On Tuesday afternoon on my walk home after my run I was listening to the Alison Rosen is Your New Best Friend podcast and guest Riki Lindhome was talking about her recent trip to London. She said she saw a bunch of West End shows and Gypsy was her favorite. Now I’ve seen posters and ads for Gypsy starring Imelda Staunton (aka Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter) for months now and had no desire to see it. I was not very familiar with the music or plot (something about strippers?) and I’ve realized over the years that I prefer plays to musicals. (I just did the math and only 9 of the 30 London shows I’ve seen have been musicals. Although I guess that’s kind of a lot for someone who says she doesn’t prefer them.) But for some reason the moment I heard Riki Lindhome gushing about how great the show and Imelda Staunton were, I decided right then and there I was going to go see the show as soon as possible (which meant the next day matinee).
So yesterday morning I went down to the Savoy Theatre and queued for day seats. Fun fact: of those 9 musicals I’ve seen in London, I only got day seats for 2 of them: Viva Forever and Wicked. There’s a reason for this. Musical day seats aren’t always available, and when they are they’re usually more expensive, more in demand and not always front row. For Gypsy I paid £25 to be in the 4th row of the grand circle (which is the nice way of saying the highest balcony section. There is even a separate entrance so the posh stalls folks don’t have to deal with us grand circle peasants). The Savoy is rather small so I still had a good view of all the action and did not get a nosebleed, however it was hard for me to fork over £25 when just last week I paid £10 to see Nicole Kidman in Photograph 51 from the second row. Still, I’m glad I went and Riki Lindhome was right — Imelda Staunton was amazing! I had no idea Dolores Umbridge could sing that well.
Although I’m an introvert who dreads the idea of small talk, I’m always glad when I talk to my fellow day seaters. Theatre people are a unique breed. I never really thought of myself as one of them, but now that I’ve got 31 London shows under my belt I can’t deny it. During the Gypsy interval the woman from Vancouver on my left and the women from the Midlands, England on my right and I had your typical theatre geek conversation that goes like this:
Have you seen InsertWestEndShowHere?
Answer 1: Yes, it’s brilliant!
Answer 2: No, but I want to. Have you?
Yes, it’s brilliant! InsertActorNameHere is brilliant!
Answer 1: PretendToUnderstandWhoSaidActorIsAndAgree
Answer 2: Oh yes, I saw him in InsertShowHere and he was brilliant!
Repeat with every single show currently playing in the West End.
I joke about it, but I actually enjoy that type of conversation. These women were probably a good 30 years older than me, but that only showed when they mentioned shows or actors from before my time. It was nice to be able to talk about something that wasn’t “What do you do?” or “How do you like London?” I wish I could have talked to the lady from the Midlands more, because I overheard her talking to the gentleman queuing next to her in the morning about living and working in China, but I was a few people back, and now that I was sitting next to her in the show couldn’t just say, “Yes, Nicole Kidman was brilliant. You know what else I bet is brilliant? Living in China, amiright?” This woman may have been way more outspoken and oversharing than your typical English woman, but there are still UK conversation etiquette rules.
Now that it’s October and with a few blinks it’ll be November and then Thanksgiving, theatre FOMO (fear of missing out — isn’t that what the kids are saying these days? I wouldn’t know since I’m basically a 60-year-old woman who lives at matinees) is kicking in full force and I’m trying to squeeze in all the shows I want to see that are closing soon. I’m really glad I caught Photograph 51 with Nicole Kidman. Not only was her acting brilliant, but the story about the discovery of the structure of DNA has been something that’s interested me since high school biology class. Although it was sad — my first thought after the show was “I have to tell Mr. W (my high school biology teacher) about this, he would love it!” and then I remembered he passed away almost a year ago. The older woman sitting next to me at the show asked me if I knew much about the story. I told her I studied it in school. She laughed and said when she was in school they barely knew what DNA and chromosomes were. It’s amazing how much science can change over 50 years.
I’m currently at 8 shows for 2015. I hit 9 last year (and in 2013), so I only need to see 1 more to tie the record, 2 to break it. I think I can manage that.