Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Kids Week Theatre - Wicked, The Tiger who came to Tea & Hairspray

This summer we have been to the theatre three times to see different productions, thanks in the main part to "Kids Week" - the summer extravaganza where kids go free to top London shows. Here is a review of what we went to see. 

A trip to see the West End version of Wicked at the start of the summer was a big treat for the whole family as Hubby, the girls and I ventured into London on a Friday night to watch the green witch do her thing. Eldest and I had been wanting to see Wicked for a long time, and so the option of free kids tickets was too good to pass up. Wicked is the story of how the Wicked Witch of the West turned "Wicked" (if you believe the hype). We had brilliant seats about two thirds of the way back in the stalls. The view was great, with or without the binoculars. Eldest as always sat mesmerised. She knows all of the songs from watching them on you tube, but it was good to see the musical in it's entirety as she didn't know the whole story with all it's twists and turns. Youngest (5) did start to get a bit restless towards the end of the first act, but still enjoyed it very much.  They should have perhaps advertised that this was a kids week show, as there were a few whispers of disgruntlement from some about how many kids were there, and youngest actually got told to "shush" at one point when she was singing along to the Emerald City song she had learnt at school. 

The highlight of the first act was "defying gravity" where the witch flies, which actually took my breath away. Emma Hatton played Elphaba and Sophie Linder Lee played Glinda. Both actresses were understudies for the roles as the main artists were in a change-over period. I was really impressed with their performances. Sometimes major names don't always live up to the hype. These two were a refreshing surprise and played their roles perfectly. Having watched Idina and Kristin as Elphaba and Glinda so much in the original Broadway version, these two were a close second to the chemistry they shared. Their performances really added to the evening. 

The interval was a welcome chance to have a wander round, and also for the girls to go and visit the music pit. They loved learning about where the conductor stood and youngest couldn't believe that there were people under the stage playing the music rather than just a stereo playing. It was a great chance to show them how the theatre works, as they both love music, dancing and singing. Perhaps one day they will be on the stage!

The second act was equally as fantastic. We were so impressed. We loved everything - the cast, the singing, the staging and the costumes. Everything was wonderful, and we had a great evening out. The theatre is located right outside Victoria Station, so quite easy to get to from Kings Cross and Euston.  We found it easy to get there, get in and find our seats. The only down side was the queue for the women's toilets! Perhaps one of the men's needs to be reallocated in the theatre! As expected, drinks and snacks were quite expensive in the theatre, as to be expected in London, but you could take your own if you wanted. 

Kids Week is such a great idea as to pay the best part of two hundred and fifty pounds at least for four top priced tickets to Wicked plus travel and food on top is a bit of a stretch for the average family, but kids week makes this more affordable. It also opens up theatre to the kids, and inspires the nest generation to aspire to be on the stage. My two are very theatrical anyway. Eldest is desperate to see Matilda, and so I think we will save up to see that perhaps at some point after Christmas!

The Tiger who came to Tea

We also booked Kids Week tickets for "The Tiger who came to Tea" as a birthday treat for youngest who turned five this month. I have to say that I wasn't holding my breath, as I thought that a kids theatre show wouldn't be my cup of tea. However, I was really impressed with the show. There are three actors who carry the show "Sophie", "Mummy" and "Daddy" (who also moonlights as the milkman/postman and other characters). Then there is the tiger too. The characters interacted really well with each other, and also with the audience, getting them up and getting them involved. The kids absolutely loved it. Youngest was enthralled and really enjoyed joining in with the actions. It was only about an hour, and I did think the kids could have put up with a bit longer, because just as we got started, it finished, but it was a brilliant production nevertheless, and the tiger was definitely the highlight as the costume was so realistic! We also loved how the set kept changing and was able to transform without moving - very magical for little ones! I would definitely recommend a visit!

In addition to Kids Week, Eldest and I took advantage of a week-long run of an in-house production of Hairspray the Broadway Musical at the Gordon Craig Theatre in Stevenage. I was a bit concerned as to whether the quality would live up to the west-end versions, but with a professional company of actors, I was happily placated. The production was absolutely fantastic. Whilst clearly the set was not up there with a west-end budget, the quality of the performances from the company was brilliant. Particular favourites were Daniel Page who starred as Edna and Fran Fenech who played Tracy. Another brilliant mention goes to Mark Jardine who played Wilbur, His chemistry with Edna was fantastic. Eldest was transfixed, and she literally sang the soundtrack to Hairspray for a week after. It really captured her imagination as it was such a fantastic production. This has inspired me to support local theatre more often!

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