If they invent time travel and make it available to the masses within my lifetime, then I am going to seize the opportunity to fill some gaps in my theatrical history. And I know I'm not the only theatre fan who gets all daydreamy and sad at the thought of all the amazing shows that have passed by either! So if they invent time travel and make it available to the masses within my lifetime, then my first stop is going to be 2004, to see (at least) these five amazing-sounding shows.
5. The Boy from Oz, Imperial Theatre (New York)
2004 was a damn fine year on Broadway. Little shows like Avenue Q and Wicked were popping their heads up for the first time, star vehicles like Caroline, or Change and The Boy from Oz were astounding audiences, and revivals (and pseudo-revivals) of things like Fiddler on the Roof and Assassins were drawing in crowds. I found it difficult limiting myself for the purposes of this blog entry, but The Boy from Oz definitely had to be included. Hugh Jackman was given an awful lot of freedom to ad-lib and just enjoy himself with this show, and by all accounts, that's exactly what he did. Instead of utilising any understudies, they simply shut the production down when Jackman went on holiday, and the show regularly ran over the running time. This one seemed to be not just a show, but a genuine event, and will probably never be repeated in quite the same way.
4. Journey's End, Comedy Theatre
R.C. Sherriff's 1928 play about the First World War is amazing. It's one of those exquisitely put-together plays that reads just as brilliantly as it plays, and despite being many moons old, it still feels as though it could have been written yesterday. I would love to have seen this one; not only for the novelty value of David Haig turning in a fine performance as a mild-mannered stoic instead of his more customary histrionic turns, but also for Geoffrey Streatfeild as an all-too-human military leader with a lot going on upstairs.
3. Assassins, Studio 54 (New York)
I'm a Sondheim afficionado, but it's not always easy. Sometimes I don't click with his shows on the first listen. It can take months before I get into one of his shows, and sometimes I don't even click until after I've seen a performance. Assassins, however, I fell for the very first time I listened to the CD. I started with the 2004 Broadway cast, and despite having a lot of affection for the 1990 off-Broadway recording as well, it's the 2004 recording I return to time and time again. I like what they did with the casting for Lee Harvey Oswald. I like 'Something Just Broke'. And this is one of those wonderful pseudo-revivals where the original cast and the newer cast were just as impressive as each other. It's a very odd show, and I hate having to describe it to people, but I admire it hugely.
2. The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?, Almeida
I believe I have stated before that Edward Albee is my favourite living US playwright. And this play is my favourite of his. Like Assassins, it's a very odd piece that you'd hate to have to describe to your grandmother (yes, it is about a goat), but somehow it works. The downright peculiar subject matter is dealt with intelligently and intriguingly, and I love the play dearly. And when it premiered at the Almeida, it had Jonathan Pryce as Martin and Eddie Redmayne as his son Billy. Mere words could never fully express my approval of this casting.
1. Hamlet, Royal Shakespeare Theatre
It seems like every time I read about this production, I notice yet another cast member I hadn't realised was in it before but who I think is brilliant now. I can't imagine anything more awesome than Clive Wood as Claudius. Greg Hicks looks to have been a properly creepy Ghost. Toby Stephens as Hamlet suggests that Michael Boyd reckons that Claudius and Gertrude (the marvellous Sian Thomas) have been carrying on for a very long time indeed. And with the likes of Forbes Masson, Richard Cordery, John Mackay, and Trystan Gravelle filling out the supporting roles, not to mention Tom Piper on design and the inestimable Terry King directing the fights, what we have here can surely only be described as the Hamlet of my fevered daydreams.