July 1999 Pt1

Well here we are again, another trip another review, Well I’ve been lucky…… my bank manager doesn’t think so but that’s a story for another day :o). I’ve been to London for 2 whole weeks out of the last 4 so I’ve seen over 6 shows and other attractions, As a result of which I have decided to write two accounts one for each week. So this is week one.

It started a damn sight earlier than I had intended, I planned for a leisurely trip up to London on Friday the 9th of July, but was informed by my father immediately upon finishing editing of a video [ Quick side bar here, I used to work full time producing Promotional & Social videos. ] at 10:30 PM that my brother who lives in Addlestone works in London but has a fiancée in South Wales……. who said the perfect relationship ;o), had developed car trouble just after the Severn Bridge and as he was working the next day needed a lift right away.

So we left at 12:30 a.m. and had the wonder of Welsh chat radio courtesy of Red Dragon FM. If you get the chance listen to these they’re very good. It had the desired effect, kept us awake till we reached our destination, always a good thing especially if you’re the one driving. I [surprise, surprise] had a lie in the next morning.
Now then the reason [well more the way I could swing] this first trip was that I was hired to film two Weddings in Surrey. This is not an advert for my company but I mention it to explain the gaps in the Week. So we skip to Monday when I had filmed one of them and was really in HOLIDAY MODE.

London 3 PM ish, this is something I’ve learned if you’re planning on visiting London a lot don’t think you have to do something all day everyday……the pace will kill you. So I knew I had a late night planned so I started later in the afternoon. I had heard from Darren’s page that GREASE was closing and thought I’d like to see it once more, the current cast headed by Darren Day sounded okay so I booked for the Monday evening performance. Now this is where I will impart a secret to you all, one of the main points for this trip for me was something that most people seem to have missed, and I must say if because of writing this review I am unable to get tickets the next time I want to go and see it I will not be a happy bunny :o) It is the WEST END CARES Cabaret Evenings I’ve heard rumours about these for years but never been able to organise a trip when they were running.

This trip didn’t look too promising at the start. I’d been told that you could get tickets from a shop called DRESS CIRCLE and was reliably informed by the staff that it was easy to find so I walked a bit……….. for about two hours in fact and failed abysmally to find any sign of it.

This coupled with my other bit of “good” fortune, two of the best weeks of weather I’ve ever seen in London, meant I needed refreshment so I stopped at the Long Island Iced Tea Shop just between Leicester Square and the Palace Theatre, had a bottle of Budweiser [Well I’m over 21 so I’m allowed :o) and anyway with this product placement who knows??] and set off again rang them was told Shaftesbury Avenue and set off with renewed vigour……..completely the wrong way down the street, cut a VERY long story shorter I found it, staggered through the door and was told the tickets had been collected by the organisers 5 minutes before!! and that I would have to take my chances at the venue that evening and the venue Box office doesn’t open till half hour before the show, not too bad I hear you say but one thing I haven’t mentioned thus far is that these cabarets start at 11:30 PM

Anyway had a meal, guess what? Yep another Chicken bites the dust and set off for GREASE. I got to the Theatre at 7 Dials a little early and partook of a pint of the amber nectar from the pub opposite. Then it was to the show and a pleasant surprise, after the last show I had seen BUDDY where they only served this horrible “Lager” This Theatre served Carling Back Label my favourite so I ordered my interval drinks and settled into my seat near the back but as the theatre isn’t that big then a good seat. It was with a little trepidation I saw this show because it’s one of my favourites and the transfer to a smaller theatre did not meet with some peoples approval who said it spoilt it, and since this was my last chance to see a show I’d seen 3 times before at the Dominion and a story I’ve seen over 50 times as that’s how many times I’ve seen the movie I thought oh well let’s see what happens.

The show starts with the Danny / Sandy duet and two things were immediately obvious: 1- Darren Day was doing a good impression of John Travolta [not a bad thing because for me he is the best Danny] & 2- Good as she was the current Sandy doesn’t have the power of either Debbie Gibson or Sam Janus. I don’t think the show has lost too much in the transfer to the Cambridge Theatre. Best bits for me, Magic Changes never fails to amuse me with the switch form chords to chords [see it to see what I mean] and the double take it usually gets from “Danny”. An “adlib” that I am either very lucky to have seen twice, 3 years and two casts apart or which has been incorporated into the show involving the mikes and Danny & Sandy. And in this production “Teen Angel / Vince Fontain” Paul Gyngell who I am reliably informed is a countryman of mine [thanks Claire] although this doesn’t in anyway detract or affect the fact that I think he almost steals the show. I thought all the cast members were very good and plaid the parts well, nit picking Sandy could have needed a little more power, but I must say this is from a MEATLOAF fan so you get the idea of the level of sound / power I’m used to.

Leave the Cambridge and it was a Taxi to the Talk of London the venue for the cabaret, its part of the Theatre that shows CATS for those that have seen the feline extravaganza, and I was greeted by a guy who told me that tickets weren’t on sale yet………..

So I hung around a bit and eventually got one, so it was upstairs to the venue and another pleasant surprise they too served Carling. I sat at the first raised level as this venue is set like a night club with seats around tables, and was watching two ladies I had spoken to earlier mother & daughter I believe being greeted by a man who I was sure I had seen before it took me about 5 minutes to realise he was “DS Boulton” from “The Bill” for the non Brits amongst us this is one of our best TV Cop shows see the web site www.thebill.co.uk I think, I looked around to see that I was sat next to Tony Slattery a British comedy actor.

