BroadwayWorld UK Awards 2019: Gary Naylor's Recommendations
UK Theatre in 2019 was like a box of choccies made by Mr Wonka - a delightful set of surprises, with just a hint of menace to keep you on your toes. Many tremendous achievements did not make the BroadwayWorld shortlist, but many did, and here's my pick of them.
Sophie Ellerby wrote an unforgettable part for Eve Austin (nominated for Best Actress in a New Production of a Play) and was rewarded with a powerhouse performance. She made Bex "bright, vulnerable, funny, cruel, coquettish, frightened, happy, despairing, confident, broken, charismatic, compassionate and human. Most of all, human." Pretty much the job description of best actress right there.
In a brilliant ensemble piece, David Ricardo-Pearce and Rebecca Trehearn get noms for Best Actor in a New Production of a Musical and Best Actress in a New Production of a Musical for Kiss Me, Kate at The Watermill Theatre (two of its five nominations). On the one hand, you can hardly go wrong with Cole Porter's sparkling score, but the confidence of the production and virtuosity of the actor-musicians breathed new life into the show and also added a chillingly topical edge with a #BlackLivesMatter-informed "Too Darn Hot".
The big musical at Chichester Festival Theatre (a venue nominated in six categories) is always a highlight of the summer, so it's no surprise to see Amara Okereke and Isaac Gryn picking up a noms for Best Actress in a New Production of a Musical and Best Supporting Actor in a New Production of a Musical for Oklahoma!. Though I didn't see eye to eye with all director Jeremy Sams's decisions, Emmanuel Kojo (Jud Fry) was also a standout on the night I saw the show. And can't knock the entertainment quotient!
Eye-catching performances always bode well when awards season rumbles round and few actors demanded our attention like Michael Abubakar, nommed in Best Supporting Actor in a New Production of a Play for King John at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon. His appropriately monikered The Bastard strode and strutted about the stage like he owned it - which Abubakar did, in a manner of speaking.
Finally, Treemonisha - part of the Grimeborn Opera Festival at the Arcola Theatre - was a brilliant example of a boutique opera, sung and acted beautifully. Scott Joplin may not have been a gifted librettist, but he sure could write a tune and he sure could speak across a century into the USA of today. A super example of exactly what this gem of an annual opera festival should be doing.
And, natch, of the wonderful range of theatre available in London and, increasingly, beyond too.
You can see all the nominations and vote here!
Photo credit: Craig Sugden, Robert Workman