Imelda Staunton is back on stage

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.

Star Casting Vs. Understudy

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?

Stepping Out Review

“Audiences will not be disappointed”

Tits and teeth is the name of the game at the Vaudeville Theatre. Put on your best smile and face front. That is the lesson given to Mavis’s hapless tap class and it becomes clear that the characters adopt this in their lives, using the class as a means of escape.

Richard Harris’s Stepping Out is back in the West End.  A comedy set around a group of people brought together each week at their tap class. From all walks of life, they are not a bunch you would naturally group together, and it is that mix of characters that makes it such an enjoyable play. They are well constructed, and in this instance well played, to a degree where the audience cares about their plight and when their stories are revealed, we feel for the characters.

Set in a dingy church hall in 1983, the play sees the hapless tappers using the tap class to muddle through life, but all is disturbed when the chance to perform at a charity gala arises. Arguments and drama arise due to the tensions of putting themselves under the spotlight, a group of people whom in their private life, shy away from such attention.

The production is well executed and Maria Friedman has done a great job in directing the piece, drawing out the comedy and the heart in the story. Top billing has gone to Amanda Holden, a known face on television and sure to pull in the crowds.  However, the show’s star is the ensemble who work together with a great dynamic to deliver lines and business with excellent comic timing and style. Also of note is Anna Jane Casey who has stepped in (pun intended) to the role of Mavis, the class leader at short notice. The role was originally to be played by Tamzin Outhwaite who has, unfortunately, had to withdraw due to an injury.

A fun, light-hearted show, audiences will not be disappointed and will find themselves rooting for the characters as they take on their big tap number.