Dana Mladin

I am addicted to musicals!

Reading Time: 28 minutes

I have gone to see musicals abroad 50 times so far! Fifty, my friends! I am like Pavlov’s dog, if I hear the word “musical”, I suddenly become attentive. And I even play nice and roll around J. I simply eat musicals with bread, if you give me some. My God, I think this is why I became fat…

I know people who are not really fond of the genre. No problem. Each with his or her craziness – some like football, others like opera, some like museums, others like multiplexes. It’s a good thing we have all those. If such thing existed, I would become Musicals’ Witness, I would come to your door, with all the programs and the CDs, to convince you go and see at least one musical. There are for all tastes, believe me.

It might seem unbelievable, but, in the beginning, I was not tempted at all to see any musical. Thank God for my friend Lili who, in 2007, during my first visit to London, convinced me to go and see “Mary Poppins”.

With all the shopping bags and wearing street clothes (thank God almost everybody is dressed just like us) we went, not really convinced (especially myself), to see what all this is about.

Now, you have to understand that I, as a TV producer, was looking at everything there like a peasant who came to the big city for the first time, but to a city of the future: I could not stop being amazed by the set, the effects, the costumes, by the fact that they were singing live and by a lot of other things.

With my level of English, I couldn’t really understand all that those people were saying there… It was funny that the people were laughing and I was just… whatever. But the show keeps you there, by everything it is.

That was the moment when my appetite opened and I simply became ADDICTED to musicals!!!

Note: This year, Mary Poppins is played again and I bought a ticket to see it, after 12 years! In the same theatre I saw it in 2007…

After 2007, I have been coming to see musicals every year, sometimes even a few times a year (this year between January and November, I saw 10 musicals!!! In London and New York).

I got to such a level that sometimes I first buy the ticket for the musical and only after that I buy the plane ticket and I book a room in some hotel… I did this so many times. And this autumn I have bought a ticket for “Sister Act” for August 2020! This is a musical I shall see for the third time in London, this time starring…………..  Whoopi Goldberg!!! Is this cool or what??? God help me be up and about until then!

I saw certain musicals more than once, either because I spent my holidays with different friends who also wanted to see certain shows or simply because I liked them so much that I wanted to see them again. Even more so as the different cast can offer a lot of surprises.

Amazing productions, effort, perfect voices, everything synchronized to perfection, costumes, special effects, even magic elements that make certain moments so special that they take your breath away.

In the top of the number of times I saw a show is “The Book of Mormon”, which I saw 4 times!!! It is a very comic show, daring, created by the people who did South Park. And it is great that I saw it so many times, because I understand more and more jokes hihi.

Speaking about this musical, I think this is one of the bestsellers. A few months ago, when I tried to go, I could only find tickets that were 200 pounds one! I did not buy…

CHEAP TICKETS BOOK OF MORMON

They have a very nice thing: twice a day, they organize, in front of the theatre, a ticket draw for the two shows that day. It is like a lottery. You have to fill in a card, you put it in a box and, at a certain hour the draw begins. There are 22 tickets per show, places from the best and most expensive category that you can buy at only 20 pounds one, if you are among the winners.

The draw is fun, a small street show and everyone is nervous as if you were waiting for the lottery numbers.

Nope, I didn’t win… From 200 pounds to 20, that would have been something, swear to God!

WEST END VERSUS BROADWAY

During the day, no matter if you pass by a theatre or not, there is always something to remind you of a fashionable musical.

In the evening, at about 19 hours, the West End area of London becomes like a formicary. All the theatres in the area become alive, people wait in lines to enter for a show, be it a musical or a play.

I take pictures like a true Chinese, from way before the area becomes full.

Broadway, New York, that I only came to know this year, offers, in the evening, a show very similar to that in London, if not better!

People sit on two rows, very disciplined, in order to get in the theatre. Some have the tickets in their hands, others have made online reservations. And there is one more line, that of the people who are hoping for a seat left unoccupied by someone who did not show up. I stood in such a line myself – for the “Hamilton” musical.

I have never in my life seen so many people in front of a theatre! It is a line that no camera can take a picture of, that covers a few hundred meters! It is a line that even at the time of the show continues to be very long!

What is with this musical, that people go so crazy?!? I read about it on the internet and I see that it has just come to London, so I think that maybe I will be lucky to get a ticket in New York. I don’t… Only 8 people in front of me get tickets.

I go to Times Square, to a box-office and I ask if they have tickets for “Hamilton”, for a different evening. As I only want one ticket, I am lucky and the people there find me a seat for the next evening. It costs 1,000 Dollars. Wait! What?!? Most probably I did not understand right, it is my English that fails me! I ask once again what the price for the ticket is, with a face that amuses the people there. Yes, it is right, 1,000 Dollars one. My Goodness! I ask if there are people who pay that much money for a ticket. “You cannot even imagine how many”, they tell me.

