Monthly Archives: March 2014

3 Musicals and an Opera

I’ve been busy taking in some culture this past month, seeing three musicals and an opera..

IMG_42751. Urinetown the Musical – this is the London premiere of the Emmy-winning musical. I saw this one on Broadway back in November 2003, and wasn’t particularly wowed by it back then. The story takes place in a future where water is so rare, people have to pay to pee. Its a fable of freedom and revolution, with broadly drawn characters and a satirical bent. The lead hero is played by a hot and buff Richard Fleeshman. This production was much edgier than the Broadway version, owing lots of its graphic imagery to the Walking Dead and Blair Witch Project, with blood splattered all over the cast and deadened wraiths hanging out on the set. The St. James Theatre has a strong pitch, so every seat feels close to the stage. I would check this out before it closes in May.

2. The Commitments – Jukebox musicals aren’t my thing, but I loved the movie back in the day, buying both soundtracks, so I wanted to check it out. Scoring half price tickets at TKTS in Liecester Square didn’t hurt. If you aren’t used to thick Irish accents and aren’t familiar with UK and Irish culture, a lot of the dialogue will fly by you, but the music and the performances are really what you’re there for and they don’t disappoint. A young, exuberant cast delivers fun performances. Worth seeing if you get the reduced tickets, otherwise enjoy the movie.

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3. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – I had caught this one too on Broadway, back in February 2006, with Jonathan Pryce and a younger Norbert Leo Butz (and Joanna Gleason), and had vaguely fond memories, but no real stand-out songs. A hallmark of a good musical in my view is for at least 1 or 2 songs to be memorable once you leave the theatre, and ideally a yearning to buy the cast recording to re-experience the magic. This production has some pretty big UK stars in it – Robert Lindsay and Rufus Hound play the leads, and do fine jobs indeed. The biggest name for US (and global audiences) is Samantha Bond, who plays Lady Rosamund on Downton Abbey (the aunt who gets Edith out of trouble). Packed with laughs, the musical is a lot of fun, with memorable numbers “Give Them What They Want” and “Great Big Stuff.”

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IMG_41684. La Boheme – Last but not least, I took my friend Adam to see the opera at Royal Albert Hall for his birthday. The Hall itself is grand – probably the most incredible venue in which I’ve seen a production.  A very approachable opera for most people, given its popularization as “Rent” – so many of the musical’s scenes have their corollary in the opera, the most endearing for me is the candle scene when Mimi and Rodolfo meet. This production in the round was spectacular – around 95 people in the company,  with spectacular sets and lots to look at. The chorus members have little stories of their own, and it made me think that opera is in its way ‘live transmedia’ in that all of these little parallel stories are playing out on the stage at the same time as the main narrative – something that

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online transmedia so often tries to accomplish with side-stories and narrative tangents. If visiting London, I would really recommend seeing just about anything at Royal Albert Hall, it is such a magnificent venue.

Which London musicals, West End or otherwise, have you seen lately and would you recommend it?

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Spring has Sprung at the Serpentine

When I lived in New York City, there was always that first Spring weekend, when Central Park would explode in people out running, biking, and enjoying the returning warm weather – that day in the Park was always one of the best days of any year. Yesterday was my first ‘London’s first warm weekend day,’ and Hyde Park did not disappoint.
My friend Ian and I spent most of the day around the Serpentine, the large lake inside the center of the park. We found a spot at the Serpentine Bar & Kitchen which was a bit challenging given how crowded it was. You have to put your order in at the queue, and they deliver your food to your table – the waits were a bit long, but understandable. We passed on the pizzas (the looked good) and stuck to a few pitches of Pimms & Lemonade – a perfectly sweet cool drink for the warm day.

20140310-105731.jpgWe had good intentions to rent a rowboat (no paddle boats for us real men), but were undone by another long queue.
Instead we took a walk around the lake, finding the Princess Diana memorial fountain. This is a granite fountain at low ground level which is designed to have your feet dangling into it and feel the water rush past as you relax. Signs admonish you not to actually walk in it – but lots of people and little kids were ignoring that bit.
We stopped at the Lido Restaurant, ordered a few more bottles of rose, with the full intention to head back to the boats – alas when we did, it turned out they were closing up for the day, so no rowing for us – not that I minded to be honest, the strenuous activity inconsistent with the overall relaxation of the day. We will try again another time, as they certainly looked fun, giving a great vantage point from the center of the lake.

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Bulldog Sunday (no BS) at Kensington Gardens

I finally got a chance to take the dogs on a long run this morning to Kensington Gardens. Less than a mile from house, Kensington Gardens is the western part of Hyde Park, the Central Park of London. So named as they are the gardens around Kensington Palace. I’ve always liked Kensington side of Hyde Park, as there are great running paths and the trees make the park seem quite different in winter or summer – the leaf-less trees open up the park in the winter, and create great foliage-filled canopies in summer.

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Running selfie in Kensington Gardens Summer 2013

Running selfie in Kensington Gardens Summer 2013

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Most of the trees are still bare this time of year, but some flowers are fighting their way out as spring isnt too far away, and we’ve been deluged with water which must be helping the early flowering.IMG_4157
As we hit the inside of the park, we stumbled upon a not-so-random gathering – of bulldogs, lots and lots of bulldogs. On the first Sunday of every month, bulldog owners from London meet up and share information about the breed – and let their little babies run and play together. It drew quite a crowd as the sight of about 30 or so of the little guys snorting and cavorting is quite humorous.

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Turns out the group has been meeting every Sunday for the past 6 years – and during the summer can get up to 60 dogs per meet-up.

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Lucy felt quite tall amongst the crowd of bulldogs and had a blast meeting the little guys… there was a wide mix of breeds and types. Ronnie stayed on leash and didn’t quite to know what to make of it. In all, a fun visit to the park on a lovely Sunday morning.

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March 2, 2014 · 6:21 pm