Thursday, June 20

In The Spotlight

Hello North West End

Welcome to my new weekly column here on the site, where I will talk all things theatre from local to touring, West End to Broadway and more.

My name is Craig, and I am a playwright and director here in wonderful Manchester and also the co-owner of the long running theatre production company Vertigo. I am thrilled to be able to spend a little time with you each week with this column and share what’s going on in the theatre world.

So, with that said, I thought it might be best to bring you up to date with all that’s going on around the world in theatre when it comes to everybody’s least favourite party guest… Covid.

It’s been a dreadful two years for the theatre industry, and today we are still fighting to figure out a way to move forward in this new normal that we find ourselves in. So, let’s start this off with our first trip to Oz.

A crown jewel here on the Manchester theatre scene is Hope Mill, a local theatre that has proven to be a hub for some superb revivals and original works, many transferring to London. Like all other venues, Hope Mill was hit hard when this pandemic started, and today, the venue is still struggling. You see, their latest production The Wiz has been hit with numerous cancelled performances due to breakthrough Covid cases, and every cancelled performance costs desperately needed money to keep the show running. However, never missing a beat, much like their production of RENT that was also affected by the pandemic, The Wiz will now be available to stream online for a limited number of performances. What’s so surprising about this is that Hope Mill seems to be head and shoulders above 90 percent of producing venues around the UK when it comes to adapting during this ongoing pandemic. This is a relatively new venue and producing house (opening in 2015) and yet the sheer passion, dedication and determination from founders Joseph Houston and William Whelton has made sure that nothing is going to stand in their way of producing quality theatre for an eager audience. So please, stream The Wiz, I know I will be, let’s make sure that this unique venue can stick around for years to come. So, ease on down the road from the comfort of your own home, and as you do, raise a glass to Joseph, William and the cast and crew of The Wiz, we salute you.

Book tickets here –    

Also linking to Hope Mill, back at the start of the Pandemic, Aria Entertainments production of Zorro the Musical had just started previews at the venue, after a couple of performances the world closed down and the show was over. Luckily, the producers announced that it would reopen, this time in London’s Charing Cross Theatre. Well, a quick update on that, the dates have been moved back slightly (a smart move in my opinion), now running April 2nd to May 28th (originally scheduled for 12th March till 8th May). I am so happy to see this one go ahead, we haven’t had a revival of this since its original run in 2008/9 when the show opened to good reviews. So, if you love some swashbuckling adventure, passionate romance and a vibrant score by The Gypsy Kings make sure to check this one out.

Book tickets here   

In less uplifting news, the UK tour of Bring It On the Musical (based on the popular movie and with music by Lin Manuel Miranda) has collapsed. Produced by Selladoor, the show is currently playing at the Southbank Centre in London until January 22nd and was then due to head straight out around the country on a UK tour. However, because of multiple cancelled performances due to Covid, the financial situation had taken a big hit, leading to the producers to pull the plug on the entire tour. My best to all the cast and crew and to Selladoor, I know this must be devastating to all involved.

Bring It On isn’t the only show that Covid has taken down over the past few months with other shows around the world also having to throw in the towel due to having to cancel performances because of Covid. On Broadway, the Tony winning Jagged Little Pill the Musical announced they wouldn’t reopen last month after their latest cancelled shows, meaning the cast and crew didn’t even get the chance to play a final performance. Thoughts of a Colored Man, Waitress and Ain’t Too Proud also closed their Broadway runs, and the new musical Flying Over Sunset that was a limited engagement to begin with, has also announced early closure.

My best to all the cast and crew on these shows, hopefully they can move on quickly to new projects.

On the opposite side of the scale, the reimagined revival of the musical Spring Awakening currently running at the Almeida Theatre in London has announced an extra week of shows. The hit Broadway musical will now run until January 29th. Quite an accomplishment during a time which is seeing so many closures and cancellations. Congratulations to all the team, enjoy the rest of the very successful run.

Book tickets here –   

And finally, if any of you reading this are performers, then ask yourself, could you remember every step, every line, every song, every cue of a show you did 7 years ago?

Like all shows, Wicked on Broadway has been hit with numerous cast outages due to Covid illness in the cast, and when you are running out of Elphaba’s, what’s a producer to do?

Carla Stickler had understudied the role of Elphaba on the US tour and Broadway production of Wicked, however, the last time she was in the show was 2015. Not only that, Carla had left the industry starting a new career as a software engineer, but when Oz calls, you answer, and that’s exactly what Carla did. With no preparation, she hopped on a broomstick, flew to New York immediately and got her green on to play the iconic role, and because she is clearly a legend… never missed a beat. Congratulations Carla, what a star you are.

Photo: Joan Marcus

Well, that’s it for this week, I will be keeping an eye on theatre stories from around the globe and also look forward to promoting local fringe work by all the brilliant creatives out there.

Next week I will be diving in to the scary, wonderful and weird world of the theatre chat sites.

Until next time, Stay safe.