Since the dreaded lockdown was called on the 16th of March this year - Theatre has unfortunately plunged into a lost pit of which it is going to struggle to clamber out. New creatives have been pushed further and further back into the recesses of peoples mind, and their moment of fame stricken from them by Covid-19. Needless to say we’ll all be doing out utmost to kick start the arts and creative industries that have struggled throughout this pandemic.
Other than hard going theatre junkies like myself who have kept up to date with the National Theatre releases, Musical Theatre recordings and Disney+ releasing Hamilton the musical, which has now been viewed by me over 50 times! It has been hard for the general public to access some of the great and overwhelming theatre moments - especially with the rise of Netflix, Apple TV and Amazon Prime. DigitalTheatre.com rarely gets a look in these days at £9.99 for a mostly classical selection!
I thought I would use this post to share my Top 5 most memorable moments of theatre so far - and why I hold them close to my heart. I’m sure this list would go some way to explaining how Elemental Theatre Company come up with some of it’s zany ideas, and simply how whimsical and exciting theatre can be!
There is a clear reason why Wicked is one of the all time greatest modern musicals. Indina Menzel will always be worshiped for her incredible incarnation of the mammoth role of Elphaba. Every ‘Musical Theatre Girl’ has sung their heart out to the unimaginably brilliant Defying Gravity. This song is a belter, both vocally and metaphorically. There is no doubt that this song is composer Stephen Schwartz’s Mona Lisa, his Fur Elise, his Statue of David - It truly is a work of art!
Now as much as I enjoyed the musical immensely, I won’t sell you the lie that Wicked is my favourite musical, or sadly even in my top 10. However I have never felt the spine tingle, the goose bumps, every single follicle of hair on my entire body stand to attention before or since. When the Wonderful Laura Pick (Playing Elphaba in Londons Apollo Victoria Theatre) belts the line “Bring me down - Ahh” and nails the unbelievably high F5 note, whilst suspended in the air in a harness - every jaw in the house dropped to the floor, every eye in the room was drawn to the green goddess and boy o’boy did she deserve the applause and mid show standing ovation that she received. Truly, it is incomparable and no description will ever do it justice.
Following my last favourite moment - this is another prominent point of theatre which has rendered me speechless (which, for people who know me, is rare!) I first went to see Slava’s Snow Show with my school drama teacher and some fellow pupils, 2 of which are in ETC, there’s no surprise! What an immersive show! This sublime Russian clowning troupe, headed and created by the unmatched Slava Polunin, they didn’t miss a beat, didn’t miss a trick, didn’t spoil a moment of their time on stage. I had booked to see this show and taking my partner, mother and best friend as I still cannot explain how incredible this show made me feel, and how I still remember it vividly to this day. Alas, it is another moment of rejoicing ravaged by the snake that is coronavirus. Picture the scene. The pinnacle moment in Carmina Burana’s O Fortuna played at an unbearably loud volume; a monuments block of ‘Audience Blinding’ lights on full power pointed directly in your eyes; a very powerful fan blowing confetti at your face at a frankly cruel speed; whilst an old man dressed as a bright yellow clown fights with a large satin blanket. Surely I’ve sold it to you? It is so uncomfortable and impossible to sit through, you physically try to shield your eyes, mouth, ears and entire face from the torment, but never before have I been so overwhelmed by my senses in a stage show before. This, I will never forget, nor do I ever want to. There is also a touching moment in the show where a clown has a matriarchal moment with a coat. I won’t spoil that bit, but I was beautiful.
