FEATURE: Sondheim, Strictly, and Showtunes in store

Brian Butler January 28, 2022

There’s musical theatre and dancing heaven just around the corner to raise your spirits. A rare bonanza of show tunes is waiting this Saturday night on BBC 1, as they broadcast the National Lottery Live Big Night Of  Musicals. Recorded in front of a 13,000 audience at the AO Arena, Manchester, it’s hosted by Jason Manford.

It promises at least 90 minutes of the best – everything from Frozen to Dear Evan Hansen – taking in the Lion King, Back To The Future, School Of Rock, The Drifters Girl, Bat Out Of Hell, Dreamgirls, & Juliet and Waitress. Most exciting of all is that against all this West End talent, the small but perfectly formed Hope Mill Theatre will be up there with the best with an excerpt from its recent The Wiz. Worth watching just for that.

The remarkable 50-year history of the King’s Head Theatre, tucked in the back room of this famous Islington pub, is celebrated next month in a series of readings of plays and shows that started their lives there. The short season kicks off on 14 February with an event at the Victoria and Albert Museum, including a staged reading of Timberlake Wertenberger’s The Third, with Dame Harriet Walter. It will be followed by a discussion with the actor and author on New Women’s Theatre and Lunchtime Theatre.

It’s part of the Kings Head’s Barstools to Broadway series. Other readings are: Stoppard’s Artist Descending A Stair, Stephen Jeffreys’ Like Dolls Or Angels, Bryony Livery’s Grandmother’s Steps and Victoria Wood’s Good Fun. The celebrations close on 19 February with the ground-breaking AIDS-era musical Elegies For Angels, Punks and Raging Queens as part of LGBT History Month. If you haven’t seen it, you will be in tears by its end. I remember well its profound impact on premiering in 1992. Tickets and information

One positive from the recent passing of Stephen Sondheim is that I suspect we will get a wealth of productions of his truly great musicals. Almost first out of the blocks in terms of announcements is a new production of his Anyone Can Whistle, written with Arthur Laurents in 1964. Alex Young stars as the rich and greedy smalltown Mayoress Cora Hooper-Hoover, who is hated by her electorate. It’s a political satire about conformity and the ostracisation of those considered “other”. It’s at Southwark Playhouse, London from 1 April-7 May. Tickets – – look out for my review.

On the anniversary of what would have been iconic Queer film-maker Derek Jarman’s 80th birthday, the brilliant actor/writer Mark Farrelly brings Jarman back to life on stage. The show will be followed by a discussion with some of Jarman’s friends, including activist Peter Tatchell, actor/composer Simon Fisher-Turner, music producer/performer Matthew Hodson and singer Sarah Jane Morris. It’s on 31 January at Greenwich Theatre ahead of a tour, to raise funds for the Terrence Higgins Trust. Tickets –

Uber fan or Kate Bush newbie? Join performer Sarah Louise-Young to howl with the Hounds of Love and dance on the moors with Wuthering Heights. Kate’s not there but you are. Young invites us  to savour Kate’s 40-year music career. Following a sold-out run in Edinburgh, An Evening Without Kate Bush is at London’s Soho Theatre from 7-26 February. Tickets –

The great Queer event of 2021 must have been the male same-sex pairing of Bake Off’s John Waite and professional dancer Johannes Radebe. Now you can catch Johannes for one night only at Brighton’s Theatre Royal on 18 April in his show Freedom. It’s a celebration in music and dance from African fusion to fiery Latin and follows his personal journey from growing up Queer in South Africa to touring the world and starring in Strictly.  Tickets at