In April, the theatre Gods (well, Andrew Lloyd Webber) smiled on us with a weekly treat in the form of 'The Shows Must Go On' series. Suffering serious withdrawal from the lack of theatre, we were happy to take anything we could get - no matter how painful some of the titles were, and boy, were they painful.
This week, the series came to an end with an encore screening of the very first title. That brings the number of musicals that have been shown over the past three months to 10* so guess what? I'm going to rank them.
*I'm not including the Andrew Lloyd Webber Celebration Concert or Michael Flatleys
Celtic Tiger in the list because they're not musicals and in the case of Celtic Tiger I just didn't watch it. No regrets
**Technically By Jeeves isn't a musical but a play with music. However, I refuse to do a top 9 when I can do a top 10 and we're going to get that one out of the way quickly anyway.
Without any further ado, here is the All That Dazzles Shows Must Go On Top 10!
10. BY JEEVES
I told you I'd get this one out of the way quickly. The 6th title in the series was aired in May and was... different to the others, to put it nicely. It almost felt like Andrew was running out of titles (which he was). A farce when done well can be fantastic, as proven by the recent revival of Noises Off. This was an example of one being done in the worst way possible. It was pretty painful to watch, to be honest. I summed this up as "The Andrew Lloyd Webber Play That Goes Wrong". Here's an excerpt from my review:
"The biggest problem with the show is the "comedy". It just does not work whatsoever. Andrew Lloyd Webber should stick to doing what he does best and leave the comedy to the professionals. I've seen some underwhelming and frankly awful Andrew Lloyd Webber shows in my time but this is very clearly the worst. And for some bizarre reason it's his favourite! Think that says a lot about him to be honest"
STAR RATING: 0/5
9. LOVE NEVER DIES
The rare musical sequel. There should be more of them, right? Who wouldn't love to see a sequel to Hamilton featuring his ghost or Wicked 2 where Glinda channels her best Theresa May? Luckily Andrew Lloyd Webber was on hand to write The Phantom of the Circus . Beyond weird with the best song opening the show - it's all downhill from there. By the end, you were only standing and cheering with relief that it was finally over.
"To put it simply, the show is a huge mess. Characters you thought you knew and loved from Phantom are rewritten and changed in such a way, it only goes to ruin the legacy of the original. It is written like bad fan fiction - it's the equivalent of a teenage girl writing a racy story about her 2 favourite members of One Direction and it being turned into a musical. Although they would probably be able to do a better job than Andrew."
STAR RATING: 1/5
8. PETER PAN LIVE!
After the Andrew Lloyd Webber shows had finished, we were "treated" to the NBC live broadcasts. They varied from the fantastic to the forgettable to the flat out terrible. This fell in to the latter with poor staging, awful effects and a certain cast member who ruined it for everyone. By far the weakest of the NBC shows. I summed it up by saying "This Peter Panto tries hard but never lands". The other cast members were dcent though including star turns from Christian Borle and Kelli O'Hara.
"Christopher Walken was so bad that you spent the entire time wishing the crocodile would hurry up and finish him off. Completely and irredeemably terrible. I will be having nightmares about his performance for years to come."
STAR RATING: 2/5
7. THE SOUND OF MUSIC
The first non Andrew Lloyd Webber title to be shown in the series was the 2013 NBC live production of The Sound Of Music with Carrie Underwood starring as Maria. Carrie was the biggest problem with the show, never quite portraying Maria in the way she deserves. Broadway legends Christian Borle, Laura Benanti and Audra McDonald held their own but the stunt casting was the shows biggest downfall.
"An impressive set, star turns and iconic songs are all undone by an out of her depth and disappointing lead which creates an inconsistent affair, never quite capturing the right tone."
STAR RATING: 2/5
6. JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR
The second title in the series was aired back in April and showcased the 2012 arena tour starring Ben Forster as Jesus, Tim Minchin as Judas and Melanie C as Mary. Jesus Christ Superstar is a show I have a strange relationship with - my opinion on the show varies drastically depending on the production. I loved the recent Open Air Theatre production of the show but this one falls flat to me. Great songs and an incredibly talented cast (all shows should feature a Spice Girl, to be honest... unless it's a musical ABOUT the Spice Girls. Nobody wants that) but overall I'm not a big fan of this version of the show.
