Review of the Year 2011 – The Second Annual Chrisparkle Awards

Welcome to the Second Annual Chrisparkle Awards, celebrating the best in entertainment in Northampton and beyond! Every show that I saw in 2011 and that I blogged (actually only one show didn’t get blogged, more of which later) is eligible for one of these delightful – and virtual – awards.

So let’s get on with it, and start off with Best Dance Production.

As last year, I actually only saw three dance productions all year and they were all excellent. But the winner has to be one of our regular favourites, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (aka the Trocks) for their show at the Milton Keynes Theatre in March 2011. I’m awarding joint 2nd place to the other two productions, Rambert’s Awakening tour at the Derngate, Northampton in March and Richard Alston’s current tour at the Derngate in October.

Classical Music Concert of the Year.

We saw five concerts and they were all very enjoyable.
In 3rd place, it’s the BBC Prom we saw in July featuring the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus playing Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky and with soloist Midori doing the Walton Violin Concerto;
In 2nd place it’s the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Derngate with their programme of English Classics and soloist Julian Lloyd Webber in November; but just pipping it
In 1st place it’s the RPO again at the Derngate in May with their Grand Tchaikovsky Gala, and the spectacular solo by Alessandro Taverna of Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto.

Best Entertainment Show of the Year.

An odd category this; it includes all the non-categorisable productions one sees over the year, including pantos, revues, circuses and so on. And it proved tricky to make a decision, but a decision has been made nonetheless.
In 3rd place, the adult-only Flathampton night at the Derngate in July;
In 2nd place, Theatre MAD’s late night charity show West End Eurovision at London’s Piccadilly Theatre in April; and
In 1st place, the wonderfully varied and superb Burlesque Show at the Royal, Northampton in July.

Regrettably, here comes the first turkey of the year – I am compelled to award a Worst Entertainment Show of the Year; which sadly has to go to the Chinese State Circus show at the Derngate last January, which was so boring and basically pathetic that I couldn’t be motivated to write about it.

Best Star Standup.

A new category for this year. This is to consider the best stand-up comic on a big stage, not the comics who have appeared at the Screaming Blue Murder club (see below). All four of the star comics we saw this year were new to us as live performers, so we saw them with no previous baggage. We thought one of them was a bit disappointing, but the rest were all excellent in their own way. So the top three is:

In 3rd place, Reginald D Hunter, Sometimes Even the Devil Tells the Truth, at the Derngate in November;
In 2nd place, Al Murray’s Barrel of Fun at the Derngate in October; and
In 1st place, Jason Byrne’s Cirque du Byrne at the Derngate in September.

Best Standup at the Screaming Blue Murder nights in Northampton.

I think we’ve seen over 40 comics this year at the Screaming Blue Murder shows. I’m not going to name and shame the few who were disappointing – they know who they are. This was very hard to whittle down to a top 5, and there are many terrific acts who are missing out on their Chrisparkle gong, but here goes:
In 5th place, the Raymond and Mr Timkins Revue (14th October);
In 4th place, Swindon’s own Tony Cowards (2nd September);
In 3rd place, Cornwall’s own Paul Kerensa (4th February);
In 2nd place, the superb comic creation Loretta Maine (13th May); and
In 1st place, the very hilarious Rob Heeney (1st April).

Best New Musical.

Last year we just had a best musical but this year it has been split into Best New Musical and Best Revival Musical. Only three contenders for each award, so here goes:
In 2nd place, Stephen Sondheim’s Roadshow at the Menier Chocolate Factory in August; and
In 1st place, Hamlet the Musical at the Royal in May. Hamlet won the award on the strength that by the interval I knew I just had to have the CD.

Best Revival Musical.

In 2nd place, and fully deserving of great congratulation, was the excellent revival of Avenue Q touring at the Derngate in July.
In 1st place, and fully deserving of even more congratulation, is Stephen Sondheim’s Company at the Sheffield Crucible in December.

No need for a worst musical nomination.

Best New Play/Comedy of the Year.

Again this has been split into new play and revival categories. We saw six “new” plays this year and they were all very rewarding in their own ways, but the top three is fairly easy to agree on.
In 3rd place, Clybourne Park at Wyndham’s Theatre in London in April;
In 2nd place, Diary of a Nobody at the Royal, Northampton, in March; and
In 1st place, One Man Two Guvnors on tour at the New Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham in October.
I also want to give a mention to the excellent Terrible Advice at the Menier which only just failed to get in the top three.

Best Revival of a Play or Comedy of the Year.

Eleven contenders on the shortlist for this award, so there are some great productions who have missed out on a mention.
In 3rd place, The Years Between at the Royal, Northampton in February;
In 2nd place, Hobson’s Choice at the Sheffield Crucible in June; and
In 1st place, Racing Demon at the Sheffield Crucible in February.

Turkey time: Worst play of the year.

Four plays really didn’t come up to scratch in my book: Oxford Playhouse’s Lady in the Van was generally tedious; Warwick Arts Centre’s Government Inspector generally irritating; the Derngate’s Yes Prime Minister generally offensive; but worst of all was Smash at the Menier. How I hated that play.

Best performance by an Actress in a Musical.

For a long time through the year there was only one real contender for this award, but then along came another production and pipped her to the post!
In 3rd place, Samantha Spiro for Company at the Sheffield Crucible;
In 2nd place, Jess Robinson for Hamlet the Musical at the Royal, Northampton; and
In 1st place, Francesca Annis for Company at the Sheffield Crucible.

Best performance by an Actor in a Musical.

The same applies; two excellent performances earlier in the year trounced at Christmas!
In 3rd place, Jack Shalloo for Hamlet the Musical at the Royal, Northampton;
In 2nd place, James Fox for Chess at the Milton Keynes Theatre in January; and
In 1st place, Daniel Evans for Company at the Sheffield Crucible.

Best performance by an Actress in a Play.

Lots of fantastic performances this year but these are the lucky three:
In 3rd place, Marianne Oldham for The Years Between at the Royal, Northampton;
In 2nd place, Zoe Waites for Hobson’s Choice at the Sheffield Crucible; and
In 1st place, Gina McKee for the Donmar’s King Lear at the Milton Keynes Theatre in January.

Best performance by an Actor in a Play.

Again many great performances pass without a mention, but the top three are:
In 3rd place Malcolm Sinclair for Racing Demon at the Sheffield Crucible (and also Rattigan’s Nijinsky at Chichester in August);
In 2nd place, James Corden for One Man Two Guvnors at the New Alexandra in Birmingham; and
In 1st place, Derek Jacobi for King Lear at the Milton Keynes Theatre. Daft really – how can you compare James Corden and Derek Jacobi? I’ve gone with Mr Jacobi’s fresh and insightful reading as opposed to Mr Corden’s onstage fireworks. I also want to give a mention to the excellent Jamie Parker for Racing Demon too.

Best Ensemble Performance by the Company.

This is for where a company works seamlessly together, something I always really admire in a performance!
In 3rd place, Diary of a Nobody at the Royal, Northampton;
In 2nd place, Propeller’s Henry V on tour at the Milton Keynes Theatre in December; and
In 1st place, Hamlet the Musical at the Royal, Northampton.

Favourite theatre of the year.

Very torn. Last year I had no question about awarding the Chrisparkle to the Royal, Northampton. But this year I feel it should go to the Sheffield Crucible for consistency of excellence.

It’s been a great year of theatregoing, thank you for your interest in my reviews and I hope 2012 will be a bumper year of theatre glory!

Leave a Reply