The Times

Four Star Shows from The Times theatre reviews

West End shows awarded Four Stars by The Times London theatre critics.


A Sherlock Carol at the Marylebone Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"A very merry mashup of Dickens and Doyle"

"As a murder mystery, it’s a tad convoluted, admittedly, yet the production delivers plenty of Victorian atmospherics, with the stylish, multi-tasking cast adding leering glances and a soupçon of grown-up pantomime."

"... if the plotting scatters loose ends, Shanahan’s production hustles us along cheerfully enough, adding some carol singing along the way. Anna Louizos’s skeletal period set sits nicely in an intimate venue that is a new addition to the capital’s landscape. Above all there’s genuine chemistry between Caplan and James, as they demonstrate on their re-creation of the first meeting between Holmes and Watson in A Study in Scarlet. Perhaps they could be let loose on another, more conventional case before too long."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Vardy v Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial at the Wyndham's Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Wagatha Christie play hits back of the net"

"Vardy v Rooney proved to be a high-wire act, all right, but only to the extent that it made you gasp, made you laugh from disbelief, and once it started you couldn’t take your eyes off it."

"Vardy v Rooney has fun, how can it not, with this super-strange showdown. The set is white court furniture on a green football-pitch floor. Liv Hennessy’s script is largely verbatim questioning and testimony from the court case, but also gets two actors to play commentators who offer legal context in footballing terms, mikes in hand on the halfway line."

"It’s a beautifully judged mixture of fact and fancy, gets across all the juicy details of outlandish events..."

"OK, we know where the verdict went. Yet throughout Lisa Spirling’s wonderfully well acted production, it brings out the humanity as well as the humour and the news lines in a conflict that also serves as a comedy of manners for the social media age. Where are the boundaries of private and public? This uses every minute of its 90 minutes — plus injured-party time — to take an unblinkingly bizarre look."

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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A Christmas Carol at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Adrian Edmondson makes an excellent Scrooge"

"Adrian Edmondson takes the role of Scrooge this time, and it’s a pleasure to report that he’s an excellent choice. It goes without saying that it’s not easy to love an old miser, but Edmondson gives the Victorian skinflint a patina of comic befuddlement as he undergoes one ordeal after another"

"Edgar brings Dickens into the heart of the action as a campaigner against child poverty who wants to write a pamphlet about the condition of the poor."

"Yes, there’s a very slight slowing of the pace in the second half before we rush towards the joyous conclusion. But there’s a warmth and heartiness to this production which gives it the edge over the long-running, bell-ringing version by Jack Thorne, which begins another run at London’s Old Vic later this week".

Clive Davis, The Times
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Fisherman's Friends: The Musical at the Theatre Royal Bath (2022)

★★★★

"This heart-on-sleeve show is quite a catch"

"Crammed with sea shanties, this heart-on-sleeve portrait of the fishing community in Port Isaac is just the thing to help us to get through what promises to be a difficult winter."

"James Gaddas is quietly authoritative as Alwyn’s father, Jim, the group’s gruff leader, while Jason Langley exudes spivvish charm as Danny, the down-at-heel A&R man from London who realises he has stumbled upon hidden treasure."

"Susan Penhaligon — who plays the no-nonsense matriarch, Maggie — is an asset too."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Elephant at the Bush Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Brief but intense play addressing the intricacies of colour and class"

"Lucas has a sharp ear for the vocabulary which divides us into categories. Still, there’s room here for more depth in the characterisation, maybe at the expense of a couple of the pleasant but fragmented tunes. All the same, Lucas’s intensity draws you in. At the beginning she is poised and self-confident. As time draws on, she begins to crawl around the piano. A melodramatic touch, perhaps, but it’s as if the ground is shifting under her."

Clive Davis, The Times
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A Single Man at the Park Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Isherwood’s tale impresses on stage"

"Tom Ford’s film of Christopher Isherwood’s novel added layer after layer of designer gloss to this story of 24 hours in the life of an expat academic trying to come to terms with the death of his gay lover. Simon Reade’s pensive adaptation instead focuses on unvarnished emotion."

"A strong ensemble anchors a chamber production from the Troupe Theatre Company, intelligently directed by Philip Wilson"

"... the glorious moment when George and Kenny find contentment by splashing into a stylised ocean will stay with me for a long time."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Marvellous at the @sohoplace (2022)

★★★★

"A life-affirming show that’s true to its name"

"I can feel the adjectives queueing up in my head, ready to describe how this unique show depicts a unique man. “Beautiful . . . hilarious . . . heartbreaking . . . heartwarming . . . playful . . . defiant . . . life-affirming . . .” They all do a job without quite nailing the appeal of this tale of Neil Baldwin..."

"@sohoplace is the first new purpose-built theatre to arrive in the West End in 50 years. I can’t love the @; everything else looks and sounds great. It’s a 600-seater but feels about half that, with two galleries above a wooden stage and a decently raked main seating area. The first three shows at least are in the round, but the shape can change. The leg room is good (and I’m 6ft 5in). The acoustics are tremendous. Nica Burns’s theatre feels like something hugely positive for theatreland. And heavens, we could do with some huge positives right now."

"It could easily turn too cute, but the spirit remains playful and unsentimental. The painful moments, when they come, are all the more persuasive for it. It’s an utterly disarming evening that shows happiness as a day-to-day mindset, not a far-off dream."

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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My Neighbour Totoro at the Barbican Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Animated whimsy takes to the stage with aplomb"

"If you’re an admirer of Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli movies, you’re almost certain to feel the same about Tom Morton-Smith’s puppet-driven adaptation, which adds flesh to a pastoral storyline that is so slender it could be described as Teletubbies go zen"

"Phelim McDermott, the stage director, provides more of a spine. As pure spectacle, the results are overpowering, even if Hisaishi’s score is never more than amiable — think Einaudi with a jaunty beat."

"Tom Pye’s faux-primitive production design delivers a delightful melange of wooden homes and tangle of forest, all stunningly lit by Jessica Hung Han Yun."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Good at the Harold Pinter Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Tennant’s nice then Nazi in this insidious revival"

"In this hugely rewarding revival of CP Taylor’s 1981 play about Nazi Germany, he [David Tennant] plays an academic, John Halder, who doesn’t mean to become a Nazi. He doesn’t want to become a Nazi. Heavens, his best friend is a Jewish psychiatrist. So how does he end up as an SS officer, spouting antisemitic dogma as he heads towards a death camp?

"And how, without histrionics, does Dominic Cooke’s quiet revival end up scooping out your innards? It doesn’t do it hastily. For the first half, you may find yourself admiring the clarity of writing without falling entirely prey to it."

"Don’t expect fireworks. What you get is something stranger, more insidious, and I suspect much more memorable."

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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The Band's Visit at the Donmar Warehouse (2022)

★★★★

"Musical finds gentle harmony in desert tale"

"These characters seem to be on the long and winding road to nowhere. And, strange as it seems, you want to accompany them every step of the way."

"Directed by Michael Longhurst, The Band’s Visit is much more satisfying, even if it may well baffle anyone who hasn’t seen the movie."

"Is the story some grand metaphor for the insoluble nature of the Middle East conflict? Not at all. What strikes you most is the universality of the narrative. Far from being representatives of monolithic political forces, these individuals are, for the most part, solitary folk craving some sort of community."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Eureka Day at the The Old Vic (2022)

★★★★

"Helen Hunt adds star power to satire of liberal sanctimony"

"This is the play that would have helped to keep us sane during lockdown. Jonathan Spector’s comedy, set in an achingly right-on private school in Berkeley, California, had its first performance (in Berkeley) in 2018, yet it captures the passions over vaccination and misinformation that bubbled up at the height of the pandemic."

