Mark Shenton’s top 10 musicals yet to be seen in London
The last few months have seen a slew of UK premieres of previously unseen American musicals, from the massive Dreamgirls, which took 35 years to get to the West End – to more modest versions of Side Show, with a score by Henry Krieger (who also wrote Dreamgirls) and Cy Coleman’s The Life, both seen at Southwark Playhouse. That’s not to forget Ballroom, Birds of Paradise and Pete ‘n’ Keely. If there are any budding producers out there looking for a show to bring to London, here are 10 titles I’d most like to see…
1. The Act
It’s one of my eternal regrets that I’m too young to have seen Liza Minnelli in her Tony-winning performance in The Act, the Kander and Ebb show that was created specifically as a vehicle for her in 1977. I adore the cast album, though, with such zingers as Shine It On and City Lights, as well as Arthur in the Afternoon that Minnelli would introduce into her concert set regularly thereafter. Of course she would be unlikely to do this very demanding show now, but isn’t there a modern day equivalent who could bring it to London?
2. Woman of the Year
Another Kander and Ebb musical unseen over here, Woman of the Year was a vehicle for the late, great Lauren Bacall, winning several Tonys including for book and score and for Bacall as best leading actress in a musical. Bacall’s rendition of One of the Boys in the 1981 Tony Awards is one of my absolutely favourite musical clips.
3. The Will Rogers Follies
I did happily get to see Tommy Tune’s spectacular 1991 Broadway production of The Will Rogers Follies with its tremendous Tony-winning Cy Coleman score; you can get a taster of Tyne’s incredible formation choreography in this extract from the 1991 Tony Awards, but I’d love to see the entire show on the London stage.
4. The Boy from Oz
This bio-musical of the phenomenal Australian showman and composer Peter Allen was first seen in Australia in 1998, and then came to Broadway with a revised book and starring another amazing Aussie showman Hugh Jackman in the title role in 2003. What a pity that Jackman never brought it to London… but he still could.
5. Legs Diamond
Peter Allen’s own musical Legs Diamond, in which he himself starred on Broadway in 1988, was a fast flop – but it has a treasurable score, and it would be fascinating to see it again. Sadly its main legacy is that the Nederlander Organisation offloaded the historic Mark Hellinger Theatre, where it had played, to the Times Square Church after its failure, losing an important Broadway house in the process.
6. Catch Me If You Can
This 2011 Broadway musical with a score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and the same principal creative team behind their smash hit show Hairspray was a fast flop; but it has brilliant songs and a compelling story. A student production at ArtsEd three years ago demonstrated that it could have legs. I hope a producer gives it them.
7. The Last Ship
This original musical with a score by Sting was another fast Broadway flop in 2014, but has sensational songs. Sting himself has performed them in concert, both before the show opened on Broadway at New York Public Theatre, then again after it had closed far closer to home at Gateshead’s Sage. The book needs overhauling, but I hope we one day hear it again in a theatre. Read The Stage interview with Sting here.
8. The Bridges of Madison County
This Jason Robert Brown-scored version of Robert James Waller’s 1992 novel ran for just four months on Broadway, but the score (which won a Tony Award for best original score and orchestrations) is one of Brown’s finest since his Tony-winning score for Parade in 1998.
9. Far from Heaven
Composer Scott Frankel and lyricist Michael Korie are currently represented on Broadway by War Paint, and also previously wrote the 2006 score for Grey Gardens (seen in London at Southwark Playhouse in 2016). But Far from Heaven, seen at Off-Broadway’s Playwrights Horizons in 2013, deserves a further life.
10. The Tap Dance Kid
In the wake of the great success of the original production of Dreamgirls, Henry Krieger scored this 1983 musical that offered the first sighting of powerhouse tap dancer Savion Glover in the title role when he was just 10 years old.