by Daz Gale
2022 has come to a close and what a fantastic year for theatre it has been!
The first time in 3 years where theatres have remained open through the entire 12 months, we saw plenty of new and returning favourites to blow audiences away time and time again.
Last year, I posted my top 20 shows of the year.
This year, I'm mixing it up a bit.
I have seen a lot more theatre than I did in 2021 and struggled to separate each category so I have created three different categories:
Top 10 Plays 2022
Top 10 Concerts 2022
Top 20 Musicals 2022
The criteria for each is the show had to open or take place this year so things like Moulin Rouge and Cabaret are excluded (though both were in my 2021 chart).
If a show made my top 20 last year but returned this year in a near-identical production I have excluded them from the list - this means My Son's A Queer (But What Can You Do?), Cruise, The Choir Of Man, Anything Goes and Top Hat are all excluded this year, as amazing as they all were.
This is all my personal taste which is questionable at best, so prepare to be wowed by some very unique choices.
Click the link underneath each title to read the corresponding review from this year:
TOP 10 PLAYS 2022
10. Antigone (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre)
This contemporary retelling of Sophocles’ Greek tragedy brings things up to the present day in an inspired twist. Incredibly staged, it was the best thing Open Air Theatre did this year… and not a dodgy curtain in sight/
9. Daddy – A Melodrama (Almeida Theatre)
When the curtain opens to be greeted with a swimming pool on stage, you know you’re in for something special. Powerful and thought-provoking, this was an absolute masterpiece.
8. To Kill A Mockingbird (Gielgud Theatre)
Finally opening in the West End nearly 2 years later than planned, this was very much worth the wait with an incredible cast bringing Harper Lees legendary story to life.
7. My Neighbour Totoro (Barbican Theatre)
The cult classic animated movie was brought to life in a mesmerising way with some of the greatest staging of the year. Full of spirit, heart and overall truly enchanting, this magical show was awe-inspiring to witness and was capable of bringing grown men to tears.
6. A-Typical Rainbow (The Turbine Theatre)
This beautiful show told the story of a Boy growing up gay and autistic. Told with sensitivity and creativity, this unleashed a world of colour in what was an incredibly powerful and moving story.
5. Mad House (Ambassadors Theatre)
Bill Pullman and David Harbour led this story of a dysfunctional family debating inheritance and their own ethics. Wickedly funny while conveying sensitive and thought=provoking topics, the acting and writing made this one of the top 5 plays of the year.
4. Eureka Day (The Old Vic)
Helen Hunt led a star cast in this story set in a progressive school who faces a difficult decision when a public health scare breaks out. Undoubtedly, the funniest play of the year – the legendary closing 10 minutes of act one will stay with me forever. It’s a big thumbs up from me.
3. The Doctor (Duke of York’s Theatre)
Juliet Stevenson stars in this transfer from the Almeida which is now heading to New York. Absolutely gripping to watch, it asked some interesting questions and made the audience challenge their own way of thinking.
2. Cock (Ambassadors Theatre)
The show that just keeps on giving – there was no shortage of jokes regarding to the shows title for me this year (Well done if you managed to keep on top of them all). While there was drama off stage after Taron Egerton fainted on the first preview and ultimately pulled out, the show itself proved to be a thing of wonder. It was hard to beat, but another show has managed to come first…
1. The Ocean at the End of the Lane (The Lowry)
What are the odds that the final show I review this year turns out to be the number one play? I didn’t get to review this when I saw it in the West End last year, but good things come to those who wait and it’s even better second time around. Kicking off a UK tour that lasts way into 2023, this features incredible staging, a phenomenal cast and a truly brilliant use of special effects. An absolutely perfect show, it really is as good as it gets!
TOP 10 CONCERTS 2022
10. Chess In Concert (Theatre Royal Drury Lane)
Three Drury Lane concerts accompanied by the London Musical Theatre Orchestra were a real highlight this summer. The first of which saw Samantha Barks, Hadley Fraser, Joel Harper-Jackson and Frances Mayli McCann bring the classic show back for two nights only.
9. John Owen-Jones – Music Of The Night (Her Majesty’s Theatre)
The incredible voice of Les Mis and Phantom returned to the stage as part of his tour. Playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre the day before the Queens funeral and incorporating the national minutes silence into his set wasn’t an easy task but John managed it with ease in a show full of phenomenal vocals and his trademark humour.
