Wicked The Musical
TIME TO BE WICKED I love a good musical and have seen now seen several. I can't see myself enjoying any as much and certainly not more than my favourite "Les Miserables" but, if they are HALF as good then that means, for me, they are worth watching. I had been meaning to go and see 'Wicked' for ages but ... hadn't got around to it until this October. My teenage daughter has seen it a few times and knows all the songs. As she is studying musical theatre and practices her singing on myself and her dad, we are also familiar with the songs from this musical. My husband and I both like "For Good" best and as our daughter has sung this on momentous occasions (for her and us) it's very special for us. Now, hearing this song can bring a tear or two to our eyes. Knowing something of the musical score is a great help for us when choosing a musical to visit.
My daughter has seen a few different casts in this show including Kerry Ellis as Elphaba, but she told me that Rachael Tucker was brilliant and so was Gina Beck, as Galinda). I knew a cast change was imminent but hoped we might manage to see these two witches together before one of them left the show.
My husband and I chose to go to see a Saturday matinee performance of this show and treat our daughter to a ticket, and meet her at the theatre. It isn't easy to arrange a mutually convenient time as she has rehearsals and performances often.
A WICKED PLACE
Wicked the Musical is showing at The Apollo Victoria. We had a bit of a journey as some of the central line underground line wasn't operating due to maintenance and other lines had a restricted service also, but we managed to get there with time to spare. We had to change lines but when exiting Victoria underground station the theatre can be clearly seen opposite. Building work is taking place in this area but this didn't cause a problem, just spoiled the view a little in respect of taking photos around the theatre.
I booked (only a few days before our chosen date) directly by telephone with the theatre. The assistant in the box office was helpful. As this was near to time we wanted to go I wasn't sure if we would get good seats. I usually prefer the stalls but my daughter assured me that with this particular show it didn't matter too much if one wasn't close up as the show is a spectacle with great scenery and all of the stage being used. I was told that three seats were available in the circle just a few rows back. I enquired as to whether these seats were any good and he said that he'd sat there himself and thought the view was good. The seats cost over sixty pounds each (I save reviewing proceeds for this purpose and then I don't feel guilty about spending so much) and I paid by debit card.
I was pleased with our seats. We were fairly central and there was an empty seat next to me so I didn't feel at all hemmed in. The rake of the seats, I felt, was good, and we all had a good view of the stage. Theatre glasses were available for hire (I can't remember if they were fifty pence or one pound) but I didn't use these as find them a little annoying.
We weren't far away from the toilets but of course the usual queuing was involved.
WHY THE WITCH BECAME WICKED
Wicked the Musical tells (its own take) how The wicked witch of the west (infamous through L. Frank Baum's book, 'The Wizard of Oz) actually became a 'WICKED' witch, and tells the story of her life. Based on 'Wicked-the untold story of the witches of Oz' from the novel by Gregory Maguire, we see how she was a good 'person' but was, from birth, unloved and misunderstood, and also often avoided due to her green coloured skin. Elphaba was certainly not 'popular', at least not until taken in hand by the good witch Galinda/Glinda. There are links to The Wizard of Oz, although these are loosely based. I haven't yet read the book Wicked (although it's here in my home) but have heard it is much deeper than the musical version. This I can in believe though when seeing in the show the mistreatment of Professor Dillamond, Elphaba's teacher and friend. I imagine there could be more to tell here, in literary form.
Circumstances led to Elphaba seeming to become 'wicked' but I must say I empathised with her, along with the whole theatre's audience, I believe, but you would have to see the show to understand that she wasn't really wicked at all.
I loved the scenery, and the show is indeed a spectacular. I also adored the colourful and fantastic costumes, especially those of the glamorous good witch Glinda.
The flying monkeys are also worth a mention and great to see.
WICKEDLY GOOD CAST
I had heard, before going to see the show that Matt Willis of 'Busted' fame as Fiyero, the male lead, wasn't great but, as far as I was concerned, he played his part well enough. I would say this was a very good cast in terms of any musical, although this being the first time I've seen the show I can't compare to other casts of 'Wicked.' My daughter has now seen this cast twice and other casts and says this was overall the best cast she had seen.
