This is my final installment of show reflections after having seen 14 shows during my 6 weeks in Europe. It’s crazy to think this journey has come to an end, but I am so happy with the experience I’ve had. Seeing shows was one of the most important aspects of this trip for me, and I am thankful for being introduced to such a wide range of theatre. Here are my thoughts on the final two shows I saw (with the company of my mother)!
For my mother’s sake, I felt that her West End experience should include a grandiose musical. There were so many fantastic shows I had already seen that would have been fun to introduce her to, but I figured we might as well see a show that neither of us had seen. I had heard great things about this production of Miss Saigon, so I figured we should give it a go, though it was a little ironic to see a show dealing with Americans in Vietnam War while in the UK.
For a bit of a summary, the story focuses on the relationship between Kim, a young Vietnamese girl who has been forced to prostitution after the death of her family, and an American officer, Chris. They marry, but he is unable to take Kim to America with him once the war is over, though he promises to return. Years later, the owner of the house Kim used to work for, Engineer, is bribed to hunt her down at the request of her formerly arranged fiancé. When he does find her, he discovers she had a son with Chris, and says that is their ticket to America (claiming he will be her “brother”).
I won’t give away the whole story, but that’s enough for you to know that Kim is the protagonist. The whole show really follows her story, and her needs are foremost presented, yet, at the curtain call Engineer was the last to bow. I have thought and thought about this, but I still can’t figure it out. He did have a song in Act II that was a showstopper, and while it was performed well, I honestly felt it should be cut because it broke up the momentum of the plot. It was simply about how great his life in America was going to be and eventually led to his daydream with scantily dressed women in a convertible. It had the wow-factor, but I was more interested in the story than that.
Speaking of wow-factor, the other note-worthy technical element of the show is that a helicopter flies above the stage as Chris leaves for America without Kim. Though this is a big element, it is way more deserved because it actually enhances the emotional impact of the story.
And yes, it is quite an emotional journey. I highly recommend this show, unless you’re like my roommate who doesn’t like sad things. In that case, stay away.
The Clockmaker’s Daughter
I’ve seen West End, a show at Regent’s Park, a show at the National Theatre, and at Shakespeare’s Globe, but I had yet to see an off-West End work. Luckily, my friends at The Phoenix Artist Club were promoting this original fairytale folk-musical, so I decided that would be the perfect ending to my theatre experience in London.
We arrived at The Landor Theatre hoping to find some yummy snacks before the show, as we had missed dinner after a lovely day at Kew Gardens. Walking past a bar area, we found our tickets at the box office in the back then continued down the hall to find an outdoor beer garden complete with a BBQ! This was much better than over-priced box office confections. My mom and I each had a roasted red pepper quesadilla topped with salad and washed down with a beer for her and a cider for me – yum!
Back by the box office we found a staircase that led to the actual theatre entrance. Our ticket was collected (and not returned) at the door, and we learned that it was general admission seating in a folding chair black-box style set-up.
For such a small space, I was expecting an equally small cast, but the first number surprised me with a company of about 20 people in modern clothing, singing a hopeful song about the annual tradition of waiting to see if the statue in their square would wake. A cloaked figure took over the narration and we were taken back to a world of years past.
This original story has hints of Pinocchio and Hunchback of Notre Dame. The town clockmaker, in grieving his wife, has built a life-size doll that, to his surprise, can talk, move, and even think for herself. After losing his wife, he can’t bear the thought of losing her as well, so he is, of course, quite protective and makes her stay inside, claiming that the people out there won’t accept her.
Of course, she defies his request in search of life beyond walls. She falls in love. She is a successful seamstress. The other seamstress is jealous. Everyone learns the truth of who she is. Climatic song of exclaiming who she is and no one’s gonna bring her down (ahhh-ahhh-ahhh-ahhh). Dramatic turn of events. Dun dun dunn…..
There, that’s me being concise (trying). I do hope you have the chance to see it, as they’re hoping to make it as a West End show. The music is exciting and brought to life by a cast that exudes the joy of performing. Though I narrowed the plot down to mere sentence fragments, it isn’t what you’d expect from a fairytale musical – it’s quite dark and thought provoking, not simple at all.
I had the privilege of meeting the lead’s mom while queuing for the toilet (I’m so British now), and I learned that her daughter is a Canadian who now lives in London with her husband, whom she met while working on a cruise line. I met her after the show and mentioned I’m studying theatre at MSU, and she said she’s done some shows in Branson. We’re always told this theatre world is small, but it’s so hard to believe sometimes because the world seems so vast. It’s not.
So, as I’m fighting the sadness of leaving London, I’ll keep that in mind because you never know where life may take you.