Musical Theatre Must-See List 2019

pippa sitting in theatre seat, holding up hamilton programme and smiling

New year, new idealistic musical theatre plans…

I haven’t done a post like this before, but after sharing quite a scrappy note of my must-see list on my Instagram stories and seeing people’s curiosity (which made my heart warm: you lot are my FAVES), I decided to share my 2019 must-see musicals list here as well. Everything’s linked by the title, and I hope you find some potential new favourites on there for yourselves too.

I’ll tell you right now that there’s no chance I’m going to see everything on this list, but I’m sure as heck giving it a good go. I’ve known for a while that 2019 was going to be a Good Theatre Year for me, with so many of my all-time favourites heading out on tour and some much-anticipated musicals transferring to the West End. So, if you too are one of the lucky souls living in Yorkshire surrounded by incredible regional theatre, you can find my top picks below. And keep scrolling for some West End highlights (and deals and discounts!) too…  View Post

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2017 Year of the Theatre Wrap-Up

display of theatre programmes and tickets

Back when I spontaneously decided that 2017 would be a Year Of The Theatre, I was completely unaware of just how much of a game-changer this decision would turn out to be. If it hadn’t been for a horrible night of insomnia that had me creating a blog just for something to distract myself with, there isn’t a single aspect of my life right now that would be the same. From my first review that’s so hideously bad that I can’t even bring myself to link it, to my most recent review of the Hairspray UK Tour, I’ve loved every single moment of becoming a theatre blogger.

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42nd Street – Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Expectations: 4.5/5
Reality: 4.5/5
Chronic Illness Friendly: 3.5/5…

Venue (Theatre Royal Drury Lane)

Level access to the theatre via an alternative entrance; a member of staff at the main doors will assist you through this entrance, where you will find a waiting hall reserved for those with additional needs. I found this worked well as a quieter area away from the main foyer, but do note that there are about 10 steps to access the foyer (including the bar). Those in this area were let into the theatre first, which was fab: not only did we avoid the sometimes-overwhelming audience surge from the main doors, I got to be the first one to take my seat. Empty theatres = my absolute fave. More info about the theatre’s accessibility here.

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Cirque du Soleil Varekai Tour: Show Review

Seeing Cirque du Soleil has been right at the top of my bucket list ever since I knew what a bucket list was. I’ve waited patiently for 10+ years to see them, and now that I have, I can officially confirm that it was everything I wanted it to be and that I’m seriously contemplating running away to become some sort of trapeze artist.

We should probably start with a bit of context: when I was younger, I was training to be a professional ballet dancer. Alongside the classical discipline, we had intensive enhancement sessions in other genres outside of dance, to support our development and widen our employability. One of my intensive courses was circus skills training, and I think this is where I first heard about Cirque: the company takes on classical dancers as artists and at that point, it was actually a feasible career possibility. I looked them up and can remember falling in love with their Alegria production. Everything blended so beautifully together, and it was like somebody had taken all of my favourite things and smushed them all together into this beautiful piece of art. Since then, I’ve listened to Cirque’s soundtracks, watched YouTube videos, and even seen a showcase of their performers on holiday one time, but I’d never seen a production. I’d spent years pondering the cheapest way to go abroad and see one.

So fast forward to 2017 and I’m finally seeing a production: not in Las Vegas, not in Mexico, not in Canada, but in good old Sheffield. The next best thing, right? There’s a few parts of my experience that may have been affected by location that I’ll talk about later but ultimately, once Cirque began, I was in the forest where the show Varekai is set, and nowhere else. Hideously cliche, but true.

Varekai, meaning ‘wherever’ in the Romany/Gypsy language, follows on from the Greek myth of Icarus. Icarus, who has fallen from the sky, lands in the forest and has to learn to trust fate to keep moving himself forward. Each act in the show represents a part of his journey and demonstrates how trusting yourself will lead you to where you need to be. So, there’s a moral to the story, subtly intertwined into all the flashy dangerous shenanigans that lets face it, everybody is waiting for.

The first half featured aerial net work, synchronised tumbling, dance trapeze and ended with a Georgian dance performance. And, even after seeing all these terrifying stunts that came before it, the Georgian dance was the real highlight for me. I feel like dance is sometimes overlooked by a lot of people in a show like this but I swear, it was one of the best dance performances I have EVER seen. Michael Montanaro’s choreography was incredible, and the male dancers were doing freaking TRIPLE tours en l’airs like it was no big deal. Which, in normal person speak, translates as they could jump in the air, rotate at speed and probably have time to make a cuppa before they came back down again. Ridiculously good.

The second half featured slippery surface acrobatics, aerial straps, roue cyr (mind-blowing controlled movements with a hoop), sticks and hand balancing, and an acrobatic performance on crutches which really got me thinking. So, if anybody sees me dangling upside down from my wheelchair in the future, you’ll know why. And hopefully you’ll rescue me, because if you’ve seen my wheelchair you’ll know it can barely withstand pavement these days, let alone a wannabe disabled contortionist trying to navigate herself around the Tesco free-from aisle.

The big finale was the Russian Swings acrobatics, also known as the most terrifying thing I have ever witnessed. Acrobats would jump from giant moving swings simultaneously,  somersault through the air whilst narrowly missing each other, and land on the other swing across the stage, which was still moving. It probably doesn’t sound as terrifying in words, but I’m not exaggerating when I say it brought on a mild episode of tachycardia. The show ended whilst I was still recovering from second-hand stress, and I couldn’t believe that two hours had passed by so quickly. Since then I’ve been horizontally reliving the experience (minus the tachycardia) and planning an inevitable road trip around America to see the other shows. Who’s in?

My only (very minor) grievance isn’t a reflection on Cirque, but a reflection on seeing Cirque in Sheffield. I don’t know if it’s just a British thing rather than limited to Sheffield, because I know Cirque isn’t quite as prestigious here as it is in other countries, but I do know that there were a lot of idiots in the audience that night. The warning that not only were photos and electronics prohibited during the show, they were distracting and dangerous to the cast, did naff all. People’s phones and cameras were flashing and beeping all the way through, with seemingly no regard to the person swinging 20 feet above the ground on a trapeze, by the skin of their neck. GAH. I wouldn’t want it on my conscience if somebody got hurt, but clearly doing it for the Instagram was more important to these people. And don’t even get me started on how distracting it is for the rest of the audience too.

ANYWAY *inhales deeply and moves on*, the experience overall was unforgettable. What I loved particularly about Varekai was the creative direction, the subtle but always relevant story, the comedy (which I wasn’t expecting so much of) and the sheer talent of everybody involved, both on and off the stage. It’s almost impossible to describe: it’s not a circus, it’s not so much a performance or a showcase, but more of a unique work of art. Somebody combined dance, creativity, acrobatics, good music, and even some trampolining into a multi-talented company that creates beautiful concepts, and I feel so lucky that I finally got to witness one for myself.

To those who’ve put up with my fangirling over Cirque du Soleil for all of these years and thought seeing a show would bring an end to it, I can only apologise.

Pippa x

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