Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Hairspray

A few weeks ago I flew to Dubai, United Arab Emirates on business with British Airways. I hate long flights because I can never sleep and I find them so boring. But this flight was different. I, unexpectedly, found a movie to watch (I am not big on movies) called Hairspray. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised at how entertaining I found it.

It tells the story of Tracy, a young girl in Baltimore, Maryland, USA in the early sixties. She is obsessed with a television show called The Corny Collins Show because some of her classmates take part in it, including a Link Larkin with whom she is madly in love but who is dating a rich and snobbish other classmate called Amber.

The show is based on singing ‘race’-related music and Tracy’s mum (played by John Travolta in the movie) is not happy with this for obvious reasons. Also, when Tracy goes for an audition at the television studio, she gets turned down on the basis of her (over-)weight – imagine that happening today in the UK!

But Tracy does not give up and she learns various R&B dance moves from the best dancer, Seaweed and this gets her a place on the Corny Collins Show. The show organises an annual ‘Miss Teenage Hairspray’ competition and Tracy’s immediate popularity makes her a very strong candidate to win it. She also starts becoming popular with Link, much to the dismay of his girlfriend Amber. In fact, Amber gets Tracy sent to detention to get her away from her boyfriend but this backfires because he gets himself sent to detention too to support her!

Although Tracy does not actually win the contest, she achieves another possibly more important goal – that of getting Link to fall in love with her!

I found the movie Hairspray to be thoroughly entertaining and that is very unusual for me because I do not easily like movies.

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Sunday, 1 February 2009

Snow, Glorious Snow!

Today I am not going to write about cheap London theatre tickets as I usually do. No, today I am writing about something much more exciting – snow!

We have been warned! Snow is on the way and plenty of it. In fact, we have been told that we are in for some of the coldest weather in 14 years – brrr!

And here it is. Snowing it is and with a vengeance too. I don’t know about you but I love snow even though that means that it is usually very cold. And nobody can deny that today was deceptively cold. I say, deceptively, because it was also a very bright and clear day, which leads one to believe that it is spring like. But step out into the open and that Polar wind immediately makes you feel like you are in the middle of a desert, a cold one, of course.

Today, I decided to take my family out for a pub lunch and wanted to find a nice pub in a quaint little village somewhere in Hertfordshire or Essex. So, I headed out of London on the A10 through Enfield and past the M25 into Hertfordshire. The first thing I noticed was that there was much less traffic than usual, which was great for two reasons, the first obvious – nobody likes traffic and the second because more people would be on their computers booking cheap London theatre tickets.

Anyway, after looking at places like Bishops Stortford and Great Dunmow we ended up in a little place called Stebbing. It is a little village off the A120 past Stansted on the way to Colchester. There are probably no more than 100 houses, a beautiful medium sized church and one pub – yes, just one pub! And what a pub! It has been open since 1756 and it used to be one of 13 pubs in this little village and is now the only surviving one. I thought all this augured well and I was right. The food was good and so was the service and the atmosphere was comfortable thanks to the large open fire and the friendly patrons.

After lunch we drove around Essex and came across another pretty village called Finchingfield. It has what is essentially a small pond in the middle of a large bowl-like central square. The village is littered with thatched-roofed cottages, which contribute to its charm.

Then, back to the main event of the day – the snow. On the way back to London, it started snowing and that got us all excited. It did not snow heavily but all the same.

Anyway, back home and after about an hour I looked out of the window and by then everywhere was covered with an inch of the white stuff, much to the delight of my sons. And to my delight, people had stayed in and had been looking for cheap London theatre tickets all day!

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Saturday, 31 January 2009

It's going to be a cold week next week!

London is bracing itself for yet more snow this winter! Do you remember that it snowed in the October half-term this year? And they say that Global Warming is a myth! Yes, of course it is!

Anyway, yes it is meant to snow again this coming week - how exciting! I love snow, whether I am in the mountains or a city. In the mountains, it is just beautiful, fresh and very white and one can ski on it in many places and in cities it just causes so much chaos and commotion!

Of course, snow also brings lots of cold with it or should I say that snow comes when it gets very cold? Either way, while I like being out in it during the day, I would rather be indoors in the evening.

In places like London, that does not leave a huge number of options if one wants to spend an evening away from home. Pubs, bars, restaurants, clubs, theatre and that’s it! My preference is nearly always theatre. Somehow, I feel there is something I can learn from theatre that I cannot at the other venues and this while being entertained at the same time.

Next week, I think I will go and watch We Will Rock You. I know what you’re thinking – that has been out for a very long time, how come you have not been to watch it yet? The short answer is – I don’t know, I suppose I never got down to it! This may sound even more strange if I told you that I have always been a fan of Freddie Mercury and his band Queen, but anyway…

We Will Rock You has been showing at the Dominion Theatre on Tottenham Court Road (c/w New Oxford Street) for several years now. I remember that when it first started showing, some critics said it would not last – how wrong they were!

Anyway, I will tell you more about it after I have been to watch We Will Rock You next week.

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How do I get to the theatre?

London is a super congested city, day and night and I cannot recommend using public transport more strongly!

I have listed all the major theatres and how to get to them below for your convenience:

Dominion Theatre - Tottenham Court Road (We Will Rock You)
The closest tube station is (you guessed) Tottenham Court Road, which is on the Northern Line and the Central Line and one day it will be on Crossrail. Several busses go through the area including the 73 and 134 (serving North London) and the 25 (serving East London).

The Palace Theatre - Charing Cross Road

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Cheap London Theatre Tickets

I keep reading posts on the web about where is the best place to get cheap tickets for London's West End shows - musicals and plays. I think I come across about one article every day on average. Needless to say, different people have different views and this depends largely on their own personal experience.

I have read about going to Leicester Square in the early evening to buy tickets from booths there or recommending going to the theatre box office itself about 30 minutes before the show starts, etc.

Some also recommend buying from prominent (and not so prominent) websites giving various reasons for the various sites they recommend.

If one searches for London theatre material online, one comes across a myriad of sites offering information and tickets for London musicals and plays. One is led to believe that there are many stakeholders in the London theatre industry. The truth is that the London theatre ticket scene is controlled by a very small number of organisations.

In fact, it is dominated by literally a handful of them. Please do not make the mistake of confusing ticket re-sellers with theatre business stakeholders. There are tons of ticket re-sellers but very few who actually ‘own’ the tickets.

In most cases, the ticket ‘owners’ are the theatre owners themselves or the musical or play producers themselves, who are sometimes the same people. Major ticket brokers buy tickets from the theatre or producer and distribute them, either directly or through re-sellers, of which there are hundreds.

Nearly everyone, theatres/producers, ticket brokers and ticket re-sellers sell the same tickets for the same shows at the same prices. With this in mind, the biggest winners are those who can get the best exposure and can inspire the best confidence in the visitor.

Time (lots of it) has led me to conclude that it is not really worth shopping around for cheap tickets as most sources sell the same tickets at the same prices. By the way, the above applies to all musicals including top sellers like Sound of Music, Grease, Hairspray and Dirty Dancing or classics like Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera.

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