‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’ Wins Best Musical Production at UK Theatre Awards
Standing at the Sky’s Edge is a musical born and bred in Sheffield, but last month it received national recognition at the 2019 UK Theatre Awards. These awards celebrate the best that regional theatre in the UK has to offer, and it appears that much of the best has been happening in Sheffield. Standing at the Sky’s Edge features music by legendary Sheffield musician Richard Hawley and a script by another product of the city, Chris Bush.
It wasn’t just Standing at the Sky’s Edge flying the flag for Sheffield, with Sheffield Theatres‘ production of Life of Pi scooping four awards (Best New Play, Best Director, Best Design, and Best Performance in a Play). Standing at the Sky’s Edge took home the gong for best musical production, and all involved will be hopeful that the critical acclaim provides the platform to share this story with an even wider audience.
Standing at the Sky’s Edge opened at The Crucible in March, and it tells the tale of a collection of Park Hill residents across several decades. The narrative jumps from a steelworker in the 1960s to a refugee family in the 1980s and to a young professional in 2016. The themes will resonate with anyone who has spent time living in Sheffield, while the stage design impressively recreates a block in Park Hill.
Conveniently, theatregoers without any familiarity with Sheffield will still find lots to grab their attention too. Bush has cleverly weaved together stories that span decades and, while they have Sheffield at the core, explore universal themes. Hawley, a former guitarist of Pulp, has carved out a career in the alternative rock genre, with the musical bringing together a mix of original songs and reworkings of past Hawley hits.
Hawley certainly pays homage to his home city in his music. Standing at the Sky’s Edge is also the name of Hawley’s sixth album, a reference to the Skye Edge area of the city. The strength of the writing, the cast, and the direction earned Standing at the Sky’s Edge its justified recognition at the UK Theatre Awards; but it could be the unconventional star quality of Hawley that takes the musical to new places.
When casual theatregoers think of British musicals, Andrew Lloyd Webber is usually the name that comes to mind. His shows consistently fill venues and he is responsible for some of the most recognizable songs in the history of musicals. The likes of Evita and Cats have been adapted by Hollywood, while Lloyd Webber gained new prominence through a string of BBC reality shows that sought to uncover new musical stars. His works have even brought inspiration further afield, even in unexpected corners of the entertainment industry. In 2012, we saw an officially licensed singalong video game released for Nintendo’s hit console, the Wii while, in the online casino sector, LadyLucks’ Casimba Review commends the site’s collection of slots, which includes Universal Monsters: The Phantom’s Curse. This game pays tribute to Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, demonstrating just how significant Lloyd Webber’s cultural impact has been, and how powerful the culture of musical is and has become in contemporary culture.
However, a musical like Standing at the Sky’s Edge is a world away from Lloyd Webber’s more fantastical affair. It recites the hard-hitting stories of realistic characters, which gives the musical’s narrative particular resonance with a 2019 audience. It will always have a home in Sheffield, but this type of musical needs to seen and heard elsewhere too.
The team behind Standing at the Sky’s Edge can take inspiration from previous winners at the UK Theatre Awards. The Royal Shakespeare Company production of Matilda The Musical triumphed in 2011, and has since been performed on Broadway and in Australia. 2017 winner Everybody’s Talking About Jamie premiered at the Crucible before making the journey to the West End – so perhaps Standing at the Sky’s Edge can follow in those footsteps.