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The Stage 100: theatre’s power list 2017

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The Stage 100 is the definitive list of theatre’s most influential people and partnerships. Each year, a crack team of leading industry figures is polled before senior editorial figures at The Stage consider business success, vision and ability to affect change for the better. Rankings are based on ongoing success, weighted towards achievements in the past 12 months. In terms of diversity, the list aims to reflect the way the theatre and performing arts industry is, not what it aims to be, nor what The Stage would like it to be.

100-81 80-61 60-41 40-21 20-11 10-6 Top 5 Analysis

60 Billie Piper

Photo: Johan Persson
Photo: Johan Persson


Piper has come a long way since her stage debut in 2007, starring in Christopher Hampton’s Treats. Her star turn in 2016’s Yerma at London’s Young Vic marked a real watershed moment, with the actor garnering five-star reviews for her portrayal of a woman driven to the unthinkable by her desire to have a child. Critics called it “shattering”, “harrowing” and “stunning” and the performance earned Piper a best actress gong at the London Evening Standard Theatre Awards. New entry

59 Nick Starr and Nicholas Hytner

Photo: Helen Maybanks
Photo: Helen Maybanks

Bridge Theatre

Things have been quieter for the two Nicks, at least in terms of public profile, since they left the National Theatre. But behind the scenes, the pair have been busy on plans for their new theatre, the Bridge, set to open this year. It will focus on new, “adventurous” work and will give theatregoers “modern standards of comfort, leg room and facilities”. Sounds like a welcome addition to the theatre landscape, and with Hytner and Starr at the helm, it promises to be very exciting indeed. Last year: 32

58 Michael Grandage

Photo: Marc Brenner
Photo: Marc Brenner


Grandage’s year in 2016 was one less focused around productions, but was nonetheless significant for the Michael Grandage Company, which announced an expansion into general management in July. It means Grandage’s company can now general-manage shows by other producers as well as producing its own, a move that will no doubt boost its influence in the industry. Last year also saw Grandage launch a bursary scheme to support new theatrical talent, and he was announced as the director of the forthcoming Frozen musical, set to open on Broadway in 2018. Last year: 24

57 Mark Goucher

Photo: Julie Howden
Photo: Julie Howden


It has been another busy year for Goucher – one of commercial theatre’s most prolific producers. On the road, the year kicked off with a tour of Alan Bennett’s Single Spies and continued with Million Dollar Quartet, starring Martin Kemp. In the West End, he co-produced (with Mark Rubinstein) Ronald Harwood’s The Dresser, starring Ken Stott and Reece Shearsmith. Goucher’s tour of Hairspray continues into 2017, when his company will also co-produce The Miser in the West End, starring Griff Rhys Jones, Mathew Horne and Lee Mack. Last year: 65

56 Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields and Henry Lewis

Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields and Henry Lewis. Photo: Pamela Raith
Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields and Henry Lewis. Photo: Pamela Raith

Mischief Theatre

The Play That Goes Wrong started as a show in a pub theatre, but has now led to Mischief Theatre having three hit comedies running in the West End – the other two being The Comedy About a Bank Robbery and Peter Pan Goes Wrong. Not only that, but Peter Pan was adapted for a BBC television special, giving Mischief its first TV credit, and The Play That Goes Wrong is Broadway-bound in 2017. Expect this company’s meteoric rise to continue. New entry

55 Alex Beard

Photo: ROH
Photo: ROH

Royal Opera House

Under Beard as chief executive, the Royal Opera House included the world premiere of 4.48 Psychosis, by Philip Venables, and a version of Shostakovich’s The Nose, in a new production directed by Barrie Kosky and conducted by Ingo Metzmacher. The ROH achieved 96% capacity under Beard and 770,000 attendances at its screenings across 35 countries. He is ably supported by Antonio Pappano and Kasper Holten at the Royal Opera, and Kevin O’Hare at the Royal Ballet. Last year: 54

