• Becky Wallis

Five Shows We Would Love To See Revived

Updated: Apr 27

When it comes to theatre, the argument between new work and revivals, and what should open where and when, has been ongoing for many years and will long continue to be argued. Sometimes it can feel like our beloved venues are being flooded with revivals, repeats of things that we have seen before, giving new work no chance to make it. But personally, I don’t see it that way. To me, it doesn’t matter if the show is new or not, any show is better than a venue remaining empty and unused. Whatever show opens is a good thing, for its creating work both on and off the stage and it is bringing people back to the theatre, and after the last 20 months or so, that is what is needed. Creatives need to be back working, and audiences need to return to our venues again, and any show, be that a new piece of work or a revival has the power to do that.

There has been a lot of talk lately about what shows people would like to see in London, both in the sense of revivals and shows which are yet to make their west end debuts, so I decided to have a little think about what I would like to see. Whilst there are plenty of shows that haven’t come to London yet which I would really love to see, ‘Finding Neverland’, ‘Sunshine on Leith’ ‘Newsies’ and ‘Anastasia’ to name but a few, I thought that I would take this time to talk about some shows that I would absolutely love to see have a West End revival.

Please bear in mind that these are in no particular order, just 5 shows that I think deserve another chance to shine on a London stage.

The Band

Last seen at the Theatre Royal Haymarket back in December 2018, The Band took the music of iconic boyband Take That and used in a whole new story, following 5 best friends as they grew up together before going their separate ways, only to be reunited years later through a shared love of the band they grew up idolising.

This show had a rather sizable following before it even opened due to the fact that ‘The Band’ was cast through a high-profile BBC talent show ‘Let It Shine’. After weeks of competition, it was Five to Five, made up of Yazdan Qafouri, Curtis T Johns, Nick Carsberg, Sario Soloman and AJ Bentley, who won the show and became ‘The Band’, which Harry Brown joining them as an understudy for the UK Tour and West end Run.

I guess that you could brush this off as ‘just another jukebox musical’, another show with no original music, but it’s impossible to say that’s a bad thing. Jukebox musicals have been commonplace for years, and some have gone on become incredibly popular (here’s looking at you Mamma Mia and your 20+ year success story). Technically, even ‘Moulin Rouge’, which has recently opened in the west end is a jukebox musical, and there is nothing wrong with that. But, of course, I can see why some may turn their noses up a little at a jukebox show, as sometimes it can feel like a band’s popular songs are simply shoehorned into a story where they don’t quite fit, but this simply isn’t the case for ‘The Band’. The songs featured throughout, both as performances from the band themselves and in the imaginations of the characters as they faced the struggles of growing up, growing apart and dealing with their adult issues. It was incredibly well done.

In terms of where I think that ‘The Band’ could fit into the West End, I felt it was a really nice fit for the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

Mrs Henderson Presents

Last seen at the Noel Coward Theatre in the summer of 2016, ‘Mrs Henderson Presents’ is based on the 2005 film of the same name, which was in turn based on the real-life story of Mrs Laura Henderson, who took over the running of the Windmill Theatre in piccadilly circus in 1931. She filled the theatre with daily vaudeville style performances, including the windmill girls who famously appeared on stage in the nude under the strict condition that they were not allowed to move, a rule set by the lord chamberlain.

This was a show full of comedy and heart that perfectly balanced frivolity against the backdrop of serious topics such as war and loss. The songs were catchy and perfectly fitting to the story, with some encapsulating the joys of the theatre and powerful ballads pulling at the heart strings. ‘Mrs Henderson Presents’ had this charming, old school feel about it, and that is something that I feel that the West End is currently lacking.

This isn’t a show that needs a huge venue, in fact, I feel that it could perhaps become a little bit lost in a venue too big. It worked well in the Noel Coward, but the next show that I am going to talk about worked even better in that venue.

