Michael Billington

Michael Billington is a critic with The Guardian (UK). This account has been auto-generated, and does not indicate that this person is an active member of Show-Score.com. That said, if you "follow" this member, you will automatically be updated whenever s/he writes a new review.

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Reviews (52)
Waitress (London)
Covent Garden
The Guardian (UK)

“Initially, the show struck me as raucous and improbable. Bareilles’ lyrics often get lost under an over-loud onstage band and I couldn’t wholly believe in the plight of the pregnant protagonist, Jenna...But I found myself warming to Nelson’s book and to the vigour of the songs...The performances, in Paulus’s lively production, are very much part of the show’s appeal...The show is a tribute to female solidarity and McPhee is well supported.” Full Review

9 to 5: The Musical
Covent Garden
The Guardian (UK)

“The show itself is unashamedly a period piece and about as subtle as a sledgehammer...The show is a piece of slick commercial packaging, but it still argues that equal pay, flexible hours and in-house daycare are not only vital targets but also make for better business. While the musical is a simplistic revenge fantasy, it is stylishly put across in Calhoun’s production...This may be mass-market feminism but, with its advocacy of workplace equality, I could not bring myself to dislike it.” Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production “An intimate epic that becomes a masterly study of acting as well as of the intricacies of high finance...Although Power’s adaptation studiously avoids giving us any lectures, it is hard not to see the play as an account of the shifting definition of the American dream...It would be fascinating to know more about the subprime mortgage scandal, and the way the firm removed liabilities from its balance sheet to create a misleading impression of its stability. Otherwise, this is an engrossing ev... Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

"This version, which comes with its subject’s blessing, offers a heady celebration of triumph over adversity...The book by Katori Hall, assisted by Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins, dwells on Tina Turner’s extraordinary tenacity and ability to overcome life’s obstacles...The show rests on the shoulders of Warren, who is rarely off stage and who is simply astonishing." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "A rhythm that allows us to feel that we are living, like the Tyrone family, through a day and a night of alternating hope and despair. What never ceases to astonish is the dizzying emotional contradiction of O’Neill’s characters...They bounce around like pinballs between reality and illusion...A play that if well done, as it is here, leaves you emotionally pulverised by the feeling that O’Neill, in providing an unsparing portrait of his family, is seeking their posthumous forgiveness." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

“The 'Breaking Bad' star is magnetic as a raging anchorman in writer Lee Hall and director Ivo van Hove’s extraordinary version of the prophetic satire...A tremendous performance enhanced by the decision...to treat the stage as if it were a studio...The performances are as animated as the staging...But the success of the show lies in its capacity to use every facet of live theatre to warn us against surrendering our humanity to an overpowering medium.” Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "Adventurously staged and compellingly acted...Vibrant as the show’s arguments are, I feel they have been overshadowed by recent events...But, even if the times are rapidly changing, the show combines a poignant human story with a fascinating discussion about how change can best be achieved. Hoss is also a magnetic figure...Ostermeier extends the boundaries of political theatre by showing that, in adapting a book, you can turn the stage into a source of living debate." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

"Although the show occasionally feels as if a pair of avuncular old rockers are letting down the remains of their hair, it has an overwhelming good nature and allows its preteen performers to display their genuine talent...One of the pleasures of Fellowes’s book lies in its predictability...What is good about the show is that it also seems to release something in Lloyd Webber, and allows him to return to the rock roots of his past...This is Lloyd Webber’s most exuberant show in years." Full Review

King Lear (BAM)
Brooklyn
The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "Sher is unbearably moving as the volatile king, in Doran’s stellar production full of standout performances...Doran’s production has strength in depth...The production rests on the intemperate unpredictability of Sher’s Lear. Having shown a beatific gentleness to Cordelia after their defeat, he rounds on their captors with downright violence – a moment that perfectly encapsulates the insane contradictions in the character and the play itself." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "Fantastically smart, clever and witty, but I have to say it left my heart untouched...It is genuinely funny...Minchin’s songs breezily add to the satire on small-town life...It’s a score that serves the plot perfectly, but it’s not exactly one you ache to hear again...While the show is high-grade fun, I enjoyed it more for its dazzling theatrical expertise than for its much thinner emotional content." Full Review

