It’s a well-known fact by now that I love all things stagey, so for the next round of “Best Of 2016” will be a delve into Theatre. I beat last years “show count” by a mile, so narrowing this list of about 30 shows down to just 10 has been a challenge…

  1. Les Mis (West End, Queen’s) – Since finally getting myself to see the film late last year, I was eager to see it onstage and I managed to blag myself some bargain tickets back in February just a few weeks before a cast change and I fell in love. It’s really difficult to explain the magic of the show, it’s just easily one of the best in the West End, hence why it’s lived a legacy of over 30 years. It oozes a tale of love, struggle, strength and power. I’m really eager to go back again, especially as there’s a new cast now; and if you haven’t seen it, you must.
  2. Aladdin (West End, Prince Edward) – As a huge Disney fan I was beyond excited for this to open, and I was lucky enough to go the night after the press night/official opening; therefore the energy was electric. It seemed to just be filled with fans of both Disney and Theatre and it was really special! I loved the razzle dazzle, energy and laughs involved. It’s a simply joyous show. When can I go back?
  3. School Of Rock (West End, New London) – Initially I wasn’t sure how to feel about this iconic film (of the same name) being sent to stage, as I wasn’t sure how it would work but I quickly became very sold on the idea and got myself some tickets. It stays pretty true to the film, yet still feels fresh and new with plenty of new elements explored. I was blown away by the talent of the youngsters; and it was another joyous show that holds some great messages and catchy tunes. Easily another favourite that I will definitely have to make a swift return to!
  4. Mamma Mia! (West End, Novello) – I first saw Mamma Mia! at the end of September 2015, and I may have made myself slightly obsessed ever since. Not only did I uncover my love for the show, but I also found my favourite West End leading lady in the form of Dianne Pilkington, as she wowed me from the word go. Therefore I ended up making a return visit not once, but twice this year! One of those visits being for Dianne’s final performance on cast change night, which was really nice to experience and made it that extra bit memorable. I will always regard this as one of my favourite shows because it makes me the happiest. I love the simplicity of the story, the music and the laughs it gives me. I must check out the new cast and repay more respects to Mazz (Tanya) & Jo (Rosie) soon, though I think Dianne will always be my Donna!
  5. Kinky Boots (West End, Adelphi) – I made a return to Kinky Boots the evening before my birthday, and having seen it once before it was almost more exciting because I already knew I loved it. Although I was further away seating wise, it was nice to have a different angle of the show and as it was a Saturday evening, there was a really fun atmosphere that seemed to have a few fans in. The show is nothing less than feel-good. (PS I had a bonus of meeting Killian Donnelly, Matt Henry and Amy Lennox post-show, who were all really sweet and wished me happy birthday). Since my visit in June, there has been a cast change, so I’d love to make another visit in 2017 to check out the new cast as it’s one of my favourite shows.
  6. Mary Poppins (UK Tour, Norwich Theatre Royal) – This was not only my first time seeing a big touring production, it was also my first visit to the Theatre Royal in Norwich (a venue of which I definitely need to attend more). For ages I had been sceptical about seeing Mary Poppins onstage as I’ve grown up so attached to the film, but at the same time I was desperate to see the differences and how it came across on stage. I was somewhat surprised by how different it felt, especially as I didn’t read the book which may be why I felt that way. But that said, the key elements of magic that make ol’ Poppins so great remained. It was a “practically perfect” show, and I’m so pleased I got to see it.
  7. Sweeney Todd (Ipswich, New Wolsey Studio) – Since watching the 2007 film, I was really intrigued to see how this show played out on stage. Therefore, I couldn’t resist catching the New Wolsey Youth Group’s production. I was slightly sceptical about seeing a musical that I loved done by an ‘amateur’ group for my first experience of it on stage, however it was as though it could have been on the West End for these young people were THAT good; there was nothing ‘amateur’ about them. It almost seems a shame they were only in the space of 100 seats, however I think this made it more thrilling for the audience and I thought it was brilliant how they made such an effective set within the small space. I was really impressed by this production.
  8. Made in Dagenham (Ipswich, New Wolsey) – When I saw the West End production in April 2015, this is really where my love of theatre was installed. The show made me leave the theatre feeling a way I hadn’t felt before and I’ve been in awe of the show and story ever since. Therefore when it was announced a new actor-musician production was heading to my local theatre, I was so excited. I attended twice; and the production was just as good as the West End. This to me, is one of the most underrated musicals.
  9. Lion King (West End, Lyceum) – For me, this was hugely exciting as it’s the one show I’d probably waited the longest to see. In fact, I was so excited that I cried at the first note of Circle Of Life. If you grew up with the film like myself, you know loosely what to expect but that still doesn’t prepare you for how visually stunning it is. It’s really great for the whole family, and I think everyone should go and release their inner child by seeing this show at least once. I’m so pleased I finally got to see it.
  10. Wicked 10th Anniversary (West End, Apollo Victoria) – This was such a special event to be part of that I had include it! I’d seen the show once before, but regretfully I didn’t appreciate it as much as I should, and only learnt to love it more afterwards. However this time, I fully appreciated every minute! I loved that there was an extra sense of energy and excitement among the crowd due to being the special 10th anniversary show, and in addition there were several former cast members in the crowd, who later all joined the stage at the end and we also got to hear a speech from the man behind the music; Mr Stephen Schwartz! While I don’t feel for Wicked as much as I do for other shows, it was something i’ll always regard as pretty special. (PS; I got the bonus magical moment of briefly meeting Rachel Tucker, Louise Dearman and Dianne Pilkington!)

Other notable mentions include: Phantom of the Opera (West End, Her Majesty’s); Guys & Dolls (West End, Phoenix); Nell Gwynn (West End, Apollo); The Last Five Years (Ipswich, New Wolsey) and Sister Act (UK Tour, Ipswich Regent).

For an alternative look at my highlights of 2016, I did a slightly different blog over on London Theatre Direct, here.

It’s been an amazing year for me with the theatre I’ve seen, I feel so lucky to be able to do part of this as work and to be in a position to treat myself to it. I could give you pros on all that I’ve seen, there’s been very little I haven’t enjoyed. But here’s to 2017, I already have several shows in the pipeline, with no doubt more to come… Don’t forget to leave your comments! Have you seen any shows? What have been your highlights?

Also for reviews on majority of the shows listed and more, visit my Musicals & Theatre tag here. Plus, stay tuned for my preview of the one’s to watch in 2017 for theatre tomorrow! As well as the last part of “Best Of 2016” next week!