London 2023

October 5th 2023, 11:30am and I’m in London for my annual trip.

The journey from Wales was straight forward, as was checking into my usual home of the St. Giles hotel. Where I requested and managed to obtain a free (subject to availability) early check in, so I’m on the streets looking for my first show of the trip.

I had pre-booked my Thursday and Friday night’s shows, due to the assumed possibility of selling out, one of which cost me quite a bit. But was it worth it? More of that later.

So the second nearest theatre to my hotel was also (I believe) London’s newest, the SohoPlace. Which is currently showing a new British Musical ‘The Little Big Things’.

Now the word of mouth for this show in the theatre groups I’m a member of was great so I went into the box office and asked if they had days seats, they said “yes”, on an aisle? (I chanced my arm) and “yes” so it was sorted, booked my first show, and for £25.00 for a stalls seat.

So I headed for one of my favourite pubs in central London, the Flying Horse. Where I was treated to the realisation that inflation and price increases are everywhere.

Not sure if you’ve read my previous reviews but if you had you would have heard me lamenting that I ordered a pint of Peroni and was charged £7.00. So I stopped drinking Peroni!

So upon entering and being ignored for about five minutes by the bar staff. I mean how can you not see a 6ft 3”, 19 stone guy with a ponytail two feet in front of you dying of thirst! 🙂

Anyway I digress I ordered a pint of Camden Hells and was charged £7.10 🙁

Now here a bit of luck, I posted in the Musical Theatre Appreciation Society (Facebook group) that I had sorted my first show and received a reply from a lovely lady I’d sat next too at Miss Saigon a few years before, and she was seeing the same matinee and was only a few seats away from me. So we met up for a nice catch-up before and at the interval and chatted about all things theatre and musicals related. So nice for someone who usually (read always) travels alone, to get to chat with someone before the show. Great to catch up again Dee. Hope to bump into you again soon.

The Big Little Things,

My seat was stalls D63, should say this theatre is in the round, not just very VERY wide 😉

This show a musical based on the memoir by Henry Fraser. It tells the story of Henry who while on holiday with his brothers jumped into the sea believing it to be deep enough, and sadly it wasn’t. He was paralysed from the shoulders down.

Prior to his accident he was a promising rugby player, expected to play for his country. However after the accident he discovered his skill and passion for painting using just his mouth. His work now being displayed in galleries and bought by celebrities.

The story is told from conflicting points of view, with two actors playing Henry, one in a wheelchair and the other able to walk. They relate both sides of his character at points in his journey from before the accident through his recovery, to acceptance of his new life.

Now the words uplifting and life affirming can be bandied about, for a variety of shows. In fact I’ve used them myself to describe Come From Away and will again later in this review for another show. However as someone who knew nothing of Henry’s story I can honestly say I left the theatre with both of these feelings.

The cast led by Jonny Amies and Ed Larkin in the dual roles of ‘Henry Fraser’, Alasdair Harvey ‘Andrew Fraser’ and Linzi Hately ‘Fran Fraser’, and a truly gifted cast of performers some of whom are (now I hate to use the word disabled here) as in no way did their conditions diminish the performances they gave.

These performers, special mention must be given to Gracie McGonigal ‘Katie’ (the girl Henry always wanted to pluck up the courage to say he liked) and Amy Trigg ‘Agnes’, were to a person wonderful, such an inspiration, and living proof of the fact that performers should be cast on their ability to perform the role and how with small adjustments the fact they use a wheelchair or have another disability shouldn’t play a role in the casting.

Stand out songs for me were: ‘One to Seventeen’ and ‘The World is Waiting’, ‘Feel Like This’ and ‘The Little Big Things’.

My only complaint is, for the venue not the show. For a brand new theatre to only have, it appeared, one staircase for everyone to exit the building appears a major oversight.

The show I would happily return to over and over to be reminded that it really is the little things that we can change that make a big difference in our lives.

So after grabbing a Burger King, still can’t believe they don’t have one of these in my home town despite having TWO McDonalds!