Arlington
Brooklyn
The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "A new form of theatre that includes drama, dance, music and visual art...I found 'Arlington' less fascinating for what it says than for the way it says it. Walsh is clearly out to demolish the distinction between drama and visual art...Walsh is also creating a theatre in which movement exists on an equal footing with text...When I’ve forgotten the ideas, I shall still recall Walsh’s boldness in weaving his closely textured poetic prose into a new form of category-defying theatre." Full Review

Cyprus Avenue
East Village
The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "What makes Ireland’s play so terrifying is that it takes fanaticism to its logical conclusion and laces lunacy with laughter...The whole play is about a man whose sense of self is so shaken that he has to confirm his prejudices by committing acts of appalling cruelty...Ireland uses the blackest of comedy to expose the absurdity of sectarian hatred...I found the climactic violence hard to watch; I almost wish Ireland had left it implicit rather than physically stated." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "Eager as I am as the next person to learn more about the Motown mogul, I was disappointed at how little I discovered. The appeal of this all-too-typical modern musical lies in the capacity of the 50 numbers. The musical’s book is a shaky vehicle largely designed to facilitate the songs...It’s a fascinating rags-to-riches story but this version leaves all the key questions unanswered...The music, of course, is what people will go for and it is put across with great pizzazz." Full Review

Battlefield
Brooklyn
The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "Judged purely as a piece of stagecraft, the work is breathtaking...The simplest means are used to tell the text’s unfolding stories…At a time when theatre is giddy with technology, you are struck by the way economical means are used to maximum effect…The result is a dazzling piece of theatre that makes us contemplate the endless cycle of human destruction but induces a sense of resignation rather than rousing us to action." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "Has there ever been a better stage adaptation of a novel than this one by Hampton? He took an epistolary novel and created a drama full of symmetry, sex and style. Even if Rourke’s revival cannot totally trump memories of the original production, it is still an evening to richly savour...The story’s real irony, beautifully brought out by Hampton’s magnificent text and Rourke’s production, is that both Valmont and Merteuil are still fatally attracted to each other." Full Review

Hero's Welcome
Midtown E
The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "Ayckbourn's talent for recording the wanton damage we do to each other, whether with a smiling face or a savage sneer as in the case of Brad, remains undiminished. His production is also well acted by Richard Stacey as the trouble-making Murray, Elizabeth Boag as the brooding mayor, Stephen Billington as Brad and Emma Manton as his verbally abused wife, whose relationship is that of jailer and prisoner." Full Review

Kafka on the Shore
Upper W Side
The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "Even if the narrative is top-heavy with themes and ideas, including the circularity of time and the shifting nature of identity, the staging is riveting. A world poised between reality and dream, which embraces everything from wild forests to neon-lit urban hells, and introduces characters ranging from talking cats to Hegel-quoting sex-workers...The play quotes Yeats’s epigram that 'in dreams begin responsibility.' One might add that dreams can also end in a sensuous theatrical spectacle." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "Jonathan Pryce, presents us with a Shylock of weight, gravity and considerable complexity…Pryce’s performance also sets the tone for Jonathan Munby’s production which is, for the most part, a refreshingly sombre, quietly moving affair...There is also good work among the generally revolting Christians...It is Pryce’s Shylock, however, who occupies the memory." Full Review

Radiant Vermin
Midtown E
The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "A darkly funny morality play that implicates the audience without hitting it over the head…In outline, it sounds like one of those Ionesco plays of the 1950s in which an absurd premise is pursued with remorseless logic. But Ridley’s play is far subtler than that insofar as it shows how decent people are driven by desperation to stifle their consciences...Ridley suggests we live in a madly materialistic world where enough is never enough." Full Review