8. The Witches Of Eastwick (Sondheim Theatre)
The only show on the list I didn’t review… though I wish I had. Carrie Hope Fletcher, Natasha J Barnes, Laura Pitt-Pulford and John Partridge brought this show back to the West End for one night only and had the audience longing for a full production.
7. Kinky Boots In Concert (Theatre Royal Drury Lane)
Another of the three Drury Lane concerts this summer saw an incredible performance of one of my favourite musicals thanks to a brilliant cast including Joel Harper-Jackson, Cedric Neal and Courtney Bowman. Cedric’s mid-show standing ovation is one of THE theatre moments of the year for me.
6. Jordan Luke Gage Live (Here at Outernet)
Jordan took a break from starring as all 3 Chers in The Cher Show to put on his first headline concert. A testament to what an incredible and charismatic showman he really is, it featured a setlist full of surprises – the one consistency was his talent throughout.
5. Lea Salonga – Dream Again Tour (Royal Albert Hall)
The legendary musical theatre performer brought her tour for an unforgettable night in London. Her sensational voice, personality and stage presence covered a varied setlist including musical theatre and boybands!
4. Jeremy Jordan – Live (Theatre Royal Drury Lane)
Jeremy was no stranger to London this year, performing here on 3 separate occasions. In August, the star of stage and screen played 2 incredible concerts at Drury Lane in a setlist covering his career and a look at what he might do in the future.
3. ABBA Voyage (ABBA Arena)
Is this theatre or is it a concert? Hard to know where to put this unique show which uses incredible technology to bring some ABBAtars to life in a show you can’t believe you’re seeing. Truly spectacular to watch, I’m planning a return visit next year.
2. Bonnie & Clyde In Concert (Theatre Royal Drury Lane)
For the first time, Bonnie & Clyde The Musical was performed in London with Jeremy Jordan reprising his Broadway role as Clyde joined by Frances Mayli McCann as Bonnie. Billed as a concert, it featured more staging than expected and culminated with the announcement the show was being fully staged in the West End for the first time.
The question is did that production manage to go one better on my musicals chart?
1. Sondheim's Old Friends (Sondheim Theatre)
Some nights in the theatre you will remember forever. This was one of them. Some of the biggest names in the West End and Broadway united to pay tribute to an absolute legend with Bernadette Peters, Michael Ball and Dame Judi Dench just some of the names performing, I laughed, I cried… repeatedly and I felt deeply in what was an emotional night well worthy of the legendary man.
TOP 20 MUSICALS 2022
20. Into The Woods (Theatre Royal Bath)
Sondheim’s classic headed to Bath ahead of a rumoured West End transfer led by a fantastic cast and some impressive staging.
19. Grease (Dominion Theatre)
As it neared its 50th anniversary, Grease returned to its original West End home expertly led by Dan partridge and Olivia Moore. It may have split opinion but I personally loved this production and can’t wait to see it again when it returns to the Dominion next year.
18. From Here To Eternity (Charing Cross Theatre)
Returning to London, this production saw ambitious staging for a relatively small space, with the glorious music coming to life thanks to an incredible cast. Packing an emotional punch, look out for the cast recording in 2023.
17. Rodgers + Hammersteins Cinderella (Hope Mill Theatre)
The beautiful Hope Mill in Manchester added yet another jewel to their high standard of shows with this classic, beautifully led by Grace Mouat and Jacob Fowler. It was just nice to see a version of Cinderella that wasn’t Bad.
16. The Band's Visit (Donmar Warehouse)
The West End finally got to see the Broadway sensation as it arrived for a short stay. Stunning songs and a heart-warming story made me long for a return visit soon.
15. The Wizard Of Oz (Curve Leicester)
Curve Leicester had another storming year. One of their highlights was this new take on the iconic story featuring truly sensational production value. Full of brains, heart and courage, you’ll be able to see this production at the London Palladium in summer 2023.
14. Tammy Faye (Almeida Theatre)
God bless Tammy Faye! Elton John, Jake Shears and James Graham united to write this brand new musical about the American TV evangelist. With a cast including Andrew Rannells and Katie Brayben (who deserves to win the Olivier next year for this), this is one show sure to have a future life.
13. RIDE – A New Musical (Charing Cross Theatre)
The world premiere of this new musical really was one Hell of a ride in a beautiful story full of heart and emotion. Exceptionally written and performed by two wonderful actors, I’m keeping everything crossed this show gets a repeat journey in the near future.
