January 2001

Well I’ve gone and done it again, I’m just back from London. This trip coming WAY too close to my venture to New York [for my Bank Managers liking anyway ;o) ] was primarily to catch Andrew Lloyd Webber and Ben Elton’s new Musical “The BEAUTIFUL GAME”, and of course while there it would have been silly not to add a few more shows just to make it worthwhile wouldn’t it :o). So I let the train take the strain, I knew this was a risk partly because I’ve seen the news recently and partly because when I told the hotel how I was arriving the nice lady on reception said “I’ll see you sometime in the next fortnight then!”

So London on a wet and dull Wednesday. I met with a friend to see “The BEAUTIFUL GAME” and we arrived at the Theatre, now the Cambridge is a small theatre in 7 dials, and no I don’t know why it’s called that. This show is not for the feint hearted. Thought I’d say that at the outset.

For those who’ve been on Mars for the last 9 months its set in Ireland in the late 1960’s at the height of “TheTroubles”. It tells a love story set against the background of a football team, which contains both Catholics and a Protestant. I saw only one understudy on this evening and the cast were brilliant. I’ve never been a great David Shannon fan, I mean you can’t doubt the guys talent but the other time I remember seeing him was playing “Chris” in “MISS SAIGON” and I felt that he was walking through the role, and didn’t inject the necessary passion for me. But on this night and in this role he was faultless. Other leading cast that stood out for me were Josie Walker “Mary” a wonderful voice and a great actress, and Hannah Waddingham “Christine”.

Admission, one of the primary reasons I wanted to see this show was that I thought Hannah as I can call her… as I’m never likely to meet her :o) was one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen and her performance of “Our Kind of Love” sent shivers through me.

As I said the story is of the love between John [a very talented footballer] & Mary [his first love] primarily, but there are side story’s of the matches played by the team. The way that “the troubles” can destroy friends, families and ultimately almost anyone who signs up to their “Us and Them” mentality, and the love of Christine (A Catholic) & Del (The Protestant). Nic Greenshields played the character of Del this evening.

Stand out moments for me were “Don’t Like you” a comic song that captures the unease in giving over your real feelings and emotions at the start of a relationship. “Our Kind of Love”, “The First time” (A wonderful comic number that really shows Ben Elton’s connection with this production). Finally the show was closed with “All the love I have” and a reprise of “Our Kind of Love”. But this is not your normal syrupy musical fair, which you can just walk out from, you leave feeling drained and thinking, mainly of the complete waste of War. Ben Elton, not one of my favourite comics I must admit, has done a wonderful job in his first musical bringing an edge and “of this generation” feel to what is a very “old” art form, thus in my opinion ensuring it can continue for many more years. I saw one couple walk out at the interval, and I wasn’t surprised, as sweeping generalisation coming up here, they really didn’t look like the type for this modern harder edged type of musical. I think they were of the “If there isn’t a role for Elaine Paige it’s not musical theatre” School.

On Thursday it was a cinema visit to see CHARLIES ANGELS, and I visited the last of the cinemas around Leicester Square that I hadn’t been to. This is a great movie, definitely a brain in neutral all out funfest. The cast are great and really look like their having as much fun as the audience were. It’s the big screen update of the `70’s TV series. With a year 2000 cast: Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Lu. Go and check it out if you haven’t already. One [yea you guessed it] complaint here. I’m single and starting to feel a little peeved at this fact. So please if you’re in a public place i.e. Cinema and sitting next to someone you’ve never met before, please don’t “chew face” all the way through a movie it’s very distracting and makes this guy feel like a voyeur. Oh of course if I’m in a relationship this activity is perfectly ok! :O)

Thursday night was Christmas for me, I say that as my brother bought me a ticket to see “The WITCHES OF EASTWICK” for Christmas and this is where I went, back to where it all began Drury lane.

I’ve reviewed this show previously so all I’ll say is I was lucky and saw the entire original cast again. And they were if anything better as they seemed to have settled into their roles and really seemed to be having fun with what is a really fun show, I mean there were families, couples :o(, all ages and they all seemed to be having fun there. I don’t know why but this show isn’t selling that well.

At this performance I had the whole back row of the stalls to myself, [get the picture that I’m getting bitter and twisted about being single at the moment :o)]. This is transferring to a smaller Theatre at the end of next month I really hope that it settles there well and will continue for many years to come I mean we need some humour in the musicals again. I’m the first to say I love Saigon, Miserables, et al. But there’s room for all types in the West End.

So to Friday and 6TH DAY Arnnie Shwarzenneger’s new offering another action packed leave your brain at home movie, that I really enjoyed.

Oh and it is here that I can say THANK YOU ALL VERY MUCH ! I mean I’ve been quite happily going to London seeing shows I wanted to see for over 8 years now, so I thought, well I’ve been telling people what to go and see so let’s take their advice for a change. Go and see the Grand Daddy of the Really Useful stable. So off I toddled, straight passed Her Majesty’s Theatre, the home of The PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.

Well it’s not THAT easy to find. So after walking round and round it at least 3 times I looked a few feet further down the road I was walking and thought “oops….well at least no one will have noticed, so I won’t look that silly as no one will ever know.

So this is THE show for a lot of people, well, and I know I’m gonna take stick for this. I mean it’s akin to calling Mickey Mouse a rat or Kermit underdone French Cuisine. But I really didn’t like it. I thought it was boring, too long, I didn’t like the music and the effects used have been done better elsewhere. Now before the Assassins are despatched I will say that you cannot fault the performers who played the roles wonderfully and gave their all. When I saw it “The Phantom” was Scott Davies, “Christine” Deborah Dutcher and “Raoul” Matthew Cammelle.

