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Gary Naylor's Nominations For The 2021 BroadwayWorld UK Awards

One of our reviewers shares his top picks!

Gary Naylor's Nominations For The 2021 BroadwayWorld UK Awards

One of the privileges of reviewing theatre is the inevitability that shows you expect to turn up with a mention in columns like this don't, and shows you do not expect to turn up do! So Lord Lloyd Webber's beautifully designed blockbuster Cinderella fails to get an invite due to its confused and plodding book and a little play about a little cafe that's not even near Hull? Well, that does.

West End musicals are about entertainment, sending the punters home with a smile on their faces, eyes still wide at the magic they witnessed. Back To The Future goes, well, back to the past to mine Hollywood nostalgia for the 50-somethings in the house, but offers plenty to the 20-somethings and everyone in-between. It's not Sweeney Todd, but not every musical needs to be.

Touring shows don't quite raise the same expectations as their Shaftesbury Avenue cousins, but they don't charge as much for a seat either. Bedknobs and Broomsticks may have its roots in the Disney canon, but its nationwide production, brilliantly fronted by Dianne Pilkington, is updated for the stage with plenty of panache to bewitch kids and adults alike.

More than ever because of that pandemic you've heard about, annual set pieces needed to deliver for their venues. The summer show at Chichester Festival Theatre has been a pilgrimage for many for decades, but 2020 was dark, so 2021 had to reset the old habits. South Pacific (delayed from that benighted year) was a delight, not just because an all-the great score was delivered with aplomb, but also because it felt so relevant to today. That it will tour in 2021 is wonderful news for regional audiences.

A Little Night Music also may not be Sweeney Todd, but it's one of the great musicals of the 20th century, a masterpiece of understatement and regret perfectly pitched to reflect the lost years we've all been through recently. In the summer, Leeds Playhouse with Opera North delivered a Sondheim that can stand as a fine valedictory for the great man who left us in the winter.

Two relatively young playwrights delivered contrasting works of intense beauty. David Ireland's Yes So I Said Yes continued the Finborough Theatre's longstanding reputation for finding plays that make the most of the confines of its tiny space, an Ulsterman trapped in his own delusions going mad before our eyes. Tom Wells' Big Big Sky at Hampstead Theatre Downstairs has a title that alludes to the vastness of the horizon at the edge of our island, but it too took us into the intensity of lives that may be unremarkable from the outside-in, but proved poignant and valuable from the inside-out.

Finally, Value Engineering: Scenes From The Grenfell Inquiry, recreated, word for word, submissions to the ongoing investigation of the appalling fire that destroyed so many lives but a few hundred yards from its staging at The Tabernacle. It laid bare the moral vacuum at the centre of our governing class and the rotten organisations it is their duty to regulate. It was an example of a concept at which I usually scoff - it was Important Theatre.

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From This Author - Gary Naylor