The monkey thought long and hard about publishing this blog entry – then realised that it refused to let a virus stop it. So, as it does every year, it presents its simple run-down of the best and worst it saw in 2020. Subjective as ever and using its unique US TV grading system, the list runs as follows:
Out Of This World
Teenage Dick (Donmar Warehouse)
Freaky Friday (The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation Theatre)
Les Misérables (Sondheim Theatre) (SO – standing ovation)
Madonna, Madame X Tour (London Palladium) (SO)
Leopoldstadt (Wyndham’s Theatre)
Far Away (Donmar Warehouse)
Six The Musical (Arts Theatre) (SO)
The Wonder Years
Snowflake (Kiln Theatre)
Cyrano de Bergerac (Playhouse Theatre)
Musik (Leicester Square Theatre)
Upstart Crow (Gielgud Theatre)
The Boyfriend (Menier Chocolate Factory)
Cabaret (New Wimbledon Theatre)
A Number (Bridge Theatre)
Pretty Woman (Piccadilly Theatre)
Love, Love, Love (Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith)
Pantoland (London Palladium)
Fairview (Young Vic Theatre)
Magic Goes Wrong (Vaudeville Theatre)
Kunene and the King (Ambassadors Theatre)
The Prince of Egypt (Dominion Theatre)
Death of England (Dorfman Theatre)
Be More Chill (The Other Palace Theatre)
The Last Five Years (Southwark Playhouse)
Saved By The Bell
Shoe Lady (Royal Court Theatre Downstairs)
Endgame / Rough For Theatre II (Old Vic Theatre)
From the above list, it especially picks out “Leopoldstadt” as easily the best new play it saw. In musicals, “Six” was a million-volt hit. The new version of “Les Misérables” is also terrific, and there’s a special nod to the ArtsEd Class of 2020 for “Freaky Friday.” That so many of them found work later in the year even when jobs were hard to come by says much for the quality of the graduates – and there is no doubt the rest will also be gainfully employed as roles become available.
Of the most mind-blowing events, though, Madonna’s “Madame X Tour” at the London Palladium has to be the memory that kept the monkey going through the darkest months. Not a concert, musical, choral, audio-visual show nor anything it has ever seen before, “mega-star” is no longer sufficient.
Which brings us on to the very abridged “Goodmonkey Awards” for 2020. Usually a stand-alone event held wherever a window has been left open in the West End, this time it is a strictly online-only affair.
In this case, the mega stars are beyond that. The main award going to every single person who did something in order to keep the theatres going in these troubled times.
Singled out for diamond mentions are among others Nica Burns and Max Weitzenhoffer of Nimax Theatres, Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr's London Theatre Company at the Bridge Theatre, Timothy Sheader, William Village and Andy Locke at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, Kenny Wax, Michael Rose, Michael Harrison and Andrew Lloyd Webber, plus all the other venue owners and producers who tried so hard and accepted so many knockbacks to get a show – big, small, fringe or mainstream - on for an audience. The same mention too for all who created streamed content, bringing theatre to an even wider audience than usual.
Gold mentions go to every single person who attended one of these shows or decided to keep existing tickets and accept new dates or credit notes or even donate the money to the theatre. There is coal dust for the few who thought bullying and intimidation were the way to behave towards box office staff about to lose their jobs, but that is another matter.
In lighter moments, with just under three months of theatregoing, there was just time for three more amusing awards.
Benjamin’s Button to: the Playhouse Theatre’s “Cyrano de Bergerac” programme proclaiming that “The historical Cyrano de Bergerac lived from 1691 to 1655.”
The role of Gravedigger in “Hamlet” (for covering a corpse brilliantly) to: Steve Speirs. During his ‘front cloth’ monologue in “Upstart Crow,” a loud snigger from a member of the audience caught him off-guard. His quick thinking in offering the person the script while regaining sobriety was skilful and hilarious.
Professor Brainstawm Marketing Machine to: the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith for getting their own box office phone number wrong on their e-tickets. Concurrently, to the Dominion Theatre Tottenham Court Road for saying they will charge for paper “replaceaments” (sic) on their e-tickets. Spelling aside, if you lost the ticket, how would you know? A little amusement in every pocket.
Let’s hope the 2021 awards will include many more amazing events seen live in theatres – where they should be, with an appreciative crowd watching in wonder.