REVIEW OF 2022: MY TOP 15 SHOWS OF THE YEAR!
As 2022 draws to a close I thought I'd look back and list my favourite shows of the year. There have been some amazing productions this year and it was very difficult to draw up my short list of favourites. I have managed to get the list down to my top 15!
1) THE DRIFTERS GIRL
VENUE: GARRICK THEATRE, LONDON
It's surely no surprise to anyone that follows me on social media that my absolute favourite show of 2022 was The Drifters Girl. There was something special about this production. Not just the story, which was captivating, but the hugely talented cast who also received credits as co-creators.
This jukebox musical follows the story of Faye Treadwell who was the manager of The Drifters. We follow the ups and downs of the bands success as well as the revolving door of group members, a huge legal battle and the issues faced by Faye because of her colour and sex.
Broadway royalty Felicia Boswell made her West End debut as Faye Treadwell, taking over from Beverley Knight who originated the role.
I was lucky enough to be at the Garrick for the very last performance in October and the atmosphere was electric. I'm so excited for this show to embark on its UK tour next year, which opens at Southampton's Mayflower Theatre in September and I've booked to see the first four performances!
2) MY SON'S A QUEER, (BUT WHAT CAN YOU DO?)
VENUE: GARRICK THEATRE, LONDON
Rob Madge's beautiful celebration of queerness played a limited run in the West End this year after phenomenal success at the Edinburgh Fringe. I was lucky enough to be at the opening performance and I was blown away. There have always been gay characters and gay representation in the theatre, but this show spoke to me on a whole different level. Heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measure, this production was ingenious and stirred so many memories from my childhood.
This fabulously self indulgent one-person musical is set to return to the West End in 2023. The show is playing at the Ambassadors Theatre from 25th January and I've already booked to see it again!
3) MATTHEW BOURNE'S SLEEPING BEAUTY
VENUE: THEATRE ROYAL, PLYMOUTH
One of the most sublime dance performances I've ever seen, Sleeping Beauty is pure wonderment. Mesmerising from start to finish, there was nothing I didn't love about this production. The sets and costumes were fantastic and I was in awe of the talent on the stage throughout. The tour is making a pit-stop at London's Sadler's Wells until 15th January before recommencing its tour around the UK. I am super excited to be seeing this again next week and cannot wait for my husband and in-laws to experience this masterpiece.
4) THE P WORD
VENUE: BUSH THEATRE, LONDON
The highest ranking play on my list, The P Word, is a competent exploration of racism, homophobia, religion and much more which is beautifully written and expertly acted. Revolving around a central story of asylum, this play is sometimes an uncomfortable watch. I felt however that this was deliberate as it is through this awkwardness that important conversations can start happening.
I have not heard about any future stagings of this play but I am sure that it will have a future. It conveys a strong message and is written in a way that really draws you in.
5) THAT'LL BE THE DAY
VENUE: QUEEN'S THEATRE, BARNSTAPLE
I have been following That'll Be The Day since I was 11 and all these years later it is still one of my favourite theatre productions and I see it whenever I am able. The show tours all over the UK and this year I have seen it in many different theatres including Theatre Royal Plymouth, the Octagon Theatre in Yeovil and Stevenage's Gorgon Craig Theatre. Featuring music and comedy from the 50's to the 80's, this show completely changes every summer, so essentially you get a brand new production every year. This is such a feel-good show. You should definitely check it out if it comes to a venue near you.
VENUE: YOUNG VIC, LONDON
This bold reimagining of a Rodgers and Hammerstein classic was the first review I wrote as Pink Prince Theatre. I was already a fan of Oklahoma!, but this production has to be my favourite ever. The show was semi-immersive and pushed the storyline and characters just about as far as possible. It was interesting to see these new interpretations of classic characters and I found a whole new appreciation for the piece as a whole.
Oklahoma! is getting a West End transfer in 2023. It will be opening at London's Wyndham Theatre from 16th February for a limited run. It looks like this will be a more traditional staging with the audience facing the stage, rather than being wrapped around it, so the immersive element will be removed. Most of the cast are reprising their roles and I'm very interested to see the show again and how the different staging will alter the dynamics.
7) JERSEY BOYS
VENUE: TRAFALGAR THEATRE, LONDON
Always a favourite of mine, Jersey Boys continues to entertain audiences. The current West End cast is absolutely phenomenal and as someone who has seen many casts over the years, I think the current cast at the Trafalgar Theatre are the best I've ever seen.
The story is cleverly told over four seasons and includes all the songs you'd expect such as Sherry, Walk Like a Man and Rag Doll. Jersey Boys is currently booking until October 2023 and I'll definitely be returning a few times! It's my real comfort show.
8) COME FROM AWAY
VENUE: PHOENIX THEATRE, LONDON
A wonderful true story of humanity and resilience, brought to the stage by an incredibly versatile cast who all play at least two characters each. Amidst one of the worst terror attacks in history, what happens when the population of a town doubles with just a few hours warning?
This story is told with sensitivity and heartbreaking realism that spears you through the heart. There are some amazing vocals and this company is so hardworking. It's only a one-act musical but the entire cast are on stage throughout and the energy levels never drop.
