2018 will be over in a matter of hours but I’m still obsessed with this year of theatre. I saw well over 100 shows in the last 12 months (tut tut to me for not keeping a tighter count) and even went to the Edinburgh Fringe for the first time. At the end of 2017 I vowed to see more straight plays. As a huge musical theatre fan I knew my taste always swayed over to the song and dance side and I often struggled to get into plays… but I’m thrilled to say I kept to my promise, saw a load of plays and there’s a nice amount of them that made it into my top ten.
I’ve been obsessed with the soundtrack for ages so when the Young Vic announced they were bringing the show to London, well, let’s just say I bought a membership there so I could be the first to book! Thank goodness I loved it. It gave me probably my most emotional reaction to a theatrical piece in this decade, let alone the year. Everything about it was simply stunning, and it appropriately received my first five-star review of the year.
Two cancelled performances, one concert version and two show stops later (!) I have finally seen the full staged version of #OVSylvia. Wow.
This team is so strong, so persistent and so determined. Thank you for this gift of a show and a stunning score. Bring on the return! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/peVSzanpOU
— Rochelle Bisson (@rochellebalboa) September 19, 2018
I won’t lie, my relationship with the Zoonation’s new musical Sylvia could have been quite different. I had the show cancelled on me twice, the second time just a minute before the performance was due to start! But after hearing a concert version of the show I knew I had to persevere and I finally managed to see the beautiful, fully-staged version a few days before it closed. Unbelievably fresh and a score that I preferred over Hamilton! Who’d have thought it? The Old Vic has already said it’ll be bringing the show back in 2019, I just hope a soundtrack comes along with it.
Anaïs Mitchell and Rachel Chavkin’s musical adaptation of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice easily makes my top ten. I went into the show without knowing what to expect and came out obsessed with the album and desperate to go again. I’ve already taken my second trip way down to Hadestown and have another booked for the show’s final night at the National. You’ve got until the end of January to catch this one, if there’s any tickets left!
We’ve Got Each Other
My first trip to Edinburgh and to the Festival was fantastic, and I have to say the theatrical highlight was Paul O’Donnell’s We’ve Got Each Other. A stripped-back, one-man, Bon Jovi jukebox musical. I mean on the surface it’s my absolute worse nightmare but in reality it was genius. Another five-star review for this one and I’m eager to return when it hits the Vault Festival in February.
Six the Musical
Queens – I am fully on the hype train with this one. Sorry, not sorry. I first discovered this witty, catchy, hilarious show in Edinburgh then returned in London. I’m taking my mum in January and I have the water bottle – I’m an official fan now, right? If you haven’t listened to the soundtrack yet, make it your first thing to do in 2019.
Here we go – the first play to make it into my top ten is the powerful An Octoroon. I missed the show at The Orange Tree Theatre but after hearing rave reviews I grabbed a ticket to see it at the National. I’ve never seen the Dorfman transformed in such a way – I mean they filled the place with water and shot fire through the pool, what more can you want? Completely gripping and made a bold statement on race – it was a definite must-see of 2018.
Things I loved about @QuizThePlay.
A thread… pic.twitter.com/oqZX7bXAQU
— Rochelle Bisson (@rochellebalboa) May 26, 2018
I’m a huge TV quiz show fan, so maybe it’s not surprising that James Graham’s Quiz made it onto this list. A play about the Who Wants to be a Millionaire coughing scandal that has audience participation – I went twice! I went a little too late in the run to review it but here’s my Twitter thread of appreciation.
The plays are coming thick and fast now, and it’s only right that Misty takes its place on this list. I’m so chuffed that this show made it to the West End. I was lucky enough to see it three times, although I admit I still struggle to describe it to people in any way that does it enough credit. Arinze Kene’s piece is outstanding and I hope it has more life in it.
I was wowed by Network at the National (in fact the Nash has done well this year as top ten lists go!) It really made theatre go beyond the stage and feel quite immersive, even from the traditional audience perspective. Bryan Cranston was great and, for someone who doesn’t normally like videography on stage, it was definitely used effectively. I was also pretty obsessed with the jumpsuits that the on-stage waitresses wore. Small but important detail.
Timpson the Musical
Another Fringe favourite – the folks at Gigglemug do exactly what they say on the tin. We left the show with our faces hurting after watching a ridiculous but hilarious show about the famous UK high street chain. My review says it all – just don’t forget your tiny saws!