Friday, April 15, 2016

The New York theatre ticket experience

That's one thing off my bucket list: Visit New York. Well, I suppose two things for anyone who doesn't consider "See a Broadway show" to be synonymous to visiting New York. I only booked in advance for Wicked despite knowing I would want to see more shows. Seeing as there was nothing else specific I was absolutely desperate to watch, I decided to chance it and look for cheap tickets when I got there. This turned out to be a good decision in my situation. As I am still a student, I did not have a lot of money to spend but I still wanted to get the most out of New York and have the Broadway experience. 

Compared to the West End, Broadway tickets are, on average, more expensive. Off-Broadway shows are also more expensive that their London counterparts. Where it is possible to get a variety of deals for tickets online for shows in London and the prices can vary greatly depending on where you look, Broadway seems to have more uniformity when it comes to the pricing of tickets. "Cheap" is not really a thing. To put this into context: Our Wicked tickets cost $159 (about £110) each for mid-stalls. To see Wicked in London you would be looking at a face value of around £65 for a similar view. I paid $58 (roughly £40) per ticket to see The Fantasticks including a 30% discount. Your full price ticket to a professional off-West End show in a venue of a similar size would cost £20-25.

The main paths to cheaper tickets are lotteries, general rush tickets, standing room only (SRO) tickets and the TKTS ticket booths. The general rush tickets work in a similar way to West End day seats: get to the box office early on the day of the performance and you could secure yourself a cheap front row seat to the show. However, you may have to get there hours before the box office opens. The same rule tends to apply for SRO tickets or they could be offered to people who don't win in the lottery. Lotteries you sign up within a certain time frame either online or in person (on the day or the day before depending on the show). They then pull the lucky winners out of the hat. The prices for general rush and lottery tickets vary between $10 and $50 and you can normally get a maximum of two tickets per person per show. I signed up to all the online lotteries and won $28 front row seats for The Phantom of the Opera for that evening. I found this website the most helpful when researching day seats:

The main TKTS booth is located on Times Square and offers last minute discounts of up to 50% on Broadway and off-Broadway performances. Find out what time the booth opens and get there early in order to secure the best deals. Despite arriving 10 minutes after the booth's opening time I managed to secure Fantasticks tickets for the evening. I ended up having to queue for about half an hour but this was on a Monday when most Broadway theatres are dark so I would expect the queue to be longer on other days of the week. 

Although I obviously wish I had been able to see everything, time and money prevented that. Had the weather been warmer I might have tried for some general rush tickets but I was very happy with the two sets of discounted tickets I was able to get on the day. Obtaining cheaper tickets can be more effort but then, for a theatre buff that could be a part of the so-called Broadway experience.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

£8.50 youth tickets at Chichester Festival Theatre

What prevents many young people from attending the theatre regularly? I consider the cost of attending shows to be a big factor. It is usually cheaper to see something at the cinema than seeing a professional theatre production. Particularly musical theatre can be a very expensive viewing experience. Chichester Festival Theatre encourages young theatre-goers to see more shows by putting aside a certain number of seats for every performance of every show, and selling these to young people aged between 16 and 25 for £8.50 each. This scheme has recently been relaunched as 'Prologue' and requires the young person to sign up to the scheme (the sign-up is free). The seats are of course not the best in the house being side view but they are certainly not the worst ones either, and with the incredibly high quality of CFT productions in general, the seats are fantastic value. 

I have taken advantage of the £8.50 tickets on a number of occasions during my time at Chichester university. As far as musicals go, I saw Guys and Dolls, Gypsy and A Damsel in Distress. The former two ended up transferring to the West End after their respective runs in Chichester. I also saw the plays The Rehearsal and most recently, in February, Single Spies. My next Prologue show will be the new musical version of Travels with My Aunt in May which will be my end of semester treat. The production was otherwise sold out by the time the Prologue tickets were released a month before the opening so I rushed to book mine. I will definitely also book to see one of my favourite shows, Half A Sixpence, which will be on at CFT in the summer. 

