The 10 Best Performances of 2016

I've seen a countless amount of amazing performances this year both in plays and in musicals so it's been incredibly hard to narrow down this list. It seems as though 2016 has blessed us with such a huge and wide variety of stage talent that I've found myself with far too many to pick from but nonetheless, here are what I consider to be the 10 best of the year and why...

The 10 Best Plays of 2016

As I said earlier, I made 100 theatre visits in 2016 and almost 50% of them were to see incredible new plays in London. Some were artistic and inspiring, but some were equally dull and dry. Here, I have sifted through those 48 new plays I saw this year and decided on 10 of the best. And as you might notice, a majority of them after from the National Theatre or the Royal Court...

The 10 Best Musicals of 2016

I saw exactly 100 shows this year and over a third of those were musicals that opened in 2016. I've been eagerly waiting to whittle them down into a list of 10 all year long and alas, here were are! From a trio of Dreams to Fanny Brice herself, London has seen some fantastic musicals grace the stage this year. Be sure to click on the show title to read my full review of the show, too!

Review: Gemma Arterton in Bernard Shaw's SAINT JOAN at the Donmar Warehouse

Bernard Shaw is a playwright that fascinates me: he has always been a man that has struck me as being "before his time" in many ways - from Major Barbra to Pygmalion - but Saint Joan really is the epitome of that to me. Despite being written in the 1920s, this new production mirrors the feminist issues risen in the play perfectly and it's more necessary than ever.

Review: Lucy Kirkwood's THE CHILDREN at the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, Royal Court

I have an intense passion for one-scene plays and I also have a love for Lucy Kirkwood, so it's safe to say the The Children was a natural fit for me. There is something so unique about Kirkwood's way of seeing life and she brings that to the stage perfectly in anything she touches and The Children is no exception. It's a play that tells a unique story in such a clever way, and it works oh so well.

Re-review: DREAMGIRLS at the Savoy

I first reviewed Dreamgirls about six weeks ago following its first public performance in previews (one of the best nights of my theatrical life) and I didn’t hold back in gushing about how much I loved it; the review was read and shared around by so many of you that it’s one of the most read things I’ve ever written – even Amber Riley herself thanked me for writing the review via Twitter.

Backstage with Liisi LaFontaine (Deena Jones) from DREAMGIRLS at the Savoy

Dreamgirls has been and always will be one of my favourite musicals of all time so I'm sure we can all appreciate how much the London premiere production - opening tonight at the Savoy Theatre - has excited me. And to celebrate just that, I sat down with one of the show's biggest stars Liisi LaFontaine who plays Deena Jones to talk about the show's landmark arrival...

Review: Phyllida Lloyd's SHAKESPEARE TRILOGY at the Donmar Warehouse, King's Cross Theatre

I was excited for this trilogy of all-female Shakespeare plays directed by Phyllida Lloyd from the moment they were announced: there's something about immersive experiences in the theatre that really captivate me and this one set inside an all-women's prison was no exception. It was a unique and harrowing double-layered theatrical experience that made me see Shakespeare in a new light.

Not Worth The Hype: MOTOWN: THE MUSICAL at the Shaftesbury Theatre

I categorically do not like jukebox musicals, so I feel like that's something I might need to start this review with. There is something about them that really does not appeal to me and I think there are only about three of them that I truly like, so I knew before I even went into this show that I wasn't going to love it and unfortunately, my predictions were correct on this particular evening.

Review: LAZARUS at the King's Cross Theatre

I got the hype for Lazarus when it premiered almost a year ago at the New York Theatre Workshop, but I didn't delve too far into what it was about as I wanted to keep the surprise alive. Now, the show has made its way into its own personal temporary theatre in the King's Cross Theatre complex in London and for better or for worse, it's drawing David Bowie fans in by the coach load.

Preview Review: DREAMGIRLS at the Savoy Theatre

Just a note before this review gets into full swing: my opinion here is entirely based upon the first preview of Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre on November 19th, 2016. While my opinion in this review is overwhelmingly positive, I do think it’s unfair to judge a show from so early on in its preview period so – as a result – a review of the post-opening version of the show will follow in December.

What A Triumph, What A Triumph! HALF A SIXPENCE at the Noël Coward Theatre

Half a Sixpence was the first show I ever performed in with an amateur theatre company so the show holds a near and dear place in my heart. As a result, the news of this revisal - with a new book by Julian Fellowes and new music by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe - made me nervous but if anything, the new material this show has been given has taken it from good to outstanding.

Stick It To The Man! SCHOOL OF ROCK: THE MUSICAL at the New London Theatre

I first fell in love with the original School of Rock movie about a decade ago when my Dad got us the DVD and we watched it together. Being a child, it was amazing to see other children of a similar age playing music and enjoying themselves like I loved to do. The film was screaming for a stage musical adaptation and 10 years later, here we are with a show that I think is a perfect homage.

