2012 ROUND-UP: Our Reviewers' Best Of UK Theatre - Part One

2012 ROUND-UP: Our Reviewers' Best Of UK Theatre - Part One
As we move into the last days of December, we asked our team of reviewers to give us their highlights - and lowlights - of 2012. Here are the thoughts of two of our team - Jenny Antill and Becky Brewis!
Jenny Antill: 2012 has given us a great year of theatre. Although there have been many highlights, my personal favourite was 'I Dreamed A Dream' based on the life of Susan Boyle. The production had huge amounts of truth and heart and I was incredibly surprised to enjoy it as much as I did. There is a stigma attached to 'jukebox musicals' but this one definitely escaped the stereotype. It was perfectly cast and the production values were second to none. I hope this musical gets another outing at some point.
I have also been fortunate to review some wonderful CDs over the past six months or so; a combination of original cast recordings and individual artist albums. The one which stood out for me was 'The In-Between' by Laura Tisdall. Although this was very much a concept album, I cannot wait to see what develops for this young talent and think 2013 will be very exciting for her.
Becky Brewis: The two great musicals in London this year were undoubtedly Sweeney Todd and Matilda. Imelda Staunton as Mrs Lovett was a particular highlight, as was the shot put throwing Bertie Carvel as Miss Trunchbull in Tim Minchin's hugely entertaining kids' show.
There has been a lot of new blood in the West End recently, something which will continue as the Royal Court and Ambassador Theatre Group partnership strengthens (it brought us the likes of Posh, Jumpy and Constellations) and the newly-formed Michael Grandage Company is given the run of the Noël Coward Theatre.

Kicking off Grandage's season of five, star-studded productions of classic plays is Peter Nichols's witty and warm Privates on Parade, starring Simon Russell Beale. Just down the road at the Duke of York's Theatre, Nick Payne's Constellations - which won Best Play at the
Evening Standard Awards - is an incredibly tender, expert two-hander, rendered impeccably by Rafe Spall and Sally Hawkins.
In terms of other new writing, I loved Joel Horwood's very funny and deeply moving I [Heart] Peterborough, which I saw up in Edinburgh before it transferred to the Soho Theatre (which, incidentally, has been programming some excellent new work this year, the latest being Jack Thorne's Mydidae). Horwood's light touch as he spins characters out of masses of insecurities is a real talent. His hysterical Cinderella - the Lyric Hammersmith's panto, co-written with Morgan Lloyd Malcolm - is a complete treat. I'm seeing it twice.

Meanwhile old stalwarts of the West End stage continue to entertain. Lee Hall's Billy Elliot, with Elton John's score, is as poignant as ever, while Les Mis has undergone a bit of an overhaul recently, with several new faces joining the cast including the Argentinian singer
Gerónimo Rauch, who was a big deal when he arrived on the scene earlier this year.
And if the glossy Search for a Twitter Star - the X Factor-style hunt for a West End leading lad and lady - is anything to go by, there's plenty more all-singing all-dancing talent waiting in
the wings. This was a fun (if somewhat bizarre) evening, hosted by the charming AlEd Jones, at London's Lyric Theatre, where the ten finalists of a nationwide Twitter battle competed for the favour of an enigmatic West End producer.

But big budget doesn't always mean show stopping numbers, as some of the epic but sophisticated productions at the Barbican Theatre have proved. Complicite's ambitious The Master and Margarita has just returned till January, following its sell-out run earlier this year,
while Cate Blanchett's superb performance in Gross und Klein (Big and Small) back in April brought this difficult avante garde play into the realm of human feeling - a great achievement.

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