Tuesday, April 1, 2008

London musicals, concerts and shows

London has a great selection of theatres and jazz clubs where you can enjoy various musicals, concerts, plays and dance performances. During my first 5 months here I have been to several musicals and dance performances, a couple of jazz concerts and to the ballet. There are constantly popping up new musicals and plays so you can always enjoy something new on the entertainment scene in London.

Greased lightnin’!
A salsa friend of mine from Sweden, Camilla Alenstål, and a friend of hers, Luis, came to London for a visit in October last year. We decided to go see Grease at Piccadilly Theatre. This was highly entertaining – if you haven’t see Grease yet, make sure you do! You’ll have a ball! It’s ultra greasy in every way and it’s hilarious. Danny and Sandy were played by Danny Bayne and Susan McFadden, both chosen by the public to play the lead roles in the London production from the finalists in the ITV show Grease Is the Word. My favorite scene in the London musical was the shower scene (does not exist in the film) – very, very funny.

The Magic Flute
I got a free ticket through work once to see a show at the Young Vic theatre between Waterloo and Southwark tube stations, a few minutes walk from the office. A South-African music company performed their own interpretation of Mozart’s The Magic Flute (Impempe Yomlingo) and got standing ovations from the audience afterwards.

This was a truly colorful, inspiring and entertaining show which left you in a state of shear joy and happiness. I was rather touched and had to wipe a tear from the corner of my eye at one point, although I was smiling broadly throughout the performance. I find it amazing that a European composer in the 18th century can have had such a powerful impact across the world through centuries, in a way that even the most remote country and culture with a completely different set of instruments and way of singing and expressing themselves have heard his music, learned to appreciate it, and been inspired by it to the extent that they have really let in influence their own.

Impempe Yomlingo was filled with colorful African costumes, Mozart blended with African harmonies, African drums and flutes, barefoot dancing, acting and singing with a strong South-African, melodious accent. A truly wonderful and refreshing experience!

Billy Elliot – the musical
When my brother Urban and his girlfriend Julia came for a visit from Los Angeles before Christmas, they wanted to see Billy Elliot. Said and done. I got tickets for the Victoria Palace Theatre on a Monday night. I wasn’t particularly impressed by this musical. The only one in the cast that impressed was the kid that played 12-year-old Billy Elliot. For being so young, he was quite charismatic and good both at acting, singing and dancing. In fact he was the only one that owned the stage when he entered. The rest of the cast was in my opinion rather mediocre on all accounts. Perhaps I was disappointed because I really liked the film and the musical version of it was…well, lame, with amateur actors and really poor dancers.

Katriona Taylor Quintet
My salsa friend Jeff Tarpinian’s ex-wife quit her job as a lawyer and became a jazz singer – well, isn’t that cool? Now she’s given out several CD’s and performs at various jazz clubs and festivals. Jeff invited a bunch of us from the salsa scene to come and see her at the SoHo Pizza Express in January. The jazz club is found in the basement and provides a quite intimate setting for the bands playing with dinner and drink tables close up to the stage. Apparently this club is where a lot of up-and-coming jazz musicians get started and receive recognition. We had dinner and a really enjoyable evening followed by salsa dancing at Bar Salsa after the concert.

The Nutcracker
I have long wanted to see a real classical piece of ballet. Alessia got Martina and me tickets for the Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House in January. It was a fantastic experience. The Royal Opera House is beautiful and of course provides the perfect setting for classical ballet. The Nutcracker was pretty silly in a fairytale kind of way, but there is no denying that the dancing was beautiful with impressive pirouettes, lifts and jumps.

Eddie Palmieri Y Su Orquesta
Earlier this month, the world-famous jazz/salsa virtuoso Eddie Palmieri was in London with his orchestra and performed at the Jazz Café in Camden Town. Born in New York with Puerto Rican parents, he is in his 70’s now so I wonder how many more concert tours he is going to manage. The Jazz Café was packed and it was an awesome concert. I was really impressed by the trumpet player, Brian Lynch.

Many of my salsa friends were there: Mouni, Osiel on a quick visit from Stockholm with his girlfriend, Denis, Steve, Chris, Martina, Jeff, Olu, Floyd, Saher (whom I met at La Isla in Stockholm last year – he commutes between London and Stockholm for work). I stayed dancing after the concert until a quarter past midnight, and then went to Bar Salsa as many other did. Salsa fanatics...?

Bounce – Insane in the Brain
Jessica, one of my girlfriends from university, came to see me for a couple of days earlier this month. After trying the cocktails at Skylon Bar in the Royal Festival Hall by the Thames, we went for dinner at Iguanas, a Latin bar and restaurant by the Hungerford Bridge, and then crossed the river and went further north to Holborn. Bounce, a street dance group from Stockholm, performed an astonishing dance theatre piece inspired by “The Cuckoo’s Nest” (remember the film with Jack Nicholson?) at the Peacock Theatre. I can honestly say I have never seen anything like it. With very impressive dancing and strong acting it was depressing and funny at the same time. The performance stayed with us for a long time that night, even after entering the Sway Bar & Nightclub nearby.

Jessica & I sipping cocktails at Skylon Bar in the Royal Festival Hall

Jessica outside Peacock Theatre

No comments: