Monday 31 December 2018

Highs and Lows of 2018

Here we go again...

Best Opera: A tie between Paul Bunyan (ENO at Wilton's) and a show I didn't review, Vanessa at Glyndebourne.

Worst Opera: From the House of the Dead at the Royal Opera made a bid for this but evades it by virtue of some fine musical performances. No award.

Best Play: Strong competition for this. An honorable mention for Pressure (at the Park Theatre). Runners up - the small scale gem The York Realist at the Donmar, and the magnificent epic Imperium (RSC in the West End). But the palm goes to the simply outstanding The Lehman Trilogy at the National (bizarrely overlooked in other roundups) - not to be missed when it transfers to the West End next year.

Worst Play: Norris's National picked up a bit this year, though the output remains uneven. The miss rate at both the Donmar and the Almeida continued to be too high. Dance Nation at the latter and La Maladie de la Mort and The Prisoner at the Edinburgh Festival all made strong bids,but nothing was irredeemably awful this year.

Over Praised Play of the Year: Nine Night at the National (which I didn't review) and Summer and Smoke at the Almeida both made bids for this but the award goes to The Inheritance. The themes it explored were far more powerfully investigated in Angels in America, outstandingly revived at the National in 2017. I was also struck by the extent to which the almost complete absence of female characters passed without critical comment.

Best Musical: A vintage year including a trip to New York City and a number of recent Broadway hits finally making it to London. Hamilton, Company, Fun Home, 42nd Street with its mesmerising dance routines and Caroline, or Change with the incomparable Sharon D. Clarke all made bids for the crown. Flowers for Mrs Harris at Chichester came very close - Clare Burt's performance in the title role was stunning - the show ought to have transferred. But the award goes to the small-scale, powerfully moving The Band's Visit on Broadway - a show I really hope somebody is going to transfer to London.

Worst Musical: No Award.

Best Concert: Pierre-Laurent Aimard & Tamara Stefanovich’s EIF Queen’s Hall recital of Brahms’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Messiaen’s Visions de l’Amen.

Unclassifiable Event of the Year: The extraordinary Taylor Mac: A 24 Decade History of Popular Music in America - Act 1 from LIFT at the Barbican.

Eleven O'Clock Number of the Year: Waitress which I also caught on Broadway is an uneven show, but the number Used To Be Mine sung in the context of a disintegrating marriage was worth the price of admission alone - unforgettable.

Shows Dr Pollard is STILL Awaiting Revivals Of: The transfer of WNO's production of Prokofiev's War and Peace to Covent Garden is really exciting and takes it off the list (finally). However, there is still no sign of Stephen Oliver's Timon of Athens or 1776 the musical (I had hoped the arrival of Hamilton in the West End might have led someone in London to look into the latter, but no such luck). And I'm going to put Rodgers and Hart's Babes in Arms because it's over 10 years since the last main stage revival at Chichester and this is a joyous show that deserves to be regularly seen.

Shows in 2019 Dr Pollard is Looking Forward To: The return of the NT production of Follies. The belated arrival of Craig Lucas & Adam Guettel's wonderful musical The Light in the Piazza in London (it's another strong year for London transfers with two other acclaimed Broadway shows - Come From Away and Dear Evan Hansen also arriving).  Billy Budd at the Royal Opera (though the production will have to go some to beat the recent runs at Glyndebourne and Opera North). The overdue return of Alex Jennings to the National in September.

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