Confession time: I am obsessed with musical theater. I can probably attribute it to spending the majority of my middle and high school years singing alto in school chorus and watching Rent relentlessly, but I’ve harbored the obsession fairly quietly. However, being in London, the theater capital of the world, has provided me with the fantastic opportunity to see an array of musicals!
As I’ve mentioned before, I am taking a theater class through Hollins Abroad called “The London Stage.” The course explores theater in London and beyond, exploring different genres, playwrights, actors, and directors. Through the class, I’ve been able to see a variety of different shows. Recently, I saw Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with the class, a musical based off of the movie with Steve Martin and David Niven.
While I have not yet perfected my routine to Rent‘s “Santa Fe” on the tube (although I’m not going to lie – I have relished in the opportunity to “practice” it whenever I’m in an empty carriage, much to the enjoyment of CCTV operators I’m sure), I took it upon myself to explore the musical entertainment that the West End had to offer. I mean, you’re only in London once, right?
First, I saw We Will Rock You! The show, which is a story created around the music of Queen (similar to the way that Mamma Mia! incorporated ABBA’s music or Movin’ Out featured tracks by Billy Joel). I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but Queen is my absolute favorite band. The plot was a little silly and futuristic, but the music was incredible. I loved the theatricality of the show; in my opinion, the music of Queen is intended to be performed that way.
After that, I saw Monty Python’s Spamalot! Though I’ve quickly adopted certain “British” sensibilities, such as not laughing too loud in public, I sincerely could not control myself during the show – it was hilarious and very engaging, despite how steep the upper circle seating of the Playhouse Theatre was (there were a few moments when I thought I may in fact have to parachute down).
I also saw Once: The Musical, which is a new musical based off of the indie film Once. I was even more excited to see that it starred Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams on Doctor Who), who had an incredible voice! The lead female, Zrinka Cvitesic, ended up winning an Olivier award the night before I saw it, which was also very exciting.
One of the shows I was very much looking forward to was Billy Elliot, a show that originated on the West End. I loved the premise of the show: it’s set in a small town in County Durham during the 1984-5 coal miner’s strike. The main character, 12-year old Billy Elliot, falls in love with ballet. The show deals with issues of poverty, masculinity, and coming-of-age; it reminded me of a play I had seen about year ago called “Good People” (which is coincidentally now playing in London starring Imelda Staunton, of Harry Potter fame). The show, which featured a lot of child actors, was very dance-heavy. I was impressed by the lead, who was probably around 12 years old. His solo ballet performance before the intermission where he spun over the audience (on a harness of course) brought the middle-aged man next to me to tears.
The show that I have enjoyed the most thus far was, without a doubt, Les Miserables. As a cult follower of the franchise, I was so excited to see the show on London’s West End. Somehow, despite my astronomically high expectations, I was completely and utterly blown away by the production. Everything, from the vocal performances to the technical aspects of the show, was even more remarkable than I could have imagined. I was also very pleasantly surprised to see Carrie Hope Fletcher, a musician who I have followed on YouTube for years, playing the role of Eponine!
I’m excited to see The Bodyguard, an musical adaptation of the 1992 Whitney Houston film, in a few weeks. As I said before, I’m only here once! All in all, I am very much taking advantage of the theater scene in London and definitely satisfying the musical theater geek inside of me. I will keep saying it: more than anything, my time abroad has made me more certain of my interests and given my the confidence to embrace them, theatrically. :)