More information available on the CFT website: 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

'The Curious Incident'

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at the Gielgud Theatre, London
Performance: Tuesday 7th July 2015
Cast: Siôn Daniel Young (Christopher Boone), Rebecca Lacey (Siobhan/ensemble), Nicolas Tennant (Ed/ensemble), Mary Stockley (Judy/ensemble)
Director: Marianne Elliott

When I received Mark Haddon’s novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time for Christmas years ago, it took me two days to finish it. I thought it one of the most intriguing novels I had ever read, one of a kind, and I readily recommended it to friends and relatives. Therefore I am slightly ashamed of how long it took me to go and see the stage production even after it received top reviews from every imaginable direction. I just never seemed to get round to it. The novel (and play) tells the story of 15 year-old Christopher who has Asperger’s syndrome. He excels in maths, and likes taking care of his pet rat, Toby. When the neighbour’s dog, Wellington, gets killed, Christopher decides to investigate the case and finds out more than he was perhaps supposed to.

We had seats in the front row of the balcony and the view was absolutely fine. There was nothing we could not see from where we were sitting. I have a feeling the view would have been more restricted from the rear stalls due to the overhang. 

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (play).jpg

The plot of the play is faithful to the original work. The novel isn’t particularly big and I felt like the play had been stretched out a little unnecessarily (it was as long as a musical!). Particularly the second act was very slow-paced. That is my biggest criticism.

The set is genius and the miniature railway Christopher builds throughout the first act provides continuity and a spectacular finish to the first act both visually and in aiding the story. I have nothing but outmost respect to the ASMs on this show as a single misplaced piece of train track could cause the entire first act to go horribly wrong.

The show is heavy on physical theatre and the set effectively consisted of a few white boxes which were moved around by the actors to create different scenes from a train to Christopher’s neighbourhood.

I was incredibly impressed with Young’s portrayal of Christopher. Playing a character with Asperger’s syndrome convincingly is challenging to begin with no to mention that Christopher hardly leaves the stage. Luke Treadaway who originated the role won the 2013 Olivier Award for Best Actor for his performance.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Musical Theatre Society - Fame and Jekyll

I have served in the committee of the University's Musical Theatre committee this year as Secretary and although that enables me to audition and perform in shows like any other member, I decided to focus on backstage work in the second semester instead. I helped in designing, sourcing and making props, costume and scenery for the two shows performed by the Society, Fame and Jekyll & Hyde.

In terms of style they were obviously very different shows. Fame following the 80's fashion trends for the students and teachers dressing up in more old-fashioned clothing made the acquiring of costumes relatively easy. Everyone has something 80's in their wardrobe be it colourful leggings or a turtleneck top. Jekyll & Hyde was more of a challenge as steam punk was the decision of the director. We ended up raiding charity shops and altering more modern items of clothing to fit the time period where we were unsuccessful in finding suitable items at budget.
Below the posters for the two shows as well as a few photographs from the performances. Poster design by Sarah Melville and photography by Andrew Worsfold and Richard Cobden.

On the performance nights I ended up assisting with sound as, particularly in Fame, there were a total of 21 microphone changes over the course of the show (we only had four radio microphones at our disposal). For Jekyll & Hyde we managed to acquire an additional four meaning every principal could be miked up but supporting characters had to still be rotating microphones. In practice, I sat backstage with some tape helping performers in and out of microphones. It linked in nicely with my technical theatre module of the semester also as I had been researching the role of a sound engineer in musical theatre and had assisted my tutor with sound on a university production of Just So.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Back to blogging (aka an update)

Hello, everyone!
I realise it has been over a year since my last post. Wow! 
When I think about it though, I feel like not very much has changed since then as I am still studying music and musical theatre at the University of Chichester. I have had the opportunity to take part in a number of shows and have started focusing more on backstage work rather than performing as I feel it offers more variety. Unfortunately I have not had the chance to go to the theatre very much as a spectator but as I am hoping to slowly ease my way back into blogging, I hope to entertain you with a variety of theatre-related articles. Perhaps beginning with a couple of posts about the shows I have been lucky enough to be involved in this year including Half a Sixpence, Jekyll & Hyde, Picnic at Hanging Rock and currently Sweeney Todd
Please stay tuned :) 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Keeping busy at university

Hello, all! It's been a while. I've had a busy semester 2 of my first year of university and therefore I have unfortunately not had much time for blogging or for going to see shows at the theatre but here is a brief update.