Review: THE LAST FIVE YEARS at the St James Theatre

The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown has been in my top ten favourite musicals of all time for years now so when I saw that this new off-West End production was coming in - directed by none other than Robert Brown himself - I actually thought all of my dreams had come true. My feelings after leaving the theatre weren't what I was expecting though and I've felt guilty about them ever since...

Backstage with Amanda Hadingue from the National Theatre's 'A Pacifist's Guide'

I'm fascinated by works of theatrical art and am even more fascinated by the people behind them. In today's edition of the Backstage series, I sat down with Amanda Hadingue - star of A Pacifist's Guide to the War on Cancer at the National Theatre, Dorfman - to find out about how the show came to life and how it's affected her as both an actress and as a human.

Review: Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company's THE ENTERTAINER at the Garrick (Live Screening)

I love a play that simply looks at the inner workings of the human condition through normal human conversation and that's why I love John Osborne so much; Look Back in Anger is undeniably one of the greatest and most iconic plays ever written and The Entertainer's legacy isn't far behind, but there was something about this new production starring Kenneth Branagh that I simply didn't fall for.

Without Emma Rice, Shakespeare's Globe becomes the Bankside Living Museum

I appreciate Shakespeare. Granted, I am not the biggest fan of the man or his words but when he's done right, I appreciate Shakespeare. A woman who was very open about feeling similarly to me was recently appointed as the Artistic Director of Shakespeare's Globe. Today, that woman stepped down from the role.

Review: SIDE SHOW at the Southwark Playhouse

I've loved Side Show for a long time now so when I heard that the show would be making its UK premiere this fall at the Southwark Playhouse - one of the best up-and-coming Off-West End venues in town - I was elated. This beautiful show about the unique story of the conjoined Hilton Sisters is a show that isn't commercial at all, but is doing what theatre does best: making us feel something.

Review: A PACIFIST'S GUIDE TO THE WAR ON CANCER at the National Theatre, Dorfman

We never want to talk about cancer. And why would we really? Why would we want to discuss one of the most horrific truths about the human condition: that we could get ill and - ultimately - die from it? It's brutal to think and perhaps it's even more brutal to say, but performance artist Bryony Kimmings is trying to dilute that brutality with her latest show, and she does a bloody good job of it.

Laugh Out Loud Funny: Nina Conti's IN YOUR FACE, UK Tour (at the Aylesbury Waterside)

I first discovered Nina Conti through TV appearances and internet videos and found her style and humour really funny. It's so British to watch a comedian rip into other people, but there is something so much more funny about Conti doing it through different voices and characters that she creates; her ability to be entirely herself yet entirely another character totally endears and entertains me.

Review: MISS SAIGON 25th Anniversary Performance Screening, UK Cinemas

It's no secret at all that Miss Saigon is my favourite musical of all time so the news that the recent revival that I fell in love with is coming to cinemas filled me with an unbelievable amount of joy. I was lucky enough to catch a preview screening of the film about a month ago at Universal's offices and I immediately fell in love with this stunning re imagining of the classic love story.

Phantom Never Dies: #Phantom30th Birthday Celebrations at Her Majesty's Theatre

The theatre is full of many special moments but in my eyes, no moment in theatre is as special as the sudden wave of nostalgia and passion you can feel for a show when you attend a special performance and that is exactly what #Phantom30th was: a night to celebrate one of my earliest and most favourite shows sat in an audience full of like-minded and passionate fans of both Phantom and the theatre.

Funny, Raunchy and Brutal: THE LIBERTINE at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket

There was something about this play that intrigued me from the moment that its London transfer was announced – and no, it was not the fact that my big celebrity crush Dominic Cooper was the star of the show. I was fascinated by the show’s branding and how open it was to being a play that embraced and exhibited sex in such an obvious way, which is something the West End never seems to do.

Beautifully Brutal: FATHER COMES HOME FROM THE WARS (PARTS 1, 2, 3) at the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, The Royal Court Theatre

Suzan Lori-Parks has been on my distant radar for a very long time, as her Pulitzer Prize-winning play Topdog/Underdog is a modern classic in its own right. When I saw that her new series of plays were transferring to the Royal Court from the Public in New York, I was delighted to see her work so closely with the cast and to bring her vision of the piece to life.

Oh What A Celebration! #WICKED10 at the Apollo Victoria Theatre

I don’t know if I’ve ever reviewed Wicked before; obviously, considering I first saw the show a long time before I started blogging, I didn’t exactly manage to write down my opinions from my first visit, so I thought now would be as good a time as any to give you a rundown of what I think of the show in general, my journey with it over the past decade and how fantastic the 10th anniversary celebration was the other evening.

