March 2002

Well I m here again and it’s a different approach for me this time, as the first Theatre I have is on the last night. And the main reason for this trip is a pop concert, actually a POP IDOL Concert at Wembley. Yea, I was one of the addicts who gave their Saturday nights over to this TV phenomenon. I arrive at London and it s raining, well it adds to the authenticity doesn’t it.

A Taxi ride from the train station to the Hotel check in and right out, as I’m meeting with Darren, yea the Webmaster (love that name sounds so futuristic) of

My celebrity spotting skills haven’t diminished I mean I saw Neil Tennant (The Pet Shop Boys) on this brief flit across London. The reason for meeting Darren, Well I’ve been writing reviews for this section for years now and we’d never met. So we arranged to meet at the Moon Under the Water in Leicester Square, well it’s not like I know a LOT of pubs, so I picked the most central one. So we chatted for an hour or so about Theatre and trips in general and it was nice to finally put a personality to the web page so to speak.

Then it was to the Cinema as I really wanted to catch two movies this time, and OCEANS 11 was the first. It s a loose remake of the 60’s movie that featured the Rat Pack, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davies Jnr. And their drinking buddies. The plot is about a group of Professional criminals who decide to rob some Las Vegas Casino’s. The new version stars: George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts. It was apparently the first film to be filmed in actual Casino s there, and it was really worth it. The town looks great and means that it’s just edged up my must visit list. I enjoyed the movie, it was a good way to spend a wet afternoon & brain to neutral and be entertained.

After a brief return to the Royal Adelphi my home for this and future trips, as they now know me so well that they gave me my room 209 :o) it was the journey to the Concert.

Now I’d asked a Taxi driver on the ride from the railway station roughly how much central London to Wembley arena would be and he guessed around the £25.00 mark. But with Darren telling me that our Ken, Mayor of London in his wisdom had allowed the Taxi’s the increase their prices by anything up to 3 fold after 8pm year round, apparently to try and get more Black Cabs on the roads in the evening, (not sure if this will work but there will definitely LOOK like there’s more available one’s as most people won’t be able to afford to ride in them) I thought I’d try a different form, so I headed for the tube.

Well I like the tube, and at about £5.00 return it had other benefits as well.:o) So I walked to the end of the road where the Royal Adelphi is and into Charring Cross Tube Station&. Right in the middle of RUSH HOUR &oops, well nothing ventured nothing gained as they say, add to this the fact that it was gone 6.30 and the Concert started at 7.30 so I ventured in. Got some info from a helpful gent in an information / ticket booth and headed for the train, 2 minutes later I was on board, and it was here that something struck me, how can short people travel on these trains at rush hour with out feeling claustrophobic. I mean two ladies got on at the next stop to me, and really all they must have been able to see was the coat of the guy standing in front of them. Anyhow I arrived at Baker Street Station, where I’ d been told I needed to change to a different line.

I walked a bit with loads of screens showing where, what seemed like half the trains in the free world were heading, except mine, so I asked, was told down there to where I headed and found my self on a double platform, and you guessed it, none of the notice boards listed the station I was heading for, then my luck changed. Right there, in the middle of the platform was a member of staff in a little INFORMATION Booth so I asked him which platform do I need to which he replied ? I said pardon he said? I said sorry? he said wait for the announcements so there he was the helpful human face of the new improved London Underground sitting there in a sound proof box telling you to wait for the announcements on the tannoy system that no one can understand.

So I waited something about Platform 1 and POP IDOL Concert was blasted out and half the platform took 4 steps left, so I followed them. I was even then thinking of giving this guy the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he didn t KNOW which platform I needed he could have been new, until I glanced over and saw that HE WAS THE VOICE ON THE TANNOY! He had a microphone in there, and was making the announcements himself!

So a little bemused I headed, on the noisiest train in the world for WEMBLEY. When we next saw the light of day, well actually dark of night would be a more truthful description it was Pi **.. Sorry raining very heavily. And as we trundled like demented lemmings towards what I really hoped was the Arena, all I was greeted with was year ache, yea well I’d been unable to do my ET impression and phone home earlier so I had my father giving me GBH of the ear hole on my mobile and hundred of Whistles blasting all round me. Welcome to the world of Youth music :o)

We all continued on our trek trying to dodge puddles the size of the Amazon and the all the more dangerous street hawkers selling flashing Zeely Boppers (well that s what they were called in my day) posters, the offending devices of auditory assault THE WHISTLES! Flags, Banners, disposable cameras and anything else they had left over from the last STEPS concert. And I tell you what they knew their stuff, they set up their little trolley’s right on the corners on the pedestrian walkways we had to negotiate, so we had to pass within 2 feet of them, clever I must say. So I arrived at the Wembley Arena. To be greeted with a poster saying NO Flags. Banners, Cameras, Bottles. Luckily for parents who’d just forked out on all this stuff these rules weren’t enforced, well at least not too rigorously. I found a bar, £3.00 a pint not too bad for London and headed for my seat.