Half A Sixpence

My, probably unhealthy, obsession with all things Half A Sixpence is no secret and it’s really no surprise that this musical simply had to appear on this list. Call it a little bit twee, if you will, but I absolutely loved everything about this musical. I have loved it ever since I was little and was introduced to it through the wonderful movie version starring the iconic Tommy Steele, and this production was everything I could have dreamed and more. Did it have a slightly different storyline to the film that I had grown up loving? Yes. And were some of the songs different or entirely new? Also, yes, but that only made me love it even more.

Come may have called the story line predictable and some elements just a little bit too cutesy, but oh well, for me this show was like a big warm hug. It was escapism in its purest and most wonderful form. The music never fails to put the biggest smile on my face, and I yearn for the joyful feeling that seeing this show live gave me. Much like ‘Mrs Henderson Presents’, this production of ‘Half A Sixpence’ oozed with that old fashioned charm, a call back to the golden age of musical theatre if you will.

This was a show that perfectly fitted the small and cosy Noel Coward Theatre, and I would love to see it back there one day.

The Comedy About A Bank Robbery

Okay, let’s be honest here. These past 20 months have been hard, and in the dark days of lockdown, we found ourselves searching for something to make us laugh. And Mischief Theatre provided that for us with ‘The Goes Wrong Show’, the outdoor tours of ‘Mischief Movie Night’ and, of course, their hilarious livestreamed ‘Mischief Movie Night In’ shows that brought their wonderful style of comedy directly into our homes. Add to that, the fact that Mischief’s ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ was amongst the first of the shows that reopened to socially distanced audiences and we have a lot to thank Mischief for.

‘The Comedy About A Bank Robbery’ may have been due to close in 2020, but it’s run was cut horribly short by the pandemic lockdown and I always thought that it was a horrid shame that it was due to close in the first place. Described as ‘lung bustlingly funny’ by The Guardian, it told the story of a hapless gang of criminals trying to steal precious jewels and ending up in all sorts of hilarious mishaps and situations. From the award-winning writers of ‘The Play that Goes Wrong’, ‘Magic Goes Wrong’, ‘Groan Ups’ and ‘The Goes Wrong Show’, everything that this team touches turns to comedy gold.

This was a show that had something for everyone, something that anybody could laugh at and enjoy, be that music, wordplay or old school slapstick comedy, and I really do think that after everything that has happened, it would be the perfect dose of laughter that we all need right now.

During its previous west end run, ‘The Comedy about a Bank Robbery’ was perfectly at home in the cosy Criterion Theatre, but, in my opinion, could easily fit just as well into the Gielgud, the Vaudeville, or the Apollo theatre.

The Hound of the Baskervilles

I believe that this hilarious three-person comedy retelling of Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ by Peepolykus theatre company was staged in the west end in 2007 at the Duchess Theatre (now home to ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’). More recently, the production by Octogen Theatre Bolton and Original Theatre company has been seen touring up and down the country this year both to critical acclaim and to the delight of comedy loving audiences.

As someone who loves a comedy, I have to say that this production is laugh out loud funny from start to end. It is full to the brim with quick changes, wordplay and slapstick and completely turns the classic story on its head without losing the actual story at all. Suspense is used for comedic effect and the small three person cast excel in playing multiple characters throughout.

Much like I said about ‘The Comedy about a Bank Robbery’, after everything we have been through, we are in desperate need of laughter as well as escapism and this production of ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ has both of these things by the bucketload. It will leave you with a massive grin on your face and I feel it’s important to also point out that it is family friendly. There were people of all ages in the audience when I saw this show out on tour and everyone was laughing as there was something for everyone.

It may have been a while since this production was last seen on a West End stage, but I think it’s the perfect time to bring it back. We need laughter now more than ever and I feel that this show would be a breath of fresh air for theatreland. With its small cast and limited set, it wouldn’t need a big venue, and perhaps would better suit a smaller one such as the Criterion or perhaps the Arts.

What do you think? What shows would you like to see receive West End revivals?

Images found via Google, not my own

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