December 2002

ROMEO & JULIET is GREAT … Just thought I’d get that out of the way, but more on that later. This was a last minute surprise of a trip as my Dad wonderful guy that he is bought me a ticket for the STAR TREK The Adventure in Hyde Park. Well I knew those hints would pay off in the end. Come on, all’s fair in love war and Christmas presents, I mean he doesn’t read the magazines which would advertise such an event, and as a borderline Trekkie it was something I really didn’t want to miss.

I arrived in London at just after 11.30. Which was a really neat trick, as my train didn’t leave Cardiff till 10.25. No it wasn’t the Hogwarts Express it was just that I got to the station while the 9.25 was still there and when I asked the conductor if my ticket had to be used on the advertised train he said ” yes… but get on anyway” THANKS THANKS THANKS!

So there I was still in first class and already an hour ahead of schedule. Upon arriving in London I headed for the Hotel of my choice this time The THISTLE PICADILLY. Why this change of venue you may ask… go on ask it’s a good story honest. Well my usual “home” in London the Royal Adelphi closes for Christmas, so I could only have had one evening there so I was looking for somewhere else. I decided on the Regents Palace, until listening to a friend from work I decided to check out the late offers at the Thistle chain, and couldn’t believe my luck, I mean there in central London was an on-suite room for £64.00 per night, that’s less that the not on-suite room at the Palace so after confirming 3 times, once with the web page and twice with the hotel that there were no nasty hidden extras I booked.

So I get to the Hotel and the two parties in front of me are told that they can check their bags and that they can check in at 2pm as stated. However when I get to the front of the queue my luck holds and I’m told that my room is ready. So up I trundle up to my room, unpack and it’s out…

Anyway it’s midday in Central London, and, breaking another of my rules I’d pre-booked the tickets for the 2 evening shows I wanted to see:

1 because there were some good offers available, and

2 I guessed with all the Christmas Shoppers there and most people still on Christmas leave that they would be full (pretty close guess on my part).

So I thought I’d like to see Catherine Zeta Jones in her underwear… Ok who yelled “join the queue!” No I went to see CHICAGO the movie with her Renee Zellweger and Richard Gere. And I can tell you it’s great. I mean with all the rumours of the possible big screen versions of MISS SAIGON, PHANTOM and others, I wasn’t sure we’d see a “new” big screen musical, but this shows how it can and should be done. I mean Ms Zeta-Jones-Douglas has a background in Musical Theatre anyway in ANNIE and 42nd Street, but the other two principal cast members were excellent too.

The story as if you didn’t know is of two women murderers in prison and using the same lawyer “Billy Flynn” to try and get them off, it also examines the “celebrity” that these type of people did and to some extent still can be afforded by the press.

The musical numbers were well staged and all I can say to the critic I read prior to seeing this movie who called it “Strangely un-sexy” is cut down on the bromide mate it’s affecting your brain! Go and see this movie then buy it on DVD.

So it’s Friday evening and the first Theatre of my trip, and it’s a new show, and not a Musical. “What the night is for” – Is a play written by Michael Weller. Starring Gillian Anderson (The X-Files) as Melinda Metz and Roger Allam as Adam Penzius, the fact that I don’t have a “main show” to put next to this actors name may explain why this two-hander only has Gillian Anderson on most of the posters. The story is of a couple who meet in a hotel room 11 years after an illicit affair they were having ended abruptly.

The play deals with the unfinished business that this left. This is a very “wordy” production, set in one room with both cast members on stage all the time, but I found it dramatic, moving and funny at various times. The dramatic honours going to Ms Anderson in the second half (I won’t spoil it by telling you why).

Now, a few things about this evening. Firstly, I really liked the show, I mean I found the performances believable, the characters likeable, and both actors very good. But my fellow audience members were what could only be described as a funny bunch. I mean you had the two young ladies beside me who spent the entire evening texting and receiving texts from friends and laughing at those.

More people left in the interval than I have ever seen before, and I really can’t understand why, I mean if it was sold as a laugh a minute comedy then you may have been disappointed but I found it “exactly as it said on the packet” and the less said about the mature lady in front of me who came in late, proceeded to take her shoes off and rest her feet on the balcony in front of her, the better. Oh and she was spotted after the interval downstairs after the 1 minute bell had sounded pointing vigorously to her seat in front of me, then sprinting up the stairs grabbing her coat and dashing back down the stairs after the second half had commenced. Well “now’t as queer as folk” as they say.

Oh one quick point on the Comedy Theatre. If your charging £40.00 a ticket please clean your toilets they were the most disgusting I’ve ever seen in a theatre, and one male toilet for the whole audience must be breaking some law surely. This latter point may have been a case that the young lady usher I asked didn’t know where another one was, as the illustration in the programme shows 2, but I was stopped for heading for where the second was shown as beginning.