"Katy Rudd’s breezy production has Hollywood star power in the form of Helen Hunt, who delivers an unflashy display as a painfully sanctimonious parent-governor. It’s a testament to the quality of Spector’s writing that you end the evening feeling a smidgin of sympathy for her."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Handbagged at the Kiln Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"A flight of fancy in Queen’s encounters with Thatcher"

"... if Buffini’s satire is full of mischief and gossip, it creates a sympathetic image of a monarch, a unifying figure in an era of profound upheaval. Mrs T comes off much worse: what we get is very much the standard narrative of a triumphalist, tone-deaf Tory leader trampling over the rights of working people."

"If it’s an unashamedly partisan piece of story-telling, it’s also very funny"

"It’s genuinely affecting to see how accurately Marion Bailey evokes the older Queen Elizabeth. Abigail Cruttenden is equally convincing as the younger incarnation. If Naomi Frederick looks a tad too youthful as Mrs Thatcher in her prime, she channels her personality admirably, while Kate Fahy gives us an eerily accurate impersonation of the older, bruised leader."

Clive Davis, The Times
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The P Word at the Bush Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"A tremendous two-man rom-com"

"... The P Word delights on pretty much every level. Akhtar has the two men each narrating their stories to us as well as interacting. He has filled his script with adroit, self-aware exchanges and reflections. And if we know — roughly — the trajectory of the tale as this pair start to share movie nights and riverside walks, the characters are too well drawn, their problems too tangible, for predictability to be a problem."

"So The P Word gives you what you want as well as telling you what you don’t already know"

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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The Clothes They Stood Up In at the Nottingham Playhouse (2022)

★★★★

"Alan Bennett with delightful barbs"

"The humour is delicious, as you would expect, but there’s a streak of raw pain too. This finely wrought adaptation of Alan Bennett’s fable about a middle-aged couple whose Pooterish existence is suddenly upended provides more proof that it’s a mistake to think of our finest living writer being as reassuring as a nice cup of tea."

"Scarborough and co-star Sophie Thompson are excellent as the befuddled pair"

"There was a moment in the second half when I wondered if Scarborough hadn’t stretched the slender narrative too far. But the story actually does hold you until the end..."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Gabriel Byrne: Walking with Ghosts at the Apollo Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Entertaining tale of booze, burn-out and stardom"

"In a monologue based on his unusually fluent autobiography, published two years ago, the Irish actor — a heart-throb to many, but a much more crumpled and vulnerable soul underneath it all — traces the path he has taken from humble beginnings in Dublin to rubbing shoulders with Richard Burton."

"If that makes it sound like a lugubrious, self-lacerating confessional, rest assured that the evening — fluently directed by Lonny Price — is hugely entertaining too."

Reviewed at the National Opera House, Wexford

Clive Davis, The Times
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101 Dalmatians at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Wild woofs of approval"

"Kate Fleetwood makes a full-throated villain, and in Timothy Sheader’s jaunty production the political subtext (there’s even a glimpse of a partying Boris Johnson) gives way to an old-fashioned romp. Composer-lyricist Douglas Hodge and book writer Johnny McKnight serve up a sugar-and-spice confection — based on a stage adaptation by Zinnie Harris — which ought to appeal to adults and children alike."

"Katrina Lindsay’s costumes add flair, while Colin Richmond’s set turns the giant letters spelling out the show’s title into a shabby-genteel domestic interior. Liam Steel’s choreography supplies lots of doggy energy too. Bow, wow."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Jack Absolute Flies Again at the National Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"The National has a comic hit on its hands"

"Kerry Howard is superb as her sharp-tongued maid, Lucy, who indulges in some cynical asides with the audience. (The fourth wall comes crashing down from the start.) Jordan Metcalfe is excellent as the sexually repressed Roy Faulkland."

"The two aerial combat interludes induce an abrupt change in emotional tone that could easily have stalled the play. Quentin and the rest of the first-rate cast keep it aloft. Tally ho."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Much Ado About Nothing at the National Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Bruised lovers charm amid simmering Italian chic"

"In John Heffernan and Katherine Parkinson, we get a charming pair of slightly bruised lovers."

