I’m hoping that my output will be fairly steady as the week progresses – I have a fair few ideas, but it’s mostly motivation that I’m concerned about. So, just to be sure, I’ve decided that writing a little something up here each day is a good way to start! This should also help you keep tabs on what I’ve got up to in one handy place – for example, checking the link to my Instagram stories for all the latest updates.
Saturday 4 January 2020
As I’m starting off the year in a crazy way, I thought the least I could do was give myself a leisurely start to the week – particularly as I’ve brought a cold back (thanks, Grandma) and am doing my best to keep it at the level of ‘mildly irritating’. Instead of rushing to the cinema or doing a two-show day, as I’d briefly considered doing, I spent most of the day acclimatising to London and trying to plan out the rest of the week; if I’d been really proactive I’d have started writing up some other posts to help myself out in a few days’ time, but baby steps on day one are absolutely acceptable. I did at least get my first post of the week written up: a collection of a load of the musicals that will be produced this year, culminating in my top five recommendations. I didn’t realise there were going to be quite so many new musicals this year! Even if most of them aren’t all that inspiring to someone who’s a bit bored of films being adapted for the stage…
My very first show of 2020 (can you believe I was last in a theatre on 17 December 2019?!) was SpitLip’s tremendous Operation Mincemeat in The Little at Southwark Playhouse. I just about managed to grab a ticket to this when it was at the New Diorama over the summer, and kicked myself then for leaving it so late – history repeated itself when this current run sold out before I could buy a ticket to a second show. It’s back in May (and in The Large), and I’ve literally just booked myself into two shows for that run; I’ll be keeping an eye on the seating plans with a view to adding a third in there to really make the most of it.
Basically, if you haven’t seen it already or don’t have a ticket for either of its runs at Southwark, you really are missing out. People have called Six the British Hamilton, but I think Operation Mincemeat fits the bill far better; the songs are ridiculously catchy, it’s effortlessly funny, and the whole thing is really intelligently written. Not only that, but it’s also rather educational, as this is a forgotten bit of history after all (until the announced feature film about the operation is released in the coming months, that is). I see no reason why it shouldn’t continue to develop and find itself in bigger & bigger theatres.
Today’s show: Operation Mincemeat, Southwark Playhouse
Track of the day: This Time Tomorrow from Sunny Afternoon
Sunday 5 January 2020
Staying up late equals a later start to the day than planned… Not helpful when you need to get from south east London to Wembley for a 2pm matinée! But I made it with relative ease – and, unlike when I was last there for Sleepless before Christmas, the box office queue wasn’t a mile long so my panic about that was completely unfounded. One of these days I’ll see a show there and arrive in enough time to check out the refreshments, but today it was fine just to get there with a moment to spare for a pre-show comfort break to be honest…
I’ve only ever seen Fame once, and that was a college production so you never know what gets changed for those – plus it was a few years ago now so I could only really remember the barest of plot points anyway. The pricing may have put people off a bit, as the front few blocks where I was sat were quite sparse, which doesn’t make you feel comfortable enough to laugh too loudly in case it rings out into an empty space. You’d think a bit of reshuffling or some price-cutting would come in handy here, so as not to demoralise the cast if all they can see are the front few rows, but apparently not. I had a good time anyway.
My Sunday night watching of La La Land had to be delayed a bit, as I had to get my review written (plus nothing gets in the way of Doctor Who), but it’s a nice way to round off the weekend part of musicals week! And hopefully will anaesthetise me before my first day back at work tomorrow… A long break is nice, but you can get too used to it.
Today’s show: Fame the Musical, Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre
Track of the day: A Musical from Something Rotten
Monday 6 January 2020
Back to work! This is where the balancing act really kicks in, as I need to be able to do the job that I’m actually paid for as well as get some posts out – and go to the theatre, of course… As this was my first day back at work after Christmas my planned blog email purge had to be put on hold; there were almost 100 messages in my work inbox, so by the time I’d dealt with that I really didn’t fancy getting elbow-deep in another inbox. Especially as I ended up emailing the wrong person about something – thankfully it didn’t annoy them, but needless to say I took that as a sign that I should leave the rest of my emails for 24 hours!
