energy and putting it into everything she does. She is a consummate actor, able to portray a vast spectrum of emotions and carry the audience along with her. She is one of these actors that when you know they are in something, you know it is going to be good. In fact, in Staunton’s case, you know it is going to be brilliant.
Her last appearance on the London stage was as Mama Rose in the Chichester revival of Gypsy. The part called for a strong woman, able to hold her own and command the stage but at the same time add a layer of fragility and desperation to the character. Beg or borrow a copy of the soundtrack or the DVD of the production and see for yourself. It will give you a flavour of what to expect. A real tour de force.
Please, do not take my word for it. I implore you to go and see for yourself. You will not be disappointed.
More and more, shows are being sold on who is in them and not what the show is. While this is useful to producers who wish to get bums on seats and recover their investment, it often leads to some ugly behaviour among theatregoers.
I remember when I went to see Cabaret at the Savoy, Will Young was playing the role of Emcee but on the night I went along, he was indisposed due to illness. Many people were clamouring at the box office to get their ticket exchanged for a different performance but worse was when the house lights went down. When the announcement came that the role was to be played by the understudy and Young was not to appear, there was a dissatisfied, disgusted groan from some audience members. Fortunately, those who had come to see the show and not the ‘star’ applauded the understudy and he was outstanding in the role.
Much press has been given to the understudy role in the past year with high profile cast illnesses including Glenn Close, Sheridan Smith and Amber Riley. While, if you have booked a show to see a certain celebrity I can see you would be frustrated if you had paid the inflated ticket prices which leads to the question, are the star billings always worth it?
If having a star name means you have to put up ticket prices and face the possibility of out pricing certain audience members, producers need to question why they are in the business at all. Yes, it is a business and you have to make money to survive but that shouldn’t be at the cost of theatre. The show should come first.
So I don’t mind if the name above the title on the poster is not in the show if they are poorly, they are human after all. The understudy has that job because they are just as able to undertake that role and, so long as the show is the same and quality maintained, then I am happy.
Where do you stand on the debate?
This is your very first post. Click the Edit link to modify or delete it, or start a new post. If you like, use this post to tell readers why you started this blog and what you plan to do with it.