12. The Lion (Southwark Playhouse)
Benjamin Scheuer’s autobiographical folk musical returned to London in a show that takes you on a journey through difficult situations in a show that reaches in and makes you feel deeply. Wonderfully performed by Max Alexander-Taylor, this really was a special show.
11. The Osmonds (UK Tour)
One of musics most iconic families were the subject of a brand new jukebox musical which received its world premiere in an extensive UK tour. Fantastic set design, stunning choreography and an impressive made this one of my favourites of the year, to my own surprise. Future life for the show has been teased – could a London run be in its sights?
10. But I'm A Cheerleader: The Musical (The Turbine Theatre)
The cult movie from 1999 has been adapted into a musical which enjoyed not one but two runs in London this year. Being developed throughout the year, I must admit I enjoyed the first iteration a bit more than the second, but this is a show that provoked an extreme reaction in me thanks to its important story and the way it manages to convey a serious message while making you laugh.
9. Dreamgirls (UK Tour)
A musical I consider to be one of my all time favourites, the UK tour was a glittering addition to the shows legacy. In a full circle moment, the incredible Nicole Raquel Dennis led the tour as Effie, bringing the house down with her phenomenal acting and voice in what was one of the best performances I have witnessed all year. Potentially the most urgent and emotional production of this show there has been, this was a jaw-droppingly good show.
8. The Color Purple (UK Tour)
The first ever UK tour arrived later than planned in a production featuring breathtaking performances from Me’sha Bryan as Celie and Bree Smith as Shug Avery. This practically perfect musical that manages to be joyous and life-affirming, despite the difficult journey the plot takes to get to its resolution.
7. DIVA: Live From Hell (The Turbine Theatre)
Inspired by All About Eve, this show sees high school student Desmond Channing recount the details of what led him to his residency in Hell. In a career best performance by the incredible Luke Bayer, this was an entertaining and hilarious show that definitely deserves to be brought back from the dead.
6. Billy Elliot (Curve Leicester)
The well-loved musical returned to the UK in this new production featuring new choreography. By changing up the elements that made the original so successful was a huge risk but this Made at Curve production was every bit as as good, perhaps even better in parts.
5. The Cher Show (UK Tour)
For its UK premiere, The Cher Show skipped the West End and instead toured over the UK. With not one but three Chers performed phenomenally by Debbie Kurup, Danielle Steers and Millie O’Connell, this takes an incredible icons classic catalogue and gives it a new lease of life in a show that is as fabulously camp as you would hope. Truly unbelievable.
4. Sister Act (Eventim Apollo)
Finally opening in London 2 years later than planned, a star cast including Beverley Knight, Jennifer Saunders, Lesley Joseph and Keala Settle brought this joyful show to the stage in a truly big way. With every single box ticked when it comes to production value, Sister Act was a slice of musical theatre heaven.
3. Crazy For You (Chichester Festival Theatre)
Charlie Stemp is better than ever in this musical celebrating the songs of George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin. Proving what a triple threat he is, he joined Carly Anderson and Tom Edden in a show that defied my own expectations and proved to be theatre at its very best. Thankfully, it’s got a future life confirmed as it opens in the West End for a limited run next year.
2. Newsies (Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre)
Folks, we finally got our Newsies transfer. A show like this had been at the top of musical theatre fans wish lists for over a decade… and it didn’t disappoint. This immersive production boasts the greatest set design I have ever seen and choreography that defies the realms of possibility. Performed by a fantastic cast, this is a show that really did blow me away and gave a real challenge for the number one spot. However, it JUST missed out…
1. Bonnie & Clyde – The Musical (Arts Theatre)
Following the reception to the concert, the West End was won with the first fully staged production of this show. Frances Mayli McCann reprised her role as Bonnie, this time joined by another Jordan in the form of the perpetually busy Jordan Luke Gage (anyone who follows me on twitter, I apologise for my 4000 Jordan jokes this year). Absolutely perfect, this was a show I could never see enough of. Thankfully, there is more life to it as it returns to the West End for a limited run next year where it is sure to raise a little Hell.
That’s it for another year – and what a year it was! Some tough choices there with the top 2 musicals giving me a particular lot of thought for the order. There were also some truly fantastic shows that missed out on the charts. But, you know what? Having TOO much amazing theatre to fit into a chart is a good problem to have.
What were your favourites of the year? Do you agree or disagree with my choices? Are there any you think I’m crazy for including? Let me know in the comments, on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.
See you all in 2023!