Dan’s Top 10 London Weekend Breaks with Show
We discovered Dan Chadders at the stage door of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. We took him in, clothed him, fed him and put a theatre roof over his head. Over the past 17 years he has seen more than his fair share of shows. So we thought it might be interesting to get him to look over the current crop of shows and tell us what shows are in his Top 10 and why he thinks they would make a great highlight to any London weekend breaks with show.
So over to you Dan! BTW did we warn you that before we found him he used to be a DJ?
10 Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Hi Theatre Breakers and straight in at number 10 we have Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Yes I know it is no longer on in London, but I absolutely loved the show and it was the perfect choice when I was looking round for a Birthday treat for the twins! Theatre Breaks have let me start off my top 10 with it because, although it is not on in London any more, it is touring in 2016, starting off in Leeds this Christmas then going on to Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Southampton and Dublin amongst others. I know it is a long way ahead but I couldn’t miss it out!
9. The Phantom of the Opera
For the next break-tastic show we are in London and, at 9, it is what epitomises London weekend breaks with show! Yes the Grand Daddy of them all: Phantom of the Opera. My Mum and Dad took us to see this one when I was 16. I didn’t really want to go, but so glad I did – I think it was this show that started my love of theatre. The start of the second act when they are all coming down the steps in their mascarade costumes: WOW!
8. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time
At number 8 is a relative new-comer and it is our first play of the list. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is all about the importance of not forgetting the how the theatre allows you to do something different when telling a story. Just recreating the events of a book or a film is lazy in my mind. Trying to get the audience to understand what it is like in the mind of a kid with aspergers in a way that you cannot in a film or in the book is what, for me, makes for a good show!
You might have guessed that I like my theatre to take a bit of a gamble. So you wont be surprised to hear that, at number 7, is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats. “How can you do a musical about cats?” was the question on everyone’s lips in the 80’s. By breaking down the fourth wall and shrinking the audience down to the size of a pussy cat! That’s how! The lycra might have had something to do with it as well. It’s back in London now and is a perfect treat for anyone – family, friends, colleagues.
6. The Globe
Number 6 is anything at the Globe Theatre. Shakespeare’s Globe theatre was reconstructed on the Southbank by Sam Wanamaker. A labour of love, he gave the city something to remember him by and every time I want a bit of culture I’ll pay my £5 and stand where the peasants have been standing for the last 400 years: at the feet of the actors! It’s not comfortable but by gosh does it get to you and for a fiver you can’t get more theatrical value in London.
5 is not for me, it is for my mum. Beautiful is the story of Carole King, the lady who wrote every single song ever sung… well that is what it seemed like to me! Like Sunny Afternoon does for The Kinks, or Jersey Boys does for Frankie Valli, it tells the story of the rise to fame of its subject – Ms King in this case. They are all interesting, warts-and-all stories and they have some fantastic songs and you come out feeling you’ve seen a proper West End musical but most importantly they all answer the question: “What can we get for Mum and Dad for Christmas/Birthday/their anniversary?! Answer: The Kinks for dad, Beautiful for mum and Jersey Boys for both of them!
4. The Woman in Black
Now it’s getting interesting! Number 4 is The Woman in Black. This is a thriller and a proper scary one at that. With little more than a few props, two actors and some clever lighting, The Woman in Black succeeds in doing what the multi million dollar movie did, only better! I repeat: good theatre is theatre which does stuff to the audience that books and films can’t and in ways that films and books can’t. Yes it is only part of your London weekend break with show, but in my mind, it should be the part you remember for the longest! You will remember The Woman in Black!
3. Billy Elliot
At 3: If you are going to steal an idea from a film, make sure you do it well! Billy Elliot – the musical ticks all my boxes. It is imaginative, it is theatrical, the songs don’t get in the way and actually give the audience an insight into the characters and the action beyond mere words. You are made to care about the characters and they all have good “journeys”.
It is also a surprising show in that it gives the audience much more than the film, so you don’t get the feeling that you’ve seen it before if you watch it after having watched the film… I hope that makes sense.
In a desperate attempt to get 11 shows into my top 10, there is a tie for second: two shows that come from the pens of some seriously funny people: Tim Minchin and the double act that is Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Yes I couldn’t choose between Matilda and The Book of Mormon for great London weekend breaks with show.
=2. The Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon is not really a challenging piece of theatre. It is even quite puerile. But Parker and Stone set out to make it that way and they succeeded with bells on. It is their complete and utter success in creating what they set out to create that makes this worthy of its position in the charts. It is also the only one in the list which quite clearly you should not take children to. Firstly they wouldn’t get many of the jokes and secondly you wouldn’t want them to hear you laughing at all that filthy humour! The truly amazing thing about the show is that it pokes fun at the Mormons in such an alarming way but still leaves you with the feeling that Parker and Stone like them a lot! You will certainly leave the theatre liking our unlikely heros.
What Tim Minchin manages to do with Matilda is bring the very essence of Roald Dahl to the stage. I can’t help thinking that maybe Matilda is Minchin’s own role model – it is his love for her and her story that comes through the staging and the music. By the way: don’t be fooled by the music. It is more complicated than you might think but more accessible than you could imagine – a proper sophisticated West End show! Now that is a special power.
So, at number one, the show that if you could only see one show ever then you should see this one… oh I know you are going to be disappointed and you will think it is a terrible anticlimax and I know you were expecting a more esoteric choice, but isn’t that what good theatre should do? talk to everyone? So it should be of no surprise that my favourite show for a London weekend break with show is everybody else’s favourite show for a London weekend break with show: It’s Les Miserables!
1. Les Miserables
Thanks Dan, from all of us!
I hope you enjoyed that. What has been your favourite London weekend break with show experience? Do tell.