I have a quick change and it is to the Guielgud theatre for show two of my trip and the first I pre-booked.

Old Friends,

Seat – Stalls C21

a tribute to the work of the musicals master that was Stephen Sondheim. This show started it’s planning before his sad passing last year. So it now takes on an added poignancy, especially some of the songs featured.

This was my most expensive ticket coming in at £125. Now I ‘only’ paid £75 when I attended the Hey! Mr. Producer show back in 1998, and the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh attended that one.

Anyway I thought with the cast involved there would be a good chance of it selling out, so as I really wanted to see it I pre-booked. Only shortly before leaving for London finding out day seats were available and I could have got a deal.

However I can honestly say I didn’t regret booking as I managed to get the end of a row seat in the stalls, seat C21. The view was brilliant and the talent on display was awe inspiring.

The cast is led by Lea Salonga and Bernadette Peters, joined by some of the great and good from the world of British musical theatre including: Bonnie Langford, Jeremy Seacomb, Janie Dee, Bradley Jaden, Joanna Riding and amongst the younger cast two beautiful and talented ladies Beatrice Penny-Toure and Christine Allado. However the whole cast gelled to make a true Company (see what I did there 😉 )

This is a review style show, featuring songs from some of Sondheim’s shows. One of the ways they made choosing which songs easier is to focus on productions that Cameron Macintosh helped to produce.

Stand out numbers for me were: ‘Sunday’ (Sunday in the park with George), ‘Getting Married today’ (Company), ‘Children will listen’ (Into the Woods), ‘a little priest’ (Sweeney Todd), ‘Somewhere’ (West Side Story), ‘Broadway Baby’ (Follies), ‘Being Alive’ (Company).

Although I must say there wasn’t a song in the whole show I would have ‘skipped’ if it were a streaming platform.

It seems unbelievable that this is the first time Bernadette Peters has appeared on the West End stage in an on-going show.

I mean I was lucky to see her in Hey! Mr. Producer and her subsequent one woman show at the Festival Hall.

To many, but not an uber-fan like me, one of the revelations of this show was Lea performing ‘Rose’s Turn’ from Gypsy, showing a whole new aspect to her voice. What I wouldn’t give to see Lea in Gypsy and also as Mrs. Lovitt in Sweeney Todd

A wonderful show and a fitting tribute to a master of the musical theatre genre, the sadly missed Stephen Sondheim.

From this show it was a quick wander back to my hotel. Taking in the atmosphere of my favourite city, a meal in my room, crash out and prepare for the rest of my trip.

Friday – Day 2

Now I had another evening ticket sorted, but was planning on using TodayTix for a matinee.

However here my luck ran out. I mean it was ‘slim pickings’ as they say, with only three shows having a matinee on a Friday and I lost out with no day seats being available and losing out again on a £50 ticket for Book of Mormon. As I wasn’t going to spend over £100 to see that show as I’ve seen it about 4 times previously. So it was to the cinema and a toss up between the Great Escaper or Expendables 4. I chose the latter.

Now it was also here, sat in the cinema waiting for the movie to start, that I got scammed.

I needed to pay the recently expanded ULEZ charge, and seeing a site ‘ULEZ services’ I didn’t do my due diligence and spot they were a third party site who charge a fee, and I’m still kicking myself for not spotting this, as I advise others to be careful in my job. They were a sponsored site so appeared above the official TFL site.

So be careful peeps as it ended up costing me £10 and that was after getting a ‘full refund’. Well they said it was a ‘full refund’, then a full refund less transaction fee, then full refund less transaction feeS. As despite the fact I made one transaction (i.e. one payment) as I was paying for two days ULEZ charge they charged two fees. So a Total rip off.

The real kicker was when I contacted TFL they advised me that the site hadn’t even transferred the payment to them. Now in case you don’t know if not paid within 24 hours of travel it increases. So I ended up paying TFL direct as well. Luckily I could afford to do this until I got my refund but still it was an unwanted additional expense on what was an expensive trip anyway. So as I say be careful if travelling to the big smoke by car.