"Anna Fleischle’s handsome recreation of a Sicilian pleasure palace called The Hotel Messina, a grand terracotta and gold revolving edifice, complete with powder room and beach huts, comes close to upstaging everyone."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Crazy For You at the Chichester Festival Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Be dazzled by this infectious Gershwin musical"

"With Susan Stroman, who created the original choreography, at the helm as director, this production confirms that Charlie Stemp’s Bobby Child belongs in the top rank. He was all charm in the amiable Mary Poppins, but here he rises to the challenge of a score that distils the spirit of vintage Broadway. In the opening scenes his goofiness reminds you of the comedian Lee Evans; by the end he is channelling the ghosts of the suavest leading men of yesteryear."

"Not surprisingly, it’s in the big set pieces where Stroman’s choreography shines brightest. Having seen the new Broadway production of The Music Man, another tale of an outsider mixing it with honest, plain folk, I’d say Chichester’s ensemble work is no less tight. Go along and be dazzled."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Cynthia Erivo: Legendary Voices at the Royal Albert Hall (2022)

★★★★

"A Hollywood star from London conquers the Proms"

"Starring in her own BBC Prom was a useful way to remind her fellow Brits just how far the south London-born actress and singer Cynthia Erivo has come."

"... Erivo’s homage to “Legendary Voices” amounted to much more than a night of reverent fangirl covers. Once you accepted the terms of engagement, there was plenty to enjoy — foremost Erivo’s magnificent singing."

John Bungey, The Times
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The Tempest at the Theatre Royal Bath (2022)

★★★★

"A touch of opera gives Deborah Warner’s Shakespeare real magic"

"Nicholas Woodeson’s Prospero .. doesn’t hit a false note"

"In a flawless cast, Stephen Kennedy’s Trinculo and Gary Sefton’s Stephano supply the hearty comic interludes. All in all, it’s a pleasure to hear verse delivered with such clarity."

Clive Davis, The Times
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The Southbury Child at the Chichester Festival Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Our thespian prayers answered"

"There are some plays that keep you talking well into the night. Stephen Beresford’s study of a wayward vicar at odds with his flock is one of them. "

"Admittedly, the writing is cluttered — so many themes jostle for attention that you occasionally get the impression you are watching a soap opera at warp speed — but it’s still a rare and heartfelt portrait of post-Christian Britain, anchored by a majestic performance by Alex Jennings."

"Hytner gets sterling performances out of the entire cast, and just when the storyline seems in danger of overheating, Beresford lobs in some astute comic notes."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Jitney at the Old Vic Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"A funny, fractious dive into the lives of 1970s American taxi drivers"

"Tinuke Craig’s fluid and absorbing revival oozes an unforced sense of edgy camaraderie, a sharp sense of lives in stasis amid a city in awkward motion. There is even, in the cinematic-jazz interludes by Max Perryment, a nod to Bernard Herrmann’s music for Taxi Driver."

"It’s unsentimental, but compassionate. And outstandingly well acted."

"It’s fractious, funny and lively enough that our suspension of disbelief can handle the cast breaking into a dance to a Bill Withers song. The accents are excellent, so good, in fact, that it takes a fair while, in this big old theatre at least, to tune into the vernacular. When the characters break off into smaller groups, though, the evening takes on an arresting intimacy."

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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Tony! (The Tony Blair Rock Opera) at the Park Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Harry Hill’s manic humour demolishes the former PM"

"To call Harry Hill and Steve Brown’s portrait of the former prime minister a hatchet job would be an understatement. It’s a dodgy dossier of a show which depicts New Labour’s leader as the emptiest of empty suits."

"It is, however, very witty and tuneful too. Hill, who wrote the book, has never been to everyone’s taste — the little boy inside him is always desperate to make burping noises — but if you’re a fan of his brand of comedy you’ll warm to this venture."