King Charles III
Midtown W
The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "The play offers a meditation on monarchy and uses a dense tissue of Shakespearean references to acquire a tragic dimension. Goold’s superb production shows how memorable effects can be achieved through grouping. There is nothing morally simplistic about a play that raises urgent issues about the monarchy’s future role." Full Review

Skylight
Midtown W
The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "A play in which politics and passion are so tightly intertwined as to be inseparable; Everything about this production is finely judged...Hare's play hits you straight between the eyes with its mixture of private pain and public rage at our profoundly polarised society." Full Review

King Charles III
Midtown W
The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "The action acquires an unstoppable momentum. There is also a what-if fascination to seeing how a future king might exercise long-dormant powers, invoke army support and leave the country bitterly divided. In short, Bartlett's play gets significantly better as it goes along and makes greater use of Shakespearean resonances." Full Review

American Psycho
Midtown W
The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "It works superbly thanks to Rupert Goold's stylish production, Duncan Sheik's music and lyrics and Matt Smith's beautifully defined performance as the deluded hero... Maybe the sleek staging undercuts some of the blackness of the original book. But the compensation lies in the heightening of the satire in a world in which 'everyone has a beautiful body' and in which people are identified by fashion, fads and gizmos." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "This musical version of Alice Walker's 1982 novel was greeted with roars of foot-stamping approval. But, while I shared the delight in the skill of the production and performance, I also feel that the shows sanitises – and sentimentalises – Walker's original story...I can't fault the presentation; it's just that the musical too palpably presses all the right emotional buttons." Full Review

Daddy Long Legs
Midtown W
The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "As a musical, it has many negative virtues: no flimflam, no scenic excess...The show brims with positive qualities, of which the best is its preservation of Webster's instinctive feminism...Not for the first time, a chamber-musical proves far more fun than many a big, blowsy spectacle." Full Review

Come from Away (London)
Charing Cross
The Guardian (UK)

"It is musically vigorous and excellently staged but...I found something bludgeoning about its relentless celebration of civic virtue...The songs, which have a folk-rock feel, are good and Christopher Ashley’s direction and Kelly Devine’s musical staging ingeniously use rearranged chairs to evoke both a suffocating plane cabin and the diverse spaces opened to the visitors...The show could hardly be better done even if, as a work of art, I found it lacking in complexity and argument." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

"Whether you call it a folk opera, a hip oratorio or a musicalised myth, it boasts some cracking songs that far outweigh its dramatic shortcomings...Chavkin’s production, even in a large space, preserves the rough theatre elements that are part of the show’s charm...I’m not sure if Mitchell’s classical update imparts a palpable message, but her beguiling melodies linger on." Full Review

The Jungle
Brooklyn
The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "This is that rare thing: a necessary piece of theatre...If I was overwhelmed by the play, it is because it raises a host of issues and because the production itself seems a mix of the structured and the spontaneous: the evening blends order and chaos, reflections and rants, songs and scuffles in astonishing profusion. It is also powerfully performed...The result is one of those priceless evenings that enlarges our understanding while appealing to our emotions." Full Review

Girls & Boys
West Village
The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "Mulligan is a joy to watch as she brings her expressive powers to bear in Kelly’s flawed but compelling one-hander...Mulligan is brilliant at engaging with the audience and charting the gradations of the relationship with the husband...Here you have only the woman’s word for it...This doesn’t gainsay the immense subtlety of Mulligan’s performance or the clarity of Turner’s direction...It’s a gut-wrenching piece, but...I’d suggest you need to present both sides of the story." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

