"Once" at the Phoenix & "A Chorus Line" at the London Palladium

After I’d had a trip to the theatre to see the Bodyguard back in April, I vowed that I would review every musical/play I see in London. Since then, I’ve only seen one West End show (“The Curious Incident on the Dog In The Night Time” in June) which is terrible for me! I was so shocked! So, since I’ve been to see two musicals in the past week, I thought I’d review them both.
In England, theatre awards are pretty crap. The Laurence Olivier awards are the only ones that are truly important and even then, people see them as crap. On Broadway though, they have the Tony’s – the most prestigious award ceremony in the theatrical calendar. So, when a Broadway musical that hasn’t hit London yet wins a Tony Award for being the best musical, it’s more than likely that it will hit the cobbles of good ol’ London town very soon. Surprisingly, Once the Musical managed to make the transfer pretty quickly having only won the Best Musical award last year! 
Having been desperate to see the musical for quite some time after hearing the rave reviews about it on Broadway, I was delighted to hear about the transfer! So after having toyed with the idea to see it straight away or leave it for a year or so, I decided that I had to see it to understand what the fuss was about and my god does the hype make sense!
I think Once’s best aspect was the dynamic staging and the original score. Since the story is set in Ireland, the music all has an Irish sound to it and all very country and original for such a modern, mainstream musical. The staging was also very inventive. With the whole scene being played in around the single set on the stage (a bar that actually worked as a proper serving bar before the show and during the interval!), they had to find inventive ways of setting the scene like climbing onto the top of the set to create the effect that Guy and Girl (the main characters) were looking off the top of the hill. Or the use of chairs to make it look like they were in a bedroom. The whole cast also played the music all live on stage and sat on the sides of the set when they weren’t in character (rather like “The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night Time” at the Apollo if you’ve seen that. If you haven’t, you can read the review here). As well as the music and the set, the story was also compelling, moving and funny and all in the appropriate areas (well actually, this old man sat behind me seemed to find all of it funny but I think he was a bit tipsy…) 
Overall, I’d say that Once the Musical was well worth my time and I certainly left the theatre feeling happy about that I’d just seen. Go and see it if you get the chance!
I’ve decided to review A Chorus Line in the same post as Once because it’s actually closing at the end of this month (*massive sigh*) which totally breaks my heart because I think it might be one of the top three best musicals I have ever been to see (the other two are Les Miserables and the Phantom of the Opera – Wicked is probably the fourth best). Sadly though, the reason it’s closing is because not many people actually agree with my opinion. 
To me, A Chorus Line is one of the golden oldies. It’s a musical I’ve been around for as long as I can remember along with shows like Les Mis and Cats. Songs like “One”“At The Ballet” and “What I Did For Love” are songs that most people know from somewhere or, like myself, your Grandparents enjoyed playing them a lot! So when I found out about this transfer of the Broadway revival (that actually closed on Broadway five years ago so it took it’s time!), I was physically screamed! I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited about something opening up in London!
A Chorus Line is a musical based on a true story that actually happened to the creator of the show, the late Michael Bennett. Well, I say story, but the show doesn’t actually have a true storyline that runs through. The show tells the tale of a group of people auditioning to be in a Broadway musical in 1975. After the opening number (“I Hope I Get It”), several people are asked to leave which leaves you with a small group of people left in the auditorium. The group is asked to line up on the stage and one by one, the group tell their stories through a montage of song and dance and occasionally, acting. Now that may sound boring to you but the reason it isn’t boring is because you will certainly find someone to relate to. The girl who just wanted to have bigger boobs at school? Val. The girl who hates her parents because they don’t really care about her? Bebe. The girl whose Daddy left her when she was little? Maggie. The boy who feared opening up about himself? Paul. The couple in love? Kristine and Al, and so on. There’s someone for everyone to relate to and understand.
I do agree though that this is probably not a musical for everybody but if you like dance, dream of being in theatre or just want to see this classic Broadway musical, A Chorus Line is perfect for you. And never fear if you can’t get down to London to see it before the end of the month – a national UK tour starts in 2014!

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