Anyway back to the good stuff. The movie was a fun, an unchallenging couple of hours mindless action.

So we come to the show of the day, and it’s okay poppets it was a good one 😉


Seat – Stalls A11

a musical based on the movie of the same name, which starred the unique, much missed genius that was Robin Williams.

Now this show stars Gabriel Vick in the title role and, amongst the cast is also Cameron Blakely.

The story for those who don’t know is about a struggling actor who as part of a divorce ends up getting only restricted access to his children. So when he finds out that his wife is looking for a nanny, get his brother and his partner who are make-up artists to turn him into the titular “Hip-hop, be-bob and dance till you drop” old Scottish lady.

Gabriel really excels in this role. I mean to attempt anything Robin Williams did takes guts, and while including all the classic ‘moments’ from the movie he also puts his own spin on it. The quick changes are done very well and all in all it’s a really fun show. I wouldn’t say there were any stand out songs for me. It was more a comedy with music for me.

The only warning I would give is although the front row is significantly cheaper than the rest of the stalls think seriously about it.

I was seat A11, and even at 6ft 3” I left with a crick in my neck and couldn’t see some of the scenes at the rear of the stage. Luckily none that affected the story in any significant way. I wouldn’t however book the front row in this theatre with this stage again, as this is one crazily high stage.

From here it was a quick 5 minute walk back to my hotel to drop off the magnet and programme I had bought then back passed the theatre to the Top Secret Comedy club.

I found this little gem the last time I was in London and had a great night. The great thing with this club as opposed to it’s ‘big brother’ the Comedy Store is their late show is still in deed a late show starting at 11:15pm.

So I was treated to 4 great acts for £12. Really worth checking out if you like comedy and want something to do after an evening at the theatre.

Day 3 Saturday

So we come to Saturday and the first day I hadn’t pre-booked anything. So, sat in the Moon Under Water in Leicester square where I was having my cooked breakfast I went looking for shows to book.

Here I had a ‘consideration’ that seeing as I wanted to go to the Comedy Store I needed a shorter show for this evening. Now if Come From Away was still running that would have been perfect. However as it wasn’t I consulted the oracle, otherwise known as the Musical Theatre appreciation Society, where (almost) to a man they said Choir of Man. Now I must admit I really didn’t fancy this show. But after striking out for day seats for any show. Not my lucky trip this time. I found there was a reasonably priced ticket front row of circle there. So thought okay I’ll give it a go.

Then also looking in TodayTix I came across a stalls seat for Sunset Boulevard for just over £50 so booked it. As stalls seats run between £77.50 – £245.00

So deciding to uphold another tradition I booked using a discount site for an open top bus tour. I really enjoy this. As you see the whole city but don’t end up with blisters. Also the weather was great, in fact the whole trip I was walking around in jeans and a t shirt, in October!

So after a pleasant few hours checking out the sites I headed to The Coal Hole pub right by the Savoy Theatre, Home of Sunset Boulevard. I had a refreshing pint and then wandered into the theatre.

It was here to quote part of a gag from the Big Yin “My Heart Stopped” as shortly after showing the screen of my phone to gain access, and before glancing at it to check my seat number myself, my phone crashed! Wouldn’t swipe, open anything, reboot, nothing.

So after a few panic inducing moments it decided to play nicely and start doing what I asked.

Then I had a bit of luck. As mentioned a few times above I collect magnets from the shows I see, so finding the merch stall I asked for a programme and a magnet. They handed over the programme but said

sorry we don’t have magnets..”

Then while rummaging around in a box continued:

we have pins, key rings .. Oh hang on..”

They found a single magnet at the bottom of the box. Good times!

Sunset Boulevard

Directed by Jamie Lloyd, is a new interpretation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber, Don Black, Christopher Hampton musical.