This was the last day for Rachael Tucker to star in Wicked. Rachael Tucker was heavily pregnant but still gave an energetic performance. As this was the last day of shows (matinee and evening performance) for most of the cast there were strange things happening and 'muck ups' My daughter explained why some of the things said were funny as this wouldn't be patently obvious for first timers of the show. We were told they had been told to tone it down for this reason. I thought the sense of mischief added even more to the atmosphere.
This was the cast that we saw:
Rachael Tucker Elphaba (green witch)
Gina Beck Galinda ( Blonde witch!)
Matt Willis Fiyero
Julie Legrand Madame Morrible
Keith Bartlett The Wizard of Oz
Lillie Flynn Nessarose
Christopher Howell Doctor Dillamond
Adam Pettigrew Boq
I had to agree with my daughter that these two actresses (Rachael Tucker and Gina Beck) did a brilliant job throughout the show, both with their acting and brilliant vocals. I was so pleased we had seen them both star together in these roles.
The songs I liked best were:
'For Good' which is a witches duet
'Popular' as, although this isn't a favourite song of mine, I felt that Gina Beck's rendition was superb.
'What is this feeling' sung by Glinda, Elphaba and students of the school.
'As Long as you're mine' Elphaba and Fiyero
'I'm not that girl' Elphaba
I was pleasantly surprised by just how much I enjoyed this show and so did my husband. All songs in the context of the show were superb and vocals were great.
As this was the last show for many of the cast, including the two female leads, there was an air of fun and of this being an extra special performance.
It's a good plot and quite clever, I thought, with a tale to tell of discrimination and prejudice. Wicked has its sad moments and drama aplenty but interspersed with this is a great deal of humour.
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The Cliffs Pavilion (Southend-On-Sea)
SOUTHEND THEATRES (THE CLIFFS PAVILION) Southend Theatres consist of the Cliffs Pavilion and The Palace Theatre. These two theatres are on different sites but are within the seaside town of Southend-on-Sea in Essex. Both have more to offer than just theatres, offering dining , leisure and meeting facilities for the local ... community.
The Cliffs Pavilion is located in an enviable position, I feel, offering visitors a view from 'The Cliffs' as it overlooks The Thames Estuary.
Its sister venue, The Palace Theatre, is situated in London road, not far away. Both are run by HQ Theatres for Southend's Borough Council.
It's a few years since I watched a show at The Palace Theatre so I will mainly focus on The Cliffs Pavilion while endeavouring to give some information relevant to The Palace Theatre.
As well as hosting amateur and professional productions of different genres The Cliffs Pavilion is well known for its pantomime running for the Christmas season. Christmas 2012 sees Shane Ritchie returning to the theatre as Buttons in Cinderella.
HOW SOUTHEND THEATRES CAME TO BE
THE PALACE THEATRE
The Palace theatre was built by Ward & Ward. It opened in 1912 and was called the Palace of Varieties. The theatre was popular for its good view of the stage from all seats in the auditorium. The theatre, in 1912, could seat 1,500 compared to currently holding just over 600. The type of entertainment shown has changed over the years, as has its name but it seems to have had the word 'palace' featured in its name in some way.
The Palace closed for a while but has still managed to offer entertainment to local, and not so local, theatre goers for many years. It has staged ballet (tours), repertory, variety, professional concerts, local bands, children's shows and workshops.
Much work and improvements have been undertaken over the years.
It closed in June 2002 and then reopened in April 2003, as a merger with The Cliffs Pavilion and the two theatres became known as 'Southend Theatres.'
THE CLIFFS PAVILION
The Cliff's Pavilion, is newer than its sister theatre, The Palace, Building of The Cliffs Pavilion began in the 1930s but when war broke out building stopped. In 1964 it opened in a slightly shifted position, which incorporated a better cliff top view. This is the present location.
The Cliffs Pavilion can seat an audience of 1,630. Being bigger than The Palace it is better suited to larger capacity events. Sir Paul McCartney has performed here, as has the well-known group, Oasis. The theatre often hosts tours of London's West End shows and musicals.
Much of this theatre was improved in the 1990s and the balcony was added in this decade.
It is pleasant, comfortable and welcoming inside the auditorium at The Cliffs Pavilion although seats in the front stalls aren't tiered. This isn't too much of a problem from most seats as there is a good space in between rows but personally, I would prefer a rake.
Another thing to consider when purchasing seats is that the stage is high and for this reason I always avoid seats in the first few rows.
