Return to Theatreland

Brochures for shows that I saw in a restaurant in London
For me, a trip to the UK is not complete without a theatre treat.  My preference is musicals probably because I was introduced to musicals like the Rodgers & Hammerstein’s movie, “The Sound of Music” at an early age.  I watched it so often that I learnt the lyrics of all the songs and even parts of the dialogue. 

One of the first shows I saw on stage in London was “Oliver” based on Charles Dickens’ novel about an orphaned boy, Oliver Twist.  The old theatre, interesting characters, music and the entire stage production contributed to a most memorable experience.  I enjoyed both the stage and TV productions very much as I became familiar with the characters, especially the scheming Fagin who sang his song with the refrain, “I’m just reviewing the situation…”  

"Let it Be" was playing at the Garrick theatre, London
There is simply nothing like watching a performance “live” on the stage with actors and singers, dancing and singing to music from a full orchestra.  The colourful costumes and changing stage sets compels me to stretch my imagination and with every ingeniously designed set, my admiration for the creative minds behind the production, simply increases.  Each show I saw seemed to be better than the next and I’m impressed by how the creative teams come up with exciting costumes and interesting sets. 

When Walt Disney’s “Lion King” was brought to the stage as a musical production in 1997, I was keen to see how the animals would be portrayed on stage.  So when I saw it at the Lyceum theatre in London, I was blown away by their ingenious creativity!  The music and talents with magnificent showmanship and stage sets were just so entertaining and it’s no wonder that this show has become the biggest grossing musical ever…  When the show was brought to Singapore recently, I did not hesitate to watch it again and was not disappointed because it was just as good as I saw it so many years ago!

The queue waiting to buy tickets at the ticket counter
at Leicester Square, London
In our recent visit to London, we did a city walkabout to visit familiar sites and when we walked from Trafalgar Square to Leicester Square, we passed Charing Cross where I spotted posters of the Beatles’ “Let it Be” musical that was playing at the Garrick theatre.  Some restaurants and retailers display posters and brochures that promote the city’s wide range of shows to interest diners and shoppers, and because live theatre shows are so popular here, London is also known as Theatreland.  

I walked around Leicester Square and discovered a fountain dedicated to the Bard himself, William Shakespeare, and on the other side of the square, I paused to watch a long queue patiently waiting for their turn at the one-stop Theatreland ticket counter to buy tickets to their choice of shows at London’s West End!

Facade of Milton Keynes Theatre
This is an opportunity to get the “best deal” tickets left over for the odd seats in the theatres but it really does not matter for true theatre buffs because sometimes they may even get a great seat at the best price.  I observed the queue for a bit because I know that my sister had made our show ticket orders in advance online and they were already mailed to her.

In my previous stay in London, we managed to catch two shows – Lion King and Mama Mia, but this time, we could only fit in one.  And instead of going into London for the show, we also decided to catch “Top Hat” in a matinee at Milton Keynes, about an hour’s drive from my sister’s home.  

The theatre is user-friendly for disabled audience members
It’s interesting that the theatre in Milton Keynes is built within a modern complex of buildings that incorporates shopping malls, restaurants and other amusement attractions.  

Equipped with staircases and elevators, careful thought went into the design of the theatre because it is user-friendly for members of the audience with special needs.  Especially in UK’s cooler weather, the number of toilets available at every level was very welcome.  Inside the theatre, every seat had an unobstructed view of the stage.

Every seat had an unobstructed view of the stage!
As usual, there was an intermission in the show and the audience was such a disciplined group because they were back at their seats before the lights went down again.  

I noted that there was no announcement about how long the break was but there was sufficient time to join the toilet queue and grab some refreshments before the show started again!

We thoroughly enjoyed this musical comedy filled with tap dancing and elegant waltzing, and the mistaken identity situation in a story that ended happily.  

A tap-dancing scene from the musical, "Top Hat"
With my sisters, Pearly and Ruby, enjoying a break during the show's intermission

And when we were leaving the theatre, I smiled when I heard someone still humming the jazzy tune, “Heaven, I’m in heaven…” just like me, still reliving the dreamy dance scenes!


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