I have been accused in the past of shamelessly promoting my own clients (a badge I wear with pride), so following my last blog where I chose 10 of my favourite West End performances from people I have represented, here’s my next 10 from those I haven’t:
Ruthie Henshall – Chicago
Is there a greater triple threat is the history of the West-End? I’d wager not. She’s at her best in musical comedy that exploits all her skills – and Roxie Hart was her zenith.
Steve Balsamo & Zubin Varla – Jesus Christ Superstar
The pairing of these two in the excellent Lyceum revival was earth shatteringly brilliant. Balsamo sang Gethsemane like no one else had before or since. His ethereal presence was Jesus incarnate. And if I had to put one performance above all others Zubin would top the tree. His Judas was a man crossing the precipice from nervous breakdown to psychopathic madness. It was excruciating to watch, thus stained on my retina for all time. How on EARTH did these two not play the roles in the not very good film for video version made a few years later? I’ve never had a straight answer and I’d love to know.
Joanna Riding – Carousel
I knew Joanna would be on this list, but I just wasn’t sure for which role. Ultimately though, the role that gave her her first Olivier was probably the one that solidified her place as one of musical theatres most accomplished dramatic actresses.
Today, the role of Elphaba is the pinnacle of many a belter’s ambition, and some wonderful ladies have played the role in London. But for my money Rachel is by far and away the best Elphaba I have ever seen, anywhere in the world. The tragedy that she didn’t win I’d Do Anything turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Jenna Russell – Sunday in the Park with George
There’s a truth that lies at the heart of everything Jenna does, which then allows the theatregoer to suspend disbelief so willingly that she can grab your heart with one hand, control how it heats, stop it, and jolt it into starting again, all with a raised eyebrow or half smile. Broadway in particular has always been most enamoured with Bernadette Peters’ Dot (which I also love), which is why Jenna’s was so well received – it couldn’t have been more different.
Daniel Evans – Merrily We Roll Along
I almost chose Sunday in the Park with George against Daniel’s name, but ultimately it was his Charley in the Donmar production of Merrily that first brought him to prominence. Daniel is a fiercely intelligent man, which made his tortured genius Charley utterly plausible. Daniel has proven himself in Sheffield to be an equally important director, but I’m glad he’s not deprived the world oh his on stage talents too.
Ramin Karimloo – Phantom
Love Never Dies was… Complicated. But Ramin in Phantom was one of the best Phantom’s of all time- and it was that good when he was Standby to Earl Carpenter. At that stage I think I watched his performance more than his resident director, as I was married to one of his two Christine’s at the time, and represented the other. It restored my faith in the industry that a performance like that could not go unnoticed, and that he would sky rocket to the top of his game with an Olivier nod and commercial album release just a few years later.
Joanna Ampil – Miss Saigon
I watched the 10th anniversary performance, when Lea Salonga came out and sang a beautiful song that had been cut from the show previously – but it was Jo who just shook the audience to its core – for me, my favourite Kim ever.
Sheridan Smith – Into The Woods
People think of Legally Blonde as Sheridan’s big West End moment, which of course it was, but after a debut in the NYMT’s Bugsy Malone as Talullah (opposite me as Dandy Dan – taught her everything she knows, obv) she played Little Red Riding Hood in Sondheim’s Into the Woods in cast that included Homeland’s Damian Lewis and Sophie Thompson. And Sheridan literally stole the show. She was hilarious and heart breaking all at the same time. She should’ve received an Olivier nomination- god knows why she didnt. Maybe someone knew there’d be plenty of time for awards later…
Cynthia Erivo – Color Purple
My most recent addition to the list – Cynthia Erivo in The Color Purple at the Menier Chocolate Factory. I cried, I stood, I cheered. I have no other words. Well, I do: one of the most incredible performances I’ve ever seen in that converted warehouse. Or anywhere for that matter. A true star.
Is that 10 already? Dammit.
I wanted to include Jodie Walker, Hannah Waddingham, Michael Jibson, Nathan Lane… but this is quite enough lists for now – my next blog I shall return to prose style long form argument.