Saturday morning and it was off “To a Galaxy Far….” Hang on, sorry wrong franchise “To Boldly Go Where No Man…” that’s better. STAR TREK the Adventure in Hyde Park is a massive, touring circus (well it takes place in a tent), of an exhibition of props, costumes and sets from the 35 years of this phenominon. The exhibits themselves were of great interest to anyone who loves this series and were displayed well, and you even had your own bit of 21st century equipment, a portable DAT player. Where while looking at a particular exhibit you could punch in a three digit code relating to it and here an audio description. So you could see “Bones” medical kit, or a phaser, “Picards” ready room chair and desk etc. Add to this the bridge of the original Enterprise and you have a STAR TREK dream.

They also had those little boxes on hydraulic rams that you see in fair grounds and although I never usually go on these I thought I’d give it a try. So there I was in the back seat of a dark box. It started I lunged sharply to the left and nearly butted a poor unsuspecting father with his daughter sitting next to me. He must have thought that he had a lucky escape, till determined not to make the same mistake again I braced my leg under the support bar in front of me, not realising he had put his hand there for support, so another jolt in the opposite direction I increased the pressure on my leg to hold my position and flattened his finger which he pulled away and spent the rest of the ride nursing. So sorry about that, I didn’t do it on purpose honest. The experience ends with a tour of a “life size” interior of the enterprise with lights, sound effects etc. All in all a great way to spend an hour.

After this it was to the cinema again and an afternoon with Bond, James Bond. Die Another Day is the latest in the long running movie series, and is as good as any of the previous instalments. James Bond starts this current mission in Korea and via Hong Kong, Cuba and Iceland, appears a little more shaken than usual especially in the title sequence, which for me saves this sequence as the title song by Madonna is terrible.

After this I decided to gorge myself, and I headed for a Theatre, I managed to get a ticket for FAME. Now I’ve seen this show before and really enjoyed it.

There have been some changes, in the cast, and, in the show itself, mostly for the better, occasionally with no detriment, and one or two where I wished they’d left it alone. The story is of a new intake at the “FAME School” the New York High School of the Performing Arts.

It supposedly takes place after the movie and the series, and the new intake are advised that their not going to be dancing over taxi’s in the street . There is one member of the original cast I saw Marcos D’Cruze as Joe (Jose) Vegas. Who for me gets the show stopping song “I Can’t keep it down” which in itself is a good reason NOT to take your kids to see this show, unless you fancy explaining a few realities on your way home. But this is a great show for anyone old enough to understand it.

The changes well, if memory serves, the video introduction is new or at least different, and I liked it, some of the dialogue is different, and they changed the magic themed second half introduction to a Latin themed dance number, which I didn’t like as much as the original version. The cast included a large amount of understudy’s if the announcement and programme are to be believed but I found no one lacking, and the lady who played “Serena” Rachael Wooding has a great voice.

Oh and now onto the soapbox again, this is the Theatre NOT TV. The actors can hear you. So please DO NOT TALK DURING THE SHOW, and explain the same to your children. Finally any chance of increasing the space between the rows of seating, I’ve mentioned this before but I’m sure that a few extra inches could make all the difference. And sorry to the person sitting behind me at this show I don’t usually move about this much but I was in agony.

A quick wander back to the hotel, a meal, and change for the evenings show, and to the start of this review as it was…

Romeo and Juliet – The Musical. This latest show translated from a French original. With music by Gerard Presgurvic and English lyrics by Don Black. Now this show has not exactly received rave reviews. But I went to see it without reading many of them and without knowing the French original, and I was treated to a great nights entertainment.

The show stars Andrew Bevis Romeo, Lorna Want Juliet and Jane McDonald as The Nurse. They have not re-set the story in modern day, although the costumes are very modern and in the case of the tall blonde lady in the chorus very sexy too. They have changed the language to modern English, including colloquial speech. I think it works very well and the stand out songs for me were “And now she is in love” sung by the nurse, “Empty Skies” Friar Lawrence and “No place too far” Romeo and Juliet.

The central performances are strong and Jane McDonald is very good in her West End debut. The role of Juliet is played by another first timer Lorna Want who prior to this was in the S Club Juniors pop band, but she shows emotions… well I was about to say above her years, she is 15. But as Juliet was around this age I think I’m showing my age, at 15 she is exactly right for this role. Romeo handles the part well, with the love scenes showing the requisite tenderness and power. Underused is James Graeme as one of the Lords, I say one as in the Theatre were posters showing “the role of Lord… played by..” so as he normally plays one of the patriarchal roles, I can only guess he swapped this night. Finally one of the final songs “Empty Skies” is one of the most powerful, soul searching ballads I’ve heard and Sevan Stephan deserves a special mention for his portrayal of the Friar in this scene.

Emotional, Powerful and wonderfully acted in my opinion, I can’t see why this show is not a great success.

I only hope they record a full cast album so we can have something to remember this brilliant show by. Now I would like to hear the French original, hint-hint to anyone I know who may have a copy … you know who you are. And so ends another trip, not sure when I’ll be back as with younger brother getting married this year, a stag weekend, and, a proposed trip to introduce Dad to New York, it could well be a little while. There isn’t too much I feel I must see at this time but one of the great things about London is that this could change tomorrow.

Leave a Comment