I have managed to get involved in a fair number of projects and performances this semester which I am very happy about. I enjoy having lots of things to do and I like the challenge of trying to fit everything into my schedule. My compulsory contact hours only amount to 8 hours per week so there is plenty of time to get involved in extra-curricular activities and since I am doing a music degree, this involvement is very much encouraged. 

A few events have already been done and dusted such as two concerts at Chichester Cathedral in which I got to sing in as part of the university's Chamber Choir. I have also been participating in a stage combat course. I had never done stage combat before and although with my spatial awareness I have succeeded in unintentionally kicking and punching people for real, I think I have learned some basics :P

Exciting projects and things still coming up:

April: Seussical as ensemble and assistant director
May: Spring Awakening as assistant stage manager
May: Jesus Christ Superstar as ensemble
May: Orchestra trip to Guernsey as violin 2
June: Chamber Choir tour to Rome as soprano 1
September: Carmen as ensemble

Sunday, February 9, 2014

'Candide' - great first show of the year

The musical Candide is based on the 18th century satire, Candide, or Optimism by the French philosopher Voltaire. The novella focuses more on ideas and message than plot and although I studied and greatly enjoyed the book at college, I struggled to picture how it could be translated onto stage as during its less than 100 pages it manages a dozen different locations around the world. I personally find that stories that are based on travelling (e.g. that of Shrek the Musical or Lord of the Rings) sometimes struggle to keep the visuals variable and the story consistently interesting. 

Candide at Menier Chocolate Factory
Performance: Wednesday 8th January 2014 at 20:00
Seat: Front row
Music: Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics: Richard Wilbur
Book (adapted from Voltaire): Hugh Wheeler
Director: Matthew White
Cast included: Fra Fee (Candide), James Dreyfus (Pangloss/Cacambo/Martin), Scarlett Strallen (Cunegonde), Jackie Clune (Old Lady), David Thaxton (Maximilian), Cassidy Janson (Paquette)

Brief plot summary: Candide, the illegitimate nephew of the Baron is seen kissing the Baron's daughter, Cunegonde, and is evicted from the castle. He ends up on a trip around the world equipped with the teachings on optimism of Dr Pangloss. His experiences make him question the validity of Pangloss's philosophy. 

In the past I have visited the Menier theatre on two occasions and I was intrigued to see how this production team had decided to use the space. I find that, rather like the Union Theatre, the Menier is a highly versatile space. Candide was theatre in a round, well, in some sort of a quadrilateral more like. However, not only did they have a performance space in the middle with exists in each corner, a balcony passage ran across three walls behind the audience. In addition, the actors made use of the aisles cutting across two blocks of seats. The actors were effectively everywhere around you. The show was interactive with the actors giving things to unsuspecting audience members and putting hats on their heads. My favourite one was the judge roasting marshmallows stuck to a pitchfork over a burning torch and then feeding them to the audience members sitting nearest to him.

I think the best thing about this musical was the visuals. There was a lot going on all the time and the show included some incredible dance numbers. Sitting in the first row of such an intimate space, you always wonder whether someone might accidentally kick you in the face or something one day. Just for the record, that has not yet happened to me. The costumes were stunning also - with the audience able to see them so close up, detail in creating them would have been absolutely vital.

I have heard many speaking highly of Fra Fee but this was the first time I had seen him on stage. He was a great choice for the title role and I enjoyed his vocals. Scarlett Strallen as Candide's love interest stood out particularly by her skills as a dancer. However, she also deserves a mention for her interpretation of Glitter and Be Gay, possibly the most well-known song in the show. She nailed the challenging vocals and kept the audience laughing with her well-timed comic acting, which was appropriately exaggerated. I was further impressed by James Dreyfus's ability to move from playing one character to playing the next with ease and fluidity. 

Like the original book, the musical is very fast paced in terms of the story. I don't think I would have been able to follow had I not known it from before. There was a group of Americans sitting behind me who confessed they did not manage to stay on top of the events. However, even if you did lose the plot, the musical had a lot of entertainment value both of the satirical and physical comedy nature.
I walked out of the theatre thinking "Although this was only the first thing I have seen this year, I would not be surprised if it turned out to be the best," and coming from me, that is saying a lot.