There has been a very long lead up to the opening of Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s hit musical, but when the announcement came in September that the show’s first preview would be pushed back from 21 November to the 6 December, a collective sigh went out from fans. The reason was the extensive refurb taking place at Cameron Mackintosh’s beautiful Victoria Palace Theatre. It prompted a huge ticketing re-shuffle – a rather big headache for troupers behind the scenes. But ultimately it was managed without too many hiccups and the show opened to fabulous reviews last week.
Artistic director of the Royal Court Vicky Featherstone was supremely fast in responding to the allegations of sexual harassment in the industry both on these shores and in America. In November she set up a town hall meeting, where stories of abuse were read out and people could come together to work out what to do next. As a result, the theatre released a code of conduct, something that was, according to Featherstone, a work in progress. It demonstrated remarkable leadership from Featherstone.
Shakespeare’s Globe was barely out of the news in 2016, with Emma Rice making headlines for stepping down from her position as artistic director only two years after she began. So all eyes were on the theatre again in 2017, to see who would be appointed as her successor. Michelle Terry was announced in July and the response was, in the main, very positive. One of the finest Shakespearean performers of our time heading up the home of the Bard? Surely that could be no bad thing. We wait to hear her first season in January.
Probably the most surprisingly widely read news story this year was the RSC’s announcement of a jumble sale. You all went slightly feverish with excitement at the prospect of being able to own something David Tennant may have worn. More than 10,000 pieces of costume were sold in September and the money raised went to restoring and renovating the costume workshop.
The Old Vic had a tricky final few months of 2017, having to deal with allegations of sexual abuse targeted at the venue’s ex-artistic director Kevin Spacey while he was in charge. In November, the theatre released the results of an investigation, where 20 allegations were made against Spacey. The atmosphere in the press conference was sombre and those now in charge are set on working out ways to create a safer working environment.
After a difficult 2016, Emma Rice wasn’t entirely out of the news this year either. With the announcement of her new company Wise Children came claims that the Arts Council had gone too far in funding the brand new company almost £2 million between 2018 and 2022. But Rice, in her easy and open way, rebuked the claims by publishing the company’s arts council application in full. We read it, and it looked pretty sturdy to us.
We announced in August that Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical was to return to London for a concert-style workshop and you all got exceptionally excited. The show ran at The Other Palace, and was a chance to look over the piece and reunite the original creative team. It hasn’t led to anything else yet, but we are hoping…
We know you all love a good list, but the reaction to our poll looking for the Top 100 Showtunes of all time was unprecedented. It was all voted for by the WhatsOnStage audience and some old classics – including “Tonight” from West Side Story – made it into the top ten alongside some newbies – such as ‘”Waving Through a Window” from Dear Evan Hansen. The one that beat all the rest? “One Day More” from Les Miserables of course.
We lost a lot of huge talents this year – including Tim Pigott Smith and Tony Haygarth. The legendary Sir Peter Hall left us in September at the age of 86. It was a chance to look back on the remarkable man who changed the face of British theatre.
With not quite as much buzz as Cumberhamlet, Tom Hiddleston’s Hamlet was nonetheless a rather epic affair. The show was announced only a month ahead of its first dates and, shock horror, critics were not to be invited to review. The show was staged in RADA’s Jerwood Vanbrugh Theatre and tickets were only available via ballot. It was all for a good cause, however, with the money going to the drama school’s regeneration.
After 18 years at the helm of the Young Vic, David Lan announced he would be stepping down in June this year. There were many, many thoughts about who might replace him, and when the announcement came in September that it would be Kwame Kwei-Armah, we and many others all rejoiced.