Rows in the front stalls are numbered, from A being front nearest to the stage and going back to row R. There is a break between the front stalls and rear stalls.
To the left and right of the front stall there are side stalls. I think if choosing the front stalls, as I do, then for most productions, I find seats in centre stalls from E to around K to be best, although a lot is down to luck; if a tall person is directly in front of you, or a fidget, then your view will be marred. I have also sat in the side row and the view is still quite good as long as the row chosen isn't too near to the stage. Being too near will mean you'll probably be craning your neck to see and you won't see much of the actor's footwork and if this is a musical or even more so a dance event, then this will probably mar your enjoyment.
I would say that the view is still quite a good one from most parts of the theatre.
The balcony gives a good view of the stage and seems close enough to draw the audience in but I have only sat in the stalls in recent years.
There are also boxes available but I haven't been able to book the amount of seats I have required in the boxes when I have been to this theatre.
The Palace theatre is smaller, more traditional and cosy.
The Cliffs Pavilion offers pre-show dining. Usually two course meals are available for £17.50 and three courses for £21.50.
I haven't dined here as we are usually in too much of a rush to get to the theatre. On our last visit we enjoyed fish and chips from a chip shop close to the theatre. Not glamorous but quick and actually, delicious.
Sometimes we have time to have a pre-show drink in the Foyer Bar. Antipasti are available from the bar if you're peckish. Also snacks such as sandwiches, baguettes and cake can be purchased.
Prices for drinks are expensive but not as much so as in London's theatre-land. If we have a drink during the interval then we find the best option is to order before the show starts and ask that they be put in plastic tumblers so we can take them into the auditorium; after queuing for toilets there really isn't time for a drink in the bar.
The box office for both theatres is a combined one.
I have booked tickets by telephone and also on-line. The website, in my opinion, is good. A seating plan is available and seats can be selected on-line. This works well as you can choose the price range and see what's available in this price range as, well as seeing if there is low or high availability for these seats.
Sometimes, if I have a query, I will first look at possible seats and then telephone to make the booking. When I have done this I've found box office staff very helpful and able to give good and accurate information.
I usually book far ahead enough for my tickets to be sent to my home by post. Tickets have always arrived promptly and I haven't had a problem with this.
For those living near tickets can be booked in person.
I have always paid for my tickets at the point of booking by debit card but you can pay by cash (if booking in person) cheque (with guarantee card), credit card etc.
Ticket prices vary according to the show to be seen. I saw Starlight Express on tour here in September and I think I paid around £43 for each ticket in the stalls. This compares price wise favourably with the West End but then again this ISN'T the West End, but it's still a good way of seeing a good show at a more affordable price. I also paid a booking fee (I think £1.50 per ticket) and paid postage.
I understand that tickets will be held for a few days if sending a cheque for ticket payment.
Discounts are given for group bookings.
I find this to be a good website which is easy to navigate. A calendar of upcoming events can be seen which I look at often.
Also there is a seating plan for both theatres and much more, including on-line interactive assistance.
As I have signed up to this website I receive offers and news via email.
The theatres are disabled friendly.
In the case of The Cliffs Pavilion the stalls are easily accessible and so are the bars. Facilities include:
Access seating (wheelchair spaces and a free seat for carer)
Infra-red loop system
Guide dogs allowed
Disabled toilet facilities
As always at theatres when a popular show is being performed, there are never enough toilets, particularly in the case of the ladies' loos. Queuing always seems to be a negative part of the event and actually makes me cross. When I saw Starlight Express I had to rush up some stairs to the toilet trying to beat the queue. Alas. The queue had already formed and trailed outside of the toilets but the queue grew and when I left the toilets the queue was ridiculously long.
Backstage tours can be booked for only two pounds per person.
The theatres also hold quiz nights, comedy nights, open mic events, talent competitions and dinner and dance nights.
We usually drive here from Essex/greater London and this doesn't take too long; usually just under an hour in decent traffic conditions.
Both theatres are on the A13 or A127. Once in Southend the theatres are clearly signposted.
The Cliffs Pavilion has a car park for its patrons which hold eighty cars. We park in a pay and display car park close to the theatre (this has 125 spaces including disabled parking) or below the cliffs on Western Esplanade and then ascend the steps to The Cliffs Pavilion.
Parking for The Palace Theatre isn't quite so easy although a walk of a few minutes duration will find pay and display car parks.