A bit of a twist in the tale, this next one is not necessarily a moment any show can compete with to beat, or be better than. It is however a bit of a ‘my first time’ moment, which was really nice. Avenue Q is without doubt the show I have seen the most times, by different players and performers both professional and amateur. None will ever compete with my first experience at the Theatre Royal Nottingham many years ago. I, like many, had a ticket to see it based on how hilarious the songs I had heard were: ‘Everyone’s a little bit racist’, ‘If you were gay’ and ‘The Internet is good for porn’ to name but a few. What I wasn’t expecting, when I sat down to this version of Jim Henson’s Muppets on drugs, was to cry. That’s right, I cried. During the song ‘Fantasies Come True’ sang by Rod to his housemate Nicky. Rod confesses his undying love for his buddy, and believes the love to be reciprocated and it is beautifully sweet. For him to wake up at the end of the ballad and realise it was all a dream. This was actually heart breaking, I was already overwhelmed that a musical containing the characters ‘Lucy the Slut’ and ‘Ms Thistletwat’ could be in any way romantic, but for it to also contain such heart ache… ouch baby, very ouch. It is no wonder that writer Robert Lopez has gone on to further successes co-writing Book of Mormon and Let It Go… Yes, the man who wrote the line “grab your dick and double click” also wrote every 5 year old girls favourite song.
Everyone has that moment of theatre that is just perfection. A small snippet of the show where you could watch it again and again and again. For me that was during the RSC’s production of King Lear, staring Antony Sher. The show was remarkable - The set was unique, yet brilliant; Poor Tom/Edgar were played phenomenally by Oliver Johnstone; The soundscape, costume and direction all together made it one of my favourite Shakespeare performances. The moment in question lies when King Lear has finally lost the plot and is on a strange voyage with his companion Gloucester played by the wonderful David Troughton. By this point Gloucester has had his eyes gouged out and is barely gripping on to life as it is, and with Lear’s mental torment, they sit and they have the most bizarre of conversations. Did I understand it? Bits - it’s Shakespeare. Did I love it? Undoubtably. This moment will live with me, as it reminds me of two old men whose minds are going but still just about there, meeting at the pub and having a good ol’ natter. It was real. That’s one thing people forget when performing Shakespeare - you don’t have to perform Shakespeare, it is real life drama. It’s just written in a slightly archaic verse. Seeing this was a turning point for my relationship with Shakespeare.
Finally, a wonderful moment for me; I have always loved the musical Funny Girl. From the Barbra Streisand film, to Glee’s tribute with Leah Michelle, to the last revival staring everyone’s favourite Sheridan Smith. The story of Fanny Brice, America’s comedy sweet heart. The musical itself is very funny and well written but team that with the comic timing of Sheridan Smith and you have yourself a hit Musical. I was so glad to see it on tour, I was blown away and spent the whole show on tenter hooks. I knew most of the script and all of the songs and was waiting the whole show for something to be less than perfect and I couldn’t fault it one bit. Not to mention the shoes of Omar Sharif’s Nicky Arnstein being filled by Pop Idol’s 2002 third place Darius Campbell (To boast I have all of his singles and albums and had a poster of him on my wall as a 12 year old is a bit odd. Yet even a fan like me thought his acting would be sub-par… I was wrong) So my final ‘Theatre moment’ really is, the whole of the musical Funny Girl. But Rain On My Parade will always be a dominant stitch in this musical.
There are a few other moments that didn’t quite make the mark, mostly because I have yet to see these moments in person or they are as important as something already on the list for a very similar reason. They are: She Used To Be Mine Alike the Defying Gravity moment in Wicked, this is Jenna unloading everything and when I saw the West End version of this, the stage became bare during this song. It was actress, music and her incredible voice. It captivated me and I was gripped to every second of that song. Roses Turn I regret so much that I have never had the chance to see Gypsy performed live. This, for me, is Sondheim at his best. The Musical is incredible from start to finish with some era defining songs coming from this soundtrack. But for me seeing Bette Midler’s film performance of roses turn was amazing, then seeing Patti Lupone on Youtube, or Bernadette Peters at the Tony Awards, there’s never been a bad Rose. Dear Evan Hansen One line - took my breath. “Did you fall, or did you let go”. But the musical itself, wow. A real tear jerker from the word go.
Comedy About A Bank Robbery There is a whole scene where you as the audience view it from a birds-eye-view. The staging is amazing, this must have been so fun to rehearse and perform every night. It’s not a defining moment of theatre, but golly gosh Mr Warbucks, it sure was nice.