Clive Davis, The Times
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ABBA Voyage at the ABBA Arena (2022)

★★★★

"Captivating.. Out of this world"

"This was captivating, and celebratory in a rather innocent fashion. Who doesn’t love dancing along to Gimme Gimme Gimme?"

"A show like this lives by the spirit with which it was conceived, and unlike past hologram shows there was nothing ghoulish about watching youthful versions of people still very much alive."

"For a show that combined live music, 3-D spectacle and something else entirely, it was out of this world."

Will Hodgkinson, The Times
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Legally Blonde The Musical at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Go with an open mind and you’ll be blown away"

"Moss has repackaged the show in a way that brings it bang up to date without sacrificing its joie de vivre."

"Laura Hopkins’s set isn’t easy on the eye. What I take to be an attempt to evoke a backdrop of straw-like tresses ends up looking like a beach hut after a night of hard partying by the Downing Street posse."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Oklahoma! at the Young Vic Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Stirring singing in a reworked classic"

"In the final moments, Arthur Darvill’s Curly, decked out in a white suit and wielding a guitar, could be channelling the ghost of Hank Williams. The singing by the rest of the cast is never less than stirring. Marisha Wallace takes the honours as the gospel-tinged, sexually voracious Ado Annie."

"Some of the tweaks work better than others. The dream ballet, choreographed by John Heginbotham, becomes a clichéd modern dance feature for Marie-Astrid Mence, Hendrix-style guitar swamping the pedal steel. Elsewhere, the harsh, institutional lighting, only occasionally dimmed to shades of red, makes it hard to focus on the characters, especially with the audience sitting either side of the cast."

"James Davis, as the dim-witted Will, makes the most of his comic moments alongside Stavros Demetraki’s Persian pedlar, Ali Hakim. Liza Sadovy is memorably stern as Aunt Eller, and the earthy laughter of Rebekah Hinds’s sassy Gertie is still ringing in my ears."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Much Ado About Nothing at the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Shakespeare’s sparring lovers start the Globe’s new season in style"

"Something about Much Ado’s sprawling mix of the cheering (flirtation, farce, love, redemption) and the sobering (misogyny, betrayal) seems to suit the Globe."

"And, in a production by Lucy Bailey that elegantly feminises some of the power structures, Katy Stephens is a standout always as the amusing, authoritative, Latin-tempered governor Leonata, but never more so than when she sings. She forms a fine double act with another older stateswoman, Antonia (Joanne Haworth). And everyone excels in the unabashedly slapstick rendition of the scene in which they engineer first Benedick (Ralph Davis) and then Beatrice (Lucy Phelps) into overhearing disinformation about how much the other one loves them. It’s very funny."

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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Macbeth at the Longacre Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Daniel Craig swaps Bond for the Bard"

"The director Sam Gold gives us an irrepressibly imaginative modern-dress production that is constantly pushing the envelope, occasionally as if still testing out lines in a rehearsal. If the ensemble verse-speaking is relaxed and unbuttoned, Craig’s king is slightly stiff, a tad self-conscious in his speech and very English. He’s dressed casual-smart, at one point donning an expensive-looking collarless coat. His soliloquies are blunt expressions of manhood and ambition. This Macbeth impresses with sheer physical power rather than poetry."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Prima Facie at the Harold Pinter Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Shapeshifter Jodie Comer takes the stage by storm"

"If you’ve seen Jodie Comer play the murderous Villanelle in Killing Eve you’ll know she is a gifted shapeshifter. Nothing, though, can quite prepare you for the range, energy, resilience, emotional clarity and sheer presence she offers in this play by the Australian lawyer turned writer Suzie Miller."

"Is the legal system ill-equipped to offer justice for the one in three women who have been sexually assaulted? These 100 minutes of stage time make a strong case, which might make it an impassioned yet over-instructive evening in lesser hands. With Comer at its centre, Justin Martin’s inventive, propulsive production clears the space for its closing arguments thanks to the vividness with which it draws us into Tessa’s upturned world."

