Theatre fan and regular TKTS visitor, Perry Hall, takes us through some of his 45-year theatre programme collection for World Theatre Day.
Theatre Royal Drury Lane
In 1975 I went with my dad to see ‘Billy – A New Musical’ with Michael Crawford at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. This was my very first London show and I fell in love with both the show and Drury Lane Theatre.
In 1983 I met my wife and fell in love with her. Ironically, she had also seen Billy with Michael Crawford. We like to imagine that we might have been within feet of each other at the same performance (although this is unlikely – as my wife doesn’t remember the date that she went whereas, even though I can’t find the ticket, I know that I saw it on 31 January!)
In 2019, after enjoying many theatres and shows together, we went to Drury Lane to see 42nd Street again, just before the closure for refurbishment. We both loved the show and Drury Lane Theatre.
Hopefully many more years to come when everything reopens.
Into The Woods
My wife and I were bewitched by this show at the Phoenix Theatre (in 1990) with the amazing Julia McKenzie as ‘The Witch’. It also starred Imelda Staunton (I wonder what happened to her?). The staging was much starker than it looked on the images that we had seen of the Broadway version but it worked beautifully, leaving one’s imagination to take flight. Twenty years later we revisited ‘Into The Woods’ at the Open Air Theatre Regents Park with the moon overhead and the leaves rustling in the trees. Both productions struck a deep chord. We can’t wait to see this show again with yet another director’s vision. Every parent should try to listen to ‘Children Will Listen’ and consider its message.
The Phantom Of The Opera
We were so lucky to see the original production of The Phantom of the Opera (at Her Majesty’s Theatre – 1987) with Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman. We went very near to the birth of one of our daughters. We loved the show and my wife would do her pregnancy exercises to the soundtrack recording. Our baby daughter was a terrible sleeper (for about a year) but appeared to calm to the music that she had heard whilst in the womb. I can’t imagine that many young parents have had to pace up and down trying to sing almost the entire score (whilst improvising the lyrics!) night after night in order to get their baby back off to sleep. However, it worked!! Twenty-Five years later our daughter was able to come to the Albert Hall 25th Year Celebration. Good times!
This is one of our favourite shows of all time, as the subject matter lends itself to the Lloyd Webber’s lush and expansive melodies. We saw the original production (in 1993) and there has not been a production of it that we have seen since that we have not loved. However, a big shout-out has to go to the amazing actor/ musicians we saw in 2008 (headed by the great Kathryn Evans) at the Comedy Theatre, now the Harold Pinter. This production should have run much longer, in our opinion!
I have a favourite lyric in Sunset Boulevard. The line is:
‘We gave the world new ways to dream’.
This is how I view the power of theatre. Theatre, at its best, gives us all new ways to dream and, therefore, affects how we perceive the world.
Arguably my favourite musical ever. My wife and I were lucky enough to see the original production (around 1989/90) at our beloved Theatre Royal Drury Lane. I trained in theatre design so, usually, was interested in and aware of what techniques and tricks were being used within a design.
Not so with this show! I was so emotionally drained by the time the helicopter lifted off that I audibly gasped – fearing for the safety of the ‘soldiers’ inside as it finally tipped and ascended into the lighting-rig. I predicted a lot of plummeting! (I have worked it out since- dah!).
Even though we knew only too well what was going to happen 25 years later (at the 2014 revival at the Prince Edward Theatre) this show still punched us in the guts and continued punching! The true power of music and theatre.
In 1985 Newsweek called Les Misérables ‘A Musical That Makes History’. We have never really thought of ourselves as a historical resource but as we saw the original production at Barbican Theatre (in 1985); the Palace Theatre (2004); The Queen’s Theatre (2007); the Barbican again for the ‘New 25th Anniversary production’ (2010) and, earlier this year, at the newly named Sondheim Theatre perhaps we are. We have been ‘hearing the people sing’ for almost 35 years!
On a cold (and – I seem to remember – snowy?) night in 1979, when I was 17, my auntie took me to the original production of Evita at the Prince Edward Theatre. The theatre looked very different in those days before the amazing Mackintosh refurbishment. There was much ballyhoo around the theatre, as the show was a ‘hot ticket’, and there was great excitement being able to see it. Elaine Paige was sensational as Eva and Hal Prince’s production amazed me and convinced me that theatre spoke to me in ways that other media never would. I have since seen productions of Evita at the Adelphi Theatre (2006); the Phoenix Theatre (2017) and the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. All productions have had incredibly talented Evas who have pushed themselves to the limit, like Olympic champions, night after night. These ladies should be ‘high flying – adored’. Get it?
A fascinating piece of theatre history. I dug out my first ‘Cats’ programme and rediscovered this insert. As a student in London I went to a preview of ‘Cats’ in 1981. It is easy to forget how revolutionary it was at the time (with a revolving auditorium and the late, great Gillian Lynne’s choreography). It was a thrilling experience, not least because it appeared as if the cast had just realised that (having been through a fraught rehearsal process) they were appearing in a solid gold hit! I loved it so much that I went a few days later, for my birthday treat, just after it had opened officially. This insert explains that Elaine Paige is playing Grizabella due to the injury sustained by Judi Dench. History in the making (although I would love to have seen Judi’s interpretation too).