December 2006

Okay now I know I’ve been away for a while, in fact not visiting my beloved London in over a year! I know I know I should have, but as those of you that have ever met me can testify I’m not exactly the beaming embodiment or vision of health, i.e. if I was any paler I’d be translucent.

So hence when the chance arose to partake of a few beach holidays, Majorca in 2005 and Greece in 2006 I had to take them… NO really I did, tell you why..? Okay… When I returned to work after the last one to a building and colleagues I’d worked with for over 3 years they nearly didn’t let me back in… I mean they didn’t recognise me looking… well if not quite David Dickinson Mahogany then definitely a darker shade of creosote.

But I digress here I am after an all too brief visit to my second home. I managed in just less than 3 days to see 4 shows and two movies, and this is what happened.

Day One –
Get on a bus in my hometown for a ‘simple’ journey along a straight road to Cardiff and my train… should take about oh I don’t know 45 mins. Well I should have started worrying when the driver asked ME if we should go through Church village, slight problem here I’D NEVER HEARD OF CHURCH VILLAGE!! and I’ve lived here all my life! Well he did and promptly got lost… 1 hour and 15 minutes later we pull into Cardiff bus station and it’s the short hop to the train and to London.

Okay so here I am back in Paddington and I head straight for Charring Cross Station, as I needed somewhere to leave my bags. I check them in, myself out and I’m on the streets, and it’s like I’ve never been away, nothing has changed… apart from the new traffic lights, but the rest is all there, oh and the pedestrianised Trafalgar Square, the rest I know like the back of my hand… apart from that building that used to be outside Charring Cross … not sure what it was but it’s now a dirty great hole, but the rest is there just as I remember… more or less… ;o)

Well I’d changed a bit this time I wasn’t staying at a hotel, I had decided with a friend to try an apartment we’d found on the net that overlooked Piccadilly Circus. And that was where the first problem started…

The apartment as rented by a firm called … no better not, lets just say you won’t find their name in any dictionary. Well we had received confirmation of this booking months ago, giving all the details of where to collect the keys (out in Kingston) and that they couldn’t be collected until after 3pm. Well I duly caught a tube to Kensington, and after walking past the hotel we were to collect them from twice I wandered up the stairs, asked the receptionist to be greeted with “ We don’t deal with **** anymore… we don’t have any contact numbers and we can’t help you” So I ring the help line to be greeted with “no you need to collect the keys from the Kensington Palace Hotel” then how they could not tell me where this new building was and there was no phone there and all they could tell me was the postcode. Then the best line “Well you booked a long time ago” (we did and they took the total balance on booking as well, “so you should have checked with us!” Us with them, they had my friends phone number, e-mail address and business address, and WE should have contacted THEM ??!!

Well eventually I find this new building, get the keys and head back to central London, and meet Nikki at the flat, and that’s where I wish the trip had started, the apartment was great, literally out of the window you were overlooking the statue of Eros and those horses in a fountain outside what used to be the Virgin Megastore.

(Our flat was one floor from the top on the corner)

So to the Theatre. Thursday night and after a meal at an Indian Restaurant it’s off to a decidedly seedy part of town, for a night of entertainment. Oh I should say the town is New York and I’m talking about Avenue Q.

The Show, Music and Lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, Book by Jeff Whitty stars in the UK: Julie Atherton, Clare Foster, Naoko Mori, Simon Lipkin, Sion Lloyd, Jon Robyns and Giles Terera.

The story is about Kingston a recent university graduate who is looking for a place to live in New York, oh I should mention at this point his neighbours on Avenue Q are MONSTERS and for that matter he is a puppet!

This is the new show that took Broadway by storm. Featuring some great songs, including: “There’s a fine line between love and hate” a great love song which could stand on it’s own outside this type of show. The other songs especially “Fantasies come true” “Mix Tape” and “Special” fit wonderfully in this original and brilliantly performed show.

So I was back in my favourite city in the world, doing what I enjoy the most, and after I got past the fact that gentlemen in this fair city frequently greet each other by comparing their compatriots to a natural hot spring that intermittently ejects a column of water and steam into the air. I settled right in.


Friday Day 2 –
I was undecided if I would try and fit in a matinee this day as well as Saturday, but it was decided for me when I realised how little time I would have to get from the afternoon’s show to SPAMALOT my chosen entertainment for the evening.

So what to do in London on a wet Friday … Well the silver screen beckoned, and it was to Bond, James Bond in “Casino Royal”. The first outing for Daniel Craig as the least best kept secret in the shadowy world of espionage.

This really was a re-imagining of the long running series, and despite all the negative press that he received I thought that Mr Craig did a very good job, and I for one will be looking forward to when James Bond returns.

From here I decided to treat myself so I headed immediately to another film, and there in lay the only problem with the apartment we were staying at. They only gave one key, and considering some of their flats there could sleep up to 8 I’m not quite sure how joined at the hip they expected their customers to be.

However I was fortunate, with a number of texts and a very friendly box office staff member I arranged to leave the key at the box office for Nikki to collect. So it was to “The Prestige” a film from Christopher Nolan the maker of Memento, starring Michael Caine, Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, the story is of two magicians in Victorian England and their rivalry.

This story takes the time bending form of Mr Nolan’s previous works, and puts flashbacks from within flashbacks. To tell anything of the story would spoil it but go and see it, and all I will say is I got one of the many twists at the scene with the carousel.

