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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

20 Phyllida Lloyd

Photo: Nick Harvey
Photo: Nick Harvey


Lloyd’s all-female Shakespeare Trilogy, set in a women’s prison, was one of the theatrical events of the year when staged in rep at the King’s Cross Theatre.

While the individual plays had their strengths and weaknesses, this was a shot in the arm for British theatre that raised important questions about how Shakespeare is cast and staged, and featured superb performances from its diverse cast.

This year will mark a change of tone for Lloyd as she returns to jukebox musical territory (she is the director of Mamma Mia!) with the development of a new musical based on Tina Turner’s music and life.

Last year: New entry
Productions include: The Tempest, Henry IV, Julius Caesar, Mamma Mia!
Coming up in 2017: Tina the Musical

19 David Babani

Photo: Alastair Muir
Photo: Alastair Muir

Menier Chocolate Factory

Babani makes a welcome return to the top 20, following a superb 2016 for his Menier Chocolate Factory in Southwark.

The space is a petite producing powerhouse and one of the capital’s most exciting theatres. Last year it staged a string of exemplary productions including Funny Girl with Sheridan Smith, Travesties, The Truth, Into the Woods and She Loves Me.

A number of these shows transferred to the West End and the Menier’s 2013 production of The Color Purple opened to rave reviews (and two Tony awards) in New York.

Last year: 31st
Productions include: Funny Girl, She Loves Me, The Color Purple
Coming up in 2017: Travesties transfers to the West End

18 Kenneth Branagh

Kenneth Branagh
Photo: Blake Gardner


A towering figure in theatre and one of our greatest classical actors, Branagh dedicated himself in 2016 to the West End, with his Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company camped out at the Garrick for most of the year.

Not everything was a critical hit, but this was high-quality commercial drama with genuine star appeal and audiences came in droves. High points of the 13-month programme included The Winter’s Tale – starring Branagh and Judi Dench – plus the light relief of The Painkiller and Branagh’s own turn in The Entertainer.

Last year: 23rd
Productions include: The Winter’s Tale, Romeo and Juliet, The Entertainer
Coming up in 2017: No theatre announced

17 Bill Kenwright

Photo: Mike Egerton
Photo: Mike Egerton


A stalwart of both this list and the UK theatre industry more generally, Kenwright is a key figure on the touring circuit, with his productions keeping many a regional receiving house going.

After a bit of a health scare in 2015, he seems to be back to full strength. As well as a full slate of classics on the road, Kenwright also produced two West End shows in 2016:  The Go-Between starring Michael Crawford and How the Other Half Loves.

He is one of relatively few producers still catering for middle-market audiences with popular, populist fare.

Last year: 17th
Productions include: The Go Between, How the Other Half Loves, The Glenn Miller Story, The Shawshank Redemption, The Exorcist,  Ghost the Musical, Blood Brothers
Coming up in 2017: Evita, La Cage Aux Folles, A Judgement in Stone

16 Kenny Wax



Having started out as an usher at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, Wax has gone on to become one of UK theatre’s leading commercial producers.

He has been the driving commercial force behind the unlikely success of Mischief Theatre, the company that created The Play That Goes Wrong. He produced its third West End hit in 2016 – The Comedy About a Bank Robbery – and, having conquered the West End, Mischief is now turning its attentions to Broadway and TV.

The shows are also regulars on the touring circuit, alongside Wax’s stable of children’s productions.

Last year: 37th
Productions include: The Play That Goes Wrong, Peter Pan Goes Wrong, The Comedy About a Bank Robbery, The Gruffalo, Mr Popper’s Penguins
Coming up in 2017: The Play That Goes Wrong on Broadway, La Strada at the Other Palace

15 John Tiffany

Photo: Manuel Harlan
Photo: Manuel Harlan


Tiffany was probably best known until last year for his work on Black Watch, the runaway hit from the National Theatre of Scotland’s inaugural season in 2006.

It’s unlikely that will be the case following Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. What could have been a disappointing, commercial exercise was transformed into a vibrant, epic and innovative stage work by Tiffany and his creative team, who employed many of the same physical theatre techniques from his earlier, lower-budget productions.