I’m doing my best to take more lunch breaks this year (it’s very easy to just offset any time spent on social media and/or writing with a lunch hour), so I did my daily 15-minute Duolingo burst – focusing on Italian for now, leaving Welsh and Latin on the back-burner – and did a bit of booking… A new allocation of Hamilton tickets went on sale today, so come April I’ll finally be back in the room where it happens, plus I sorted myself out for Sarfraz Manzoor’s talk about Blinded by the Light & Bruce Springsteen while I was thinking about it. Work was less productive in the afternoon, but that’s to be expected, and then there was just time for me to write up a rambling piece about stunt casting before heading out to the theatre in the evening…
It definitely wouldn’t have been right for me to go through the week without a slice of Musicals Week Pie; I accidentally timed my return to Waitress with Marisha Wallace’s, plus it meant I could see a selection of newbies: Hannah Tointon is a delightfully goofy Dawn, Rosemary Nkrumah is as sassy as you’d hope for a Nurse Norma, and Joel Montague stole the show as the latest Ogie. More understudy fun, too, as Piers Bate was covering Earl tonight – I saw him as Dr Pomatter a few months ago, so it was really interesting to see him in a polar opposite role, and really menacing at that. I adore this show.
Today’s show: Waitress the Musical, Adelphi Theatre
Track of the day: Step One from Kinky Boots
Tuesday 7 January 2020
Slightly less groggy this morning; the cold seems to be slowly shifting, and my body realising that yes, it does have to get up at 6am every day. I even managed to make it into the office a teeny bit earlier! (We are still at the baby steps stage, people. Writing and going out every day takes its toll, y’know.) Again I chickened out of my blog emails, instead making the most of being remarkably well motivated towards my work tasks – it’s amazing how that can happen when you’re left to get on with things and aren’t pestered all that much – and, of course, getting the lunchtime Italian lesson in. After booking a ticket to the Almeida’s The Duchess of Malfi – bring on the blood!
All quiet on the Western Front this afternoon, so I made the most of it by listening to the Stephen Ward cast recording for an instalment of #MissedTheBoat while I got on with my work. I do wonder if that could be considered an act of self-harm? Perhaps not – it wasn’t quite as bad as I expected, just a little dull and unimaginative. No doubt it would have helped to have heard it as part of the show rather than through a recording, as you often lose something when it’s recorded (or perhaps you gain something when it’s live?), but even that wouldn’t have changed the compositions and ALW’s outlook.
It was great to pass the halfway point by returning to Matilda tonight – by sheer chance, I ended up seeing exactly the same Matilda as I did back in May last year (Zoe Simon). Though I do enjoy seeing as many different cast members as possible, it was lovely to see how well she’s settled into the role over the past few months. I also got another sassy Bruce Bogtrotter, courtesy of Tom Brown (he absolutely nailed Revolting Children). I was lucky enough to see Tim Minchin on his comeback tour last autumn, and he played When I Grow Up as part of his encore; it’s a song that’s guaranteed to leave you misty-eyed anyway, but the memory of that unexpected performance combined with the beautiful production version to leave me more than a little emotional. The person behind me even stopping kicking me in the back for a few minutes and let me really enjoy the song…
Today’s show: Matilda the Musical, Cambridge Theatre
Track of the day: Where Are We Now from Lazarus
Wednesday 8 January 2020
I’m getting less and less sleep, but somehow I managed to wake up this morning actually feeling awake – and it was a tad earlier than usual as I had the joy of washing my hair before going into work (no, I’m not one of those sickos who washes their hair every day). I was feeling so awake that I managed to motivate myself to get through my blog emails at last! It was easier than anticipated thanks to a lot of them being last-minute invites sent out in December which didn’t need any response, and many others clashing with commitments I’ve already made so requiring a brief ‘no, thank you’. VAULT Festival invites are also accumulating, but I’m waiting until I can go through the schedule before I tackle that set.
As there’s a big course going on at work tomorrow, I ended up more overwhelmed by work than I expected, which ate into my writing time (and wore my brain out, for good measure). I’m quite proud that it’s taken until day 5 for my first slip up, considering what nightmares my last two challenge weeks ended up being! I’ll hopefully have time to make up for this tomorrow anyway, as I should be sat in a corner somewhere once the course gets going. That’s the theory…
I was slightly gutted that I booked in my evening before learning the line-up for Kooman & Dimond’s cabaret downstairs at The Other Palace, as Marc Antolin & Carly Bawden of Romantics Anonymous were performing – luckily enough, my plans were upstairs at The Other Palace, so I happily ended up bumping into Marc after my show was done and could hear how things are going in the rehearsal room. I couldn’t have gone through musicals week without Amélie (another happy place for me); I’m really pleased with how my week has stacked up, it’s been top quality so far. I found myself back in the front row, but over on the opposite side so I could get a different view of things – it was so good to be back, though I can’t quite believe it closes in a few weeks!