Telling the story of the fading silent movie star Norma Desmond. In this production played by Nicole Scherzinger, also staring Tom Francis ‘Joe Gillis’, Grace Hodgett Young ‘Betty Schaefer’ and David Thaxton ‘Max Von Mayerking’, with a full supporting cast. Oh I should point out the role of ‘Norma’ will be played by Rachel Tucker Monday evenings for the bulk of the run.

Now what do I say about this show.

I should start by saying I knew virtually nothing about this musical other than the songs:

‘The Perfect Year’, ‘With one look’ and ‘Sunset Boulevard’

I say this as the comments and early reviews seems to be falling into two camps. Those who have seen previous productions and often feel “there is a character missing .. the set of Norma’s House” who can take or leave it. Then those, like me, who come in with no pre-conceptions and, at least in my case, are blown away by it.

It is basically an empty stage, all the cast dressed in black and white costumes that are not necessarily ‘of the time period’ and features the use of hand held video camera rigs that allow the actors face to be blown up to the full size of the stage via a moveable screen at the back.

This use of black and white and ‘cinema style’ close ups ties in with the theme of the show wonderfully. Add the truly remarkable way they start the second half

(Stop Reading here for no spoilers.. Come Back at the next Bold Line below)

With the screen coming live showing Tom in his dressing room and follows him as he walks through the backstage area, passing the characters in various vignettes, a life size cut out of Andrew Lloyd Webber, then walks across the stage straight out into the street (passed bemused passers by) singing the number Sunset Boulevard, and right around the theatre and back in through the auditorium. A wonderfully staged piece of ‘theatre’.

You Can Start Reading Again here

If not for it’s strictly limited season I would definitely look to return to this show.

Oh and Nicole is wonderful. I mean I know she has performed Cats so we know she has the ‘pipes’ as they say. A great afternoon in the theatre and a truly original and memorable production.

So after walking around for a while, a quick change and it was to the Arts Theatre a small venue where I saw the excellent Toxic Avenger the Musical a few years ago.

Choir of Man

Now Choir of Man, is hard to explain. It’s not exactly a musical, although it’s almost all music. It’s not a play (too much music) and it’s not a concert as it features ‘characters’.

What it is, is an excellent night out.

A group of men meet in their ‘local’ pub. They sing songs that illustrate an aspect of their lives. Featuring pop songs performed by a very talented cast. It has some unusual features, in that before the show you can buy tokens and then go up onto the stage which is their pub and have a drink there before the show starts.

The actors play types of people as opposed to fleshed out characters. This isn’t a negative it’s more encompassing as you can see yourself in aspects of each of the characters.

Featuring songs from: Queen, Luther Vandross, Adele and many more.

It is 90 minutes with no interval. It’s also definitely worth visiting.

I then went straight to the Comedy Store and had a great few hours of live comedy.

Day 4 – Sunday

Now for the last few years I have added a Sunday to my trip, primarily as more shows now have a Sunday performance.

So, this was where I had been lucky. Finding two shows with times that didn’t overlap isn’t easy, add the fact not all have shows, and then take away the ones I don’t want to see. A decision has to be made. Now all these considerations were made before I left for London and one show I really wanted to see was a return visit to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I had seen this a number of years ago, but getting confused with the prices ended up with a seat WAY up in the gods. So looking at stalls seats my bank manager had a shiver. So I entered the Friday 40. A lottery they do where you can ‘win’ two discounted tickets and, for once,I won!

So I got a front row seat for both shows on the Sunday for £20 each. Now to give you a clue the seats directly behind me went form £160 to £260 each.

So I spent the whole day as a Hogwarts Student. I thoroughly enjoyed this excellent play, the special effects are brilliant (no Spoilers) and the performances great. Oh and for the second time for a Sunday show I was there for a cast change, so all the more special.

So that’s it another trip over, seen some great shows. But now for a quandary, there aren’t THAT many shows I want to see, so I’m actively considering not making my annual pilgrimage in 2024. I mean there are some great shows but, you know what they say absence makes the heart grow fonder so we’ll see, can I go 365 days without visiting my home from home ..

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