Welcome to this glitzy review of the best live entertainment in Northampton and beyond! As in previous years, every performance that I saw and blogged about during 2012 is eligible for one of these prestigious (but virtual) awards. As an exception this year, I have included all performances seen up to January 5th 2013 as these few extra shows were all born in 2012 and that’s where they will live in the annals of time.
So without further ado we’re going to start off with Best Dance Production.
I saw six dance productions last year, and identifying the top three was easy – but placing those top three in the correct order is a difficult decision, so I am going with my heart and listing them purely in order of how much I enjoyed them. Which means:
In 3rd place, the graceful and strong performance of Swan Lake by Moscow City Ballet at the Derngate, Northampton, in February.
In 2nd place, and especially for “Torsion” and “Void”, Balletboyz The Talent at Milton Keynes Theatre in February.
In 1st place, and absolutely at the top of their game, Richard Alston Dance Company’s programme at the Derngate, Northampton, in October.
Not many turkeys this year – but the first is The Most Incredible Thing by Javier de Frutos and the Pet Shop Boys, which bored us to tears at Sadler’s Wells in April.
Classical Music Concert of the Year.
We saw six concerts in 2012, and each was excellent, giving us a feeling of being privileged to have access to such performances on our doorstep.
In 3rd place, Julian Bliss Plays Mozart with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Derngate, Northampton in November.
In 2nd place, Jack Liebeck Plays Sibelius, also with the RPO at the Derngate, in September.
In 1st place, Nigel Kennedy Plays Brahms, you guessed it, with the RPO at the Derngate in June.
Best Entertainment Show of the Year.
A wide category that includes pantos, circuses, revues and anything else unclassifiable. Always tough to call.
In 3rd place, the Moscow State Circus’ Babushkin Sekret, at the Derngate, Northampton, in January 2012.
In 2nd place, The Burlesque Show at the Royal, Northampton, in January 2012.
In 1st place, Cinderella at the Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield, in January 2013.
Best Star Standup of the Year.
The best stand-up of the year, not part of a comedy club night.
We saw 8 big name comedians doing their stuff but the top three were:
In 3rd place, Marcus Brigstocke and his Brig Society, at the Royal, Northampton, in October.
In 2nd place, similar style but just pipping him for content, Jeremy Hardy at the Royal, Northampton, in January.
In 1st place, Dara O’Briain’s Craic Dealer tour, Butterworth Hall, Warwick Arts Centre in April.
Time for another Turkey – Paul Merton’s Out of My Head tour, at the Derngate, Northampton, in April – may have been clever but it wasn’t funny.
Best Stand-up at the Screaming Blue Murder nights in Northampton
We’ve seen over thirty comics this year down in the Underground at the Royal and Derngate, and it’s been the usual array of the Good the Bad and the Ugly. Here are my top five:
In 5th place, Scunthorpe’s own copper Alfie Moore (17th February).
In 4th place, no relation I’m guessing, Ian Moore (5th October).
In 3rd place, the very funny Steve Day (16th March).
In 2nd place, big local hero Andrew Bird (20th January).
In 1st place, and regaining his 2010 title, the unstoppable Paul Sinha (2nd March).
Last year this was split into Best New Musical and Best Revival Musical but with only two (and that’s questionable) new musicals seen this year I’m lumping them all in together. Some great productions so I’m going for a Top Five:
In 5th place, very close thing but it’s Hello Dolly at the Curve Theatre, Leicester in December.
In 4th place, the delightful and funny Radio Times at the Royal, Northampton in September.
In 3rd place, the innovative revival of Pippin at the Menier Chocolate Factory in January.
In 2nd place, the rewarding and moving revival of Merrily We Roll Along at the Menier Chocolate Factory in December.
In 1st place, the exhilarating revival of My Fair Lady at the Sheffield Crucible in January 2013.