The shine was slightly taken off my night as a creepy guy kept badgering me on the train (while a fellow woman sat not too far away ignoring what was going on – she didn’t have headphones in, so thanks for making me feel less safe), but my loud “fuck off” eventually did the trick. Men, please, stop being creeps.
Today’s show: Amélie, The Other Palace
Track of the day: Electricity from Billy Elliot
Thursday 9 January 2020
If I tell you that I’d amassed 10,000 steps before lunch, that should give some indication as to the kind of day I’ve had… I won’t bore you with the details, but it did provide me with some sweet smugness about the need for downtime to develop programme paperwork, a larger team, and people to read emails properly. Ordinarily this kind of thing would have definitely frazzled me, and likely reduced me to tears (especially as I had no other member of the team there to provide specific support), but I was oddly calm and matter-of-fact about it. I guess the fact that none of the problems were my fault filtered through and my body just decided it wasn’t worth the effort to get all worked up about it.
I didn’t end up having my quiet corner to sit in (when I even got a moment to actually sit down), but when things settled down a bit in the afternoon I at least had a chance to finish up another #MissedTheBoat post – this time about Billy Elliot. Going into today, the thing I was most anxious about was transport: firstly getting into work early to get everything set up, and secondly getting to Croydon during the latter stages of rush hour. And those ended up being the smoothest parts of my day!
It was nice to get a press night into this challenge week (to take the pressure off my bank balance, as much as anything!), and I’m glad that Once got the chance to go out on the road, as I missed this production when it ran at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch last year. I realised that I’d only ever seen the show twice before when it was in the West End; I listened to the Broadway cast recording a lot around that time so it probably felt like more – I would have gone more often had they not cast Ronan fecking Keating to close out the run. I did enjoy this slightly tweaked version, though the highlight of my night actually came at the interval when my friend asked the very large man sat next to me to stop using his phone during the show – he responded by telling her to stop threatening him, and to wind her neck in as she had picked the wrong person to mess with. He switched places with his wife(?) for the second half to be one seat further away from my friend. Ah, the fragile male ego…
What I really wasn’t keen on, after a morning alarm call of 5.50am, was an almost 2.5-hour journey from the theatre to my house. Delays & the layout of Victoria station meant I just missed my connection, leading to a 30-minute wait, and then a 12-minute delay came when my train changed its destination two minutes before its planned departure; ah, the terrible transport infrastructure south of the river… My favourite.
Today’s show: Once, Fairfield Halls (Ashcroft Theatre)
Track of the day: I Didn’t Plan It from Waitress
Friday 10 January 2020
I made it to the end of the week! Absolutely exhausted from yesterday – I think it must have been adrenaline getting me through those 15,000+ steps and a very long day, which meant I was definitely feeling the after-effects today. At least I’d already warned my colleagues that I probably wouldn’t be that productive, so they weren’t expecting that much from me! Annoyingly I’ve had a bit of a background headache knocking about all day, and combining that with tiredness meant this was my first slightly grouchy day this year, which is something of an achievement.
There was time for me to keep up with my Italian (I’m still baffled by some of the example sentences Duolingo provides) and catch up on overdue writing, although I’d completely forgotten that I’d booked something for the afternoon to go to before my show… To save me either coming into town at the weekend or having to squeeze it in another time before a show, I chose my last challenge week afternoon to go to the National Portrait Gallery for the Pre-Raphaelite Sisters exhibition! Despite it being a bit of a rush to have an early ‘dinner’ and hop on the Bakerloo line, I’m glad that I made time for it; the Pre-Raphaelites are my absolute favourites, so it was nice to see the amazing women in their lives get an overdue moment in the spotlight. I especially enjoyed this quote from Joanna Boyce Wells: “I have a talent and the constant impulse to employ it, for the love of it and the longing to work… and no man has a right to say that that is to be unheeded.”
Now, I thought I would like Mary Poppins, but wondered if it might be a bit too much for me to really go for… Wrong! Judging by what some people I know have said, it may have been to my advantage that I’ve only ever seen the film once – and that was when I was rather young, so couldn’t really remember much of it – and have certainly never read the books. There’s room for every type of show in the West End, and it was certainly crying out for a good old-fashioned musical before this came along! (Think about it, it’s mostly Broadway imports or jukebox jobs on the musical side of things now.) It just made me so happy to see all these barnstorming numbers and big song & dance routines performed with such enthusiasm. And I have definitely missed Charlie Stemp’s presence! What a way to round off the week.
Today’s show: Mary Poppins, Prince Edward Theatre
Track of the day: Pick Out A Simple Tune from Half a Sixpence