Nicky’s Showbiz Diary: Critiquing a show you don’t like is a tough job

It’s always difficult to critique a show you know you don’t like. After I’ve seen a couple of versions of something and have been unimpressed by it, I then try my best to avoid future presentations.

For example, I’ve managed to completely sidestep the new West End production of Annie – starring Miranda Hart – and with the announcement this week that Craig Revel Horwood is to take over the role of Miss Hannigan; I will continue to actively avoid the Piccadilly Theatre until something more interesting comes along. It’s not that I don’t like Craig – he is a really lovely person – but having seen Annie six times within the last two years and previously witnessed his portrayal in the touring production, I know I can manage without another viewing.

There are lots of other shows too, which I would quite happily never see again like South Pacific (in my opinion, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s worse show), 42nd Street (rubbish story and a dull score) and The Sound of Music (or the Sound of Mucus as I call it). It’s not that it’s a bad musical, but I’ve just seen it far too many times and have started to hope that a curtain call is on Maria’s list of ‘favourite things’.

There are also highly acclaimed shows that I just don’t get, like Ragtime, Godspell and Into the Woods, and loads of plays, which – with my limited intellect – I struggle to understand. Some are just far too worthy for this working class girl and I therefore find them extremely difficult to write about.

There are occasionally things that surprise me however, like last year’s Regent Park Open Air Theatre production of Jesus Christ Superstar. After being part of a detestable amateur production, I despised the classic rock opera, but Tim Sheader’s fab adaptation made me see it through fresh eyes.

I also had my mind changed by Evita last week. I have previously called the musical ‘excreta’ – such was my loathing of it – but after seeing Emma Hatton in the leading role at the Phoenix Theatre I found myself willing to give the story another go.

I am yet to watch any Gilbert and Sullivan operetta however without feeling the need to cry in desperation and don’t get me started on village pantomimes (I endure an average of 15 each season!).

Gosh, it sounds like I don’t like anything doesn’t it? There are lot and lots of shows I love – which is why I’m so lucky to do what I do – and I also get to discover new things, which I wouldn’t ordinarily choose.

Anyway, I had another fab evening at Alice’s Adventures Underground last week (a real recommendation); I finally watched Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour (very good) and enjoyed Evita (a bit!). I also interviewed former Wicked star Idriss Kargbo, who is working on one of my real favourites, Five Guys Named Moe – which will open at the new popup theatre at Marble Arch next month – and I went to the launch of the new season at the New Wimbledon Theatre and had a chat with Kara Lily Hayworth, who will play Cilla Black in the new stage show about the singer’s life.

This week I’m off to interview Carley Stenson – who is currently playing Fantine in Les Misérables (love it!) – at the Queen’s Theatre and then I’m heading down to Underbelly Festival to see Velma Celli’s Iconic: A Brief History of Drag, with special guests Kerry Ellis and Jessie Wallace. I’m then talking to RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Jinkx Monsoon, before chatting to Emma Hatton about her illustrious career and her sensational performance in Evita.

You can follow me on Twitter for regular updates @NickySweetland

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Fab four reunited for Jesus Christ Superstar at Regent’s Park

Tyrone Huntley, Declan Bennett, David Thaxton and Peter Caulfield will be reunited this summer when they reprise their roles in the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre production of Jesus Christ Superstar.

With direction by Timothy Sheader, design by Tom Scutt, choreography by Drew McOnie, musical supervision by Tom Deering, lighting design by Lee Curran and sound design by Nick Lister for Autograph, Jesus Christ Superstar was a sell-out in 2016, and went on to win the Evening Standard Award for Best Musical and the Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival. It also received a further five Olivier Award nominations, for Best Theatre Choreography, Best Lighting, Best Sound, Outstanding Achievement in Music and Best Actor in a Musical (for Tyrone Huntley).

Declan Bennett was the original lead in the London cast of Once (Phoenix), and has also appeared in Boy George’s musical Taboo (Venue Theatre), RENT (US tour and Broadway), American Idiot (Broadway) as well as on BBC’s EastEnders as Charlie Cotton. As a solo singer-songwriter, his album Record:BREAKUP was released as a live acoustic version in 2013. He achieved five UK Top 20 singles and a UK Top 20 album with Brit Award nominated band Point Break.

Tyrone Huntley won the Evening Standard Emerging Talent Award for his performance as Judas in 2016, as well as an Olivier Award nomination for Best Actor in a Musical. He previously appeared in the Open Air Theatre production of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, Memphis (Shaftesbury), Hairspray (Curve), The Book of Mormon (Prince of Wales) and most recently as C.C.White in Dreamgirls (Savoy).

David Thaxton won the Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical for Passion (Donmar) and has appeared as both Enjolras and Javert in Les Misérables (Queens), Raoul in Love Never Dies (Adelphi), Maximillian in Candida (Menier) and Only The Brave (Wales Millennium Centre). He is a founder member of the band Divisions.

Peter Caulfield recently appeared in Doctor Who, and as Ariel in The Tempest (Southwark Playhouse). He has also appeared in One Man, Two Guvnors (National and Theatre Royal Haymarket), Into the Woods (Royal Opera House), Enron (Chichester and Noel Coward) and, on television, Cucumber (Channel 4) and Banana (E4).

The theatre has also added additional dates, with Jesus Christ Superstar now playing 11 August to 23 September 2017.

The 2017 Open Air Theatre season opens with On The Town, (19 May – 01 Jul) directed and choreographed by Drew McOnie. The cast includes Danny Mac, Fred Haig, Samuel Edwards (replacing Jeremy Taylor who has withdrawn due to injury), Siena Kelly, Lizzy Connolly, Miriam-Teak Lee, Naoko Mori, Mark Heenehan, Rodney Earl Clarke and Maggie Steed.

The season continues with Dickens Uncovered, celebrating the greatest storyteller of London life, Charles Dickens: Artistic Director Timothy Sheader directs A Tale of Two Cities (7 July – 5 August), a new play by Matthew Dunster adapted from the original Dickens novel and, developing their programme of work made especially for families, Caroline Byrne directs Oliver Twist created for everyone aged six and over adapted by Anya Reiss (17 July – 5 August).