June 1998

The main reason for my visit this time was to see the “Hey, Mr.Producer!” Show at the Lyceum, after considering all the pros and cons of paying £75.00 for one ticket for a show (which took me all of 15 seconds), I contacted the Theatre, booked the ticket in advance, something I almost never do, and this takes us to last Sunday the 7th June 1998.

I arrived in Addleston at 1:00 p.m. and I won’t bore you with the non details.

So we jump to Monday the 8th at 2:30p.m. “London I’m Back!” I never get over the feeling of just being in London probably because the only time I visit there it’s for a holiday. Doing my favourite things, meeting friends and seeing shows (not necessarily in order of preference…sorry friends).

Anyway the weather wasn’t great, raining and quite windy, but even this couldn’t dent my feelings of expectation and excitement. My first Royal Show, and a cast of people who, in well over half of the cases were either people who I have always wanted to see or really wanted to see again.

I wandered the streets until about 5 p.m. when I met up with someone I’d been chatting to on the net. Here I really should thank Darren for the great page he runs www.londontheatre.co.uk , as it was through this very location I have “met” and now chat to 6 people with similar interests to mine.

I met with some people over for a Wedding, at the Moon under the Water pub in Leicester square, no mean feat when you think we had never met before and only had a vague idea about what each other looked like. We spent the next 2 hours discussing shows that should and should not be seen, I’ll keep the latter to myself. Phantom came out on top for them, having seen it over 20 times and Miss Saigon for me I’d seen it 4 times by then, a situation I remedied the next night but more of that later.  

We made our way to the Theatre and here we went our separate ways, them to collect their tickets and me to stand looking relieved that I wasn’t the only person not wearing a dickey bow that night.

The doors opened and we entered the Theatre full of expectation, in my case only to be told I would have to leave again…as I entered through the wrong door and would have to continue along the pavement for a while.

Entering through the correct door, I climbed the stairs…and climbed the stairs…and climbed the stairs to my seat, now after enquiring if there was complimentary oxygen available at the bar, I bought a programme, £10.00 but worth the money and proceeded to wait for the auditorium to open.

Now for one of only 2 quibbles I have about the whole evening, no one told us when the auditorium would be open, so at 7:20, when we had been told we must be seated by 7:15 I tried the doors, found them just being propped open and entered.

This is where my good luck kicked in, even though I had “only” paid £75.00 I was in the middle of the front row of the grand circle with a great view of the stage, note to myself made at this point, I really must have my eyes tested, as the view could have been even better if I had either had a pair of glasses or one of the pairs of opera glasses that the more seasoned theatre goers sitting just along from me had brought with them.

I spent the remaining few moments talking to a very friendly lady sitting next to me who had already seen the Andrew Lloyd Webber tribute & Les Miserables 10th Anniversary shows. I successfully resisted the temptation to peek too often at Her Majesty the Queen, although one thing I did notice, which surprised me probably because I’ve never been to one of these Gala evenings before, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh sat in different boxes. Now as one British comic is pleased to advise “LEAVE IT!” so I won’t display my ignorance of these situations any more by guessing why.

The show started… Now I must admit some of these shows I’ve never heard of, and in that way this show was an education as well as being entertaining, because some of the shows I thought I’d never want to see proved to be great.

The show really had a cast of hundreds, with, what some of my friends think should be my signature tune “Food Glorious Food”, then a selection from “My Fair Lady” not one of my personal favourites but still very enjoyable especially with my fellow countryman Jonathan Pryce as Henry Higgins.

The whole Theatre burst into applause at the end of “I’ve grown accustomed to her face” when the voice which in the show was supposed to have been recorded was delivered by the nights compere Julie Andrews. A very “Theatrical” moment which I loved.

Now I won’t bore you with my views on every number, just let’s mention a few great moments. “Little Shop of Horrors” which I hadn’t seen until a few months previously, and then at a School and a local amateur production twice in 2 weeks. I loved it and to hear a few numbers in this setting was great. “Martin Guerre” was good although from the excerpts performed I still prefer the original staging but I’ll give the whole show a go and see what happens.

“Miss Saigon” “now we’re cooking with gas” as some of my fellow welsh people have been known to say when something is good. My favourite show with most of my favourite cast, it was through a Lea Salonga Web page I first heard of this show, and seeing her and Jonathan Pryce performing the roles they created was worth the price of the ticket alone for me.