54 Purni Morell

Photo: Manuel Harlan
Photo: Manuel Harlan

Unicorn Theatre

It has been five years since Morell took up the top post at London’s Unicorn Theatre. In that time, she’s helped to cement its reputation as the UK’s prime destination for theatre for young people. In 2016, the Unicorn gave us shows such as the world premiere of the new Timberlake Wertenbaker play, My Father Odysseus, described by The Stage as a “powerful retelling” of the Greek myth. Morell has said the Unicorn is “the only theatre in London that treats children as the adults they have inside them”. It has proved a recipe for success. Last year: 47

53 David Grindrod and Pippa Ailion

David Grindrod and Pippa Ailion (Photo: Eliza Power)
David Grindrod and Pippa Ailion (Photo: Eliza Power)

Casting directors

Two of the West End’s most prolific casting directors, Grindrod and Ailion have populated some of Theatreland’s biggest shows. Grindrod is the casting director for Andrew Lloyd Webber, among others, and his 2016 productions included Sunset Boulevard at the London Coliseum, Jesus Christ Superstar at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, Groundhog Day at the Old Vic and School of Rock. Ailion, meanwhile, cast Funny Girl, starring Sheridan Smith, and Dreamgirls, starring Amber Riley. Ailion’s current West End portfolio also includes Motown and The Book of Mormon. New entry

52 James Grieve and George Perrin

James Grieve and George Perrin. Photo: Geraint Lewis
James Grieve and George Perrin. Photo: Geraint Lewis

Paines Plough

For the third year, the artistic directors of Paines Plough took their portable theatre the Roundabout on tour and to the Edinburgh Fringe, where they presented some of the most exciting work at the festival. Jonny Donahoe’s smash hit Every Brilliant Thing continued its UK tour, alongside three world premieres in the Roundabout. Paines Plough is crucial to the development of new writing, and the innovation it has brought with the Roundabout continues to reap rewards. Last year: 52

51 David Hare

Photo: Johan Persson
Photo: Johan Persson


Hare, known for his topical work, enjoyed a bumper 2016. A new play, The Red Barn, was staged at the National Theatre, directed by Robert Icke. Meanwhile, the venue also played host to his new Chekhov adaptations, which transferred from Chichester, and a one-off performance of his 2004 hit Stuff Happens, which was restaged to coincide with the publication of the Chilcot Inquiry. Last year: 71

50 Jack Thorne

Photo: Martin Godwin/Guardian
Photo: Martin Godwin


Harry Potter and the Cursed Child may be the biggest theatrical event many of us will experience in our lifetime. Thorne penned the script that brought JK Rowling’s characters to life on stage. His two-part epic realisation of an idea generated with Rowling and director John Tiffany looks set to make Harry Potter a show that will run and run. Thorne is also working with Headlong on a new musical, called Junkyard, which will open this year. New entry

49 Jenny Sealey

Photo: Micha Theiner
Photo: Micha Theiner

Graeae Theatre Company

Sealey, artistic director of Graeae, took shows to seven different countries, including Brazil and Japan, in 2016. As the UK’s major disability-led theatre company, Graeae continues to offer work that puts d/Deaf and disabled performers centre stage, and challenges preconceptions. Sealey is a major campaigner for diversity in the sector, and Graeae is one of the companies involved in the Ramps on the Moon initiative that aims to offer opportunities to disabled people across England and to bring about long-term change. Last year: 49

48 Mark Rylance

Photo: Featureflash/Shutterstock
Photo: Featureflash/Shutterstock


Following his success in 2015 with the brilliant Farinelli and the King, Rylance returned to the West End stage in Nice Fish. The play saw him work once again with his director wife Claire van Kampen, who also helmed Farinelli. Rylance’s presence alone was enough to guarantee an audience – such is the appeal of this ever-popular performer, who won an Oscar in 2016 for his turn in Bridge of Spies and was also knighted in the New Year honours. Last year: 29