But for me this is one show that I will not be seeing again. Oh and the theatre was a pain too I mean with the union seats… you know “One out all out” or in this case one down two down, and my belongings ended up three rows down!

Oh and ANOTHER thing who’s doing it?? Who’s hiring the tall people to sit in front of me? I mean I’ve apologised no end of times to people who have to sit behind me for being 6’3″ So who got this 7ft giant to sit in front of me here then, it’s not funny.

Saturday and I treated myself two shows in a day.

Oh side bar here all collections for me to pay off the Bank Managers hit squad can be sent via Darren at the usual address or just feed them into your floppy disc drive for instant assistance :o)

Well I found out that it was the last day of WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND. So I tried and was lucky to get a seat for the matinee performance. Going back a bit, how this show should close and PHANTOM should continue to sell out is beyond me. However, I arrived at the Theatre. And was lucky again, no alternates. The cast was lead by Jerome Pradon and Laura-Michelle Kelly.

Sorry Debbie but without trying I managed to see Jerome, hope you did too. This is another very good show I think the juxtaposition of the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber and the Rock lyrics of Jim Steinman work brilliantly.

Again this show is reviewed elsewhere in my ramblings. So I’ll just tell you about what happened during this performance, which won’t be forgotten easily by the cast, audience or Lord Lloyd Webber.

I get to my seat. Oh and to the family sitting next to me. Let the girls friend take over when she goes home I mean he can’t be all that bad now can he :o). The curtain goes up and the cast are there for “The Vaults of Heaven” they perform it turn for the “Church set” to be flown and… nothing, curtain comes down, voice announces “I’m sorry Ladies and Gentlemen but we have a technical fault and will try to resolve it as soon as possible”

15 mins later the curtain goes up and the cast perform “The Vaults of Heaven” turn for the set to fly… it moves 4 inches and….. curtain comes down, voice announces “I’m sorry Ladies and Gentlemen but we have a technical fault and will try to resolve it as soon as possible”

10 mins later they start again, mercifully this time from the end of “Vaults” and we’re on our way. One thing I noticed this time of seeing the show was that they [especially Mr. Pradon] seemed to be playing some of the scenes for laughs. And I think it worked really well, it didn’t detract from the power of the main numbers but diffused the possibility of the audience feeling embarrassed should they laugh at certain parts. After about an hour curtain comes down, voice sheepishly announces “I’m sorry Ladies and Gentlemen but as you may have guessed this is not the interval but we have a technical fault and will try to resolve it as soon as possible”. They did and we got to the Interval.

When we returned to our seats the voice thanked us for our patience and informed us that the fault was with the National Grid who seemed this day to be having trouble supplying the West End, and that Mr. Lloyd Webber would like a word. And Andrew [name dropper or WHAT ;o)] spoke to us ” Thank you Ladies and Gentlemen for your patience during the first half, and I’m sure some of you must have been concerned and I can tell you that we held them till the 91st minute and then the B***tards scored, so stuff the National grid and if anyone is looking for me I’ll be in the pub at the back.” Thus endearing himself to me no end by proving he really has a sense of humour. For those more interested than me I think he was talking of Leyton Orient Vs Spurs but for gawds sake don’t quote me on that. The rest of the show ran with no problems and I really enjoyed it.

The main problem for me with their problems was that being a guy I hate shopping. So having walked Regent and Oxford Streets that morning I had left buying anything till the gap I had to kill between the two shows. So here I was leaving a Theatre at 6pm when I thought I would have left at 5:10. So that blur in a leather coat in the capitol on Saturday evening was me and sorry if I trampled you :o)

Saturday night and it was NOTRE DAME DE PARIS. I had seen this show before but it was so different that even I wouldn’t have thought so, and I was there both times so I should know ;o)

Here we go again…. I almost dread to say this but…… John Partridge played Gringore….waits for those who post on the message board to reach for the smelling salts…. And much as I REALLY didn’t want to after all the posts I’ve read, I liked him, I thought he had a great voice and “performed” the role more than Bruno Pelletier. All in all I didn’t like some of the changes I found them unnecessary. Some of them even detracted from the story. I mean the way that now Esmeralda is shown with the Gypsies after her escape, makes you wonder why, if she was back with her people is she suddenly being carried up to the Cathedral by Quasimodo.

Why didn’t she just leave with them? But all in all this is still a very different show presented in a new and fresh way [running the sound so high may be a tad over done for some people, but luckily I like very loud music]. “Dance my Esmeralda” can still bring tears to my eyes and I hope this show now settles in and runs for a long time.

Another trip ends, and I thought I’d try and give some general thoughts here, firstly a repeated question Just how far are you gonna push the price of drinks in the theatres? I mean I paid from £2.50 to £3.50 for a bottle of lager, the most expensive being at the Dominion.

Also another question asked but not answered when will someone open more bars that you can go to after the show and have a quiet drink? Preferably that doesn’t close within half-hour of you getting there. I mean I found one but they wanted to charge a £5.00 cover charge, can someone tell me what this is as I’ve never heard of it round these parts.

Why does the National Theatre run more shows that they have Theatres for? I mean I REALLY wanted to see NOISES OFF but it stopped running the day before I arrived and doesn’t start back for a fortnight! This is very confusing to us of limited Brain Cell :o)

The future…. well apart from the show above there isn’t much announced for a London run that I really want to see. I’ll never lose my love for this place, and I’ll put in writing that if I ever win the Lottery I would move to London, but I think this year for the first time in over 8 I may only visit twice. This is of course subject to change should anything new be announced that I really fancy, and yes that could just be the sighting of a single female who likes long haired theatre addicts.

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