So to SPAMALOT and I must break a confidence to tell you of my evening, as we are informed by King Arthur no less that “What happens in SPAMALOT stays in SPAMALOT” But here we go anyway.

I got to the theatre to be greeted with my greatest fear in theatregoing, the little slip of paper in the programme that states “Due to the indisposition of…” and tonight it was a doosy!

One of the main reasons for this trip was to see one of my favourite Musical Theatre actresses on stage again. Hannah Waddingham a frankly gorgeous and multi talented lady who is “The Lady of the Lake” in this show. So disappointment one.

Then I get to my seat… eventually, as, and check this out for logic, the row letter was on the end of the second seat in of the row, so you have to look over the fist seat and down in between to confirm that your in the right place.

At this point I perched, as to say sat would be an overstatement, in the most uncomfortable seat I’ve ever had the misfortune to endure for a show. I always go for the end of a row so I can turn sideways as at my height I need the space but there wasn’t even room to do this.

SPAMALOT is “lovingly ripped off from” the Monty Python teams various outings, using the story of The Holy Grail and incorporating amongst other aspects “Always look on the bright side of life” from “The Life of Brian”. The cast is lead by Tim Curry on the West End stage for the first time in over 20 years as “Arthur”.

I enjoyed the show, but not quite as much as I expected to. Now I will admit that this probably had a lot to do with not seeing Hannah in the role of the Lady of the Lake, and unfortunately the lady who covered the role didn’t have the voice for the two main songs, it may have been a one off, but her voice broke towards the end of “ The Divas Lament”, which admittedly does require, to mix a metaphor, an iron belt.

I should say after a negative review by my standards that Tim Curry was worth the price of admission on his own. His comic timing and personality won over the audience and carried you through this romp, and given the chance if I could know that Hannah would be performing I would definitely see it again.

So all in all a good show but surely they could have removed a few seats to make the evening more comfortable, and it illustrated the risk of seeing a show to see specific member of the cast.

But another positive after the show I managed to get Tim Curry’s autograph, he was very friendly posing for photographs and signing items that fans had brought.

This was not the end of the evening for me, as after dropping off my stuff at the flat I ventured to the Comedy Store for the midnight show.

This has become a sort of tradition for me, as once you get in the beer is ‘cheap’ at least by London standards, and the atmosphere is electric. I was lucky this evening to see 4 great comics, unfortunately I didn’t get a leaflet or anything showing their names, and after a pitcher of beer I can tell you now I can’t remember them. One you may recognise if you get chance to see him, was the guy who walked on to a ‘Madness’ track and proceeded to face the backcloth and be instructed by two different voices (both of which he provided) who to talk to and what to say, a la The Lord of the Rings.

So all too quickly we arrive at

Saturday Day 3 –

I awoke, always loved that phrase, and headed out for a walk to soak up the atmosphere… okay okay I rolled out of bed and tried to walk off a horrendous hangover.

I decided on CABARET for the matinee and managed to obtain a very good stalls ticket from the box office. I returned to the flat showered watched a bit of telly and it was time for the afternoons show.

CABARET is the musical based on the play “I am a Camera” by John Van Druten, which in turn was based on the book ‘Goodbye to Berlin’ by Christopher Isherwood. With music and lyrics by the partnership of Kander and Ebb.

It tells the story of when “Cliff Bradshaw” an American new in Berlin meets “Sally Bowles” a cabaret singer at the seedy Kit Kat Klub, and uses their developing relationship as a backdrop to the rise of the Nazi party in post war Germany.

This new harder edged production stars James Dreyfus as ‘Emcee’, Anna Maxwell Martin ‘Sally Bowles’ Michael Hayden ‘Clifford Bradshaw’ and Sheila Hancock as ‘Frauline Shneider’.

And harder edged this production is and will not be to everyone’s taste. It features full frontal nudity both male and female and some dance moves that would not be out of place in an Orgy … or so I’ve been told.

It also features some brilliant performances by the leading cast. I only wish that people would think of the type of show their going to see before they book, the frankly juvenile sniggering during the brief nudity was very off putting and to be honest I was amazed that people could miss the symbolism of the last scene.

After this show it was another quick change and Nikki and I headed for Oz. Or at least a WICKED nights entertainment.

WICKED currently housed at the Apollo Victoria theatre tells the story of ‘Elphaba’ (the wicked witch of the west) Idina Menzel and ‘Glinda’ Helen Dallimore, and how they actually knew each other before Dorothy arrived in crushing style in Oz.

This show really is the definition of spectacular with sets that would not look out of place in Disneyland and costumes that have a back story of their own.

This for some people is the problem with the show, they think that this overshadows the story but I must admit I didn’t think so. We had seats in the second row, so couldn’t have been closer to the action without standing the real chance of being enrolled in the hallowed halls of Shiz (the University where the two leads first meet).

Idina Menzel lived up to the hype and was the ultimate professional, with a voice to die for and to be honest a very sexy housing for it, and yes I ended up routing for the Wicked Witch, and after seeing the show I would definitely campaign to have Dorothy re-housed to Kansas (pun intended).

Stand out songs for me where: “Defying Gravity”, “I’m not that girl” and “Popular”. The supporting cast offered a great ensemble and there wasn’t for me one weak link.

A great night’s entertainment and a wonderful way to round off a trip.

As I always say anyone wishing to chat about Musicals, Theatre or for that matter anything

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