Truly Hilarious: THE COMEDY ABOUT A BANK ROBBERY at the Criterion

I saw The Play That Goes Wrong - Mischief Theatre's other big hit currently playing in the West End - last year... and I hated it. There was something about how ridiculously over the top the show was that made me feel like my level of humour was being insulted slightly; to me, humour isn't funny if it's too obvious, because I think that it has to be well-written and witty and that's what this play is.

Pre-Broadway Sneak Peek: Tim Minchin's GROUNDHOG DAY at The Old Vic

From the moment that this new Tim Minchin musical was announced, I was excited to see what he would do with the source material; the story is literally a repeat of the same events over and over again and I feared that it would be a boring concept when it came to the stage. It appears though that I totally undermined the creative team's genius abilities and that's a fact that I'm very proud to state.

Almost There: Robert J Sherman's BUMBLESCRATCH: A NEW MUSICAL at the Adelphi

It's hard to review a show when it's in the performance state that Bumblescratch is in: it's important to remember that while this was a performance, it was most definitely more of a glorified public showcase of the work that has been done so far. It's actually a shame that they ask for reviews at this stage because the show is clearly a far cry from the West End just yet.

Truly Magical: HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD: PARTS ONE AND TWO at the Palace

Before we even begin, I need to warn you that this review will contain a few small spoilers and a basic summary of the opening of the play's plot. If you're yet to see the play or read the book, I highly recommend that you come back to this review after you have done, because the play is even more magical if you go into it knowing absolutely nothing.

Review: YOUNG CHEKHOV TRILOGY at the National Theatre, Olivier

A whole day of Chekhov plays may sound boring to some but to me, it's a marathon that I was very excited to run; as soon as I got word of these three new adaptations by David Hare making their way up to London from Chichester, I was immediately excited and intrigued to see what the Plenty and Skylight scribe had done to make these shows much more accessible for a modern audience.

#EdFringe Day 3: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, GOING UNDERGROUND, WRECKED

While my other few days at EdFringe were really busy and had some real strong points, the third and final day - despite having the smallest itinerary - was definitely my favourite of the three. From one of my favourite musicals of all time to one of the most innovative theatrical performances that I have ever experienced, it was a day full of some of the Fringe's best.

#EdFringe Day 2: EMPTY BEDS, THE ENCHANTED, REMEMBER TO BREATHE, SPELLING BEE, 5 GUYS CHILLIN'

Day Two at the Edinburgh Fringe saw me catching an even wider variety of shows than I saw the day before. Friday was the first official day of the Fringe so the majority of shows that I saw were playing their first performance and considering a lot of these shows are making their premiere at the Fringe, it was a privilege to get to see their premiere public performance.

#EdFringe Day 1: ELECTRIC EDEN, PAPER HEARTS, COMPANY, SHIT FACED SHAKESPEARE

Instead of looking at all of the shows I'm seeing in Edinburgh separately on Shaun's Musical Musings, it seemed like a good idea to string together some mini-reviews of the shows I saw in each day in one comprehensive blog post. Today I'm looking at the shows I caught on my first day in the Scottish city, ranging from a site-specific play in a nightclub to a new British musical.

Laugh Out Loud Funny: THE TRUTH at Wyndham's Theatre

Sometimes, shows take more of my fancy after a bit of a rebranding and a transfer into the West End: this was the case for French playwright Florian Zellar’s latest play The Truth. When it started its life at the Menier Chocolate Factory, there was nothing about it that attracted me whatsoever, despite the good reviews it received; I even turned down a press night invite because I was barely interested.

So Wacky It's Good: EXPOSURE: THE MUSICAL at the St James

I really wasn't expecting greatness from Exposure: The Musical at the St James Theatre. Everything that I'd heard about the show was negative and that didn't set me up with high hopes, but what it did set me up with was excitement and intrigue. I was already excited enough to learn about why this show needed to happen (for those of you who don't know, Getty Images and Canon are the show's

Review: Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company's ROMEO AND JULIET (Live Screening)

While it's been a bit of a mixed bag, I've really been enjoying the Kenneth Branagh season at the Garrick and for the first time since the season's first play The Winter's Tale, I decided to go and see one of the plays being streamed live to the cinema. Granted, this makes the experience of seeing the play a little bit different, but the recent screening of Romeo and Juliet was produced to be such a

Short of the Mark: UNREACHABLE at the Royal Court

I adore anything that has started its life at the Royal Court - most recently being X - but for the first time ever, I was disappointed by something I saw, yet captivated by it all at once: Matt Smith in Unreachable, which is currently playing in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, is a "messterpiece" in its own right. Granted, I saw the show on its final preview performance, which was a unique experience

Fresh and Poignant: Fiasco's INTO THE WOODS at the Menier Chocolate Factory

Before I get into talking about Fiasco's production of the Sondheim classic Into The Woods - currently playing at the Menier Chocolate Factory - I have to confess to you all that this is one of my long-standing favourite musicals of all time. If you've followed me on Twitter for a while, you'll know how much I obsessed over the creation process of the Disney movie (a film which won me over). 

