Birmingham Stage Company


4 May 2022

Last night I went to theatrical heaven. Cameron Mackintosh produced a sensational tribute to Stephen Sondheim which was brilliantly staged by Maria Friedman and Matthew Bourne. The moment Julia Mackenzie opened the show, she was received with an ecstatic welcome which generated a warmth and excitement that ran throughout the evening. The sheer brilliance of Sondheim's work came over us like a wave, mingling with an air of nervous danger that permeated all the performances, thanks to the delicious thrill that derives from something that will be seen for one night only. It took me back to the teenage exhileration I had seeing Julia Mackenzie, Bob Hoskins, David Healy & Ian Charleson in Guys and Dolls; or Follies with Diana Rigg, Julia Mackenzie, Daniel Massey, David Healy & Dolores Gray; or the original London production of 42nd Street – just three of the 1980's productions that set the standard I have searched for ever since. Here was a cast of extraordinary calibre and it made you yearn for this kind of experience every time you enter a theatre. We were watching actors who had learnt their craft through working, rather than being parachuted into a show because they are 'famous'. I know this will shock people who know me but in a moment of madness (OK, in a moment of complete predictability) I sneaked into the party after and you could feel how everyone was almost shaken by what they had seen – unable in some ways to sum up the experience. We'd collectively been exposed to the magic of great theatre and I think it's not overdoing it to say that life for all of us will not quite be the same again.

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