I hope the curtain will rise on this Fab Five: PATRICK MARMION makes his theatre recommendations for 2021
In the spirit of abiding self- delusion, here are five shows I’ll be wishing, and hoping, and praying go ahead, as scheduled
When it comes to predicting the future, I always defer to that old joke about The Big Fella: ‘How do you make God laugh?’ Answer: ‘Tell Him your plans.’
So it is with some trepidation that I make my theatre recommendations for 2021 — lest it jinx the year completely.
But in the spirit of abiding self- delusion, here are five shows I’ll be wishing, and hoping, and praying go ahead, as scheduled.
If there’s one production that shouldn’t need divine intervention, it’s surely the musical version of Sister Act, pairing Whoopi Goldberg with Jennifer Saunders. Goldberg, star of the original 1992 film, returns as lounge singer Deloris van Cartier, on the run from the Mafia. Saunders plays the Mother Superior who reluctantly hides her in her San Francisco convent.
That billing alone was enough to make my wife laugh. But Clive Rowe is surely big enough to win a few laughs of his own, as good cop Eddie Souther.
The show is set to run at London’s Eventim Apollo from July 20 to August 29 before hitting the road, though its stars may not make all the dates on tour (0844 249 1000/sisteractthemusical.co.uk).
The new Bob Marley musical — Get Up, Stand Up! — is due to open on May 28. I can’t believe it’s Marley’s West End debut; but hey, ‘no critic no cry’ (as no one ever sang in Trenchtown).
Up and coming star Arinze Kene stars as the reggae legend; and his story, detailing his rise from rural Jamaica to global stardom, is written by Lee ‘Billy Elliot’ Hall and directed by Clint Dyer. (Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London; 0330 333 4812/getupstandupthemusical.com).
Also in May, Anything Goes, the classic musical set aboard a luxury ocean liner bound for London, is due to dock at London’s Barbican, with Megan Mullally (mouthy Karen from TV hit sitcom Will & Grace) as nightclub singer Reno Sweeney. Veteran showman Robert Lindsay plays small-time mobster Moonface Martin.
Cole Porter songs include, I Get A Kick Out Of You and It’s De-Lovely. And with a book co-written by P.G. Wodehouse, plus a crew of tapdancing sailors, who could resist — especially since it’s the closest most of us will come to a cruise for quite some time.(May 8 until August 22, barbican.org.uk).
After the way 2020 scrambled everybody’s sense of time, a new, musical version of Eighties’ sci-fi adventure comedy Back To The Future could be a perfect fit for our collective disorientation.
Newcomer Olly Dobson takes the Marty McFly role that made Michael J. Fox a star. And the terrific Roger Bart plays Doc Brown, madcap inventor of the legendary time-travelling DeLorean. (From May 14, Adelphi Theatre, Strand, London (backtothefuturemusical.com).
And talking of time travel, I can’t wait to revisit the West End transfer of the National Theatre’s 2019 adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s cult novel for young adults, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane.
It’s the story of a young boy, grieving after the death of his mother, who discovers a portal to another world in a nearby farm.
The genius of Katy Rudd’s production is that it’s both scary and enchanting, using puppetry and magic on a shape-shifting set. (From October 23, Duke of York’s, St Martin’s Lane; tickets on sale from March 13, nationaltheatre.org.uk)
It only remains for us to touch wood, hang up a horseshoe, cross our fingers, or simply say our prayers…
Norma’s ready for her close up…
Sunset Boulevard (Curve Theatre, Leicester, online)
Verdict: Hollywood’s Golden Age reborn
Leicester’s Curve Theatre has been made to look like a Hollywood Golden Age studio for Nikolai Foster’s dreamy revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard.
It’s the one based on the 1950 film noir about a down-on-his-luck screenwriter who falls under the spell of a fallen idol of the silent screen, Norma Desmond.
Ria Jones is genuinely away with the fairies as Norma, who lives in a world of gothic self-aggrandisement. Dressed in turban and flouncing fabrics, augmented with feathers and a galaxy of sequins and diamonds, she’s the Christmas tree of Tinseltown, waving her jewel-encrusted fingers as though conducting hordes of imaginary fans.
Not many actors would be willing, or able, to serve Norma with that much ham. But Jones goes for it with gusto — and is ably assisted by Adam Pearce, who turns her butler Max into a barrel-shaped, Slavic Bond villain, with a voice that booms like a 45-gallon Oldsmobile.
But it’s Danny Mac who steals the show, as the scoffing screenwriter-gigolo Joe Gillis. He may look like a pin-up boy, but he’s more than just a pretty face. With his fine singing voice, he delivers a sharp study in roguish charm, with a hint of hard-boiled snarl.
Lloyd Webber’s velvety tunes and syrupy strings flow nicely, though I’ve always found the story a little slight for the extravagant score. Still, most folks won’t mind, as there’s plenty to occupy the eyeballs, in the form of the handsome Mr Mac.
Available to stream online, £20 for a household ticket, curveonline.co.uk, until January 9.
Crank-it-up console could be a video star
How new is this new year, anyway? When it comes to gaming, it’s tempting to answer: not very. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S, which both came out in November, still feel pretty box-fresh — but there is little sign yet of truly next-generation experiences to occupy them … and you.
Instead, 2021 currently offers a lot of sequels and remakes. I say this more by way of observation than complaint, not least because some of those sequels and remakes are likely to be great.
Take Hitman 3 (£54.99), which is released for all major platforms on January 20. Confusingly, this is the eighth game in the series, but the third since the series turned into something different four years ago: a set of brilliant, freewheeling assassination puzzles, leavened by a deliciously dark sense of humour. Do you use the sniper rifle from distance? Or do you dress up your stony-faced agent as a flamingo to go in close?
Soon after, it’s worth getting excited about a pair of old games all over again. The first is actually three games in one: the Mass Effect trilogy — a grand space opera that has you building a crew to save the galaxy — is getting a ‘Legendary Edition’ (£54.99, expected in spring) remastered for modern systems.
And one of the finest Mario games ever made, Super Mario 3D World, has been salvaged from 2013 and reworked for the Nintendo Switch (£49.99, February 12). Farther ahead, into the territory where release dates are subject to change, are this year’s big system-sellers.
The PS5 has Horizon Forbidden West, a follow-up to one of the standout titles of the previous generation: 2017’s Horizon Zero Dawn, set in a beautifully rendered future-Earth of primitive tribes and robo-dinosaurs. While the Xbox has Halo Infinite, another (already delayed) entry in the popular sci-fi shooter series Halo.
Both games, which should be released by autumn, will be good tests for the new consoles: how much can they handle?
It’s not all familiar stuff, though. Deathloop, due out on PC and PlayStation in May (£59.99), is by Arkane, one of the best studios in the business, and looks as stylish (and murderous) as the rest of their work.
But the most promising thing of 2021 might actually be a yellow piece of plastic with a hand crank.
This is the Playdate (pictured), a Gameboy-style handheld with Apple-style panache that is due out in spring and will download a different micro-game, by a different creator, each week. Now that really does sound like a happy new year.
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