London Culture Vulture Day 1
Well after what can only be described as a terrible first half to the year, I decided I was going to treat myself to an overnight stay and a bit of culture in one of my favourite UK Cities, London!
Immersing myself in the sights, sounds and culture of this vibrant city always help to clear my hand and not focus on whatever is happening elsewhere. Because I did so much in my time there, this blog will be split into two to cover each day of my London trip.
Where to start with this first day in London, after an early morning start for the train with complimentary first class breakfast my official London visit started at 8am on Friday 23rd May. Early you may think, but one with a purpose in mind, queuing for the release of day seats to the biggest show to hit the West End this year, Miss Saigon! A limited number of front row stalls tickets are released every morning, and even three weeks into the run people have been waiting from 6am to buy them, luckily by the time I got there just after 8am only two others were in the queue meaning I’d be one of the lucky ones seeing it that night!
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the show, Miss Saigon is a modern restaging of Puccini’s Opera Madame Butterfly, with the setting moved to Saigon during the last days of the Vietnam War in 1975. The show originated in 1989, and has been restaged for its 25th anniversary. It’s well known the world over for launching the career of Lea Salonga, and for the use of a real helicopter in the theatre (more on this aspect of the show later)
Before I begin with my review of that evenings show, it seems appropriate to cover the rest of my day in London. As mentioned above I love visiting London, and it always clears my head this visit being my sixth so far this year!
After getting the ticket I decided to do a bit of a shopping/window shopping trip and see some of the sights, but first stop was for a few cupcakes from the famous Hummingbird Bakery in Soho just a short walk from the Prince Edward theatre. If you haven’t been before then do visit, as they are some of the best cakes ever and the service is some of the best I’ve ever had in London. Tip is to follow them on Facebook as on a Friday they offer a 2 for 1 when you buy a red velvet cupcake, if you like and share their status that day.
A small spot of shopping, lunch and the first Pimm’s of the summer later, and it was time to check into the hotel. Which was perfect as it backed onto the British Museum and was within walking distance to the theatre. Following a quick change, and a bite to eat it was time to see the show. To say I was excited was an understatement beyond words; I’ve grown up knowing of this show and listening to the soundtrack for as long as I can remember now it was time to see it and from the front row as well!
A quick stop at the merchandise counter buying a programme (would be useful after the show), a London 2014 Miss Saigon keyring and a tote bag and it was time to take my seat. Even before the orchestra right in front of my seat played the first note of music, it was time to admire the set dressing that had gone on around the stage. This was done not only on the stage as well, but around it as well with bamboo recreating the feel of the houses, and lots of lanterns adding a feel to the whole show. Finally it was time for the lights to come up, and what can I say for the whole 2 hours 40 minutes, the show took me on one major emotional roller coaster after another.
From start to finish the acting, the music, the choreography were utterly perfect with all members of the cast looking like they were enjoying being up there performing the well known tracks. The casting was superb, with Eva Noblezada as Kim only being 17 years old with the vocal range and confidence of someone much older. Especially as this was her first professional role, as she has come straight from high school in the States!
Standouts of the cast included Rachelle Ann Go as Gigi singing the “movie in my mind”, Jon Jon Briones in the famous role of the Engineer with his version of “The American Dream”. Hugh Maynard as John was fantastically cast kick-starting the second act with the emotionally charged “Bui Doi” (Meaning the dust of life), a central aspect to the second half of the show’s plot. And what of the lead actor playing Chris, the other part of the major love story of the plot. Alistair Brammer who plays him was superbly well cast in this role, having learnt his musical background in both Joseph and the Amazing Dreamcoat, and as Marius in Les Miserables 25th anniversary year who as well as being a great singer and actor, is a fantastic piece of eye candy for the ladies in the audience
This was my second time seeing Hugh perform in a show, and the third seeing Alistair perform and both just gotten better as the year’s have progressed. So what of the famous set pieces? Well the helicopter still makes it’s appearance, (spoiler here!) although it does start as a piece of holographic visual before revealing a real helicopter. Being on the front row it really felt like you were part of the stage when this appeared, and the propellers roared. Another awesome set piece was a pink Cadillac during the American Dream number, and what an utterly emotional ending. All in all a fantastic show, and as I write this five days later this show is still filling my head, and making me listen to the soundtrack repeatedly. If you don’t know already some lyrics have been changed in key songs, and Ellen (the wife of Chris) has a song to sing replacing her most famous number from the original production.
Being the true west end fan that I am, it was only fitting that I join the crowds at stage door and got the chance to meet the cast. Due to the nature of the production consisting of 18 different nationalities, many of them being from the Philippines there were a lot of Filipinos at stage door waiting for Rachelle Ann Go (a huge pop star back home). The cast came out within fifteen minutes of show ending (a West End rarity), and were more than accommodating with autographs, and photos for those who wanted it. This time I refrained from photos with the cast, but next time I’m back I will most definitely be making sure I have a photo with them all.
All in all and a fantastic night, and one I can’t recommend enough. Just be prepared to expect to meet me in the day queue for tickets time and again! J My next blog about the rest of my London visit will be with you all soon!
If you want to contact me then do get in touch at Audrey@handlewithcake.co.uk