(Just so you know: I am looking on internet now. I found a ticket for tomorrow, for “Hamilton”. On the official site. 998 Dollars! Take it easy, hold your horses… Take just one so that they are enough for everyone! J)

I leave amused, amazed, in shock… I don’t even know what I am. Never mind, for my birthday, I bought myself as a present a ticket to see “My Fair Lady”. I bought it from Romania, a few weeks before leaving, for fear that I might not find any there. 201.75 Dollars!… And in New York, I found one for “Frozen”, in sales – 60 Dollars.

I saw “Kinky Boots” in New York too, a show I had just seen in London. I really wanted to compare them.

I did not expect this, but it seemed to me that they sang better in London. The play was a sensation in both places, no doubt about it.

I was shocked however, by the atmosphere in the audience. The public is fabulous in America! In London, you have… discipline. You cannot react whenever you want. Here, people shout, they have reactions, they show amazement or disappointment, they shout and applaud after scene – they are very much alive! In the end, I heard some ladies say they lost their voices from so much shouting hihi.

Oh, and in London they start at the exact hour. In New York, they were 6 minutes late J.

I should see more musicals in America to be able to answer the question BROADWAY or WEST END? I think it is very difficult to choose. What I can say for sure is that during all the musicals I saw on Broadway I FROZE TO DEATH! J)) My God, it is cold there! I sat in the first rows, with the winter coat on. London is warmer:

On Broadway I noticed something that I did not see in London: at the end of the show, the artists announce that they raise money for a certain charity. Many wait at the exit with some buckets and you can donate if you want to. Or not.

And here I saw organized lines for the people who want autographs from the celebrities. In London they don’t do this. Maybe there are some young people in front of the stage door, but this is all.

ABOUT MUSICALS…

I have bought and I have received a lot of books about musicals, I have read a lot online, like everyone, but I still hope to be able to talk one day to the people who produce something like this, because I have a huge list of questions. Spectator curiosities, but most of all producer questions.

I found out that it is not Broadway that sets the trend always, as one would think. There are musicals that are played in London, then in America. Mamma Mia, The Phantom of the Opera and Sister Act are just a few of them.

Do you know what I’ve heard? That once they find a child for a role in a London musical, they don’t move the child from his or her city, to bring him or her to London for training. They send a trainer to the respective city. And the child rehearses there, so that they don’t take the child from school and mess with his or her life for a very long time.

WHAT IS NOT ALLOWED…

It is absolutely forbidden to take pictures or film during a musical! In some theatres, not even during the breaks. You are told this clearly before the show or, sometimes, in a very original way, during the show.

Where I was allowed, I took pictures with the audience and the stage before the beginning of the show and during the break.

Wicked
Matilda, the musical I saw three times. And even Brad Pitt came twice to London to see it, only not when I was there, damn!

And, speaking about interdictions, I have to admit and repent. Catch me, fine me, arrest me, during the first musical I saw, in 2007, it seemed to me so unbelievable that I could not take any photo. At least a small one. And during the applause at the end, I took one with my phone at the time (we did not have smartphones then).

It was the first and the last time I did this. Ever since, I did not dare, although a lot of times my fingers were burning on my phone when I saw spectacular scenography or costumes, when I was amazed and impressed to tears in certain moments. I did not do it not because I was afraid (although you are watched by the ushers during the entire show), but I felt I would not respect the work of those people. I simply felt ashamed about doing it. I have never tried to do anything like this…

And speaking about the phone, during the 50 shows I saw up to now, I have never heard a phone ringing in the audience. Never!

If the phone is prohibited, you can always eat and drink during a musical. Whatever you buy from their bar: chips, nuts, sweets, champagne, water, juices, and whatever you might have brought from home.

15-MINUTE INTERMISSION

TOILET, PICTURES OR SHOPPING?

The musicals last for some 2h30′-2h50′, including an about 15 minutes break. You cannot do very much during the break. It takes time to get out, because the space is very narrow and you have to make everybody stand up J.

I used the breaks to take picture of different things and to write down in my phone some ideas for our shows on TV. Even if we cannot compare the means, the knowledge, the budgets, I thought we could dare more!

…and sometimes I ate an ice-cream during the break. The hall is full of ushers who invite you to eat some Haagen Dazs in a jar. The first time I was shocked you could eat something like that in a theatre with so many restrictions.

If you did not buy the program, the CD or other merchandise connected to the show, you can do it during the break. They are sold in the audience by the ushers and you can also find them in the lobby shop, where usually there is a very long line, longer than the one before the show. Under the influence of the first act, people go to buy products…

during the Mary Poppins break, the bestseller was the umbrella!

As there is nobody around, I use the opportunity to take a picture of the control room mixer. And of whatever I can find there. For my friends J.

But the 15 minutes break is meant to be a toilet break!

It is an adventure to have to go, when you are at the theatre. The line in front of the toilet is a never-ending one. It is so long that one would think the last in line will never see Act 2…

I got wiser, I go to the theatre with my bladder empty J.