#SMMPick - Top 10 London Ticket Picks for July/August

The old #SMMPick system really wasn't working for me: it was hard to keep each round up post fresh and different when not that many new things open in the space of a week. So, to rectify the issue, I've decided to make it slightly less irregular from now on... As per usual, recent reviews that are branded as being an #SMMPick are automatically a part of the round up post.

A New Take: BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S at Theatre Royal, Haymarket

As a massive fan of the Audrey Hepburn-led movie Breakfast at Tiffany's and as an unopinionated overseer when it comes to the book, my thoughts on how Tiffany's would be were mixed before I even put bum to seat. I'd seen comments and reviews online that said this adaptation is much more true to the book than the film, so I was skeptical and upon reflection, the show was definitely heavily inspired by the book as opposed to the film.

Guest Review: HAMILTON at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, NYC


If you haven't ever heard of Hamilton then I am seriously questioning where you have been for the past year or so. Currently only playing on Broadway, Hamilton is undeniably one of the biggest musicals of the past decade, and it's yet to have even run a year in New York. On Sunday night, the show picked up 11 Tony Awards in one of the most memorable awards ceremonies to date.

Truly, Deeply Inspiring: 2016 Tony Awards Reflection

It's nights like last night that remind me of the fact that people who know me online almost aren't aware at all that my true passion is to be on the stage as opposed to writing about it; experiences like last night fuel my drive and inspiration like nothing else. This year's Tony Awards saw the blockbuster smash Hamilton take home 11 Tony Awards including Best Musical.

TONY TALK #5 - Who Will Win, And Who Should (Tony Predictions)

It's almost impossible for someone who hasn't been to New York to see any of the shows make an accurate assessment on who will win... which is exactly why I thought it would be a great idea to do it. In fact, I pride myself on my knowledge of Broadway despite having not been there to see any of this season's shows so using my ability to devour a sh*t tonne of information via the internet on both critical and public opinions on Broadway this season, I've pulled together some ideas...

TONY TALK #4: The History of... The Tony Awards!

The most glamorous night in the American theatre calendar is the Tony Awards and this year is the 70th anniversary of the Tony Awards, being held this year at the Beacon Theatre. But the Tony Awards haven't always been that way. From 1997 to 2010, the ceremony was held annually at Radio City Music Hall, except from in 1999 when it was held at the Gershwin Theatre instead.

TONY TALK #3: The Top 10 Tony Performances of All Time

Like I said earlier on today, Tony performances have been my life line for experiencing theatre I have never been able to see for as long as I can remember. I have Tony performances to thank for helping me to discover some of my favourite shows like A Chorus Line, as well as helping me to discover forgotten legendary performances that I'm far too young to have ever seen.

TONY TALK #2: Snubs of this Season's Tony Awards

The most hard thing to do as someone who hasn't seen any of the shows on Broadway this season is to assess who was snubbed when it came to being nominated for a Tony Award; it's hard enough to make a judgement on who should win, so it's even harder to critique on who should have been nominated. But much like how I've compiled my list of predictions, I can base this list almost entirely on critical opinion and audience reception to their performances and it's a long one indeed.

TONY TALK #1: The Sound of the Season on Broadway

When it comes to musicals, we all know that there is nothing as delightful as hearing the cast album for a show that you cannot see for whatever reason. In this instance, we're talking about cast albums from this past Broadway season which, unless you have oodles of cash lying around, will simply have to be enjoyed through the medium of the cast albums.

Is Broadway now a diverse place, or is this just a lucky year?

With the Tony Awards taking place this evening, people are reflecting on the Broadway season that has passed by left, right and centre. As someone who is a huge fan of Broadway theatre and follows it as though I'm a sheep following my shepherd, it's been hard to not notice how wonderfully diverse this Broadway season has been in regards to race, sex and physical ability.

Surprisingly Spectacular: THE GO-BETWEEN at the Apollo

I know it's harsh to say it, but I thought I was going to hate The Go-Between from the moment it was announced late last year. Despite the fact I love Michael Crawford's iconic performance as The Phantom as well as when I saw him as the titular character in The Wizard of Oz a few years back, everything about this show screamed boring and mundane to me. 

Short Changed: Rory Kinnear in 'THE THREEPENNY OPERA' at the National Theatre, Olivier

When this new season at the National was first announced, I was most excited to see a revisal of The Threepenny Opera coming to the stage, reworked by Curious Incident's Simon Stephens and starring Rory Kinnear. I've never been a massive fan of the show itself, but I knew that if Stephens was at the helm of this Brechtian classic then the show was going to be in good shape.