Spending time in the West End

Summer of Theatre

Living in St Albans I’ve recently taken the opportunity to see as much theatre as possible, and now I have a couple of spare minutes between all the shows, holiday and traveling, I’ll write a bit about them all.

Les Miserables poster
Les Miserables poster

Les Miserables

I’ve long been a great hater of musicals that sing every. single. word. ♫ I’m going to get the milk ♫, that sort of thing. By that logic I should absolutely despise Les Mis’, listening to the songs briefly beforehand certainly suggested I would. Our seats were upper circle front row, I’d bought them with my sister for my mum’s birthday; we had a good view and I sat back unsure what to expect, ‘Look Down and see’.

Ahead of me the stories of Valjean, Fantine, Javert, Cosette, Eponine et al unfolded; the repeating musical theme resounded deep and a phenomenal performance by Drew Sarich coloured me impressed, with ‘On My Own’ heartrendingly sung by Eponine (Cassie Compton) fully engrossing me, for the first time, within a musical love story. This was and still is the best musical performance I have seen and until that point I had very little faith in the genre as a whole.

I left wanting more.

Marguerite

Marguerite poster
Marguerite poster

I had already seen Miss Saigon, although I do believe it wasn’t one of the best performances, I didn’t overly enjoy it. It probably deserves a second chance with my now renewed interest. Marguerite was a new musical with songs by Michel Legrand (see Umbrellas of Cherbourg!) and the hook, lyrics by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg.

The show, music and performances were all bitterly disappointing; the leading singing male came across as an over zealous stereotypical stage fella for which we did not emote. It was all a little lackluster, and no doubt others agreed - leading to the shows premature end in September. Luckily an overly chirpy and entertaining train conductor kept us happy on the way home; if only they were all as happy as him.

Fat Pig

Fat Pig poster
Fat Pig poster

Jo, Sam and I saw Fat Pig in its first English incarnation at the Trafalgar studios with Kris Marshall and Robert Webb. The comedy has a simple premise; some guy begins dating a fat girl and must face his work colleagues and their taunts - the ‘obsessed with looks’ ex-date and the crude and womanizing buddy.

Big Spoilers now. The first half revolves around Tom and Helen, the librarian, meeting, laughs a plenty and smiles all around - an hilarious comedy as billed. With the second half comes the to and fro of a relationship, the ups and downs and inevitable questions about the future which revolve around Helen meeting Tom’s work mates; the comedy softens you up and keeps you content in the happy ending realm of positive message storytelling - before a long and quiet conversation on the beach punches you in the gut, rips out your heart and splatters it on the wall, bringing you straight back to reality and ending the show in darkness. Absolutely brilliant.

I heartily recommend this, though cannot vouch for the new lineup or venue.

39 Steps

39 Steps
39 Steps

Another comedy, we got tickets cheap for this one in the stalls, and thought why not. None of us had actually seen the movie, so we didn’t know quite what to expect, especially with only four cast members playing the role of many. It turned out to be a slapstick affair with very clever prop jokes, costume changes and role switching; a good laugh and another recommended night out.

Avenue Q

Avenue Q
Avenue Q

Sam and I saw this one on our weekend to the Hoxton Hotel,

Middle of the middle in the stalls we watched the well praised Avenue Q as the Gary Coleman references whisked over our heads and the ‘grab your dick and double click‘ line resounded. Though we enjoyed it, the abundant acclaim meant it did not meet our high expectations.

This adult puppet comedy, although making us laugh, really didn’t grab us as we had thought and hoped it might. A tad disappointing, it might have been the understudies but probably just all the hype surrounding it.

Rain Man

Rain Man poster
Rain Man poster

Another performance caught on the Hoxton weekend, lucky enough to get tickets on the day,

Neither of us had seen the Dustin Hoffman movie, we went in without any expectations and without grounds for comparison. We left absolutely stunned - wow; the play was brilliant with Godley and Hartnett supremely leaving us on tender hooks. This was the first straight up play we’d seen together and no doubt we’ll be back for more of the same.

It is very much a love story, a comedy and a drama. I must remember to now watch the movie (adding to my LoveFilm list). I’m not sure how we would have reacted to it had we seen the movie. To no surprise, a large proportion of the audience were female. I do agree that Hartnett is a stud, even in The Black Dahlia with its stellar cast, which I caught last night, a poor attempt at a film noir.

Zorro

Zorro
Zorro

Zorro is the most recent of musicals I have seen after Sam grabbed four tickets for £40; this opened earlier in the year and Matt Rawle plays the lead and once again I had no expectations or even a clue as to the story. The show is none too serious (despite the brilliant ‘Man behind the Mask’ number) and comes accompanied with flamenco gypsy dancing, heel stomping, sword fights, fire and The Gypsy Kings (see Bamboleo); ‘a fun filled romp’ some tabloid review might say and it certainly was. With a dance and clap encore I left with dancing feet completely satisfied with my night out, bar the Gypsy King tracks that looped around my cranium for the remainder of the night.

If you want some plain old fun in London, I recommend Zorro the musical!