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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The Corn is Green at the National Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Escaping the valleys in a tale of its time that can still seduce"

"Nicola Walker impresses as Miss Moffat, a single-minded idealist who arrives in the village of Glansarno and promptly decides to start her own school. Could Walker endow her with a tad more Bloomsbury hauteur? Maybe. But the rapport she creates with her star pupil Morgan Evans (Iwan Davies) is touching, even if Williams could have given the diffident prodigy more depth. Rufus Wright’s squire gets plenty of laughs, as does Alice Orr-Ewing as the timid but snobbish teacher Miss Ronberry. Richard Lynch is the god-fearing John Goronwy Jones, a bearded grumbler who, physically anyway, bears more than a passing resemblance to Charles Pooter. At first, Cooke is content to use a bare stage, only gradually bringing in conventional trappings designed by Ultz."

Clive Davis, The Times
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To Kill A Mockingbird at the Gielgud Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Rafe Spall is stunning in new take on classic"

"Hats off to Aaron Sorkin. While the official title may be Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, this captivating drama is very much Sorkin’s take on a story that has become embedded in the consciousness of generations of readers. "

"If Peck is stolidly heroic in the film, Spall gives us a more restless, folksier figure: think of a cross between a young James Stewart and the buttoned-up Kevin Costner in JFK. "

Clive Davis, The Times
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Maria Friedman & Friends - Legacy at the Menier Chocolate Factory  (2022)

★★★★

"Musical theatre’s most insightful star pays homage to the greats"

"Now that Barbara Cook is no longer with us it’s hard to think of anyone — apart from, perhaps, the great Amanda McBroom — who brings as much intelligence and insight to musical theatre songs as Maria Friedman."

"What you also get in her shows is a daring, occasionally discombobulating sense of spontaneity."

Clive Davis, The Times
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The Collaboration at the The Young Vic (2022)

★★★★

"Day-glo portrait of two pop art titans packs a real punch"

"If there are comic moments, the play — soon to become a film, with the same leads — delivers a bleak portrait of a world where the mighty dollar is all that matters. The fleeting reference to a painting about police brutality hints at parallels with Black Lives Matter. As McCarten reminds us, Basquiat wasn’t really from the streets: his background was thoroughly bourgeois. Warhol, nevertheless, prefers to drool over the young man’s “exotic” roots. Noble savage syndrome strikes again."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Bring It On: The Musical at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (2021)

★★★★

"Cheerleading musical will put smiles on faces"

"Inspired by the film series of the same name, Bring It On here gets its first British professional production. And, especially in those moments where you sense most keenly Miranda’s mix of musical-theatre extravagance and hip-hop exuberance — he shares credits for all songs with the composer Tom Kitt and the lyricist Amanda Green — it can really connect. It’s the sort of self-aware froth that can wipe that Plan B frown right off your face, masked though that face may be/should be/must be."

"The former Olympic gymnast and Strictly winner Louis Smith (as Cameron) moves and raps well, although at 32 he looks the most senior of these high-school seniors. And Guy Unsworth’s pulsating but poised production looks the part on Libby Watson’s school gymnasium set. So when the cast are throwing themselves into Fabian Aloise’s choreography, when they are singing and rapping pumpingly Manuel-ish tunes such as It’s All Happening, Bring It On achieves true take-off. It’s fun."

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club (Playhouse Theatre) (2021)

★★★★

"Sinister Redmayne and sumptuous set are a seductive combination"

"Eddie Redmayne may be the star — and he’s mesmerisingly good too — but he really shares top billing with the venue itself. In Rebecca Frecknall’s revival of the classic Kander & Ebb musical, the Playhouse’s interior has been transformed into a sumptuous, in-the-round space with tables for those closest to the compact, bare stage."