This incredible show is closing on 7th January so there's not too long left to catch it. Fear not though, Come From Away will be heading out on a UK tour in 2024!
9) THE COLOR PURPLE
VENUE: THEATRE ROYAL, PLYMOUTH
A breathtaking cast takes us through a story which begins in 1913 and is beautifully told in a subdued way. There are numerous standout moments throughout, with characters being expertly portrayed by a hugely talented cast.
This show was exceptional in every way and, somewhat heartbreakingly, it's so relevant even today. We're well over 100 years on from where this story begins and yet there are still these groups that are being persecuted simply for the colour of their skin. You hear audible gasps and see noticeable head shakes from the audience at certain points throughout and it's shocking that these things are still happening today.
This tour has finished, but it's definitely one to keep an eye out for. It honestly blew all my expectations.
10) SISTER ACT
VENUE: EVENTIM APOLLO, LONDON
I have been a fan of the stage musical of Sister Act for many years, but this production was better than any that preceded it. This all-star cast dazzled magnificently. I loved the brand new take on this show, and there was even a brand new song to enjoy. All future productions of Sister Act will now be compared to this one for me.
This production is now on a mammoth tour which concludes in January 2024. There are some cast changes to the London run, but I'm sure it's still epic.
11) & JULIET
VENUE: SHAFTESBURY THEATRE, LONDON
I came to this show very late, seeing it for the first time in December this year. It was 100 times better than I expected it to be. I had expectations of a very loose story that linked the songs together, but I've never been more wrong! The story was so clever and captivating and I loved every moment. I will definitely be returning before the show closes in March 2023.
If, like me, you have reservations about seeing this show then believe me when I say it is well worth a watch. I just wish I'd discovered it earlier!
12) THE CHER SHOW
VENUE: THEATRE ROYAL, PLYMOUTH
The Cher Show transports you for 2 1/2 hours into the fabulous world of Cherilyn Sarkisian and we're invited to turn back time (pun intended!) as we look at the soaring highs and crashing lows of one of the world's biggest icons. The part of Cher is portrayed by three different actresses, but rather than each taking it in turns to give their versions of the character, they were all on the stage throughout & interacted with each other. It was like Cher wrestling with her thoughts, memories, fears and aspirations which was interesting and was beautifully portrayed throughout.
The Cher Show is tourting the UK until March 2023 and I'm hoping to see it at least once more before the tour ends.
13) DINNER WITH FRIENDS
VENUE: GOLDEN GOOSE THEATRE, LONDON
Dinner With Friends tells the story of two couples with a close friendship and explores what happens to the dynamics of the entire group when one of those couples get divorced. The quality of the writing and acting combined to really draw me in and, at times, made me feel slightly uncomfortable as I felt like I was watching friends rather than actors. For me this made for exceptional theatre.
I know of no plans for further stagings of this play, but in my opinion it deserves to be given a run at a larger, more central London venue.
14) DEAR EVAN HANSEN
VENUE: NOËL COWARD THEATRE, LONDON
I made sure to catch Dear Evan Hansen before it closed in the West End and it completely blew my mind. This show wasn't scared to tackle harsh subjects such as mental health, drug use and suicide. It also examined the question of whether a lie that helps a grieving family is a bad thing or not and shows how quickly a little white lie can get out of hand and blow up into something much bigger. Even when the lie is exposed, it's acknowledged how much the characters needed the lie to help them through the story.
The production was cleverly staged & creatively got around the constraints of the fact that a lot of modern day interactions happen via phone calls, video calls & social media.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a tour announcement very soon as this story needs to be seen by as many people as possible.
15) THE BOOK OF MORMON
VENUE: PRINCE OF WALES THEATRE, LONDON
This highly inappropriate musical had me in fits of laughter from beginning to end and I would go back and see it again and again! It's another show that I've come to very late, but I'm certainly a dedicated follower! I love how this musical deconstructs the Mormon religion and highlights cracks in the theories in a hilariously genius way.
The show is currently booking in London until October 2023.
I know this list is titled 'My Top 15 Shows Of The Year' but there is one more play that I think deserves a place on this list so I have decided to add a number 16 to the list... because I can!
VENUE: BARONS COURT THEATRE, LONDON
Flumps was an incredible piece of theatre which covered grief, loyalty, determination, love, and much more besides. The set was simplistic but very effective and with multi-functional props this was an ingenious bit of staging which had obviously been thought about in great detail. The audience was sat on two sides of the performance space and the play had been blocked to accommodate this so no matter where you were sitting, you never missed a thing. Mixed with puppetry and 90's tracks, this production was a perfect cocktail of performance.
If you ever get to see a staging of Flumps then I urge you to book tickets. It's plays like this that remind me why I fell in love with theatre in the first place.
Disclaimer: All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest and free from influence. Some of my favourites were shows for which I had received invites to see, which means my tickets were gifted, but this has not played a part in these shows featuring on this list. All productions featured received 5 stars when I reviewed them. To the best of my knowledge, all information regarding performances and dates is correct at the time of writing this article but please check with theatres and websites of any show you're interested in booking tickets for.