This by the way gives you an idea of another of my favourite pastimes when in London….spot the celebrity. On this trip apart from the ones already mentioned I also saw another ex-member of “The Bill”, Simon Callow [the one who “died” in 4 Weddings & a Funeral] & Joss Ackland [main bad guy in Lethal Weapon 2]

To the show, I sat with a nice lady called I believe [and please excuse the spelling] Heiki and watched the preparation. The show this time was put on by the cast of BLOOD BROTHERS, a different company put on the show each week, The evening which usually runs for an hour, has members of the cast & crew doing “numbers” either musical or comedy or both. This show had two guest stars Kiki Dee [who once played Mrs. Johnston] & Rose Marie who it turns out met the actor playing “Mikey” at a charity event and offered to appear when they next put on a show like this. The show contained solo numbers by some cast / crew members, and larger groups. Moments that stood out for me included: A number by a group who had acted as backing singers to the other performers, which was a satirical “tribute” to Michael Jackson changing the words of his songs and no I am not going to say what they sang for fear of litigation, but I will say it was very funny and brought the place down. Also Rose Marie’s performance and a scene stealing performance of “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” [I know I know] but believe me it had to be seen to be believed.

This was one of the best evenings I have ever had and it has resulted in me deciding to wherever possible to plan future trips to include this show. And it raises money for a worthy cause as well.

One word of warning though, as I said this show starts late and finishes as you would expect very late, and not always on time, so unless you’re staying very local be flexible with your arrangements for your lift home, I left my long suffering brother sitting in the car on the Aldwych for over an hour after I had said I would be there as I was determined not to leave till the end and the show over ran by 30 mins. This coupled with one other allowance you have to make, they very rarely start on time which is understandable as the cast have to come off stage, tear across London, set up and perform again, so they can be forgiven for not starting dead on time.

So that was Monday, we now jump to Thursday with a brief pause on Wednesday for a funny story un-related to Theatre at all, As I said I was in England to film two Weddings and was invited to the stag night of one of them and this took place on the Wednesday evening. All I would like to say before drawing a veil over the proceedings is if you were travelling along a certain high street in Surrey on this evening [and I am being especially vague to hide the blushes of the new Groom] we would like to say sorry for the amount of the groom you saw on this occasion and if anyone has the cctv footage please burn it!

So back to the refined world of Theatre and London on the Thursday. I had decided for a change to see a non-musical, what I hear you cry but yes I decided. I checked on the forum page of this web site and decided to break myself in easy with a comedy, ART.

This I thought should be a good show and at the time it was starring Judd Hirsh [of TAXI fame ] , George Wendt [of CHEERS] & an actor called Joe Morton [who appeared in the film BLUES BROTHERS 2000] firstly I was surprised by the cost of the tickets, almost the same as for a musical, this for a show that lasts approximately 90 mins and has no interval. But I got the ticket sat down with I hope an open mind.

Well it was okay…

a very succinct review I know but that’s what I felt, the performances were good. Its French origins jolted a little, silly things like all the cast talking with American accents but still insisting on giving the price of the Painting in Francs? The story for anyone who doesn’t know is about 3 friends and how their relationship breaks down after one of them buys a white painting, a very white painting, in fact a painting painted using only white paint on a white canvas with no frame.

The audience seemed to like it with the possible exception of the young girl in front of me who after 10 mins spent the rest of the show trying to find a comfortable way to put her jacket so she could go to sleep, she was about 8 – 10 years old by the way, Oh and one final tip the language can be a bit “Fruity” in places.

We now switch to Friday and I arrived in London early afternoon to see RENT or MAMA MIA, I took in a meal and then headed off to find either of these Theatre’s, without success for the first hour or so, when I did find MAMA MIA it was ringed by a crowd trying to get tickets, as I have mentioned previously I like to get my tickets from the Theatre as their cheaper and you can usually get them, this show was the exception to this rule. I decided discretion was the better part of valour and went looking for RENT which I completely failed to find! Even though I had found it by accident a few trips ago. With the evening fast approaching and still no ticket I felt myself drawn to home………..not Wales……….MISS SAIGON :o)

So I walked to the Theatre and managed to get a ticket front row centre. and settled for a very enjoyable evening, the immediate past cast were then playing the roles and I had seen them before and know I liked them. I will not give a review of this show now as I already have in previous accounts, also I saw it again last week with the new cast and will talk about them in part two.

I left for Addlestone on the last but one train which thankfully I found, even in spite of the combined efforts of all the staff at Waterloo that evening or at least that’s the way it felt to this traveller, unhelpful, unknowledgeable and rude is how I must say I found the only official person I saw before boarding the train. Let you into one of my phobias here, yes I know this isn’t psyco-analasys but it is relevant I promise, it’s being either the last person in an empty building or train, so after my last train trip where I was the only person for at least three carriages I was relieved to find this train packed, at least that is until I sat down in the only available seat to be greeted with the lady sitting next to me saying to her friends opposite “oh god I told you!” not nice, not friendly and not what I have come to expect from Londoners in general who I have found friendly easy going, and tolerant of strangers. [Not that I’m strange you understand :o)]

Well that was it for part one I returned to Wales, to work and to ordinary life. Quite a shock to the system after the experience that is London. In part two which this new keyboard I’m using and Darren having space permitting I should have ready sometime before the end of next week.

Now something I have always wanted to say………….AND IN PART TWO…….RENT, MISS SAIGON, LES MISERABLES

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