All year round my theatregoing diary is jam packed, but at this time of year it just gets ridiculous.
Not all agents go and see as much as we do at Cole Kitchenn, but some do – and I always know who it is because I see the same faces out and about. I think it’s so important to be at the front line seeing your clients perform whenever possible.
Such intensive theatregoing can lead to mild apathy, and while that means you’re generally less tolerant of mediocrity, you become all the more grateful and all the more excited about excellence.
In the last few weeks, I’ve seen more excellence than usual – there’s a lot of hard work going on out there.
At the musical theatre colleges, I can confirm Mark Shenton’s view that Catch Me If You Can and Wonderful Town at Arts Ed, and The Addams Family and Lift at Guildford School of Acting were wonderful, and I have made offers to my favourite performers.
I saw my client Philip Labey in the excellent Terrence Rattigan play First Episode at the Jermyn Street Theatre – a venue where I began my own career long ago – still under the excellent stewardship of Penny Horner. (An audience member that night went up to her and said she deserved an OBE – doesn’t she just?)
I’ve also seen two understudy performances that blew me away: Alice Fearn on for Katherine Kingsley in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Lisa Anne Wood as Christine in Phantom of the Opera. Lisa is my fourth Christine and no less exceptional than the three lovely ladies who preceded her.
There’s a certain thrill as an agent that is difficult to replicate when a client goes on for a tour de force in the West End – you have it when your Elphaba gets on the lift, or your Jean Valjean kneels for the prayer, and both Lisa and Alice made me proud.
Raising the stakes even higher, last night I watched Harry Morrison and Aoife Nally in Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins at the Menier Chocolate Factory – among the most impressive cast I think has ever assembled at that venue. We signed Harry from GSA years ago, and Aoife when she first worked with Jamie Lloyd on Evita. To see him secure this lead role is a massive achievement.
Stephen Sondheim was in attendence, and also I hear he popped into see the 35-seat Sweeney Todd in a pie shop, in which I have Siobhan McCarthy playing Mrs Lovett. How she must’ve felt performing that role in front of him, knees presumably touching. The whole production was once-in-lifetime wonderful.
Tonight, I am off to see Emma Williams and Melanie La Barrie in White Christmas at the West Yorkshire Playhouse with choreography by another client, Nick Winston. The buzz is amazing – and production shots look inredible. If that doesn’t get me in the Christmas mood I don’t know what will.
The show will always hold a special place in my heart, because my grandmother and her twin sister were a famous variety act. Older readers of The Stage might remember the Mackrell Twins, who also became the Wrigley’s Twins as part of the famous Doublemint gum campaign. They were the reason I considered a career in showbusiness, not least because at every family function they would ‘have their arms bent’ to sing Sisters from White Christmas – their signature song on The Dave King Show – the Jonathan Ross show of its day.