Speaking about toilets, I found in one on Broadway, an announcement that beyond the possibility to create controversy, proves how open these people are.

THE BEST SEATS FOR A MUSICAL

At the 50 musicals that I saw, I had seats both very high, somewhere in the last rows from the last balcony (Gallery/Balcony), where, if you were to look down a bit, you’d risk falling down and it was very abrupt… But I have also had seats in the first row of the first balcony (Dress Circle) or down, close to the stage (Stalls) – great seats!

You can see very well no matter where you are. Sometimes you can have expensive seats, in front, and have a tall man sitting in front of you… Wouldn’t you want to kill someone for paying a bucket of money for the ticket?…

The upper balcony has binoculars. You only have to pay a coin to have access to the binocular in front of your seat and you can see the faces of the actors J.

It was funny for me to see how the prices went up in time:

It is nice to sit up there, because you can see the mechanisms of the stage and, if you stretch a bit, you can catch the leg of Mary Poppins, when she flies over your seat…

If you are down there, you can see the mikes of the actors – the mikes are attached to their foreheads. (There are exceptions to this, if the actors are bald or if they have different things on their heads and then they bring the mikes close to the ear). And there is something else you can see, thing I had no idea existed during my first musical experiences: there are plasmas hanging from the first balcony for all the people on stage to be able to see the conductor all the time. So they don’t need to keep their eyes down, they can look towards the public:

And in the first rows, you can buy a special ticket and be cautioned that you might be… splashed during the show?!?! It happened in “Singin’ in the Rain”, that I saw together with my friend Irina. But we kind of wanted this, as we could have bought tickets a bit farther from the stage… It was very funny!

We had fun seeing some Americans with plastic bags they kept holding up when the steps of the dancers made the water on stage splash us.

The raining on stage and the step dancing in that water I can understand, but to see the stage completely dry after just 15 minutes of break, this is wow!

And is it amazing as well when a child from the musical Matilda is “thrown in the air” and he falls in the middle of the public… And you ask yourself how the hell did they do this?!?! And you get it only after seeing the show again. For the third time…

Or when the hide candelabra in Phantom of the Opera “falls down”. Or when the actors change clothes in a split second, in many of the shows. Or when Aladdin and his sweetheart fly on the flying carpet over the stage… Or… many other things!

MAMMA MIA MUSICAL

SEEN FROM THE ORCHESTRA PIT!

I saw the musical Mamma Mia 5 times and a half J. Three times and a half in London, in different years, with different casts and even in different theatres. And twice in Bucharest.

“The half” in London is because of someone I knew there and offered me the opportunity to go for a very short time behind the scene and then see the musical from the perspective of the orchestra. Yes, I was in the orchestra pit!

I entered the stage door and I sat next to the orchestra people, looking at the conductor. It was a unique experience. I could not take pictures, however…

They told me to wear black. I did. They all were in black.

They all had their phones next to them. And bottles of water, and an electric heater. The truth is it was very cold in the pit. Maybe in order to keep the orchestra fresh for two hours and a half?…

I looked at the way they prepared and then at the way they played the instruments. They were all very happy!

I noticed that every instrument player has a small monitor where he sees the conductor.

And I saw how they looked at the scores, where they have written the last words from the dialogue on stage, so that they know when to play again.

And it was funny to see the audience from the perspective of the people on stage! (Just the first rows). It would have been worth filming. It was like in a tennis shot – they would all move their eyes, as if coordinated, to follow the action and they would all start laughing at once…

I saw “Mamma Mia” in Romania twice, to see both casts.

I will not compare it to the London version because it is not correct to do so. We are not comparable from the point of view of the school, the history and the budget. We have talent. And I think courage is very important! The courage to try the musical genre. And the try to do it the best you can.

I honestly hope I will be able to say I saw 50 musicals in Romania too! But before that, I am connected to what London has to offer (and maybe New York too). And I take notes…

MUSICALS I’VE SEEN:

2007Mary Poppins
2008Sound of Music
The Phantom of the Opera
Lion King
2009Hairspray
Mamma Mia
Wicked
2010Hairspray
Sister Act
Oliver
Sister Act
The Phantom of the Opera
Flashdance
2011Love never dies
The Wizard of Oz
Billy Elliot
2012The Ghost
The Christmas Rat Pack
Shrek
Matilda
Shrek
Singing in the rain
Matilda
Mamma Mia
Singing in the rain
2013Singing in the rain
The Bodyguard
We will rock you
Matilda
2014Mamma Mia
Charlie and the chocolate factory
2015The Book of Mormon
Mamma Mia
2016Sunset Boulevard cu Glenn Close
The Book of Mormon
Aladdin
2017Kinky Boots
The Book of Mormon
An American in Paris
Annie
2019Londra
Kinky Boots
Wicked
Aladdin
Waitress
The School of Rock
Mary Poppins
The Book of Mormon

Broadway
Kinky Boots
My Fair Lady
Frozen

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