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Theatremonkey Looks Back at 2022

First Entry of the new year, and it’s a simple run-down and summary of the best and worst it saw in 2022. Subjective as ever, and using as always the famous 1990s Television Show ratings system, the past year’s list of 113 runs as follows:

Out Of This World
Bring It On (Queen Elizabeth Hall) (SO – Standing Ovation)
Bat Out Of Hell (New Wimbledon Theatre) (SO)
Cabaret (Kit Kat Club, Playhouse Theatre) (SO)
Disney’s Frozen (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane)
Small Island (Olivier Theatre) (SO)
Champions of Magic (Apollo Hammersmith)
Bonnie & Clyde (Arts Theatre)
Blondie: Against The Odds Tour (O2 Arena)
Jerusalem (Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue) (SO)
Stephen Sondheim’s Old Friends, A Celebration (Sondheim Theatre) (5SOs!)
Six The Musical Live At Hampton Court Palace (Hampton Court Palace) (SO)
'I Remember It Well' Judi Dench in Conversation with Gyles
Brandreth (Gielgud Theatre) (SO)
Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (Royal Albert Hall) (SO)
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (London Palladium)
the southbury child (Bridge Theatre) (SO)
Sondheim (Cadogan Hall)
South Pacific (Sadler’s Wells Theatre) (SO)
All Of Us (Dorfman Theatre)
John Owen-Jones Music of the Night Tour (Her Majesty’s Theatre) (SO)
Hamilton (Victoria Palace Theatre)
From Here To Eternity The Musical (Charing Cross Theatre) (SO)
Tammy Faye A New Musical (Almeida Theatre) (SO)
It’s A Wonderful Life (London Coliseum) (SO)
A Christmas Carol (Old Vic Theatre)
Jack and the Beanstalk (London Palladium)
Derren Brown: Showman (Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue)
Orlando (Garrick Theatre)
Mother Goose (Duke of York’s Theatre) (SO)

The Wonder Years
Bonnie & Clyde The Concert (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane)
Operation Mincemeat (Southwark Playhouse)
Habeas Corpus (Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre)
Purple Snowflakes and Titty Wanks (Royal Court Theatre Upstairs)
Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage (Dominion Theatre)
Get Up, Stand Up (Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue)
Saturday Night Fever (Peacock Theatre)
Glamonatrix (London Palladium)
To Kill A Mockingbird (Gielgud Theatre)
Henry V (Donmar Warehouse)
Maria Friedman and Friends, Legacy (Menier Chocolate Factory)
School of Rock (New Wimbledon Theatre)
Straight Line Crazy (Bridge Theatre)
The Handmaid’s Tale (London Coliseum)
Prima Facie (Harold Pinter Theatre)
Marys Seacole (Donmar Warehouse)
Middle (Dorfman Theatre)
West End Does Hollywood (Cadogan Hall)
The Corn Is Green (Lyttelton Theatre)
My Fair Lady (London Coliseum)
Legally Blonde (Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park)
The House of Shades (Almeida Theatre)
The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (Richmond Theatre)
101 Dalmatians (Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park)
Chess The Musical In Concert (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane)
Much Ado About Nothing (Lyttelton Theatre)
Kinky Boots The Musical In Concert (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane)
Ehrlich Brothers: Dream & Fly Tour (OVO Arena, Wembley)
Wonderville Magic & Cabaret (Wonderville, Haymarket)
Sister Act The Musical (Apollo Hammersmith)
The Trials (Donmar Warehouse)
The Secret Garden The Musical In Concert (London Palladium)
The Seagull (Harold Pinter Theatre)
Jews. In Their Own Words. (Royal Court Theatre Downstairs)
David Essex In Concert (London Palladium)
The Boy With Two Hearts (Dorfman Theatre)
The Band’s Visit (Donmar Warehouse)
Marvellous (@SohoPlace Theatre)
Good (Harold Pinter Theatre)
The Crucible (Olivier Theatre)
Pickle (Park Theatre, 90 Auditorium)
Best of Enemies (Noel Coward Theatre)
The Royal Variety Performance 2022 (Royal Albert Hall)
Newsies (Troubadour Theatre, Wembley)
Disney On Ice – Dream Big (O2 Arena)

California Dreams
Spring Awakening (Almeida Theatre)
Force Majeure (Donmar Warehouse)
Camelot In Concert (London Palladium)
The Addams Family – The Musical Comedy (New Wimbledon Theatre)
The Chairs (Almeida Theatre)
Cock (Ambassadors Theatre)
Dr John Cooper Clarke: The I Wanna Be Yours Tour (Apollo Hammersmith)
Anyone Can Whistle (Southwark Playhouse)
Scandaltown (Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith)
Grease The Musical (Dominion Theatre)
Jitney (Old Vic Theatre)
A Doll’s House, Part 2 (Donmar Warehouse)
The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe (Gillian Lynne Theatre)
Footloose (New Wimbledon Theatre)
Treason The Musical In Concert (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane)
The Osmonds A New Musical (New Wimbledon Theatre)
Antigone (Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park)
Eureka Day (Old Vic Theatre)
Blues For An Alabama Sky (Lyttelton Theatre)
The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore (Charing Cross Theatre)
John Gabriel Borkman (Bridge Theatre)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (New Wimbledon Theatre)
One Woman Show (Ambassadors Theatre)
Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Carol (Queen Elizabeth Hall)