Best New Play
This is my definition of a new play – which may not necessarily be an actual brand spanking new play never seen at any other theatre ever before, but is certainly new enough! Only six plays came into that category, and here is my top three:
In 3rd place (and very nearly made it to 2nd), Ladies in Lavender at the Royal, Northampton in April.
In 2nd place (and very nearly downgraded to 3rd place), Bully Boy at the Royal, Northampton, in September.
In 1st place, The Last of the Haussmans, at the Lyttelton, National Theatre, in July.
Best Revival of a Play
This is the category with the biggest long-list in these awards – I can count 23 contenders. There are some smashing productions that fail to make the Top Five, including the National’s Comedy of Errors, Sheffield’s Democracy, Chichester’s Arturo Ui, Northampton’s Blood Wedding and Hedda Gabler. But these are my favourite five (and they’re all quite brilliant):
In 5th place, Torch Song Trilogy at the Menier Chocolate Factory in June.
In 4th place, Betrayal at the Sheffield Crucible in May.
In 3rd place, Charley’s Aunt at the Menier Chocolate Factory in October.
In 2nd place, Abigail’s Party at the Menier Chocolate Factory in April.
In 1st place, for its sheer breadth of vision and its pushing of boundaries, The Royal and Derngate’s The Bacchae at the Northampton Chronicle and Echo Print Works in June.
Turkey time – the rediscovery of Coward’s Volcano (Oxford Playhouse in July) was a damp squib and the revival of that old war horse Dry Rot (Milton Keynes Theatre in September) wasn’t much better.
Best performance by an actress in a musical
A really tough call this one but a decision has to be made and here it is:
In 3rd place, Cynthia Erivo in Sister Act, Milton Keynes Theatre in June.
In 2nd place, Carly Bawden in My Fair Lady, Sheffield Crucible, in January 2013.
In 1st place, Jenna Russell in Merrily We Roll Along, Menier Chocolate Factory, December.
Best performance by an actor in a musical.
Again, very hotly contested and you know they must be good if they kick the likes of Damian Humbley, Gary Wilmot and Michael Xavier into the long grass! The top three are:
In 3rd place, Martyn Ellis in My Fair Lady, Sheffield Crucible, in January 2013.
In 2nd place, Harry Hepple in Pippin, Menier Chocolate Factory, in January 2012.
In 1st place, Dominic West in My Fair Lady, Sheffield Crucible, in January 2013.
Best performance by an actress in a play.
Too close to call not to have a Top Five:
In 5th place, Claudie Blakley for Comedy of Errors at the Olivier, National Theatre, in February.
In 4th place, Emma Hamilton as Hedda Gabler, Royal, Northampton, in July.
In 3rd place, Jill Halfpenny for Abigail’s Party, Menier Chocolate Factory, in April.
In 2nd place, Natalie Casey for Abigail’s Party, Menier Chocolate Factory, in April.
In 1st place, Laurie Metcalf for Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Milton Keynes Theatre, in March.
Best performance by an actor in a play.
21 contenders in the long list, and so many brilliant performances that won’t get a mention, so I definitely need a top five:
In 5th place, Henry Goodman for The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui, Minerva Theatre Chichester, in July.
In 4th place, John Simm for Betrayal, Sheffield Crucible, in May.
In 3rd place, Ery Nzaramba for The Bacchae, Northampton Chronicle and Echo Print Works in June.
In 2nd place, David Bedella for Torch Song Trilogy, Menier Chocolate Factory, in June.
In 1st place, Mathew Horne for Charley’s Aunt, Menier Chocolate Factory, in October.
Theatre of the Year.
Very close this year between my three favourite theatres – Northampton’s Royal and Derngate, Sheffield Theatres and the Menier Chocolate Factory. However, taking everything into account – consistency of excellence, variety of entertainment, and the whole theatre-visit experience, I’m awarding the Theatre of the Year to the Royal and Derngate Northampton!
Thank you to everyone who reads my blog – I’m amazed at how the numbers have steadily increased over the past year or so! I wish you all happy theatregoing and a great 2013!