Musical theatre: Oh what a circus, oh what a show

Moments That Made The Year: `Jesus Christ Superstar' has improved with age, and only a saintly `Thoedora' could better it. By Edward Seckerson

Saints, swans, a Seventies superstar. And the unmistakable sound of Ibsen's Nora shutting that door behind her. Broadway once tried its hand at a musical version of A Doll's House. All doors slammed fairly sharpish on that one. There are no songs in Anthony Page's revelatory production at the Playhouse Theatre. Just a very free adaptation of a very great play from Frank McGuinness, and the female performance of the year from Janet McTeer. I cannot even begin to imagine the energy, physical and mental, required to keep Torvald's "little woman" (and McTeer is anything but) in her place. The frightening thing about her dizzying Nora is the extent to which she has been swallowed up by the role expected of her. It's hard, not to say exhausting, to watch her flap, fret, and simper her way to that final scene.

Speaking of final scenes, the rather significant one at the close of Jesus Christ Superstar is more moving and more truthful than one would ever have thought possible of a show long since consigned to the scrapbook of post-hippy hip. But that's because the Australian director Gale Edwards takes it as she finds it, and finds it as she takes it. And she takes it a whole lot further than Jim Sharman's original production did. It's a dynamic second coming played out in truly operatic fashion under the searching cross-beams of David Hersey's stunning lighting. John Napier has excavated an eye-catching Roman arena from the ruins of Henry Irving's newly refurbished Lyceum Theatre, and a high-octane cast make no apologies whatsoever for the youthful indiscretions of Messieurs Rice and Lloyd Webber. In the case of the latter, no apologies are necessary. This sweet, soulful, fractured, quirky, gutsy score is of its time, for sure. It's just that its time is, so far, 25 years on and counting.

Someone should get Gale Edwards into an opera house. And fast. It won't be the Royal Opera House, of course. Come July, there won't be one. Can anyone tell us what's going on? I know of one major international conductor who's been booked for The Barber of Seville but doesn't know where. Perhaps he never will. But back to 1996. Actually, Jesus Christ Superstar might well have been my opera (or "music theatre") production of the year, had it not been for the saintly Theodora at Glyndebourne. She was quite something. Partly on account of one George Frideric Handel, whose score - one achingly beautiful number after another - is among his unsung finest (the conductor William Christie subsequently got into all kinds of trouble for gilding the period lily with all manner of delicious instrumental embellishments), but also thanks to three vintage performances from Dawn Upshaw, Lorraine Hunt (a Handel stylist rivalled only by our own Ann Murray), and the astonishing American counter-tenor David Daniels. The production, from that ageing young turk, Peter Sellars, was predictably despised in some quarters. Small misgivings apart, I thought it beautiful and dignified. For those who still decry opera in English because "it sounds silly and you don't hear the words anyway", there was sign language. In keeping with Baroque practice, Sellars has lately adopted hand gesture as an extension of feeling and sense. And it made perfect sense in Theodora: a universal language for a universal faith.

In case you hadn't heard, it's official: London's West End currently houses the longest-running dance production of all time. And it's a success born of Matthew Bourne's Adventures in Motion Pictures company. Swan Lake is capturing everyone's imagination: balletomanes, balletophobics, traditionalists and revisionists alike. Word of mouth is filling the Piccadilly Theatre. Punters are going back for a second and third time.

Why? Because, despite being dubbed "the gay Swan Lake", Bourne's funny and heartfelt re-imagining of this enduring classic touches everyone. It's about loneliness, isolation, desire, the dream of perfect love and the nightmare of imperfect reality. "Do not feed the swans" reads the sign. But the little old lady with her bag of crumbs does not heed it. And the unloved prince, newly awakened, freed, transported, deluded by the swan of his dreams, hugs and kisses her. Talk about irrigating the tear ducts in readiness for Act 2.

But, I can hear you asking, "Never mind all this snivelling, what about the issues, the trends?" The only trend I care about is the one about there not being a trend. But, if I must, the BBC's Henry Wood Proms have been "trendy" for 101 years and have only now won the trust to be - and to go on being - the most adventurous classical music festival anywhere in the world. They broke all box-office records this year. Now there's a trend to encourage.

Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
artSistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer, Lord Alan Sugar, Karren Brady are returning for The Apprentice series 10

TV
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder star in 'Girl, Interrupted'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas Pynchon in 1955, left, and Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix in Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of his novel, Inherent Vice

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Nicole Scherzinger will join the cast of Cats

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Fans were left surprised by the death on Sunday night's season 26 premiere

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lady Mary goes hunting with suitor Lord Gillingham

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

    Time to stop running

    At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

    Arsenal vs Galatasaray

    Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence