London January 2022

Just back from a ‘lightening’ trip to London. It wasn’t really that short notice as I had been hoping / planning to go since before Christmas. However with all the uncertainty I didn’t 100% decide until the night before.

The decision made easier due to the ‘crappy’ Christmas I’d had. Being unwell Christmas Eve meaning I didn’t make it to the Christmas lunch I’d kindly been invited to. Then little brother being unwell meaning we weren’t able (for the second year, thanks Covid) to have them come to me where I cook some party food as a thank you to Nic and all of them for putting up with me for the last 12 months 🙂

I’d pre-booked my hotel, as always the St.Giles. Then with all the uncertainty with shows having to cancel due to Covid I decided to just see what I could get when I got there.

I drove from my home, something I enjoy. I’ve always loved driving. Hated learning mind, anxiety off the scale. However now just me pottering along (honestly officer I was just pottering) I find it relaxing .. well until I reach the outskirts of London as despite having been going there now for over 30 years my ‘disability’ kicks in, or more accurately my ‘inability’, as in my inability to remember directions, follow instructions or read fast (ish) passing road signs!.

I make it to Hounslow West tube station. Luckily a neat trick as I’d put Hounslow Central in the satnav! Told you I was bad at directions 😉 Park up and head into London.

Now a recent discovery, thanks Ian. The TodayTix app came to the rescue again. On the way in on the tube I manage to get a matinee seat for Back to the Future – The Musical, one of the shows I really wanted to see.

So I drop my bag into my, upgraded to a double, room at the hotel and head out.

Deciding I would see if I could get a ticket for Moulin Rouge – The Musical for the evening. Now here I struck out luck wise and had to pay face value. I really wanted to see this show. But I also knew the prices are NUTS. I mean the cheapest are £25 and they go up to a frankly eye watering £184.50 these can be up to 5 rows back or in the grand circle.

Anyway I digress, I walked to the theatre and asked about day seats, was told they didn’t do them., but they may in the future. So I asked what they had and was advised of a cheaper option in the Grand Circle (3 levels up) but opted to go for the most I could justify for a single seat and paid £72.50 for Royal Circle Seat H24.

So I head out towards the theatre for my matinee show. Feeling a little peckish I decide to stop off at one of my favourite watering holes. The Coal Hole pub just up the road from the Adelphi Theatre so very convenient.

It’s busy, well it is lunchtime so I think I may have to stand. I go to the bar and ask if they have a table, the bar man says “no ..looks around me .. Oh yes”, looking behind me I see a small table, so good times. I order a pint and fish and chips, and very nice they were too.

After this I wander down to the theatre and am greeted by two big queues, I join the one nearest me, they run from the doors to the left and right. Then am told I’m in the wrong one. Going from this slightly shorter one I have to join one the other side. Luckily it turns out the majority of the people are a school group so they allow us ‘grown ups’ to pass them and I’m in quite easily. So it’s to the Dress Circle.


Back to the Future – The Musical is a new musical. Having opened in Manchester just before the first lock down. Oh and I mean literally just before the first lockdown, they managed a few weeks of performances before the country was closed down. The show then returned by opening in the West End after the initial lockdowns ended.

Back to the Future – Based on the Universal / Amblin Entertainment Movie of the same name written by Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale.

The Musical – Book Bob Gale, Music & Lyrics Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard. Directed by John Rando, Choreographer Chris Bailey, Designer – Tim Hatley

Cast: ‘Marty McFly’ Olly Dobson, ‘Doc Brown’ Roger Bart, ‘George McFly’ Hugh Coles, ‘Lorraine Baines’ Rosanna Hyland, ‘Goldie Wilson / Marvin Berry’ Cedric Neal, ‘Biff Tannen’ Aidan Cutler, ‘Jennifer Parker’ Courtney-Mae Briggs, ‘Strickland’ – Mark Oxtoby, ‘Dave McFly’ Will Haswell, ‘Linda McFly’ Emma Lloyd and ensemble. I will add my usual proviso here. This is the cast I believe I saw as I couldn’t find a cast board, there was no announcements or slips in the programmes.

Okay after checking Twitter ( @WestEndCovers ) I may have seen Will Haswell as ‘Marty’, Morgan Gregory ‘Dave McFly’ and Laura Mullowney as ‘Linda McFly’.

If this was the case then all I can say, and it comes as no surprise to someone who has been going to the theatre for over 3 decades you couldn’t tell them from the ‘first cast’.

This is a fun show. I mean I obviously knew the story, and all the key plot points were there. The new music fit in nicely and the special effects were excellent.

I will say for me the strongest performances (not to take anything away from the lead who was very good) were ‘Doc Brown’, ‘George McFly’ and ‘Lorraine Baines’. The Doc bringing all the manic energy of Christopher Lloyd’s character and giving it real heart. ‘George’ (Marty’s Dad) was excellent with the mannerisms of the put upon loner with no confidence and channelled Crispin Glover to a tee and the actress who played Marty’s Mother ‘Linda’ was brilliant, her comic timing and voice were outstanding.

The effects, no spoilers, I will just say look everywhere in the auditorium. Were spectacular.

All in all a really fun show, that I may well visit again, am really glad I saw, but would not be top of my “Must See again” list. Purely as there weren’t any stand out songs for me. They were all good, fun and carried the story along. However I can’t see me buying the cast recording.

So after a quick change it is back out and to the Piccadilly Theatre, home of another ‘new musical’, well new to me and the West End, there is a production running on Broadway.


Moulin Rouge – The Musical – again based on a movie. This time the 2001 Twentieth Century Fox film of the same name. Written by Baz Lurman & Craig Pearce and Directed by Baz Lurman.

The Musical – Book by John Logan, Directed by Alex Timbers, Choreographer Sonya Tayeth, Musical Supervision, Arrangements and additional lyrics by Justin Levine

Cast: Lisi Lafontaine ‘Satine’, Jamie Bogyo ‘Christian’, Clive Carter ‘Harold Zidler’, Jason Pennycooke ‘Toulouse-Lautrec’, Simon Bailey ‘The Duke’, Elia Lo Tauro ‘Santiago’, Sophie Carmen-Jones ‘Nini’, Zoe Birkett ‘Arabia’, Johnny Bishop ‘Baby Doll’, Timmika Ramsey ‘La Chocolat’

So sat in Row H Seat 24 of the Royal Circle I enjoy the show.

Now there is a word to describe this musical and it is NUTS!

If you’ve seen the movie, and as I type this I’ve seen it once when it first came out, but I do own the DVD and plan to watch it again over the weekend. You will have some idea of what to expect. But it really is an assault on the senses, from when you enter the theatre everything has been ‘Rouge’d’ (my use of the word), basically meaning “turned up to 11”.

I may have missed a good percentage of the songs featured as they come along so fast, and a lot of them are quite .. modern, and basically I’m not .. modern. 😮 So by the time I’ve thought “who sung that one” there’d been another two.

But it really is the definition of “a feast for the eyes” oh and the ears too.

Basically it tells the story of ‘Christian‘ who falls in love with ‘Satine’ (who ‘belongs’ to ‘The Duke‘) when he sees her perform at the Moulin Rouge a seedy nightclub run by ‘Harold Zidler’. Oh and ‘Satine‘ is dying of Consumption, I said it was funny in places but did not say it was a cheery story.

I loved this show, and will definitely look to return during future visits.

I would really love to get a seat in the stalls. However I will say as the lady in the box office advised me, this show is definitely one better seen “from a little way back”. I mean there are the ‘Can Can’ seats (and tables) which are in what would have been the orchestra pit and (I believe) the first row or two behind it.

For me, having seen the show I would not like tables in the orchestra pit, as a good percentage of the performance takes place behind you.

It would be churlish to single out any particular performance as the ensemble bring so much to the show. I will just say the whole cast were excellent, not a weak link amongst them.

Oh and for those worried when I said lots of (as I remember it) ‘new numbers’ all the main ones are there: “Come What May”, “Your Song” etc.

A great night at the theatre and a great ending to my first day of this trip.

So Day two and the only ‘full’ day I have this time. So I spend the first 30 minutes lying on my bed in the hotel room, no not wasting my time.

Due partly to covid most theatres have now moved their ‘Day Seats’ online or given them to TodayTix. So from the comfort of my room I manage to get a TodayTix seat for ‘The Shark is Broken’ and from Disney Day Seats website a £20 seat for ‘Frozen’ this evening. The latter up-selling me a tour of the newly renovated Drury Lane theatre at the same time. So for £58.50 I book two shows and a theatre tour!

Not having much time I head out straight to Drury Lane as my tour time is 10:30am. Really lucky for me as I’d wondered what to do for the morning.

They really have done the place up nice, I mean they did spend £60,000,000.00 on it. But you can see that they really have thought of everything.

The tour is about an hour and takes in (almost) all areas, Front of House, auditorium, royal retiring rooms and some under-stage areas too.

The guides were excellent, very knowledgeable and told the story of the theatre in a really interesting way.

I’d done the tour about 8 years previously and it was nice to compare the two. I was glad I did as the renovation resulted in the theatre at one point being a front wall, a back wall and two side walls and that was it, nothing else remains of the original construction. So when I did the tour before, we were lucky to be able to see the great hydraulics under the stage that allowed them to: run a horse race on stage with REAL horses, sink a ship with 400 soldiers onboard, stage an ‘under-water’ fight and at various times raise, lower and tilt various parts of the stage to do whatever was needed for the story being told in the show.

Now you can’t visit the “workings” part of below stage, some say due to the copyright restrictions put on by Disney. However you can visit the tunnel that was at one point the only way to get (unseen) from one side of the stage to the other.

The new auditorium really is a sight to see. We went into the Royal Circle and as the guides were explaining that “during the renovation they actually reduced the seating capacity of the venue, to remove some seating with limited sight lines, and also to increase..” now at this point he looks over to me sees how I’m sat and says “legroom?” I must say it definitely is an improvement, and even I could sit comfortably in the seats there, even with my long legs!

I will put some photos here to show you some of the areas we visited.







After this it was a quick call to the Moon Under Water pub in Leicester Square where I had a nice ‘all day brunch’ and a pint. Then my wonderful direction kicked in again and I walked about a mile to go 250 yards to the theatre for my matinee show. Well if they’d said it was next to the theatre showing “The Mousetrap” I would have had a better chance.

The Shark is Broken – This is a new play by Ian Shaw and Joseph Nixon. Directed by Guy Masterson, Designer Duncan Henderson.

It tells the story of the making of the film Jaws, oh and yeah if the name rung a bell Ian Shaw is Robert Shaw ‘Quint’s’ son.

It’s a fictionalised account part based on a diary Ian found of his late father’s and thought he’d like to do a play about one day, and a book ‘the Jaws Log’ by Carl Gottlieb.

This is a three hander, 90 minutes with no interval.

The cast: Ian Shaw ‘Robert Shaw’, Demetri Goritsas ‘Roy Scheider’ and Laim Murray Scott ‘Richard Dreyfuss’ were excellent.

The set ‘The Orca’ from the movie really added to the claustrophobic atmosphere they must have been working in, due to the fact Steven Spielberg decided to shoot at sea and not use a soundstage or water tanks.

It is well known there were … moments between Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss and this play captures the atmosphere that must have been in that situation as their interactions went from ‘banter’ to bullying. Add to that the fact Robert Shaw was borderline alcoholic, and it was a powder keg waiting to explode.

So I take my seat Row A seat 10.

I really enjoyed the play, especially having seen the movie a multiple times and watched a few documentaries about the making of the film. I could see how certain moments were played out.

Oh, and this isn’t really a spoiler as it doesn’t affect the way the story is told. Oh and the run finishes in a few weeks anyway. I loved the way at the end Ian got to deliver the “Indianapolis speech” that his father delivered in the movie and also re-wrote.

A great afternoon in the theatre.

So I have a quick break at my hotel, change and then head out for the last show of my trip. Oh and nearly get taken out by one of those new stealth taxis, you know the electric ones that make NO SOUND! Sneaky little **** almost got me, and they even have buses now big bright red double decker buggers that are quieter than a fart in church! Be aware folks when visiting we’re in a whole new world.