Saved By The Bell
Hex (Olivier Theatre)
Our Generation (Dorfman Theatre)
two Palestinians go dogging (Royal Court Theatre Upstairs)
Oklahoma (Young Vic Theatre)
Lift – A Musical (Southwark Playhouse)
Mad House (Ambassadors Theatre)
Jack Absolute Flies Again (Olivier Theatre)
My Neighbour Totoro (Barbican Theatre)
Baghdaddy (Royal Court Theatre Downstairs)
The Sex Party (Menier Chocolate Factory)

Bug Juice
The Human Voice (Harold Pinter Theatre)
The 47th (Old Vic Theatre)
ABBA Voyage (ABBA Arena)

A thankfully “normal” year, shaking off the last vestiges of the turn of decade dumpster fires. Turned out to be a busy and unforgettable one too.

Easily the most unique and memorable “Monkey was actually there” boast has to be its beloved Green Bay Packers playing their first game outside the USA and Canada. We lost, but just to be in the stadium where it happened... er... sorry, digression...

... seriously, theatrically there can be only one possible event above all (and it wasn’t Dita Von Teese, comely though the lady is) ... Of course it was the 3rd May 2022 at the Sondheim Theatre for “Stephen Sondheim’s Old Friends, A Celebration.” Cameron Mackintosh and all who knew and loved Sondheim doing the memory proud. The monkey actually got an autograph from Sir C after the show too, what a gentleman he is, as kind as he is extraordinary.

The good news is that the show was recorded and is currently on BBC I-Player for those who missed it on New Year’s Eve. The ending is sadly truncated, but the rest is a tingle to watch back for those who were there, and a joyous two hours for everyone.

Back in the real world and three plays stood out. In new writing, “the southbury child” (the author didn’t do capital letters) edged by a whisker for its mix of drama, comedy and iconoclasm given the sound staging the Bridge allows. “All Of Us” at the Dorfman scored similarly for presentation values with some outstanding performances. A late arrival, “Orlando” likewise had a stellar central actor and mighty writing and direction making an unfamiliar story to the monkey unforgettable.

Play revivals, even only shortly after the first run, puts “Small Island” at the Olivier right at the top of epic, with “Jerusalem” contrasting for scale of setting and range and Rylance towering over it all.

Brand new musicals were in short supply, but “Tammy Faye” at the Almeida has got to be one of the wittiest satires the monkey has seen in years. “The Book of Mormon with a Brain” as it dubs it, we can only hope for a swift transfer. A nod too for “Operation Mincemeat.” Still requiring a little surgery but already heading for the Fortune Theatre where a month of previews before press night will undoubtedly catapult it to smash-hit status later in the year.

Musical theatre revivals were where it was really at. The overwhelming success of the trio of concerts in August at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane has every musical theatre fan standing by in case it happens again, and most credit card companies trembling likewise.

Actual shows, well, thanks to the kindness of many, the monkey saw the original cast of “Cabaret” at the Playhouse Theatre / Kit Kat Club. That moment in the spotlight, arm raised... burned on its retina forever. Running it very close, “South Pacific” at Sadler’s Wells had the monkey falling in love with a wonderful show and its inspired director and choreographer. “From Here To Eternity,” similar ground, different theatre of war and auditorium (Charing Cross) did the memory of the Boys of ’41 proud and did no good for the monkey’s mascara either. Hopefully cast recordings both audio and video will follow on that one.

Surprise of the year had to be that after 40 or more years of avoiding them, the monkey stuck its nose around the door of the English National Opera at the London Coliseum; just about a month before the so-called Arts Council machine-gunned them in the back. It rather liked “The Handmaid’s Tale” but was enchanted by “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Should the victim of the drive-by assassination recover enough next December, it feels a return will be on the cards. Oh, and it is braving its first “classic” opera, “Carmen” there anyway.

Of course there are also low notes, the lowest being “The Human Voice” at the Harold Pinter Theatre which had even the most receptive audience quietly rebelling with clattering drinks glasses after half an hour, and the testing of programme against wrist being considered by more than a few.

For those wondering, “Saved By The Bell” just above it, meant there was something redeeming – often direction, set design or simply a performance overcoming all which added the extra point to get the show out of the relegation zone. The monkey is giving “Oklahoma” a second try in its new home, and also notes that its own opinion of “My Neighbour Totoro” gives the Japanese Flumps 5 stars for those familiar with it, and in the target group.

The monkey has never reviewed a production, always provided an opinion, trying to balance its own taste with that of the much wider public who may only pick one or two shows a year and are keen to make the most of the precious time.

Every minute this year in a theatre has been just that, being there a privilege still not quite taken for granted. There are already 68 events in the monkey diary this year, and it is filling fast. It hopes next year’s chart will be as “Out Of This World” heavy as the last, and wishes all its readers “happy theatregoing” for 2023.

The Goodmonkey Awards for the 2022 season are coming – as ever recognising the stuff that the Olivier Awards wouldn’t dare to and the What’s On Stage Awards would snigger at... to be presented at any theatre stupid enough to have an unlocked stage door soon... watch this space.

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