Well, what a weekend at West End Live. My legs have only just stopped aching from hours of standing but it was all worth it.
For musical theatre fans everywhere this is an event firmly placed in the theatrical diary. In previous years, I’ve been the one sitting at home wishing I could be there, but this year I decided I HAD to go. So as a first time attendee, my introductory experience of it is quite different from those that have been going since it began.
It started out as a relatively small event in Leicester Square with only 4 shows performing. Skip forward 7 years and it’s become a massive event at Trafalgar Square, with all the musicals that are currently running in the West End having a set (of various lengths – ranging from 5 minutes to 25 minutes) and wonderfully, massive crowds – Trafalgar Square was pretty much full to capacity at the high points of the day.
And it’s not just the die-hard musical fans attending now. Casual theatre goers, tourists and people just looking for an entertaining day out are coming and, consequently discovering shows they may never have otherwise considered going to see, which is great for the future of theatre. Let’s hope that this event is still going strong for many years.
With bigger crowds, however, come worse views so you’d better be prepared to be early if you want to be right at the front. One of the hosts asked someone at the front on Saturday what time they’d got there and they said 5.30am! That’s dedication.
On the Saturday, I attended the signing for ‘The Inbetween Musical’ at the Dress Circle shop before going along to West End Live. Both started at 11am so you can imagine by the time I turned up at Trafalgar Square (just in time for ‘Sweeney Todd’ at 11.45am) I was pretty much on the outskirts and pretty much only had a view of the screen. I was determined to support this wonderful new musical though at the expense of a good view. If you’ve not heard of it, please check out the website:-http://www.theinbetweenmusical.com/
|My best view on Saturday|
Scott Garnham singing 'Beyond the Door' from
An hour later I’d made it to a point where I could see tiny dots moving about on stage and I was here for most of the day then, eventually made my way to the front of the fountain by the time The Inbetween did their set.
It’s not just established musicals that get a slot at West End Live but it’s also a showcase for new talent, such as this show (which was well received by the crowd) and for theatre schools such as National Youth Music Theatre, West End Kids and the Mark Jermin Theatre School, all of whom were fantastic and as professional as any of the other shows showcased.
It seemed a lot of the crowd were excited for Chicago with many people around me cheering loudly whenever it was mentioned (and the crowds certainly seemed to thin a bit once it was finished – great for me as it meant inching slightly closer)
For me, though, the highlights were seeing the new cast of Les Miserables singing One Day More together (even if it was only on the screen – if I stood on tiptoe I could just about see the tops of their heads on stage), Jersey Boys and Rock of Ages because they did energetic sets that got the crowd going and, of course, The Inbetween because it was so great to see a new musical being showcased in front of so many people.
I would have to say Thriller. It seemed to please a lot of people and there was nothing wrong with it, essentially. It just does nothing for me. This is more a matter of personal taste than anything they did wrong. It was one of the longer sets too so that dragged for me, a little.
I was also disappointed that Sweeney Todd and Phantom didn’t do more songs, but I understand that this may be tricky given the dark content of these shows and this being a family friendly event (and the middle of the day).
**Theatre Snobbery Commencing**
I have to mention a comment over heard from two girls standing nearby that just made my heart sink. This conversation happened during I Dreamed a Dream:-
Girl 1: I’ve heard this song before
Girl 2: Yeah, it was in the first season of Glee.
**Theatre Snobbery End**
I decided to leave after The Inbetween’s set on the Saturday to get some food and start getting ready for that evening’s show (Ghost the Musical– review coming later in week, along with a review of Friday night’s show Shrek)
On Sunday I got to Trafalgar Square by 11am, an hour before it was due to start, and made sure I had food to take in with me this time.
I got much closer to the stage this time, although my view was still pretty obscured given that I’m only 5 foot! If I was just a few inches taller I’d have seen much better. Nature can be so cruel.
But it wasn't so bad, I made it to the front barrier eventually
I haven’t had a chance to see this show yet but Matilda was the highlight for me with Sophia Kiely singing ‘Naughty’ and I intend to book to see this for after the Olympics finishes (because I’m not going anywhere near London during). It’s astonishing the talent some of these kids have and how effortlessly they perform and although I’m not a huge Billy Elliot fan (I say this in ignorance really as I’ve not seen the show) I have to acknowledge Ryan Collinson for his performance of ‘Electricity’ just before the Matilda set.
Quite unexpectedly, I enjoyed Horrible Histories in a really silly, childish way. They did a song about Henry the Eighth being a big fat man, loves to stuff his face from the frying pan and we joined them in a dance to the old divorced, beheaded, died rhyme. It’s obviously aimed at kids and I wouldn’t actually go to this, but if you’re a parent this is a fun way to get them to learn something.
I also enjoyed seeing some West End performers showcasing some of their own songs from their albums. It’s nice to see what they enjoy singing outside of Musical Theatre. Don’t leave theatre completely, though, please, we’d miss you J
As with the previous day I also felt Jersey Boys and Rock of Ages stood out and was pleased to once again support the Inbetween. I’m sure there’ll be great things in store for this show soon.
Thriller did another 20 minute set which we’ve already established I wasn’t keen on the first time round and, unsurprisingly, given that I’m not 5 years old ‘Everything’s Rosie’ and ‘Angelina Ballerina the Mousical’ were pretty cringeworthy moments to get through, though I’m sure they were lovely for the little ones and I wouldn’t want to deny them discovering the joys of theatre so this really is nit picking from an entirely selfish stand point.
Also the Big Zumba Dance was a bit of a drag – I don’t know if they noticed but there was hardly room in the crowd to do a two step let alone all the energetic twirling and bouncing they were doing. And there really isn’t any point to Zumba if you’re not joining in, it’s not exactly fun to watch.
The weather also let us down a couple of times with downpours of rain, but they passed fairly quickly and when the sun was out it was lovely and warm so we dried out quickly. I did feel sorry for people further back when the umbrella canopy came out. They probably couldn’t see a thing. Come on people, we’re British, we can get brave the rain without umbrella’s, can’t we?
The best day, for me, was the Sunday mostly due to having a much better view and being properly in amongst the crowd - the only place to truly soak up the atmosphere.
This was a wonderful experience that I’m glad I got to share first hand this year and will certainly be going again. The atmosphere of all those people getting together to share the joy of theatre is priceless and, coincidentally so is the fee for entry – it’s absolutely free, so if you missed out this year, make sure you keep the last weekend in June clear next year so you can come along and share in the experience too.
@JedihomerT - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQbhMOQoM44&feature=youtu.be - Ghost
https://plus.google.com/photos/111374058545157959810/albums/5757928862290638113 - pics from Saturday
@Steffi_G - http://confessionsofatheatregirl.wordpress.com/2012/06/25/west-end-live-2012/ - blog and beautiful pics from both days.
Broadwayworld.com photo coverage - http://westend.broadwayworld.com/article/Photo-Coverage-WEST-END-LIVE-Part-1-20120626
officiallondontheatre.com photo coverage - http://www.officiallondontheatre.co.uk/news/backstage-pass/article/item145143/gallery-looking-back-on-west-end-live/