“Miranda’s rollercoaster of a show boasts outstanding performances and charts the life of the US founding father with political passion and nimble wit...There are times in the second half when the show’s virtuosity becomes a little taxing...But this is a show that moves with intoxicating speed and combines historical sweep with attention to detail...An invigorating and original musical that celebrates America’s overwhelming debt to the immigrant.” Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "But, for all the brilliance of a team of model-makers...I had some reservations. Adaptor Oliver Emanuel adopts a studiously non-political tone and never sets the story in the wider context of the global refugee crisis...Since theatre is a public event, there is also something odd about sitting in a private booth for 50 minutes watching the saga unfold...I was impressed by this production’s exquisite detail...and its experimental daring, while still yearning for the presence of living actors." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

"A rich, serious, deeply involving play about the shadows of the past and the power of silent love...What gives Butterworth’s play such shattering force is its Hardyesque love of rural rituals and its compassionate exploration of unspoken love...The power of Mendes’s terrific production...lies in its ability to combine scrupulous naturalism with a sense of the mysterious." Full Review

The Emperor
Brooklyn
The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production “Hunter is a strutting minister one minute and the emperor’s pillow-bearer the next in this shrewd and resonant account of Haile Selassie’s fall from grace...A showcase for the actor’s undoubted virtuosity...The problem is that we focus more on the actor’s skill than on the madness of power...Even if this version starts as something of a variety turn by the astonishing shapeshifting Hunter, it gradually expands into a resonant and troubling metaphor for the great melancholy of power." Full Review

The Roundabout
Midtown E
The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "It has its moments, but you feel the domestic crises of a bankrupt aristo, which provide the main theme, fit oddly with Priestley’s glancing references to the state of the nation...Priestley tries to have it both ways: he satirises the upper class, while glibly sending up the young communists...You can see why the play was forgotten. Priestley never reconciled its comic and serious elements, but I was glad to have seen it, if only for the glimpse of what Auden dubbed 'a low, dishonest decade.'" Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

“A thrilling theatrical spectacle…I got as much pleasure from the staging as from the convoluted story. Tiffany and his designer, Christine Jones, have created magic out of the simplest ingredients…Any danger that the effects would upstage the actors is overcome by a set of strong performances…While it helps to be a paid-up Potterhead, Tiffany and his team stage the piece with such dazzling assurance that I finally began to see the point of being wild about Harry.” Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

“Impressive stage magic, a gold-dripping design and a party-loving genie make this energetic adaptation of the animated movie a wicked treat...I gradually found myself won over by the blend of spectacle, illusion and a greater supply of corn than you will find in the Kansas wheatfields...It is all nonsense but it is done with conviction by Casey Nicholaw, the director and choreographer, who bombards us with business." Full Review

Sunset Boulevard
Midtown W
The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "A breathtaking performance from Glenn Close…The book and lyrics, which remain commendably faithful to the movie, make their mark...But the chief pleasure lies in watching Close. Her big achievement is to treat the character not as a grotesque harpy but as a real woman…It may not be a perfect musical, but a show that in 1993 seemed too big and spectacular to catch the ironic tone of the Wilder movie has been given a new lease of life." Full Review

The Encounter
Midtown W
The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "Shut your eyes at any point and you feel, thanks to McBurney’s expressive range and the ingenuity of the sound design, that you are in the Amazonian jungle...For me the show is at its best when it demonstrates the capacity of McIntyre and Barnacle to communicate...No less extraordinary is McBurney’s own ability to transport us into another world in a two-hour encounter that makes strong demands on an audience, but ultimately rewards them." Full Review

Escaped Alone
Brooklyn
The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production “It packs an amazing amount into a modest frame…I find Mrs Jarrett’s speeches less effective as they go along...Although they are excellently delivered by Bassett without any coloring of hysteria, the law of diminishing returns sets in. The overwhelming strength of the play lies in its portrait of the women in the garden…This is Churchill at her best, observing with wry compassion how people actually talk. Macdonald’s production also brings pitch-perfect performances from all the women.” Full Review