The town of Southend has two rail stations suitable for travel to both theatres. One is Westcliff station, close to The Cliffs Pavilion. The other station is Southend Victoria.
Buses stop close to both theatres.
430 London Road
Southend on Sea
Box Office: 01702 351135
The Cliffs Pavilion building is open every day whereas The Palace Theatre opens when a performance is taking place.
Box Office opening times can be found on the theatre's website.
I find the theatre welcoming and a pleasant setting for shows. It can't compete with the theatres in London's West End in terms of atmosphere but for all round leisure and entertainment facilities, it scores highly, in my opinion, and may do more for its local community than many of London's famous theatres. I feel that Southend Theatres provides a good service and is a valuable asset to the town of Southend-on-Sea as it provides many desirable events for its community.
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Disney On Ice: Passport To Adventure
The Disney on Ice show used to be an annual event that we would always attend as a family. In fact, I had been going to these shows even before I got married and had kids. These days, we get two ice shows a year at the NIA in Birmingham; one in February and one on October. When we attended the Princesses and Heroes show back in February, ... they gave us a priority booking form for the October show, which meant I was able to bag rinkside seats for this performance.
One thing I have learned is not to expect anything from Disney to be cheap! Tickets start at £14 plus booking fees. As we went rinkside, our tickets were in the most expensive band at a whopping £40 each, plus fees.
I should point out, that at the NIA, all of the seats have a good view of the ice. I have sat in the cheaper seats in the past and still had a fantastic experience.
I think that Feld, who run the shows, should be a little more realistic about their pricing. In these harsh economic times, many cannot afford shows like this, and this was reflected in the large numbers of empty seats in the auditorium. Usually, the shows are a sell-out, but I would say that only maybe half of the seats had been taken when we went, which seemed a real shame.
Another gripe I have about pricing is the price of the merchandise available at the show. When you sit down, there are people carrying all sorts of merchandise on poles, including popcorn, toys, candy floss and programmes. they are relying on "pester power" to shift their goods. I was wise and brought my own sweets and drinks, but many people were buying the overpriced £7-per-tub popcorn and £7-per-bag candy floss. Others got stung for the £15 spinning lights, which inevitably break when you get them home (I know this from past experience). The best way to do DOI cheaply is to bring plenty of your own refreshments and some cheap glowsticks from Poundland to keep the kids happy and their eyes off the pricey stuff.
The production is touring the UK, so is going to be at a variety of locations throughout the country. I like the NIA, as it is close to my home and is easily accessible by rail or bus. The NIA is easy to get to and close to the lovely canalside area of Birmingham with its restaurants and canalside cafes.
Entering the NIA was easy. A man at the door scanned our tickets and let us in. We did not have to queue for long as people were entering the building quite quickly.
The layout inside is very simple and it is easy to find your way. The toilet facilities are dotted around the outer rim of the arena and are clean and well maintained. The merchandise stalls are also around the outer area, but it never felt too crowded or claustraphobic.
Finding our seats was simple and a member of staff took our ticket and led us directly to the seat. The staff were friendly and helpful at all times.
The show theme was "Passport to Adventure" and was based on the travels of Mickey and his friends (a common theme in these DOI shows!). Their travels take them to Africa, where we meet the Lion King, Under the Sea for the Little Mermaid, then on to Hawaii for Lilo and Stitch. The last and longest section is set in London, for the story of Peter Pan.
At the start of the show, Mickey and his frinds come out onto the ice. The kids go wild! The Disney costumes are the same ones they use at the theme parks and look amazing.
I like the fact that whenever a character is talking, the other characters make their way to the edge of the ice to wave to and greet the people watching the show. My daughter got so excited when Donald skated up to us and waved!
A dance routine involving skating monkeys paved the way for the first section: The Lion King.
I was expecting a huge production number for the Lion king segment, but it was actually quite quiet and understated. The ice show itself seemed to start small and builds up to a big crescendo at the end, but more about that later....
There were not many characters in this segment, and the main focus was on the two cubs, Simba and Nala. Rafiki the mokey guides us through a very short version of the story and many of the main parts of the story, such as Scar taking over the pride, are left out.