So Frozen, known as Disney Frozen as opposed to Frozen – The Musical as Back to the Future – The Musical and Moulin Rouge – The Musical were.

Frozen – Music & Lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, Book by Jennifer Lee, Directed by Michael Grandage, Choreographed by Rob Ashford, Music Supervision by Stephen Oremus.

Cast (on the night I saw the show): Samantha Barks ‘Elsa’, Stephanie McKeon ‘Anna’, Craig Galivan ‘Olaf’, Cameron Burt ‘Hans’, Obioma Ugoala ‘Kristoff’. Now there are also more ‘primary’ cast and a full ensemble, but as there are multiple possibilities for these I will leave it there and say the whole cast were great.

My only slight disappointment was not seeing Oliver Ormson (who I follow on YouTube together with his parter the very talented Carrie Hope Fletcher) as ‘Hans’ (damn Covid) but Cameron did a great job.

Now I’ve heard a lot about poor theatre etiquette at this, and many other shows recently. Only this morning hearing about a show stop at Jersey Boys last night when a fight broke out in the audience!

But I must say apart from a few questions being asked by one or two of the little ‘Elsa’ and ‘Anna’s’ in the audience they were brilliant, and believe me I’ve heard adults behaving a lot worse in other shows I’ve attended. I really hope this was a magical introduction to theatre for these potential little audience members of the future.

Oh and them being little means I have never seen so many booster seats being issued, I mean there were front of house staff members who’s job it was to just stand around holding booster seats for people to take.

I think the two young ladies (fully grown luckily or I would have felt really guilty) behind me may have considered taking one or two, as again I’m sure I heard a distinct disappointed exhale of breath when I sat in front of them. In my seat Stalls Row M13

So Frozen is a musical based on the cartoon of the same name. The music expanded by the same composers, so it all fits together really well. The cast are excellent and the effects just magical, I mean they surprised me and I’m a 54 year old regular theatre goer and in places I was going “WOW”. I won’t spoil it by pointing out things to watch for, other than don’t blink during “Let it Go” 🙂

Stand out songs for me were: the afore mentioned literal show stopper “Let it Go”, “Do you want to build a Snowman?”, “Love is an Open Door” and “In Summer”.

Oh and back talking abut the theatre as opposed to the show for a moment. THIS is how you do toilets in a theatre, I mean I commented on problems with the facilities and at another recent renovation by Andrew Lloyd Webber (the Gillian Lynne, when I saw Cinderella) but these were nothing short of excellent, spotless, spacious and a pleasure to use.

So there you have it. A shorter trip, and one I am hoping will be come a new tradition, as in two visits per year instead of one. As if the last 2 years have taught us anything it’s that nothing is guaranteed. Grab life by the … Hands 😉 and make the most of it.

As I have said on numerous occasions previously Theatre in general and musicals in particular are my “happy place” and we all need more happiness in this world.

So hearing when I got back that it (fingers crossed) looks like Drakeford is going to allow the theatres to open again, it’s back to looking for more shows to see a little closer to home. Oh and of course deciding when the ‘main’ trip of the year will take place 🙂


Oh and as I think I mentioned in a previous report, whenever you see a view of the stage I took it from the seat I was in, so I plan to put the seat number and location to give you an idea if what you would see from that location.



  • Jacqui Llewellyn says:

    Hi Rob
    I really enjoy reading your blogs
    They are extremely informative (and humorous!)

    I was particularly glad to hear how you found Frozen as we intend having. Weekend away with my granddaughter. It sounds very entertaining and hopefully not too young for a 16 year old
    Thank you for sharing Rob
    PS the seat numbers are also very helpful

  • Frances Deans says:

    Nice to hear from you again with your lovely description of the shows and time in London. Thank you so much.

  • Andrew Walters says:

    What an awesome blog! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Thanks also for the photos and the GREAT tip regarding Disney Day Seats too!! Fantastic ! Thank you Robert! 🙏👏👏👏🎭🎭🎭🎭🎭🕺👍🏼

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