Henry V (BAM)
Brooklyn
The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "Gregory Doran’s production, as part of a developing history cycle, takes a more classical approach, seeking out and exploring the play’s contradictions. A crucial key lies in the excellent chorus of Oliver Ford Davies...The action is played on a largely bare stage in which the words are allowed to weave their spell. This places a heavy burden on Alex Hassell, who exactly catches the conscience of the king...I’ve seen more partial productions but few that appeal so clearly to our imaginations." Full Review

My Eyes Went Dark
Midtown E
The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production “An extremely powerful play about justice, revenge and forgiveness...It’s a measure of the play’s success that abstract questions about vengeance and mercy are given a concrete application…It helps that the piece is performed by two first-rate actors…Wilkinson’s play provides no easy answers but poses a series of compelling questions about the nature of moral responsibility.” Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "It leaves one exhilarated rather than exhausted...Seeing the plays in quick succession, one also grasps the instability of power, which is no sooner gained than threatened. Overwhelmingly, the production also shows how Shakespeare’s kings constantly use divine authority to mask temperamental flaws...Entering the theatre at five, we emerged in time to hear the chimes at midnight – but the long haul was eminently well rewarded." Full Review

Ubu Roi
Upper W Side
The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "How do you recapture the shock impact of Alfred Jarry's 1896 play, with its savage portrait of a grotesque monster? Declan Donnellan has had a brilliant idea in this production: he plays it as the Oedipal fantasy of a camcorder-clutching teenager taking revenge on his parents and their French bourgeois world." Full Review

Henry IV
Brooklyn
The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "As a production, it is vigorously entertaining and a welcome release from the tonal monotony of male-dominated Shakespeare. But the question of why a group of women prisoners should be doing this particular play is never answered. The propulsive action also means there is little time to explore the darker aspects of the text." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "Bean's focus is less on the bread-baking process than on the desperate camaraderie among the workers whom we see during their canteen breaks...All the characters are vividly particularised in Rhode's production...Bean has gone on to write bigger plays and presumably, through the success of 'One Man, Two Guvnors,' to make a bit of dough. But he has written few better than this, which shows the testy companionship that emerges from earning one's daily bread." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "If there is a perfect fusion of production and performance, it comes, appropriately, in the scene in Warwickshire where we see Falstaff's ragged recruits shuffling across the stage en route to certain death...And, even if Part I is inescapably more seductive than Part II, the second play comes into its own in the Chekhovian Gloucestershire scenes." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "Watching the two plays together over a span of six hours is an occasionally exhausting but mostly exhilarating experience... the success lies in the fact that we feel this is both a piece of living history and a guide to the early modern world...While they can't precisely reproduce the dream-like richness of Mantel's prose, they show that novels can sometimes be made into very good plays." Full Review

Richard II (BAM)
Brooklyn
The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "Doran's beautifully crafted, richly detailed production sets a high standard for himself and others to aim at. David Tennant gives a mesmerising performance that grows in power as Richard's authority declines...What Doran's production brings out is the rich complexity of a play that raises the eternal question of at what point it becomes legitimate to unseat a manifestly flawed ruler. Shakespeare's play may be set in 14th-century England. It remains a timelessly political work." Full Review

Trash Cuisine
East Village
The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "The purpose of the show is to remind us that we live in a world where conspicuous consumption co-exists with state torture...The severity of the show's content, however, is counterpointed by the grace, athleticism and skill of its performers and by the sweetness of accompanying music. Once again, Belarus Free Theatre prove their capacity to stir our consciences through their sensuous theatricality." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

“The kaleidoscopic visual brilliance of Julie Taymor's production...lies the ultimate source of the show's success...The show was, and is, a shrewd synthesis of global avant garde techniques; and, even if nothing matched the opening parade of antelopes, elephants and zebras down the Lyceum aisle, it provided a feast for the eyes...I don't believe it's the archetypal narrative structure that is the secret of the show's success. In the end, the eyes have it.” Full Review