We are then introduced to Timon and Pumbaa, the meerkat and warthog, who provide some comic relief. Again, the costumes are amazing, and I couldn't work out whether there were one or two people in the warthog outfit! They dance to Hakuna matata and weave offstage briefly as the cub Simba is replaced with the adult lion. This leads into a reunion with Nala and a stunning skating sequence to "Can you feel the love tonight". The skaters were flawless and there were many lifts and holds that wowed the audience.
Now I do have a slight gripe about the little mermaid sequence. As someone who regularly attends these events, I like a bit of variety, and i'm afraid that EVERY show I have attended has had a little mermaid sequence. I can understand why, as the undersea theme lends itself very well to the production numbers, but when I watched the sequence, a large part of it had been lifted from previous shows, and much of it felt like recycled material. When customers are paying large amounts of money for tickets, they want something fresh and new.
Nevertheless, I did actually enjoy the sequence immensely. A full-sized Sebastian crab takes to the ice and gets the crowd clapping in anticipation as three large seashells are rolled out onto the rink. We then meet Ariel's mermaid sisters who do a lively routine with the other sea creatures.
I thought it was clever how they staged Ariel's first glimpse of prince Eric. There was a balcony set above the ice and she was looking up at him steering the boat on the balcony.
The "under the sea" sequence was a huge production number, with seahorses, starfish, jellyfish and mermaids all whizzing and skating around the ice. It was really colourful and immersive.
When Ariel and Eric skated together, the sequence did not flow as well as the Simba/Nala sequence, but there were some clever skating moves included, such as when the three mer-men lifted Ariel and it looked as if she was swimming.
The thrilling climax came when a HUGE inflatable Ursula appeared on the ice, only to be defeated and deflated(!) by Eric's spear. Scary stuff indeed for me sitting so close to the ice!
Lilo and Stitch:
I haven't actually seen this movie, but the skaters did good job of telling the story about a little orphan girl from Hawaii who has no friends. She and her big sister adopt what they think is a dog, but turns out to be an alien "experiment" programmed for destruction. Lilo teaches her new friend the value of family and how to be good, as well as teaching him all about Elvis! This leads to some great skating sequences based on Elvis songs which form the soundtrack for this segment of the show.
The Lilo and Stitch section was upbeat, colourful and fun. The alien costumes were great. The skater who played Lilo's sister was very skilled and was able to perform many impressive moves during her section.
Lilo and Stitch ended the first half of the show on a real feel-good high and we couldn't wait for the second half to start.
When we next see Mickey and his friends, they have arrived in London, no, not London as we know it, but the saccharine-sweet, Disney version, complete with Mary poppins-style pearly kings and queens dancing around a cardboard Big ben singing about "London Tahn", along with the friendly neighbourhood "bobby" who had a Dick van Dyke cockney accent!
The whole second half was the story of Peter Pan. Again, the production team made good use of the balcony as the bedroom for the Darling children. We see the parents leave as Peter and Tinkerbell enter the room. Peter is looking for his shadow, and when he finds it, we are treated to a fun-filled skating sequence as Peter chases the shadow around the ice, as Tinkerbell waves and blows kisses to the audience.
The real magic begins when Peter makes the children fly. They slowly make their way over the ice, hooked up to harnesses and wires and it really gives the impression that they are flying.
We then meet the lost boys and the pirates in two more action-packed skating sequences. The skater that played Wendy was mesmerising and probably one of the best skaters in the whole show.
We have a moment of drama when Tinkerbell drinks the poison meant for Peter and the audience have to bring her back to life by showing that they really believe in fairies.
The section climaxes with a battle between Hook and pan, where Hook is finally swallowed up by a massive inflatable crocodile.
The costumes, scenery, skating and props were all absolutely fantastic and the Peter Pan section provided a suitably impressive and entertaining second half, in which the time seemed to fly by.
The whole cast returned to the ice for a final big party number which had everyone in the audience clapping and joining in.
We thoroughly enjoyed Disney on Ice and my daughter said it was the best show we had ever been to.
The skaters are skilled and the dance routines are impressive. The show would appeal to anyone who loves Disney, young or old.
My only slight gripe, as I have mentioned, is the inclusion of "recycled" routines from previous shows.
The way the characters interact with the audience is also really good
I am already planning on booking tickets to the next show, but will probably book the cheaper seats next time, as they still offer a great view of the ice.
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Theatre / Musical National
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Address: Beaumont Street / Theatre / Musical National / Oxford / UK / OX1 2LW / Tel: 01865 305305
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