Whenever you get the time of year where you have to decide what were the best pieces of theatre you have seen all year, it always makes you feel nostalgic, as there’s part of you that would love to see these productions again.
For me, it’s even more poignant as I'm about to leave WhatsOnStage on 19 December, after 14 years. So, thanks to all of you for reading what we have been posting for all or some of that time. I have really appreciated your support.
Right… so what impressed me last year?
1. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at the Manchester Opera House
This is a perfectly paced musical which harks back to the golden age with enough modern kicks and flicks to keep audiences of all ages entertained. I loved Katherine Kingsley’s scene stealing turn but thought the entire cast were a hoot from start to show stopping finish. A real coup for Manchester and it's coming back!
2. Hope Place at the Liverpool Everyman
My first look at the new Everyman building – wow what a venue and wow, what a play! This is a heartbreaking look at grief, mortality and how the world around us moves at a fast pace, yet certain things remain the same. Eileen O’Brien was perfect as matriarch Maggie in this little gem of a play.
3. BLAM! The Blackpool Grand
Blackpool’s Grand Theatre played host to BLAM! In the Summer and this was a brave move, but a smart one also. Our reviewer loved it and so did I. Imagine an office environment where nothing much happens transformed into a movie set of epic proportions and then some. BLAM! was innovative, frenetic and very very funny.
4. Love Story at The Octagon Theatre, Bolton
The film may be a touch insipid but thanks to Howard Goodall’s wonderful music and the understated performances of Lauren Samuels and Daniel Boys, this is one of the most poignant and gut wrenching musicals of the year. Loved it!
5. Eat Pray Laugh – Barry Humphries at the Manchester Opera House
For many it was all about Dame Edna Everage. For me, Humphries' Sandy Stone is one of the most vivid comic creations, as the gifted comedian invites you in to laugh and you end up crying at the end of his most marvellous monologue. Farewell Barry!
And farewell, WhatsOnStagers in the Northwest. It's been a blast! See you around in the stalls.