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THE TEAM Editor Sarah Kirkup Assistant Editor Julia Rank Ar t Editor Heather Woodley Editorial Assistant Jonathan Whiting Sub-editor Lisa Martland Publisher/Editorial Director Martin Cullingford Marketing Director To n y H a l l Marketing Manager John Barnett Marketing Assistant Oscar Faulkner Editorial Consultant Edward Seckerson Production Manager Kyri Apostolou Studio Manager Chris Charles Production Director Richard Hamshere Subscriptions Director Sally Boettcher Managing Director Ravi Chandiramani CEO Ben Allen Chairman Mark Allen SUBSCRIPTIONS UK: 0800 137 201 Overseas: +44 (0)1722 716997 ADVERTISING Commercial Director Esther Zuke 020 7501 6368

CONTRIBUTORS David Benedict, London critic for Variety and columnist for The Stage Mark Brown, writer for the Daily Telegraph and Sunday National Jason Carr, composer and orchestrator Ruth Deller, Reader in Media/ Comms at Sheffield Hallam University Daz Gale, theatre reviewer Thom Geier, New York-based critic David Jays, dance and theatre writer for the Guardian and Evening Standard Laura Lott, reviewer for BroadwayWorld UK Fiona Mountford, critic for The i Paper Jim Munson, reviewer for BroadwayWorld Elaine Paige, performer and presenter Jack Pepper, composer, writer and presenter Julia Rank, reviewer for London Theatre and WhatsOnStage Edward Seckerson, writer, broadcaster, presenter and podcaster Joe Stilgoe, singer, pianist and songwriter Jonathan Whiting, composer and music graduate Matt Wolf, London critic for International New York Times and author Tim Wright, freelance theatre and entertainment writer

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The joy of Musical Theatre The joy of Musical Theatre is its ability to surprise us is its ability to surprise us

Iwas at the Gielgud Theatre recently for the last night of Sondheim’s Old Friends. It was my first trip to see the show (talk about leaving it to the last minute) and, having heard so much about it (see Matt Wolf ’s review last issue) and listened obsessively to the recording (see our review on page 73), expectations were high.

She’s aware, as she tells Tim Bano, that she is best known for her TV work. As a result, she thought long and hard before taking on the role of Anna Leonowens in The King and I. But when a role resonates with an artist and that artist has the necessary training to back it up, there’s every reason to embrace it. George’s preparation has been impressive, and Anna’s fiercely independent, liberated-thinking character clearly fits her like a glove.

Seeing the 75-year-old Bernadette Peters in the flesh was, of course, a thrill – compounded by the knowledge that this may well mark her final London appearance. But perhaps the biggest thrill was the music itself. Hearing songs from early in Sondheim’s career – the jaunty, farcical ‘Comedy Tonight’, for example, from 1962’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (his first production as both composer and lyricist) – slap-bang up against, say, the energetic, rhythmic opening number for Company (1970) was a jolting reminder of the sheer diversity of Sondheim’s output. Could the genius mind behind 1973’s A Little Night Music (apropos a heartfelt, nostalgic ‘Send in the Clowns’ from Peters) and 1979’s Sweeney Todd (a rollicking ‘Worst Pies in London’ from an on-fire Lea Salonga) really be one and the same?

Our appetite for Golden Age musicals like The King and I shows no sign of waning – and why should it? The treasured partnerships of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe et al must continue to be celebrated. But so, too, must new creative partnerships. Take one of the more unusual pairings currently dominating Musical Theatre – book writer Chris Bush and singer-songwriter Richard Hawley. Former Pulp member Hawley never imagined belonging to the world of Musical Theatre, and yet, in Standing at the Sky’s Edge, Bush and arranger Tom Deering have used his music to perfection to tell a universal story about community and belonging – albeit within a specific Sheffi eld setting. As it makes its West End transfer, David Jays speaks to the creatives about what makes this such a special show (see page 36).

And yet – across the vast range of Sondheim’s extraordinary output, there remains, at its core, something distinctly Sondheimian. Could it be those clever, tongue-twisting, alliterative lyrics? Or that instinctive use of rhythm and colour? Perhaps. But it’s also something deeper, less discernible: a non-definable quality that the work of every genius has; that sense of familiarity, of ‘coming home’, coupled with the ability to surprise.

It wasn’t just the music that surprised me, though – it was the performers themselves. How refreshing to witness Bradley Jaden – who I last saw as the menacing Javert in Les Misérables – frolicking about as the Wolf in Into the Woods, seductively swishing his tail and having a ball. Or Bonnie Langford, her usual chirpy, happy-go-lucky demeanour replaced with something altogether darker and grittier in a sensational ‘I’m Still Here’ (Follies).

Audiences love it when performers show us a different side to themselves – so our wonderful cover star Helen George (see page 24) needn’t worry.

Another surprising partnership is American singersongwriter Anaïs Mitchell and director Rachel Chavkin, behind the award-winning Hadestown. Mitchell bravely approached Chavkin with her sung-through ‘poem’ exploring two Greek myths; several years, rewrites and runs later, the show is premiering in the West End and,

like Sky’s Edge, has the potential to bring in new audiences. Sarah Crompton explores what London can expect on page 30.

I find it exciting that Musical Theatre continues to evolve, both for performers and audiences. Who knows what the landscape will look like in even a decade’s time? To echo Sondheim: ‘Something is stirring /

Shi ing ground / It’s just begun.’

Editor, Musicals


: Icaro



Sarah Crompton reviews theatre for WhatsOnStage and dance for the Observer. Her work appears in the Guardian, the Sunday

Times, the Times, the Observer, the Independent and British and American Vogue. She produces a weekly theatre podcast with the actress Nancy Carroll, As the Actress Said to the Critic. Read Sarah’s insightful feature about the development of Hadestown on page 30.

Simon Button is a Nottingham-born, London-based freelance journalist who reviews theatre for Attitude. He also writes about theatre, film and TV and interviews actors, directors and musicians for Reader’s Digest, Yours Retro, Retro Pop and various other publications. A devoted Barbra Streisand fan, he reviews the greatest star’s latest compilation album ‘Evergreens’ on page 68.

Tim Bano is an awardwinning arts journalist and radio producer who has been joint lead critic of The Stage since 2017. He regularly reviews for other publications including the Evening Standard and Time Out, and works on a range of podcasts and radio programmes including Desert Island Discs and Front Row. Read his cover interview with Helen George on page 24.

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