Now I was more than a little dubious as when I checked out the seating plan on the web site (well after receiving the ticket), I realised it looked like I was side on to the stage. But I needn’t have worried, as with a massive screen in front of me and to my left, and one of the best sightlines I ve had in any show, together with the fact that I was the equivalent of 4 rows away from the stage I had a great view. So to the Show. Well it may have been a pipe dream but I was kinda hoping for an appearance from the presenters and the judges but it was not to be, well except nice Nikki Chapman who acted as compare for the evening.

The others made video clips played on the screens at the start. They ran the first half of the show in the order that the contestants were eliminated from the final 10 so building up the excitement to the main two, well be fair they were all good performers but the majority of the audience were there for Gareth & Will. Personally Rosie & Jessica were more my type but there you go room for all sorts. I was treated to an idea of things to come when they ran scenes from the POP IDOL show on the big screens and the screams were defining when you saw Gareth, Zoe, Will or Darius ESPECIALLY Gareth. In fact when he appeared I missed the first 40% of Unchained Melody due to the attempt by the younger female portion of the audience to take the roof off, or burst the eardrums of the other people there. God I’m starting to sound OLD. But I really enjoyed the show especially the first half; as for me the inclusion of the BIG BLUE (the Big Band featured on one edition of the show) was a mistake. Live band by all means but a Big Band when more than half the audience were too young to remember Adam Ant and Bros. let alone Glen Miller!

In their defence some of the final 10 did really well and I liked some of the songs, but some, mainly the ones I’d never heard of did nothing for me. Sorry folks. Stand out performances for me were the last 3, Zoë, Rosie and Jessica. These people really should have a long career if there s any justice in the world. The stage was fantastic with trap doors and people appearing on lifts from underneath, Massive screens showing clips of the performers before they appeared, dancers, some very sexy female dancers in fact, and you had a really polished show. Gareth sang Unchained Melody as I said, as well as two duets with Zoe, well they would wouldn’t they, although I must say I personally would have preferred them to perform at least one known Song , although the way some of the other final 10 appeared as they’re backing singers during their second number with the Big Band was great. Will sang one side of his Double A side single (why not the other one I say, did his management stop him :o) ) Rosie did some great numbers and started off the Big Band half brilliantly. The finale with all the others joining Will for My Way was a crowd pleasing WOW of a way to finish what was a great night, and only left me thinking how can these people be run down when we have some of the current crap in the charts. Apart possibly for their major handicap THEY CAN SING obviously not a pre-requisite to stardom I mean just look at Nah I m not THAT silly, but ask me in private and I ll tell you who I was thinking of.

The return to the tube station was much the same as the trip in but without the sales people. A few comments gleaned on the tube trip were interesting, A group of young girls sitting opposite me talking about the relative merits of the male performers at the concert some how segwayed to Michael Ball I think via the fact that Jessica is performing the UK s song for this years Eurovision Song Contest, but anyway one says you know that guy..Sings in shows.. I d have Sh***d him.. in his prime oops.

Well I got back to Leicester Square got something to eat and returned to the Hotel. Day Two And it’s Friday, and it s raining so it must be London. I venture out and log on at a cyber café, no I m not addicted, okay I am but this isn’t why I did it, I really wanted to see From Hell and needed to find the nearest Cinema showing it during the day, as it turned out the one that wasn’t showing it yesterday was today so I booked my ticket, and went shopping, I know I said I hate shopping but I make an exception for DVD’s so I ended up with METRO with Eddie Murphy an action thriller comedy, and THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL a thriller I remember enjoying years ago about Dr. Mengele ( excuse the spelling ) starring Gregory Peck and Laurence Olivier. I ll let you know if it was as good as I remember. To The Warner Village Cinema Leicester Square.

So here I trundle long black coat, bag containing recently purchased DVD’s umbrella and I buy a large drink and small Hot Dog, now as you now I m on my own so deciding that with a longish film ahead of me and a very large coke to drink I decide I need to pay a preparatory visit to the little reviews room, so firstly negotiate the escalator with no free hand to hold the rail, this is where my cat like balance and poise comes into it s own, then through two doors that open opposite to each other then to the, now how far can I go with this your thinking, don t worry dear reader no graphic details to follow, just an age old dilemma and a plea from the heart. Where do you put a Hot Dog and Large Coke that their safe but not available to anyone who walks in and, Please put shelves in these places for you to put your stuff. Anyway I re-negotiate the assault course and take my seat, well actually two seats and a bit of the floor really, I mean DVDs on the seat next to me, umbrella and coat on the floor the other side and then OH NO where do I put my drink I mean these are very comfortable seats, and they have a little hole in the arm for you to put your drink . So why then sell Drinks that are BIGGER THAN THE HOLE! I mean the film was scary enough on it s own without the constant threat of having ¾ of a large coke all over my nice new light jeans.