“Phantom of the Opera”, Now, sorry Amy, Nick, Rhonda and all the other people who have attempted to get me to go and see it, but I’ve never seen the show, but on the strength of this performance I must now admit I should have listened to you all along, ok I had a cast they will probably never be able to recreate on a normal performance basis but it’s now second on my list of must see shows after “Whistle Down the Wind” [ and I don’t know anything about that either ]

Intermission, and the second of my moans, 2 people to serve the whole of the Grand Circle in the bar and 2 tills that took it in turns to play up! I think that could have been planned a little better. A view which, the half a dozen people who walked away without being served agreed.

One person I didn’t mention in the first half was Bernadette Peters, this was because she deserves special mention, I thought she had the best voice of the night and her performance of all of her 4 numbers was absolutely brilliant, I only wish she had performed a number from the only other role I have seen her play, and this was on video, the Witch in Sondheim’s “Into the Woods”

Act 2 – Sondheim deservedly received the most applause, both for the performance of his songs by others, and his own little duet, with someone I’m sure I’ve seen somewhere before. He’ll go far that other guy, you’ll have to buy the video to see who I’m talking about :o),

“Les Miserables” – A great way to close a great show.

Cameron Mackintosh put in an appearance at the end, and was very warmly welcomed and deservedly so, I think he, with one other noticeable equal is British Musical Theatre.
Bad Points … there weren’t any, personally I could have done without Marion Montgomery, and Dame Judy Dench’s contributions, not because they weren’t good, but because they weren’t my cup of tea. Dame Judy performed Send in the Clowns well but I can’t stand that song!

I exited the Theatre after a standing ovation, for the cast not for me, and after stopping half way down to acclimatise myself, arrived outside just in time to see Her Majesty leaving. I then waited for an hour for my lift home, I wasn’t bored though, as I waited outside the after show party and star spotted for ages. Shameless grovelling request for information here, how do you get into those things?

A tip, don’t persuade any member of your family that it’ll be easy to drive through the centre of London to collect you, unless they were born there. When he eventually arrived I think if it was possible to divorce brothers mine would gladly have started proceedings.

Day 2 – We arrived in London at about 3:30 in the afternoon, after the previous nights tour round the wonderful world of London traffic signs neither brother nor I were in a hurry to get up early in the morning.

We rediscovered the wonders of air hockey, [a game we hadn’t played since childhood holidays in South Wales] at the Trocadero, and the little….”**!!@” beat me 2 nil, so after I stopped assuring him that I wasn’t sulking …and I stopped sulking, we visited the IMAX and saw a film about New York.

It was in 3D and was great, a screen over 3 storeys high and 3D that actually worked! well worth the £6.50 admission price although and here’s another tip, check outside the Trocadero, when we re-entered after buying the tickets we were greeted with people giving out leaflets which gave £3.00 off admission!

Walked London a bit soaking up the atmosphere [ I know I go on about this but I love the place ] and he left for home [ not as much of a Theatre buff as I am ] and I went to see Miss Saigon for the 5th time.

Now here was where I achieved another of my ambitions, I got a seat right in the middle of the front row, maybe not the best view in the house, but for me great. Something I’d always wanted to do. The show was as great as I remembered, especially as they had restored the “Bui Doi” number to its original staging. The last time I saw it the man playing John was famous for gospel music and the number was changed to suit him, I didn’t think it worked as well as the original.

The Lady playing “Kim” Cezarah Campos was excellent and brought a tear to the eye with her reaction to having shot “Thuy”, and Leo Valdez as “the Engineer” almost made me forget Jonathan Pryce, and gave the role everything.

Well that was it, another trip over, withdrawal set in almost as the curtain came down, but this just makes me all the more determined to return as soon as possible.

“Whistle down the Wind” & “Phantom…” next time I think, but that’s the joy of London, by the time I get back there will be more shows to see and the place will [ I can now say this with some degree of certainty with the amount of times I’ve visited ] still have that quality that makes it my favourite place to be.

Oh and to anyone who knows how to type, for the errors that will have been in this account I apologise, as I told someone once ” I can type and I can spell…just can’t do the both at the same time!”

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