"Jessie Buckley’s Sally Bowles is going to divide opinion. She’s true to John Kander’s description of the anti-heroine as “a fairly untalented middle-class girl”. (In Christopher Isherwood’s original story, we glimpse her murdering the song Exactly Like You in an arty bar called The Lady Windermere). Whereas Cumming’s foil, Jane Horrocks, gave Sally a grating, jolly hockey sticks speaking voice, Buckley — who makes her first appearance singing Don’t Tell Mama, looking like Shirley Temple in Doc Martens — is more of a troubled soul, splashing acid in all directions.

"Her singing really is unalluring, though. Maybe This Time falls flat, and the closing rendition of the title number overeggs the tortured expressionist mannerisms: Buckley’s feverish gestures reminded me of those 1920s photos of a manic Hitler practising gestures in front of a mirror."

Clive Davis, The Times
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West Side Story  (2021)

★★★★

"Spielberg buoyantly reboots Bernstein’s classic"

"Typical Spielberg. Only he could manage to remake arguably the greatest musical of all without falling flat on his face. He meets Bernstein and Sondheim’s redux of Romeo and Juliet eye to eye, deftly shuffling a few numbers, adding a new character, dropping in a dash of political subtext, but otherwise approaching the spirit and the structure of the 1961 movie with unashamed reverence."

"The downside? It’s perhaps too reverential, too perfect. Steven Spielberg has shown us how you remake one of the great movie musicals. Yet I’m not sure if, at any point in this peerless homage, he manages to show why."

Kevin Maher, The Times
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A Chorus Line at the Curve Leicester (2021)

★★★★

"The classic musical about Broadway hoofers still packs a punch"

"Although its cultural references are dated, A Chorus Line remains a potent yet sensitive paean to the hard graft of dancers’ lives and careers — rocky upbringings, turning points, doubts, devotion. A sizeable chunk of the show’s interval-free 105 minutes converts individual stories into mostly upbeat musical numbers. These range from Redmand Rance’s nimble-footed I Can Do That and Katie Lee and Joshua Lay’s comic double act in Sing! to At the Ballet, a reverie about the solace of beauty shared between Beth Hinton-Lever, Charlotte Scott and, in a stand-out role as an over-seasoned hoofer, Emily Barnett-Salter."

"The famous finale, featuring the entire ensemble strutting, turning, leaping and high-kicking in sparkling top hots and tails, is genius. The Curve’s rendition of a landmark musical may not be definitive, but it does make clear why A Chorus Line deserves to be revered."

Donald Hutera, The Times
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The Ocean at the End of the Lane at the Duke of York's Theatre (2021)

★★★★

"Only for the brave - screams galore await"

"The ghoulery is done well, a team of anonymous, black-clad performers carrying off the other-worldly spooks with artful choreography amid dramatic lighting and collywobblying sound effects."

Quentin Letts, The Times
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Frozen The Musical at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane (2021)

★★★★

"A visual feast to warm even the coldest of hearts"

"The first thing to say about Michael Grandage’s elegant production, in fact, is that it has a tad more emotional depth than the film, which was a bland, Barbie Doll-like confection with little of the verve of the Toy Story franchise. "

Clive Davis, The Times
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Cinderella at the Gillian Lynne Theatre (2021)

★★★★

"Fairytale ending for show that must go on"

"With a book by Emerald Fennell, who won an Oscar for the screenplay of Promising Young Woman, this reboot of the story, starring Carrie Hope Fletcher, delivers a 21st-century take on romance. And it’s simply joyous."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Mary Poppins at the Prince Edward Theatre (2021)

★★★★

"It’s been a while, but this nanny goes down a storm"

"There are plenty of reasons to go for a family outing to see this version, directed by Sir Richard Eyre and first seen in the West End more than 15 years ago. Lord Fellowes of West Stafford, of Downton Abbey fame, supplies the book. Bob Crowley’s set designs have oodles of polish. Seeing the show again, it strikes me that Crowley’s backdrops are the star of the show, conjuring up a vision of Edwardian London that combines doll’s house-like domestic interiors with sweeping vistas of the city."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Magic Goes Wrong at the Vaudeville Theatre (2020)

★★★★

"Revelling in the art of the complex cock‑up"

"It’s a magic show. It starts going wrong. It keeps going wrong, for more than two hours. There, that’s taken care of the plot of this gloriously silly evening. So there is no purpose to Magic Goes Wrong beyond the simple delight in complex cock-ups."