47 Tristan Baker


Baker, with Charlie Parsons, runs production company Runaway Entertainment, which is both a general manager and a producer of major shows. In 2016, the company had credits on shows including David Bowie musical Lazarus, Guys and Dolls, The Railway Children and In the Heights. The latter enjoyed runs in the King’s Cross Theatre, an impressive purpose-built venue in north London, run by Baker and his team. It is due to close in 2017, but Baker hopes to continue producing in pop-up spaces elsewhere. Last year: 63

46 Tim Minchin

Tim Minchin. Photo: Alex Maguire
Photo: Alex Maguire


Minchin’s Matilda burst into the West End five years ago, winning rave reviews and numerous accolades, including seven Olivier awards. Next year, he could well see that awards success replicated, thanks to Groundhog Day, which opened in 2016 at the Old Vic in London. The musical featured all of Minchin’s trademark wit and catchy music, turning a much loved film into a popular musical in its own right. New Entry

Interview with Tim Minchin

45 Fiona Allan

Fiona Allan. Photo: Pamela Raith
Photo: Pamela Raith

Birmingham Hippodrome

Allan is one of the busiest women in the industry right now. As if running Birmingham Hippodrome were not enough, she is also president of UK Theatre and chair of digital arts venture the Space. Since joining the Hippodrome in 2015, she has set about making her mark on the Birmingham venue, and stating her ambitions to turn it into a “Barbican of the Midlands”. She has also said that she wants to use her roles at both Birmingham Hippodrome and UK Theatre to improve diversity within the sector. New Entry

Interview with Fiona Allan

44 Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart

Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. Photo: Luke Fontana
Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. Photo: Luke Fontana


Few casting announcements generated as much excitement in 2016 as the news that McKellen and Stewart would be reunited on stage in Pinter’s No Man’s Land. They had previously appeared in Waiting for Godot in 2009. Together they created one of the must-see events of the year, garnering four and five-star reviews. The sold-out show was seen by more than 90,000 people. They also performed a remarkable double act at the London Evening Standard Theatre Awards. New Entry

Interview with Ian McKellen

43 Michael McCabe

Photo: Matt Crockett
Photo: Matt Crockett


Other producers may get green with envy looking at McCabe’s year – not least because Wicked, of which he is executive producer, marked its 10th anniversary in the West End. Audiences continue to flock to this juggernaut, with perennial favourite Rachel Tucker returning to play Elphaba. More than seven million people have now seen it in London alone. McCabe will now turn his attention to another musical – An American in Paris, which opens in London next year. Last year: 48

42 Julian Bird

Photo: Pamela Raith
Photo: Pamela Raith

Society of London Theatre

Bird, as chief executive of the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, oversees the Oliviers and the UK Theatre Awards. The Oliviers celebrated their 40th anniversary in 2016 and this year moves to the Royal Albert Hall. Meanwhile, Curtain Up, an exhibition celebrating 40 years of theatre on both sides of the Atlantic, opened in London and at New York’s Library for the Performing Arts in October. In November SOLT hosted TheatreCraft 2016, the West End’s biggest careers fair for young people interested in embarking on a non-performing career in theatre. Last year: 45

41 Nikolai Foster and Chris Stafford

Nikolai Foster and Chris Stafford. Photo: Tom Wren
Nikolai Foster and Chris Stafford. Photo: Tom Wren

Curve, Leicester

Curve’s artistic director and chief executive respectively, this duo continues to make sure the Leicester venue is a hub of exciting work for audiences locally and beyond. Stafford has vowed to put more emphasis on touring work and West End transfers. In 2016, Foster’s production of Breakfast at Tiffany’s transferred to London and it produced tours of Sister Act and The Twits. Curve announced a record turnover of £10.2 million, driven by an increase in ticket sales and touring work. Last year: 62

100-81 80-61 60-41 40-21 20-11 10-6 Top 5 Analysis

The Stage 100: full list for 2017

Top 5
1. Sonia Friedman (last year: 2)
2. Andrew Lloyd Webber (4)
3. Cameron Mackintosh and Nicholas Allott (3)
4. Mark Cornell and Adam Kenwright (new entry/41)
5. Rufus Norris, Lisa Burger and Ben Power (12)