Absolutely nothing, as this was aired BATD (Before All That Dazzles. What a dark time that was).
STAR RATING: 3/5 (for the songs alone)
5. THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
The third title in the series and the first in a Phantom double landed in April, with this version of Andrew's biggest musical filmed at the Royal Albert Hall in 2011 starring Ramin Karimloo as the Phantom and Sierra Boggess as Christine. Not one of my favourite nor one of my least favourites of ALW's - you can't fault the leads in this show and the staging at the gorgeous Royal Albert Hall brought something extra to this iconic show. It's biggest strength are the songs - some of the best songs in any Andrew Lloyd Webber show such as 'The Music Of The Night' and 'All I Ask Of You'. It is fittingly in the middle of the list as it was a very middling show.
Again, this was aired in the dark ages when this website existed only in my imagination. I did like this show a whole lot more when comparing it to its God awful sequel.
STAR RATING: 3/5
One of my least favourite shows I've seen in the theatre, I was dreading this. So imagine my surprise when I actually liked it. Maybe anything to do with this show would seem a lot better after the dreadful movie, but this production was a sight to behold: beautifully filmed, incredible choreography and a star turn from the legendary Elaine Paige. Don't get me wrong - you'd still have to drag me kicking and screaming to see it in the theatre again but as a stream in the weekly series, this ended up being one of my favourites. Who saw that coming?
"The choreography truly is the best thing about this show. When you give up with the lost cause of trying to find a plot, it is actually watchable"
STAR RATING: 3/5
3. THE WIZ
The show I was most excited about in this series, The Wiz really delivered. With classic songs like 'Ease On Down The Road' and 'Home', this show was performed by an incredible cast featuring Mary J Blige, Queen Latifah and newcomer Shanice Williams as Dorothy. This show got a lot more right than it got wrong with a particularly strength being the staging which transported you making you feel you were watching it in the theatre. A couple of dodgy effects and a ropey second act let it down slightly but overall this was one of the most joyful watches of the entire series.
"The show isn't without its faults. It's hard to compete with The Wizard Of Oz obviously, but also since The Wiz first came out, Wicked has become one of the biggest musicals in the world. The Wiz sits in the middle of those two - it does manage to hold its own, even if it doesn't quite match the highs of both the others. And ultimately, it is still a problematic story about a teenager who murders people and steals their shoes."
STAR RATING: 4/5
2. JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT
The show that bookended the series was Andrew Lloyd Webbers classic Hoseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The very first show I saw in the theatre when I was a wee nipper, I hadn't seen any version of the show again until I was blown away at the Palladium last year. This may not be the greatest version of the show there is and Donny Osmond can't compete with some of the other Josephs but this is still a fairly decent version of the show. Sometimes all you want in a show is something that can make you smile and not think too much about what the Hell is going on. In that respect, Joseph ticks all the boxes.
"This show may not have the intelligence or emotion of some of its counterparts but who honestly cares? Sometimes you just want a show that puts a smile on your face and makes you forget about the apocalypse outside. In that respect, Joseph ticks all of the boxes. While this may not be the greatest version of this show, it is still a decent enough version which encapsulates the very best in theatre"
STAR RATING: 4/5
There could only be one number one on this list and it has to go to the 2016 NBC live broadcast of Hairspray. Its theme of race relations felt more important than ever making the timing of this broadcast fitting and more emotional than it might have been otherwise. A great cast including Kristin Chenoweth and Jennifer Hudson are slightly let down by an under-reheased lead as Tracy, but the great staging, incredible songs and phenomenal performances made this a brilliant show overall and the strongest title to come out of series one of The Shows Must Go On.
"This is a stunning production of a musical that has become one of my favourites over the years. Rectifying some of the missteps the 2007 movie made, this version really holds up to the stage show and recreates the magic of seeing it live in the theatre. With great sets and a stunning cast (only let down by one weak link) this is one of the better live broadcasts made in America in recent years, and makes me even more excited about seeing the forthcoming West end revival when theatres reopen."
STAR RATING: 5/5
So we have seen it all in the first series of The Shows Must Go On. We now have a few weeks to catch our breaths (and forget the horrors of By Jeeves) before a series of brand new titles launches next month.
What was your favourite title to be streamed in the series?
What are you hoping for on the next series?