Well, there we have it. It’s the last day of the year. And if you spent the last 365 in Liverpool, you’ll know there was always plenty going on to amuse and inspire. Here’s 12 of the best, in no particular order:
1. One night it was a privilege to be part of was the gala performance of Canary at the Playhouse in spring. A beautiful and memorable new play from Coronation Street writer Jonathan Harvey, it spanned 50 years of gay history through the story of one troubled family. Thanks to Harvey’s pedigree on The Street, there was as much laughter as there was unforgettably moving drama, and some achingly tender performances from the cast.
2. The best song of the year gets stuck in my head all the time. It’s still impossible not to smile remembering Michael Starke and Les Dennis as the loveable Turnblads, shuffling up and down the Empire stage singing Timeless To Me in Hairspray in July. Even the Broadway version on YouTube doesn’t compare.
3. In fact never mind singling out one song, another theoretical gong should be flung at the touring production of Hairspray just for being so joyous. It was so much fun, I saw it twice. And took my nan. And I’d see it again, I tells ya.
4. The best stand up show this year was doubtless the opportunity to see Richard Herring’s glorious comedy tour de force, Hitler Moustache. A thoughtful, hilarious and completely brilliant work of perfect stand up, the laughs were resoundingly constant.
5. Best soap star popping up somewhere unexpected was former Cilla Battersby Wendi Peters, who I didn’t know was going to be one of the best things in a fantastic production of Northern Broadsides’ take on Harold Brighouse’s The Game.
6. The ‘Scousers get everywhere’ award goes to Ghost Stories. Yes, it may be selling out night after night and attracting all the celebs in the West End, but it was the Playhouse wot done it back in February, in a thrilling co-production with the Lyric Hammersmith, where it was also performed before going big time. IT’S OURS. Here’s my interview with one of its stars, Nicholas ‘Nathan Barley’ Burns.
7. The ‘No Sex Please, We’re British’ award goes to the awe-inspiring New York burlesque star Julie Atlas Muz (pictured at the top), star of DaDaFest’s Freak and the Showgirl and DaDaLesque (both reviewed here). Never happier than when letting it all hang out on stage, her act is intimidating, sometimes unsettling, rude and generally bonkers, but there’s method in her madness. One of the strongest and most amazing women I’ve ever seen take to the stage.
8. Best big gay night out goes to the Vogue Ball, without question the best evening out many of us sheltered types had all year. After a brilliant competition of dance and catwalk fun as realised by our own Darren Suarez, it was all over to Garlands until we could Vogue no more. Here’s a clip of Darren on the Paul O’Grady show:
9. Following on, this year’s host with the most was certainly the brilliant Rikki Beadle-Blair (below), who can provide a crowd with the most fun they could have with their clothes on, or for that matter with sensitive bits popping out of unforgiving leotards.
10. Earthfall deserve a mention for making their own brand of contemporary dance so accessible with their Warhol-inspired production The Factory, one of the highlights of Homotopia.
11. The ‘Excuse me, there’s something in my eye’ award goes to the touring production of Calendar Girls, which came to the Empire in the autumn. The photoshoot scene was irresistible fun; the whole of the second half, a heartstring-tugging sniffle-fest.
12. Lennon, at the Royal Court, surpassed my expectations to prove itself as a fantastic celebration and tribute to the man. Some great performances – particularly Andrew Schofield as Lennon – and even greater tunes balanced beautifully.
So, there we have it. Spoiled rotten, in the manner we have become accustomed to. There’ll be some changes in 2011 and not all for the better – cuts and even demolitions, when the Everyman is due to come down. But we’ll gain new venues (let’s see the Neptune re-open, and the CUC hit its stride), and we can already look forward to some great upcoming productions, so here’s to the New Year.