Numbers 6-10
6. Nica Burns and Max Weitzenhoffer (9)
7. Gregory Doran, Catherine Mallyon, Erica Whyman (7)
8. David Lan and Lucy Woollatt (6)
9. Josie Rourke and Kate Pakenham (13)
10. Emma Rice and Neil Constable (new entry/11)

Numbers 11-20
11. Daniel Evans and Rachel Tackley (14/45)
12. Michael Harrison (21)
13. Matthew Byam Shaw, Nia Janis, Nick Salmon (19)
14. Matthew Warchus (34)
15. John Tiffany (new entry)
16. Kenny Wax (37)
17. Bill Kenwright (17)
18. Kenneth Branagh (23)
19. David Babani (31)
20. Phyllida Lloyd (new entry)

Numbers 21-40
21. David Ian (22)
22. Noma Dumezweni (77)
23. Robert Icke (36)
24. Thomas Schumacher (43)
25. Rupert Goold (10)
26. Nick Thomas (26)
27. Jeremy Herrin (72, with Henny Finch)
28. Matthew Bourne (42)
29. Indhu Rubasingham (38)
30. Howard Panter and Rosemary Squire (1)
31. Sarah Frankcom (20)
32. Edward Snape (59)
33. Caro Newling (33)
34. Robert Hastie and Dan Bates (new entry/14)
35. Gemma Bodinetz and Deborah Aydon (35)
36. Toni Racklin (18)
37. Timothy Sheader and William Village (new entry)
38. Alistair Spalding (28)
39. Vicky Featherstone (46)
40. Sheridan Smith (30)

Numbers 41-60
41. Nikolai Foster and Chris Stafford (62)
42. Julian Bird (45)
43. Michael McCabe (48)
44. Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart (new entry)
45. Fiona Allan (new entry)
46. Tim Minchin (new entry)
47. Tristan Baker (63)
48. Mark Rylance (29)
49. Jenny Sealey (49)
50. Jack Thorne (new entry)
51. David Hare (71)
52. James Grieve and George Perrin (52)
53. David Grindrod and Pippa Ailion (new entry)
54. Purni Morell (47)
55. Alex Beard (54)
56. Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields and Henry Lewis (new entry)
57. Mark Goucher (65)
58. Michael Grandage (24)
59. Nick Starr and Nicholas Hytner (32)
60. Billie Piper (new entry)

Numbers 61-80
61. David Greig (56)
62. Tom Morris (new entry)
63. Fergus Linehan (55)
64. Jonathan Kent (73)
65. Simon Russell Beale (61)
66. Maxine Peake (51)
67. Sean Holmes (67)
68. Peter Wilson (new entry)
69. Tamara Rojo (69)
70. Pappa Essiedu (new entry)
71. Glenda Jackson (new entry)
72. Kully Thiarai (new entry)
73. Ed Bartlam and Charlie Wood (85)
74. Jamie Hendry (new entry)
75. Andrew Wright (new entry)
76. James Graham (78)
77. Jackie Wylie (new entry)
78. Marianne Elliott (76)
79. Danny Moar and Laurence Boswell (87)
80. Hofesh Shechter (75)

Numbers 81-100
81. Drew McOnie (81)
82. Cassie Raine and Anna Ehnold-Danailov (new entry)
83. Madani Younis (91)
84. Michael Longhurst (new entry)
85. James Dacre and Martin Sutherland (89)
86. David Jubb (new entry)
87. Emma Brunjes and Les Enfants Terribles (new entry)
88. Lucian Msamati (new entry)
89. James Brining and Robin Hawkes (74)
90. Michelle Terry (new entry)
91. Tamara Harvey (new entry)
92. Gareth Fry (new entry)
93. Giles Croft and Stephanie Sirr (new entry)
94. David Byrne (new entry)
95. Paule Constable (new entry)
96. Emily Dobbs (new entry)
97. Anna Fleischle (new entry)
98. Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway (new entry)
99. Lez Brotherston (new entry)
100. Natasha J Barnes and Ria Jones (new entry)

The Stage 100 2018: The full list


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