West End Rules!

The latest issue of Time Out magazine declares: 

WEST END RULES!  From high drama to red-hot tunes – is this the Golden Age for London theatre?

I am a bit of a Broadway snob, but I have to admit that our theater outings of late have indeed been quite golden.

One Man Two Guvnors just packed up and hopped across the Pond to NYC.  My advice:  Run out and get tickets!  It is a fabulous show, and James Corden is absolutely brilliant in the lead role.  The physical humor is hilarious, the banter with the audience is priceless, and the British humor is very well done.  We all enjoyed this show and highly recommend it.

Matilda is a very inventive production of the popular Roald Dahl book.  Everything about the show is amazing:  the music is delightful, the sets are playful, the stunts are thrilling, the script is engaging, and the storyline maintains the perfect balance between humor and poignancy.   Above all, the lead actress is superb.  The title role is shared by four precocious young girls who are 10 – 11 years old.  They literally carry the show on their lithe little shoulders.  These girls are all rightfully nominated for an Olivier Award (the British equivalent of the Tony).

Here’s a fun tidbit. The morning after we enjoyed the show, I was waiting for a friend outside our tube station in St. John’s Wood.  I noticed a little girl with braided pigtails wearing a pink backpack who remarkably resembled the Matilda we had seen the previous evening.  I kept staring at her.  Could it be?  Of course, I had to find out.  Indeed, it was the little leading lady, and she could not have been more charming and humble as I complimented her profusely.  She then joined a gaggle of girls her age with age-appropriate squeals, hugs, and laughter and descended into the tube.

Katie and I recently went to see the classic musical, Singin’ in the Rain.  I had forgotten how many wonderful tunes came from that play.  I couldn’t help but conjure images of handsome Gene Kelly gleefully splashing and hoisting his umbrella while singing the title song.  During this number in the production, the stage literally became flooded with a downpour from the rafters.  People in the front rows had to wrap themselves in plastic coverings as the lead actor willfully kicked water at them, mischievously jumped in puddles, and gracefully danced with wild abandon while getting soaking wet.  In the Finale, the entire cast danced onto the stage with colorful umbrellas and the deluge returned. I loved the innocence of the sentiments and corniness of the humor from the 1940s.  Even better, Katie appreciated it too.

This past weekend, we went to the Royal Opera House to see a brilliant production of the ballet, Alice in Wonderland.  I was utterly captivated from beginning to end.  The only ballet I have ever seen is the Nutcracker…about 900 times spanning my childhood to the many years my girls danced in a local production.  The ballet was magnificent, and the set design wizards recreated all the magic of the fantastical story as we watched Alice descend down the rabbit hole, shrink, grow, drink tea with the Mad Hatter, follow the White Rabbit, marvel at the disappearing Cheshire Cat, and battle the Queen of Hearts and her army of Cards.

Here’s a fun tidbit from this adventure.  We had a backstage tour of the Royal Opera House and met some of the dancers prior to the performance.  One man was cross dressed and in full make-up to play the ugly Duchess who challenges the Queen to a game of croquet.  He was cordial and laughed at his absurd appearance.  Our tour guide later explained that he is the actual Billy Elliot!!  That is not his true name, but the entire story was modeled on his life!  No longer in his prime, he is now a character actor in the company and manages the dancers within performances.  Wow.

Alice grows tall, confined within the set

The Queen of Hearts - "Off with their heads!"

The Duchess...i.e. Billy Elliot!

I may have taken a detour from Broadway’s “Great White Way“,

but I am enjoying my journey on the golden roads that lead to London theater.

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