2013: A Year of Theatre

2013. The year that brought Kinky Boots to Broadway, a Best New Musical Olivier Award for Top Hat and a brand new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical to the West End. This year has brought me fifteen trips to the theatre to see ten productions that were unique and memorable in their own way. In addition to this, like all other years, this one has been filled with new discoveries of cast albums, performers and forgotten shows from the past.

This post was originally intended to be a glance back to 2013 and my theatrical discoveries that dominated each month. However, as I began working, I realised that the most significant developments and perhaps the most interesting sections of my post in progress were featured in the months of November and December. All sections from January to October have been scrapped to make way for a fond reflection of my theatre adventures of the past two months and how they have affected my views on theatre.
Not only has this year brought to me the introduction of several musicals and performers; my recent trips to see Blithe Spirit in Perth introduced me to the world of plays. For years I have claimed that “theatre” was what mattered most to me. It is not until now – after I have enjoyed a play to such an extent that I have scampered back the following weekend to see its penultimate performance – that I feel I can truly express this statement with honesty. This play exposed performers to me in a new light. Although in the past I could easily state that actors in musicals excelled at more than just singing, my main focus whilst watching these performances was always vocal ability. Blithe Spirit presented to its audience seven performers who had to rely on only their acting ability to carry the show. 
On our way home from our first trip to Perth we discussed the performances we had witnessed and all drew the same conclusion: Anita Vettesse, the actress who portrayed Ruth Condomine, was the finest actress on stage that evening. On our second trip the praise continued. With the absence of songs to distract us we had noticed the intricate details of the Vettesse’s performance; we understood her mannerisms, we were impressed by her character development, we noted even her body language. It was clear that Vettesse had received a stamp of approval in our book; the first actress to achieve this without singing a single note. 
Long before my decision to see Blithe Spirit, I had entered an agreement to write a review on Peter Panto and the Incredible Stinkerbell at the Tron Theatre. Having looked at the cast list and seeing no familiar names, I had shrugged, noted the date of the performance I would attend and forgotten all about it. Whilst studying my Blithe Spirit programme after the show, I had noticed that Sally Reid, who played Elvira with great wit and stubborn charm, was credited for several pantomimes at the Tron Theatre. My curiosity risen, I revisited the Peter Panto cast list and was shocked – yet delighted – to see that both Reid and Vettesse would be starring in the show. 
Like most Brits, I attended my fair share of pantomimes in childhood. My only memories consist of baddies with painted moustaches, cheesy hissing from the audience and Karen Dunbar swinging toilet rolls above her head. Although I was looking forward to seeing what became affectionately known as “the Blithe gang” and, of course, writing a review that would reach a much wider audience than my usual blog readers, I couldn’t help but worry. What if I hated the pantomime? What if I began to view the Blithe gang with negativity following an evening of Glaswegian slang and slapstick jokes? I had clearly underestimated the talent of theatrical Scots.
Not only did I love every moment of the pantomime and rush home to write an enthusiastic five star review of the show; seeing the Blithe gang in completely different surroundings boosted my admiration for these actresses. Just over a fortnight had passed from their last performances as upper class, sophisticated members of the nineteen forties and here they were now: taking part in all the usual panto traditions, one as Stinkerbell and the other as Captain New Look. The contrast was staggering.
Of course Peter Panto was, like all pantomimes, packed with songs.  I found myself sighing with relief as the actress I rated so highly in Blithe Spirit sang her first notes. Not only a wonderful actress, Vettesse possesses a beautiful singing voice. 
In under a month I have realised that I have been wrong to believe that I could only enjoy West End or official UK Tour productions of shows. Both Blithe Spirit and Peter Panto are Scottish productions that are of an extremely high standard and feature performers who have made a much larger impact in my life than most West End performers. For years I have sought a theatrical perfection; a performer that would truly blow me away with their talent. UK Tours and even the West End couldn’t provide me with such a satisfying performer. All this time Vettesse has been under my nose, based in Glasgow and gathering some excellent reviews in the shows she has starred in. Never before have I been so impressed with a performer. 
So another year has passed and has certainly left a large impact in my life. I hereby publicise my oath to see Anita Vettesse in as many productions as I can in 2014 – and beyond. I no longer need the “stars,” the big names of the stage or the extravagant shows that draw audiences from afar. All I need is the individuals that share their talents with the world, putting a large smile on my face and earning their own place in my heart.

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