Beyond this door is chocolate…in the Jellicle Junkyard

Hello all!

Wow, I must say, the response on my last blog post was the best I’ve ever had; seven likes and a new follower! Thanks! As promised, todays post is all about my two latest theatre trips to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the Musical and Cats and I’ll kick off by saying that both were fantastic. For the sake of chronology I’ll start off with Charlie.

Our trip to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory took place on my mum’s birthday, but was my 22nd birthday treat. This was down to ticket availability, price and just generally finding a date close-ish to my actual day of birth when everyone was free (don’t worry, mum got to celebrate her birthday too – Planet Hollywood style). So mum, dad, myself and my brother headed up to London on the 31st January with the intent of getting up there early enough to grab a quick lunch. The journey itself was a bit of a mission; because of rail work being done at the weekends there are no trains to London from our town  so we had to drive to Billericay and get a train from there with what felt like half the county. Still, its only a short ride to London so soon enough we were ensconced in one of Covent Garden’s many Bella Italia’s chewing down on pizza and pasta. Then before we knew it, it was time for the show!

One of the stands set up in the foyer to sell merchandise made to look like an old fashioned sweet stall.
One of the stands set up in the foyer to sell merchandise made to look like an old fashioned sweet stall.

Inside the foyer there were stands like the one pictured above selling programmes, apparel, key rings etc. but what I liked was the fact that they were made to look like old fashioned sweet shops. Sorry about the terrible quality photo, I only had my phone with me. We of course purchased a programme and I got myself a hoodie and t shirt (I’m a sucker for show merchandise) then after waiting in the ridiculously long queue for the bathroom we were seated.

Our view of the stage from the balcony.
Our view of the stage from the balcony.

Let the show begin!

As soon as I heard the opening music I was enchanted. The songs and the scenery, not to mention the incredible special effects really make you feel as if you have been transported into the story. All of the cast were so good, I especially loved the grandparents and their humour, which was definitely aimed at the adults in the audience, but done cleverly enough to go over the children’s heads. Alex Jennings played Mr Wonka fabulously, perfectly portraying his zany-ness (see the song ‘Strike that, Reverse It) yet also showing his more sentimental side in ‘Simply Second Nature’. It was as if he had stepped off the pages of the book. All of the kids were brilliant too and had me in stitches throughout, especially during the downfalls of Verruca and Violet. Charlie’s actor was just great and had a fantastic singing voice too. I have to admit though, one of my favourite parts of the whole thing were the Oompa Loompas. I won’t give away what I’ve guessed about exactly how they’re done and ruin it for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but it is very cleverly done. Overall, this musical far surpassed my expectation and gets a resounding thumbs up from the rest of my family too. As did the scrummy meal at Planet Hollywood. One of the best moments from that was when they played ‘Let it Go’ on the big TVs and half the restaurant joined in, excepting the table of little kids next to us who had their fingers in their ears throughout.

Steak and Chips. Yummy!
Steak and Chips. Yummy!

My Cats trip took place two days ago and was a solo adventure. This was my third time seeing the show, but the first time seeing it at the Palladium (the previous times were during the tour in Ipswich and Norwich) and I was very excited to see it again. I had looked up the theatre beforehand and seen that it was very close to the Oxford Circus tube station so was sure that I would find it easily, but loaded Google Maps and got a route anyway. Despite this, I still managed to walk for about ten minutes in the wrong direction. Yep, Miss Directionally Challenged strikes again. Still, I found where I had gone wrong and was soon seeing this:

The Palladium
The Palladium

Such a beautiful theatre. I was quite excited to find that there was a Five Guys right next door as I thought they were only in America. I had eaten there while working at a summer camp in America so had to see how it compared. It was really good, but I had to scarf it down fast because it was almost 2 at that point and I had wanted to be in by then. but there was no need to worry, the queue to get in moved fast and I was soon in my seat looking at this sight:

My great view of the stage.
My great view of the stage.

I believe it was at this point that I tweeted and Facebooked this selfie and tagged a few of the cast who I follow on Twitter.

My 'I'm so excited to be here!' selfie
My ‘I’m so excited to be here!’ selfie

Then the show began! I cannot explain why I love this musical so much, because it would probably require a blog post of its own and would no doubt be embarrassingly fan girly. I will just say that I have loved it since seeing the VHS and had reconciled with the fact that I would most likely never see it on stage. Then I saw the advertisement for the tour at the train station. Anyway, back to the show the day before yesterday. It was of course amazing, even better than I remembered it from the tour. I always get goosebumps when the lights dim and the opening music begins and they usually stay throughout. I have never found a show that makes me as emotional as this one does; I went from near hysterical laughter during Growltiger and The Great Rumpus Cat to almost crying during Grizabella’s scenes and The Journey to the Heaviside Layer. A lot of the cast had stayed on from the tour and they were all perfect in their roles. Benjamin Yates and Dawn Williams are the cheeky, thieving duo Mungojerrie and Rumpleteaser and bring a great mischievous energy to their performance that I feel sums the characters up perfectly. Callum Train is Munkustrap, the tribe protector and is so commanding, yet warm. And tall! I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to take on that cat! Which brings us nicely to Cameron Ball who plays a terrifyingly good Macavity and has an evil laugh to be proud of. Zizi Strallen and Charlene Ford are fantastic as Demeter and Bombalurina; sex and strong in Macavity the Mystery Cat and soulful in Grizabella the Glamour Cat. Ah yes, Kerry Ellis. I was completely blown away by her performance and was so glad that I was able to see her in that role. And then there is Ross Finnie who plays my favourite, Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat. I love this character because of all of his little mannerisms and how hard he tries to organise the rest of the cats. And he is so funny and energetic.

I think the only thing I was not fond of was the change that they made to the Rum Tum Tugged and his song. Don’t get me wrong, it was very well done, but I much prefer the original. The character himself was still hilarious, but I feel that the modernising of the song was unnecessary.

As usual I was left an emotional wreck, but had time to compose myself before getting on the train home because I was going to the stage door! I had no idea how this was going to work, if there was going to be a lot of people waiting and was more than a little nervous. I’m not the type of person who hunts down celebrities at premières or approaches them in public so this was definitely way out of my comfort zone. But this was something I really wanted to do; I specifically wanted to try and get a picture with Ross Finnie. So I went round to the back of the theatre to where the big ‘stage door’ gates are and waited. There was only one other person there at first so I wasn’t even sure I was in the right place but I eventually asked him and he confirmed that I was indeed at the stage door. After a short while people started coming out and then Ross Finnie appeared. I nervously approached, told him that I thought he was amazing (cringe) and asked if it would be ok to take a picture. Honestly he couldn’t have been nicer. He suggested that we move so that the Cats sign was in the background and took off his hat. He also asked if I was the one who tweeted earlier because he recognised my face (remember the selfie?) And here is the result:

Me and Ross Finnie aka Skimbleshanks!

Its a bit blurry because my hands were shaking and my selfie skills leave a lot to be desired but I love it. I did go back to the stage door after that, but am ashamed to say that my courage had completely deserted me and so although I recognised a lot of the people leaving all I could do was stand there and smile, probably looking very awkward and ridiculous. I did get to speak to Kerry Ellis briefly but that was down to the aforementioned  fan who was trying to get all of the cast’s signatures in his programme. Oh well, maybe next time. Or not. I don’t want to be recognised as a weird, stalkery fan. Anyway, go see Cats! And Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! Leaving it there because when I opened my tablet this morning I was planning on writing a bit more of my dissertation. Oops! Until next time!


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