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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DEAR EVAN HANSEN at the Noel Coward Theatre (2019)

★★★★

"Witty songs light up tale of teenage trauma"

"if the prospect of spending an evening contemplating the perils of peer pressure, family breakdown and rampant social media seems less than inviting, be reassured that Dear Evan Hansen is worth it."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Jean Paul Gaultier Fashion Freak Show at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (2019)

★★★★

"Jean Paul Gaultier’s life story is fabulously tongue-in-cheek"

"Landing in London after a run at the Folies Bergère in Paris, this slick, bouncy and extravagant production is an ideal summertime confection. It is also the realisation of a childhood dream on the part of its creator, Jean Paul Gaultier. The French fashion designer and his co-director, Tonie Marshall, have styled the show as a self-glorifying celebration — and more than a bit of a send-up — of a remarkable career. Shaped by them and the choreographer Marion Motin into a quick trot through Gaultier’s life and times, and featuring an engaging, 18-strong ensemble of dancers, singers and actors, it lavishes attention on career highs without neglecting personal loss."

Donald Hutera, The Times
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Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the London Palladium (2019)

★★★★

"Jac Yarrow is a great Joseph"

"Is this a show or a cult? As I left, the entire audience was standing and swaying, singing and clapping. Everyone was ecstatic, thrilled to be here"

"Jac Yarrow is a great Joseph. He's 21, from Cardiff, and straight out of the Arts Educational School. Now he has the dressing room at the Palladium where Judy Garland once lounged."

"The Narrator is played by the musical megastar Sheridan Smith with an achingly irritating amount of tomfoolery. Cute eye rolls. Little fist pumps. Knowing mouth grimaces. I wanted to strangle her by the end of the first half."

"It's a kitsch set by Morgan Large. Jason Donovan is full-on camp-tastic as Pharaoh in golden loincloth and sparkly trainers. The choreography (JoAnn M Hunter) feels wooden at times and the camels (with wheels) are just ropey."

Ann Treneman, The Times
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The Starry Messenger at the Wyndham's Theatre (2019)

★★★★

"Star quality shows in this entertaining life lesson"

"There are laughs, real ones that you remember, but you have to wait for them. The whole star-studded affair is almost three hours long but I didn’t even notice and, for me, that is saying something."

Ann Treneman, The Times
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Betrayal at the Harold Pinter Theatre (2019)

★★★★

"The stripped-back stage leaves the exquisitely cast Zawe Ashton, Charlie Cox and Tom Hiddleston with nowhere to hide"

"The casting is exquisite and, despite Tom Hiddleston’s undeniable star appeal, it does feel balanced. Emma is played with sensuality by Zawe Ashton, tall and willowy, guarded and delicate, though at times she seems a little too blank. Charlie Cox gives Jerry a rather fun and languid air but it makes him difficult to take seriously. "

"Hiddleston plays Robert with panther-like stealth and alertness. Indeed, he seems to be the centre of his own electric field as he patrols the stage. At times he is laugh-out-loud funny, especially in a lunch scene with Jerry, where he is almost at war with the starter (prosciutto, as you ask)."

, The Times
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Billionaire Boy at the NST City, Southampton (2018)

★★★★

“An imaginative, irreverent adaptation of David Walliams’s book captures the story’s fun and its heart”

“Good news for Robbie Williams: musical adaptations of David Walliams books can put a tap in your toe, a smile on your face and a tear in your eye.”

"Granted, Billionaire Boy is still a bit rough around the edges, most often when Luke Sheppard’s imaginative production sticks too closely to dialogue that might play on the page, but doesn’t translate to the stage."

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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📷 Main photo: The Times

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