FROM HELL Well this is the story of Jack the Ripper starring Johnny Depp and Heather Graham okay they accents may not have been authentic born and bread in the East End but we re not talking Dick Van Dyke school of cockerney here.

I really enjoyed this movie. It had everything, suspense a really clever new twist on why the murders happened but still incorporated the most popular theory of the moment. Which I’m not going to tell you as the movie works both if you know this theory or not. It is violent it is bloody and so probably not to everyone’s taste but I for one will be buying it when it comes out on video.

As it was still raining when I emerged and I had a few hours to kill before MAMMA MIA! this evening I adjourned to the hotel where I had a can of lager and watch the telly for a bit, then it was nearly 8pm and time to head out again. One thing really stood out for me on the trip to the Theatre, well two things actually

1: why did I buy this poxy umbrella that now won’t close, but

2: The amount of people in Leicester Square is amazing and something I noticed more this time is the amount of people sleeping rough, there seemed more than I remember. One guy that stood out for me was sitting next to the Warner Village Cinema and obviously having realised that people have a tendency to give more to street entertainers who actually do something than to people just asking for something he had improvised. He’d obtained one of those red cones with a white band that they use to cordon off areas while they’re worked on and was blowing down it to the tune of Amazing Grace, and I’ll tell you what he was in tune too. Roy Castle would have been proud. Oh and I must apologise to the young guy who was wandering minding his own business in Leicester square until he had the misfortune to step behind me, why a misfortune well I wear a very long black leather coat and as I was in a rush and it was quite windy well it blew up and smacked the poor unfortunate sod right in the head. Sorry bout that.

I eventually found the Prince Edward Theatre, which was worrying, as I thought I knew where it was from the outset, but still managed to get lost. MAMMA MIA! Is a Musical based on or rather containing the music of super-group ABBA.

The story such as it is, as really it s only a device to string together as many ABBA songs as possible, tells of Sophie, Amanda Salmon, who is getting married and she wants her father to give her away, but as her mother Donna Sheridan, Louise Plowright won’t tell her who he is she reads her mothers Diary discovers she has three possible Dads and invites them all to the Greek Island where she lives with her Mother. This is a lighthearted, funny wonderfully entertaining evening out.

In my opinion a great first Theatre for any newbies out there, it s not too long, not too heavy and the music not in any way serious. Stand out moments for me have always been (I’ve seen the show twice before): Chiquitita, Does Your Mother Know, Our Last Summer and the Finale as it never fails to get the audience on their feet. I’ve listed the moments by the songs as the show really is built around the songs. And I don t want to spoil the moments for anyone who hasn’t seen the show yet, but for those who have seen it you’ll know the bits I’m talking about.

DAY THREE – And I head for the train, well only two points of interest on this journey, first either we were dive bombed by the largest bird in existence or someone emptied a chamber pot or something over the roof of the Taxi as on a perfectly clear day the windscreen was suddenly covered with liquid of some description. And 2 Well I travel first class, well as I’ve mentioned before book in advance and it’s not a lot more expensive, but the seats are a hell of a lot nicer (for that read bigger) Well the one other thing about travelling first class is the first class lounge at the station where you can sit in peace and the warm while your waiting for the train. Well the one in Cardiff is run by a very nice lady with a choice in music on the heavy side, i.e. she likes Black Sabbath and the like, well as I was early I thought I’d try the lounge in Paddington, well the signs seemed to point up so I went up, to be greeted by a shop and pub, then I saw another pointing down so off I headed past where I entered the station to be greeted with the end of the platform, so I headed back up again, where I saw a member of staff who told me on the right, it’s sign posted you can t miss it , so I headed up, get the picture, well long story short when I did find it there was no sign on the door, and it was closed, well either closed or they saw this long haired Oik heading to their inner bastion and blockaded the door ;o).

So that’s another trip over I sit here somewhere after Didcott on the train back to Cardiff, hoping my brother has remembered that he’s picking me up from the train station today, and thinking of when I can come back to London. At this time I’m not too sure, There are some shows I’d really like to see, We Will Rock You the new QUEEN musical, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang staring Michael Ball, Richard O Brien and a flying car, be a neat trick if they can pull that one off in a Theatre. Also wouldn’t mind giving Bombay Dreams a go, a friend really fancy it and I’m undecided. But it’s down to finances and priorities, as there’s a Festival of Musical Theatre in Cardiff the last two weeks of October and the first of November, which I really want to get to. Their holding the second Voice of Musical Theatre contest, and on the strength of the TV show they did on the last one I’m planning my leave around this to try and see the prelim rounds as well as the final, which reminds me, must ask about tickets. If anyone wants to chat or even meet up if your visiting the first ever, anywhere in the world, Festival of Musical Theatre then drop me a line, I mean my house isn’t that big but as they say (and REALLY forgive the spelling here )

me cassa e sue cassa (sic)

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