The Stage 100 2018: Theatre’s most influential (6-10)
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.
6 Nica Burns and Max Weitzenhoffer
One of Theatreland’s most ebullient characters, Burns, together with Weitzenhoffer, owns and operates six West End playhouses: the Palace, Lyric, Apollo, Garrick, Duchess and Vaudeville Theatres.
The Lyric, Palace and Duchess Theatre are all tied up with long runners (Thriller Live, Harry Potter, and The Play That Goes Wrong), while the Garrick and Apollo welcomed two new musical tenants. Young Frankenstein arrived at the Garrick, while the Apollo plays home to Burns’ own transfer of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, one of the most exciting and critically acclaimed new musicals of the year.
The set is completed by a season of Oscar Wilde plays at the Vaudeville. Burns is also responsible for the Edinburgh Comedy Awards and has emerged as an outspoken advocate for expert criticism and silent snacks, as well as a big supporter of emerging producers.
Last year: 6th
Productions include: Love in Idleness, The Mentor, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
Coming up in 2018: Works continue on a new in-the-round theatre on the site of the old Astoria
7 Nick Starr and Nicholas Hytner
Bridge Theatre, London
The opening of the Bridge Theatre, the first venture from Hytner and Starr since they left the National, was one of the most anticipated events of 2017. Designed by Steve Tompkins, it was the first new commercial theatre of scale to open in the capital since the New London.
While its inaugural production Young Marx opened to warm, if not ecstatic, reviews, the verdict on the building itself was unanimous: a theatre that you want to spend time in, boasting good food and drink (take a bow, interval madeleines), excellent sight lines, comfy seats and an intimate, flexible auditorium.
That flexibility will be put through its paces for the next production, Julius Caesar, to be performed in promenade. The two Nicks intend to replicate the Bridge model on other London sites, so don’t be surprised to see them rise up the list in future.
Last year: 59th
Productions include: Young Marx
Coming up in 2018: Julius Caesar, Nightfall, A Very, Very, Very Dark Matter
8 Michael Harrison
With West End musicals The Bodyguard, Gypsy and Mrs Henderson Presents already under his belt, in 2017 Harrison added Annie (starring Miranda Hart, then Craig Revel Horwood and Meera Syal as Miss Hannigan) and Young Frankenstein (co-produced with Fiery Angel) to his increasingly impressive CV.
Over the 2016/17 pantomime season, he brought pantomime back to the London Palladium with Cinderella, returning last year with Dick Whittington, both of which he directed. The Palladium panto is now one of more than 30 he produces annually across the UK in his role as managing director of Qdos Pantomimes, an incredible achievement given the commitments of his company Michael Harrison Entertainment.
As well as those mentioned above, he was also a producer on the UK tours of Beautiful and Funny Girl and – with David Ian – has been responsible for taking The Bodyguard around the globe and Sunset Boulevard around the UK.
Last year: 21st
Productions include: Annie, Young Frankenstein, lots of pantomimes
Coming up in 2018: Lots of pantos, Scrooge tour, The Bodyguard on tour, Benidorm on stage
9 Lin-Manuel Miranda
Hamilton’s extraordinary New York success looks almost certain to be replicated in London, after Miranda’s era-defining, groundbreaking show (it really is as good as you’ve heard – see review, p20) opened at the Victoria Palace in December.
It had looked touch-and-go for a while, after delays to the refurbishment of the Victoria Palace pushed back the show’s opening by a few weeks, but in the end London got to see what New Yorkers have been talking about for the best part of three years, just in time for Christmas. It is hard to remember a musical in recent memory that has had such a big impact and likely influence.
As no less a figure than Stephen Sondheim observed: “There’s always got to be an innovator, somebody who experiments first with new forms. The minute something is a success, everybody imitates it… So we’ll certainly see more rap musicals. The next thing we’ll get is Lincoln set to rap. If you think I’m kidding, talk to me in a year.”
Last year: New entry
Productions include: Hamilton, In the Heights, Bring It On
Coming up in 2018: Mary Poppins on screen, rumours that Miranda might appear in Hamilton in London at some point
10 James Graham
At one point, Ink – about the launch of the Sun by Rupert Murdoch and Larry Lamb – and Labour of Love, a fictional political comedy about the Labour Party, were running side by side on St Martin’s Lane. Meanwhile, a fourth Graham production, Quiz, opened in Chichester and will follow the trio into the West End next year. It tells the story of Charles Ingram, ‘the coughing major’, who was caught cheating on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. It will transfer to the Noel Coward in April.
Never one to rest on his laurels, Graham has also written a farce looking back on Hull’s year as UK City of Culture, which opens at Hull Truck later this month. The only question is where he finds the time.
Last year: 76
Productions include: This House, Ink, Labour of Love, Quiz
Coming up in 2018: Quiz West End transfer, The Culture – A Farce in Two Acts