Somehow, he also found time to direct a superlative revival of The Glass Menagerie.

Last year: New entry
Productions include: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, The Glass Menagerie
Coming up in 2017: The Glass Menagerie West End transfer

14 Matthew Warchus

Photo: Manuel Harlan
Photo: Manuel Harlan

Old Vic, London

Warchus’ first full year as artistic director of the Old Vic has been impressive. Succeeding a global star like Kevin Spacey was always going to be challenging, but the director has put his own stamp on the historic theatre, changing the programming policy and bringing in a far broader range of shows.

Some of the many highlights included Ralph Fiennes in The Master Builder, Drew McOnie’s dance piece Jekyll and Hyde and a revival of Art. But the two really big ticket items were Groundhog Day, Tim Minchin’s second stage musical, and the return to theatre of Glenda Jackson in King Lear.

This year’s programme also looks positively mouthwatering.

Last year: 34th
Productions include: The Master Builder, Art, King Lear, Jekyll and Hyde, Groundhog Day
Coming up in 2017: Rosencrantz and Guildernstern Are Dead, Woyzeck, Girl from the North Country

Interview with Matthew Warchus

13 Matthew Byam Shaw, Nia Janis, Nick Salmon

Matthew Byam Shaw, Nia Janis, Nick Salmon. Photo: Helen Maybanks
Matthew Byam Shaw, Nia Janis, Nick Salmon. Photo: Helen Maybanks

Playful Productions

The Playful Productions trio are increasingly major players in the West End – both as producers and general managers. With a reputation for commercial savvy and artistic flair, they produced one of the major hits of 2016, No Man’s Land with Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. It’s rare for Pinter to be a major commercial success, but the star names and top production values meant this was a box office smash both on tour and in the West End.

Playful was also responsible for Hangmen’s West End transfer and is a co-producer on Kinky Boots, as well as serving as general manager on a number of major West End musicals – Wicked, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Groundhog Day among them.

Last year: 19th
Productions include: No Man’s Land, Hangmen, Kinky Boots,
Coming up in 2017: Don Juan in Soho, Edward Albee’s The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia?

12 Michael Harrison



“It’s a big job. I don’t have any hobbies. Producing is all I do,” Harrison told The Stage in an interview last year. It’s not hard to believe, looking at the slate of productions he brought to the stage in 2016.

As if serving as managing director for Qdos pantomimes, the world’s biggest panto producer, wasn’t work enough, Harrison has also established himself as one of our leading independent musical theatre producers. Recent hits have ranged from new musical Mrs Henderson Presents to a stunning revival of Gypsy (produced with regular collaborator David Ian).

The Bodyguard continues to be a global smash and then there was the not insignificant job of returning pantomime to the London Palladium with Cinderella, which he also co-directed.

Last year: 21st
Productions include: Cinderella at the London Palladium, Mrs Henderson Presents, Gypsy, The Bodyguard
Coming up in 2017: Funny Girl on tour, pantomime at the Palladium again, Young Frankenstein, Beautiful on tour

Interview with Michael Harrison

11 Daniel Evans and Rachel Tackley

Rachel Tackley and Daniel Evans. Photo: Tobias Key
Rachel Tackley and Daniel Evans. Photo: Tobias Key

Chichester Festival Theatre

Evans and Tackley – the new leadership team at Chichester Festival Theatre – have inherited a venue in fine fettle both on stage and off from Jonathan Church and Alan Finch.

But the pair have fine pedigrees themselves (Evans at Sheffield Theatres and Tackley at English Touring Theatre) and represented popular appointments for the south coast producing theatre.

It’s early days in their tenure in Chichester, but both enjoyed fine valedictory seasons with their former companies. Evans in particular signed off with a barnstorming final season of work for Sheffield including the twin musical triumphs of Show Boat and Flowers for Mrs Harris, both of which were recognised at the UK Theatre Awards.

Last year: 14th and 45th
Productions include: Show Boat, Flowers for Mrs Harris (Evans at Sheffield Theatres); The Herbal Bed (Tackley at ETT)
Coming up in 2017: Yet to announce 2017 season

Interview with Rachel Tackley

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)

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