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2005 West End Theatre Review

It is perhaps in the nature of the British psyche that they don’t realise how good they have got it on their own doorstep. The annual Edinburgh Festivals are regarded world wide as some of the best Europe has to offer in terms of film, literature and music. However, only a third of the visitors are locals. In past times there has been is a similar pattern with London’s West End. For years visitors from America and Europe had been flocking to see shows, in theatres they considered to be among the finest in world – yet domestically Britons didn’t seem aware that they had productions of such exceptional quality in their own backyard.

However, it appears that the summer season of 2005 may finally end this trend, with a number of high profile shows that have captured the imagination of the British public. Indeed, critics are already hailing 2005 as the best and most important summer season for years in London’s West End with a number of family orientated shows like The Lion King, Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang earning rave reviews.

Perhaps no other show has contributed to the hype surrounding this years season more than the film turned musical production of Billy Elliot. Adapted from one of the most successful films to have come out of the UK in the past ten years, Billy Elliot is the tale of a young boy trying to achieve a career in dancing while growing up in the midst of the bitter miner’s strike of the mid-1980’s. The original story captured the hearts and minds of the British public when the movie was released and received world wide recognition with 3 Oscar and 13 Bafta award nominations.

While certainly the biggest name Billy Elliot isn’t the only production that is leading the way in the explosion of family orientated shows. The Disney classics Lion King and Mary Poppins have proved immensely popular since their launch with their award winning scores providing the perfect family entertainment. Mary Poppins has been magically brought to life on stage by Thomas Schumacher, producer for Disney Theatrical Productions while The Lion King looks set to entertain children and adults for generations to come.

In addition to the number of quality family focussed shows there are also a number of more adult orientated productions such as The Producers being shown at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. With the music and lyrics done by the legendary Mel Brooks, The Producers is a story that revolves around washed-up theatre producer Max Bialystock who, along with his timid accountant cooks up a scheme to make a fortune by presenting a sure-fire flop and taking off with their investor’s money in the process. The show has broken box office records across the globe and has the acclaim of winning the most Tony Awards of any show ever, including Best Musical and Best Original Score.

Described by the Mail on Sunday as being ‘touched by genius’ , Mamma Mia opened to rave reviews and looks set to continue to break Box office records at The Prince Edward Theatre throughout the summer of 2005. Based on a book by Catherine Johnson, Mamma Mia is an original musical telling the emotional story of a mother and daughter set on the eve of the daughter's wedding. Fans of Abba are bound to be entertained as the band’s classic songs are used to drive this wonderful story to its conclusion.

Another reason why 2005 is predicted to be so successful has been the upturn in the amount of people who now see going to a show part of a weekend’s entertainment – as opposed to an evening out. In the past a visit to a show may have involved a rushed trip to London, battling through the traffic before returning home late at night. However, many companies such as http://www.superbreak.com are offering ‘theatre break packages’ which allow people to not only take in a world class show – but let them relax afterwards in a nearby hotel without the worry of rushing home.

Nearly all the top shows have ticket plus accommodation packages and these breaks are set to become more popular than ever with the explosion of publicity surrounding shows such as Billy Elliot. Perhaps one of the main reasons why the packages are proving so popular is that even when shows are ‘sold out’ tickets can still be found (often in the best seats in the house) as part of these great value package deals. With so much to do in London taking the time to further explore the city (and not simply rush in and out of the show) is becoming an increasing popular option for hardened theatre goers and families alike.

With the hype surrounding so many of this years shows the perception of the West End is one of increased accessibility to the general public. This change in perception can only be a positive for the UK’s theatre industry. With box office records already being broken this year, it seems that Briton’s are finally realising what tourists have known for years – that the West End has the best variety of shows anywhere in the world.

Submitted by:

Robin Richmond

Robin RichmondEditor of http://www.travel-tips.co.uk




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