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Ian Cheeseman: Break-a-Leg

Ian with Sara Poyser, Donna from Mamma Mia

What a week! I’ve just spent a few days down in the West End enjoying several big Musicals. It can be very expensive to enjoy an experience like that, though with a bit of creativity in ticket buying, driving down rather than going by train and cheap hotels, it is possible.

My four-day extravaganza started with Cruel Intentions at “The Other Palace”, a small, intimate theatre. We were three rows from the front in a venue with just 312 seats, which is just 82 more than Hyde Festival Theatre. I think it’s fair to describe the experience as intimate. Those on the front row could probable see up the actor’s noses!

The show is described as a story about step-siblings Sebastian and Kathryn, manipulative monsters flushed by their own sexual prowess. It’s a juke box musical, as so many are these days, played against a soundtrack of 90s tunes like Genie in a Bottle, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Britney Spear’s Sometimes. The show had a “Heathers” vibe and is based on the film of the same name that starred Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon. I enjoyed it, but not as much as the other shows still to come.

Day two took us to the Old Vic, a theatre I’d heard about but not visited before. Just for One Day is a Musical based on the story of Band Aid and Live Aid told through the eyes of Bob Geldof, played by Craige Els and features a soundtrack of the songs of that huge concert which everyone alive in 1985 watched. The entire cast seemed to be on stage throughout and they all got a chance to show off their amazing singing talents. I really enjoyed the nostalgic trip back to those times. It was moving as well as entertaining and my 28-year-old son, who hadn’t been born back then, found it educational as well as entertaining. The show was on a relatively short run, in fact it’s finished now. I hope it tours and more people get that chance to see it.

Later that evening, we were at the Piccadilly Theatre for Moulin Rouge, our third juke box musical in a row. I’d seen this one before, but my wife and son hadn’t. They were immediately impressed by the way the theatre was fully immersive. There was a giant windmill and elephant on the sides of the theatre and the front couple of rows have been redesigned to look like the inside of the famous night club in Paris.

The show was full on. It felt like no expense was spared and the opening montage which introduced us to the Moulin Rouge was amazing. Familiar songs like Elton John’s Your Song, Madonna’s Like a Virgin and Katy Perry’s Firework are threaded throughout. It’s a wonderful show which I’d highly recommend to anyone if you get the chance to visit the capital, on a theatre trip.

The next day was another double show day with MJ the Musical first up. I can’t deny that I’m a big fan of the music of Michael Jackson and this one didn’t disappoint. The night before had been the official opening night, attended by Jackson’s children. I read reviews that criticised the Jackson story for not delving into the allegations made about his private life. Instead the story focused on Jackson’s rise to fame and conclude with the Dangerous Tour. Myles Frost as the older Jackson and Mitchell Zhangazha as the younger version were brilliant. It’s another show I’d highly recommend.

Our evening show was the comedy musical Mrs Doubtfire. Gabriel Vick, as the titular character, was brilliant and our final show was the original and best juke box musical Mamma Mia! which I’ll write more about next week.

Among my guests on this week’s Break-a-Leg radio show are Sara Poyser, who has possibly played Donna in Mamma Mia! more times than anyone else. Join me from 7pm Sunday or 9pm Wednesday for Break-a-Leg!

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