BWW Review & Exclusive: 'Curtain Call' Takes Readers Backstage at London's Best Theatre with Glorious Photos, Interviews

For theatre-lovers, there is a familiar, magic electricity we feel when stepping inside a theater. That excitement and anticipation builds until the moment when the house lights go down and the play or musical begins, and we can settle into the world that the creators have built for us. While that electricity often gives way to the specific emotions of the particular play, what few audience members ever consider is that this electricity doesn't truly disappear; instead, that kinetic energy that the audience has brought into the theater is simply transferred from the front to the back of the house.

In the new, epic book "Curtain Call: A Year Backstage in London Theatre," photographer Matt Humphrey and actor/director John Schwab take audiences behind the scenes of 60 of London's best shows in 2015, and uniquely and elegantly capture the electricity that makes live theatre so special.

From the 2015 Olivier Awards to the original runs of current Tony-nominees KING CHARLES III and A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE to shows making their way to Broadway in the coming season, like CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY and PHOTOGRAPH 51, to shows led by A-listers Benedict Cumberbatch (HAMLET), Chiwetel Ejiofor (EVERYMAN), John Goodman (AMERICAN BUFFALO), Nicole Kidman (PHOTOGRAH 51), and James McAvoy (THE RULING CLASS), "Curtain Call" is a one-of-a-kind coffee table book that is a must-have for any theatre-lover, regardless of on which side of the Atlantic you live.

The book allows theatrical audiences the rare opportunity to witness what happens on the other side of the curtain, which traditionally serves as a dividing line between "our" space and "their" space. Humphrey and Schwab have been granted unbelievable access as they provide intimate portraits of stars in their dressing rooms, casts during warmups, and actors waiting to make their entrances. Intermixed with the book's glorious images are quotes from cast members taken during interviews done backstage, often while the show was going on. On the book's website, Humphrey and Schwab have made some of that incredible audio available.

As sacrilegious as it might sound to theatre fans stateside, "Curtain Call" rivals the grandeur, beauty, and insight provided in Broadway's current most popular tome, "Hamilton: The Revolution." While they are very different books, with starkly differing scopes and perspectives, they both succeed in providing readers a multi-faceted understanding and appreciation for their subjects.

Even though I didn't see a single one of the productions featured in the book, between the photographs, the actors' honest comments, and succinct descriptions of the shows, "Curtain Call" gave me an almost instantaneous affection for each production. I felt invested in the story that unfolded on the following pages, often because it felt like I was being welcomed into a space that is so often restricted.

Since this is a world that few fans are ever personally afforded the opportunity to see, Humphrey's photographs feel slightly voyeuristic; as if we, as readers, are intruding on a private, time-honored ritual as actors and crew prepare to tell their tale. However, the more you explore this magnificent book, the more you realize that these actors so love what they are doing that they want nothing more than to share it with others.

"Curtain Call's" ability to afford theatre fans with otherwise unseen glimpses behind the scenes of these major productions was, at times, breathtaking. With over 370 pages of brilliant color and black and white photographs, the book provides countless hours of material to digest and to return to again and again, marveling at its virtuosic scope and beauty.

Depending on where you live, "Curtain Call: A Year Backstage in London Theatre" is available via their website and

Exclusive BroadwayWorld Images Courtesy of Matt Humphrey/Curtain Call:

Damian Lewis, AMERICAN BUFFALO, Wyndham's Theatre

Mark Strong, A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE, Wyndham's Theatre

Mark Strong, A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE, Wyndham's Theatre


Chiwetel Ejiofor, EVERYMAN, National Theatre

Imelda Staunton, GYPSY, Savoy Theatre

David Morrissey, HANGMEN, Royal Court

Gemma Chan, THE HOMECOMING, Trafalgar Studios

Tim Pigott-Smith, KING CHARLES III, Wyndham's Theatre

KING CHARLES III, Wyndham's Theatre

Kristin Scott Thomas (center), THE AUDIENCE, Apollo Theatre

James McAvoy, THE RULING CLASS, Trafalgar Studios 1

What production highlighted in the book are you most excited to see photographs from? Let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter @BWWMatt.

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From This Author Matt Tamanini

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