The Stage Awards 2019 shortlist: Producer of the year
Any producer or production-company – of any scale, subsidised or commercial – is eligible. Judged on criteria including (but not limited to) artistic quality, business success, innovation etc.
Award sponsored by PRG
The West End may have bid farewell this year to bawdy Mel Brooks musical Young Frankenstein, but it was still a monster year for the show’s producer Fiery Angel.
A packed 12 months began with a classy staging of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night starring Lesley Manville and Jeremy Irons. It transferred from Bristol Old Vic to the West End, before US audiences were given a chance to enjoy the production’s towering performances.
Similarly impressive were Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams in the West End transfer of the Almeida’s Mary Stuart. Outside London, the company staged Agatha Christie’s Love from a Stranger at the Royal and Derngate in Northampton before it toured.
Edward Snape, who heads Fiery Angel with Marilyn Eardley and Jon Bath, also used the past 12 months to team up with opera and concert producer Raymond Gubbay to launch Fiery Entertainment. Through this new arm of the business, the powerhouse producers assembled an all-star cast, including Jason Manford, Stephen Mangan, Sharon D Clarke and Adrian Lester for a Guys and Dolls semi-staged concert at the Royal Albert Hall, and brought Circus 1903 to the Royal Festival Hall.
Fiery’s plans for 2019 include the West End transfer of Home, I’m Darling. It is fast becoming one of the key commercial producers of quality work transferring out of the subsidised sector.
If you’re going to open a new theatre following a major £26 million redevelopment, you want to kick things off with a bang. Enter, then, theatre company Fuel, which worked with Bristol Old Vic on the stage production of Touching the Void, a gripping and imaginative adaptation of Joe Simpson’s book.
Meanwhile, following a successful run at the National Theatre, Fuel’s joyous co-production of Barber Shop Chronicles returned to the NT, concluding its second run in early 2018. The show, which The Stage described as “an absolute pleasure to experience”, then toured the US. In addition, Fuel produced Andy Smith’s Summit, which made use of British Sign Language and featured three performers telling a story from different perspectives. Then there was Charlie Ward, an interactive sound installation allowing audience members to experience the production as if they were a wounded soldier in the First World War.
Fuel has long been one of UK theatre’s most exciting not-for-profit producing companies, questioning the notion of what theatre can be and leading the way in exploring the theatrical possibilities of poetry and spoken word. But its recent work has seen its productions step up a level in terms of ambition, scale and reach.
Sonia Friedman Productions
You might have forgiven Sonia Friedman for putting her feet up after the barnstorming success of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, but there was no stopping her in 2018, another extraordinary year for the producer. Her hits were plentiful, and ran on both sides of the pond.
Here in the UK, they included another two-parter, The Inheritance. It may require audiences to sit for the best part of seven hours, but this tender and humorous look at life a generation after the Aids crisis in America had critics and audiences weeping, and raving.
Meanwhile, Friedman brought The Jungle to the West End – transforming the Playhouse into a Calais migrant camp – and bringing an unlikely subject matter to mainstream audiences. That production later opened Off-Broadway in New York.
She also transferred Jez Butterworth’s The Ferryman to Broadway, following its successful UK run. To top it all off, she was named in Time magazine’s most influential list, with the citation – from actor James Corden, strangely – reading: “She understands people, what makes them tick. She has the ability to cut through.”
Meanwhile, Harry Potter continues its march to global domination, with its New York production, which opened in 2018, soon to be followed by Melbourne, San Francisco and Hamburg.