And Of Course We Went To The Theatre

With the exception of our first night, Kristen and I went to the theatre every night in London.  …And really the only reason we missed the first night was because our train wasn’t getting in until evening and it wouldn’t have been feasible.

As I’ve mentioned, travel for me is about Food and Theatre.  And occasionally museums and touristy things.  But mostly food and theatre.

Show #1 – Matilda

Holy amazing set, Batman!
Holy amazing set, Batman!

It varies from the book a bit, and there’s not a lot of telekinesis, but this show wowed the pants off of me (or should I say trousers?).  If this is the future of musical theatre, then it’s in good hands.  Music and lyrics by Tim Minchen, adorably precocious children, and dance sequences that make you feel completely inadequate (these kids dance better than most of the adults I know).  The sound board operator might have not been on the ball that night, but damn this show was fantastic.

Show #2 – The 39 Steps

Easily found at Piccadilly Circus.
Easily found at Piccadilly Circus.

I’d been to this theatre in 2004 to see the Condensed Works of Shakespeare.  Not relevant to this play, but interesting nonetheless, eh?

The show is entertaining, and has 4 actors playing 130 different characters.  The set changes, the accents, the costumes – it’s all very impressive.  Also, the day of tickets were cheap.  It wasn’t anything that knocked the socks off me, but it was good, solid, funny theatre.

Show #3 – Billy Elliot

Construction everywhere - I'm glad the theatre was well marked.
Construction everywhere – I’m glad the theatre was well marked.

Seeing this show shortly after Margaret Thatcher’s death was a little surreal (not-quite-a-spoiler: the miners freakin’ hated that woman).  I’ve listened to this soundtrack many, many times.  I was starting to hate the “Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher” song, but actually seeing the musical number made it fresh and interesting.  Also, damn that kid can dance!

The first act was spoiled by a couple of inconsiderate women who wouldn’t turn off their phones, insisted on texting during the first part of the show, and talking to each other loudly.  Myself and the usher told her to stop, but they just kept talking like the inconsiderate jerks they were.  The accents in the show are pretty thick, so if you’re a foreigner and not able to pay close attention you might miss some of the dialogue.

There were empty seats in the theatre, so Kristen and I asked the usher if we could move away from the women.  I complained about their phones and their talking, and the usher said it was okay if we moved.  The second half was so much better now that those women weren’t talking in our ears.

So if you’re lucky enough to not be sitting next to inconsiderate jerks and you like really good dancing (bonus points if you’re a ballet fan) the show is great.

Show #4 – Wicked


This was my second time seeing Wicked.  Kristen and I took our hosts to this show as a “thank you for letting us sleep on your couch and watch your British TV and eat your breakfasty foods”.

I’ll admit that the first time I saw this show I liked it a lot more.  The singing was better the first time (this Fiyero was cute but not that great of a singer, and there wasn’t much chemistry between the leads).  The woman who had played Galinda in 2010 was now playing Elephaba, and while she definitely nailed the big songs (“Defying Gravity” and “No Good Deed”), I liked her better as Galinda.

Also, if you’re going to see this show, see it from the balcony (preferably first balcony).  We were off to the side this time, which made it difficult to see a couple parts of the show, as the dancers move off to the side and block the view (and during my favorite part… grrr).

But Kristen really enjoyed it, and the music and story are good.  Different from the book, but in a good way (i.e. a good way that works for musical theatre).

Honourable Mentions:

The National Theatre – we asked about tickets to Othello, but it was sold out (of course it was, it was probably fantastic).  I haven’t seen a bad show at the National Theatre, and had I gone to London alone I probably would have spent the afternoon waiting in the returned-ticket-line.

Shakespeare’s Globe – I’ve done the tour but not actually seen a show here.  Someday…  Although I’ll likely pay for a sitting seat instead of standing.  I don’t care how authentic the show is from the floor, Shakespeare is long and my bad knee probably won’t take all the standing.

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