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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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